I arrived in Bali airport at about 6.30pm and then waited a long time to get my visa and through customs. I had pre-booked an airport pickup by my hostel and so went into the arrivals area ready to look for the sign with my name on it. It was manic! There were about 50 people crowded around the door holding signs and another 50 shouting "taxi taxi taxi". I eventually found my guy and was driven to the hostel. The hostel owner showed me around and explained that there were no fans or air conditioning because the temperature dropped at night. I was sceptical but supposed that it wouldn't be any worse than Borneo! Later in the evening I was eating dinner in the garden and noticed that the boy sitting opposite me was watching Grey's Anatomy on his laptop. I got very excited and he said that I could share his headphones. We watched 3 old episodes back to back- travelling on my own was a breeze so far!
The following day I got a taxi down to Kuta beach with 2 other people from the hostel. Kuta beach is known for its surf but unfortunately there were few waves that day. I wasn't too sure about surfing anyway; I had a lesson on a school trip to Devon when I was 11 and couldn't get close to standing up. I haven't actually grown too much since then so I fear that I may still be just as useless- I'll leave it to Australia. I spent the day reading my kindle with the occasional dip in the sea to cool off. That evening I went to the night market with another one of the girls from the hostel and enjoyed a fresh mango shake and an Indonesian kebab which were both incredibly cheap.
I was picked up at 6am the following morning and taken to Padang Bai port where a group of us boarded the fast boat to Gili Trawangan. I had bought the bus/boat return ticket in town the previous day and had bartered down the price a bit. Even so, I was very pleased with myself when I saw that I had paid less than a quarter of the advertised price at the peer, the perks of looking like a poor backpacker! I arrived on the Island about 11am and walked down the street to the hostel. I had known beforehand that the island had no motorised transport but I was still surprised to see horse and carts. In the afternoon I settled in, walked along the stunning white beach and booked my diving for the next day. The dive instructor convinced me that I 'needed' to pay extra and do a deep water adventure dive that would extend my diving qualification to 30m from the original 18m (This means that I am technically now a more qualified scuba diver than Dad!!!). The deciding factor was that I was more likely to see sharks at 30m! I had to read a couple of chapters from a book about deep diving and complete a quiz. It was the first time that I had used my brain in ages- I am genuinely terrified about September!
Aquaddiction hostel was small, with only had one 10-bed dorm and the dive instructors lived in a couple of bungalows at the back, so everyone spoke everyone. They immediately included me and we all went to a Thai restaurant that evening where I had a fresh fish curry- delicious!
On Sunday I woke up early for my 9am dive and set up my gear. All of the Gili dive sites are only a 5-10 minute boat ride from the beach which makes a nice change. The first site was called Shark dive and, while there were other groups on the boat, it was only me with my instructor because I also had to do a few tests under water to show how the increased depth causes slight narcosis. I was timed on the surface doing a puzzle and I took 24 seconds but I took 36 seconds to do the same puzzle at 30m! The dive site was a drift dive but the current was SO strong and we had to rock climb along the bottom of the reef and swim against the current for a lot of it- there is no way that I was fit enough for that! We saw a couple of turtles and grouper which were amazing but I was honestly concentrating too much on swimming to take in too much of my surroundings for most of the dive. When we came up I was exhausted and quite pleased that there were not any sharks because I probably wouldn't have seen them. We were the only group to have spent the full 50 minutes down though because others drifted too far too quickly. We then went back to the beach and they loaded up the dive boat again while I went to get something to eat. The next dive was a lot better and although it was a drift dive we were moving slowly and I didn't have to fight quite so hard against the current! We saw so many turtles (which I could appreciate this time) and beautiful fish and the visibility was 30m which is very impressive.
I spent a couple of hours on the beach in the afternoon and then went to the night market with the group from the hostel for dinner. I had garlic grilled corn on the cob and a huge banana and nutella pancake for pudding that even I couldn't finish.
I spent all of the Monday on the beach with some of the girls and we went to the Thai again where I had another fish curry. It was our last night on the island for a lot of us so after dinner we went to the neighbouring hostel for a few drinks and then to a crazy bar on the beach with a swimming pool. It was a very fun night but I was not feeling too good when I got on my boat back to mainland Bali the next morning. I was also very sad to leave the Gili Islands because I had had a nice group there and the islands were just stunning!
We arrived back at Padang Bai port at midday and then I got straight onto my bus to Ubud. I had tried to book accommodation beforehand but there were only double rooms advertised and, since I was on my own, all the prices were too expensive. Lots of people had said that there were plenty of homestays along the main road so I decided to take the gamble for the first time on my trip and attempt to find something cheap when I got there. It couldn't have been easier! I got off the coach and a young man was asking if anyone needed accommodation so a couple and I followed him to his family's homestay. It was a simple bungalow with an ensuite bathroom and a fan. Although very basic, it was also very cheap and set in a beautiful family compound with good wifi. The son gave me a couple of recommendations on where to eat and helped me book a cycling tour for the following day at a discounted price. That evening I had an Indonesian dish at a local restaurant and then spent the evening reading and writing my blog. Dad asked if I had found anyone to have dinner with but I was actually really enjoying having some time to myself and not having to make any conversation.
I woke early the next morning and the son brought me pancakes and fruit for breakfast which I ate even though I knew that breakfast was also included on my tour- I should probably get on the scales soon! The lonely planet had recommended this cycling tour and the whole day was amazing. I was picked up about 7am and then drove to Penelokan where I had my second pancake breakfast overlooking the active volcano, Mt. Batur. It also had stunning views of a valley and lake below. We then travelled to a plantation and were taught about the medicinal uses of local plants, the process of making coffee and saw lots of spices and tropical fruits being grown. We were also all given a tray of coffee and tea samples to try; my favourite was the vanilla coffee.
After this we picked up our mountain bikes and began our downhill cycle through the 'real Bali'. The rice fields and villages that we went through we so pretty and, although clearly poor, all of the children seemed happy and ran along bits of the route with us shouting "hello, hello" and wanted high fives. I lost my balance a few times trying to put my hand out! We stopped off at a Balinese home/compound along the way and spent a long time there asking the tour guide about Balinese culture and tradition. We found out some interesting differences such as when a child hits puberty they get their canine teeth filed (he said it is extremely painful) to get rid of their animal characteristics and to ensure that they will come back as a human in another life. They believe that we will come back as animals or trees because we keep our canines! We cycled (it was all downhill so actually required no effort) for 4 hours and finished at a restaurant where we had traditional smoked duck for a late lunch.
We got back to central Ubud late afternoon and I went for dinner and enjoyed my last night by myself repacking my suitcase and playing candy crush (a new game on my phone that dad is also addicted with).
I had a lie in on Thursday and checked out just before midday. I walked down to Monkey forest where there are hundreds of fearless wild monkeys. There are rangers throughout keeping an eye on things and, although I did run in the opposite direction when a monkey jumped in front of me, I really enjoyed it and wasn't too scared about getting a rabid monkey bite. After a couple of hours I walked back to the homestay and the son offered to help me carry my bags to the main street where I was getting picked up to be taken to the airport. There were a few of his friends also waiting there and he told them that he was coming to Australia with me and then we were getting married! I had better let Chris know!
After a long wait at the airport, I boarded my flight to Melbourne. 4 months in Asia was amazing and I loved every minute of it but I was very excited for Australia with it's western toilets, western food and English speaking people. It might also be nice to stop the constant sweating… well at least until Cairns!
Lots of love xxx