A loooooong, winding, 3 hour taxi ride north of Ubud is the relatively small and peaceful town of Lovina. I ended up staying at a small, run-down beach hotel called Bali Grand Sunset Beach Hotel. Don't know about grand, but it was certainly a great spot to swim in the clear sea and watch the sunset into the mercurial water.
The sound of the waves lapping on the Bali-coffee-coloured-lava sand was marred only by the persistent beach vendors interrupting the peace and quiet. By far the most annoying sellers I have ever come across! As soon as I placed my toe on the sand, they swarmed in from all directions and wouldn't stop talking. I just wanted to sit there and listen to the sound of the waves, damnit! But no, I had to engage in trivial and inane chit chat about where I'm from, how long I'm here for, how old I am blah blah blah and look at s*** I didn't want, haggle over crap I didn't need and pay over the odds for stuff I didn't even like.
I retreated to the relative safety of my patio. Saved when more people started arriving and checking in. I met 2 party girls: Valerie, a travel agent from the Gold Coast in Oz, and April, a recruitment consultant from San Francisco. We shared an interest in snorkelling and booked to go on a day trip to the Manjengan Island.
It took us 2 hours to get there by bus an boat, but it was definitely worth the trip. The snorkelling was jaw-droppingly gorgeous. I saw thousands of brightly coloured fish, giant clams, fan-tail coral and sponges. The reef drops off quite suddenly so it was amazing to float over the deep blue abyss and just gaze at the shelf of beautiful aquatic animal and plant life. I felt a if I was in a Cousteau documentary. I really wish I had an underwater camera to capture some of the essence of what I saw. I met 2 lovely Dutch women who took some photos, so hopefully they will email me a couple as a "souvenir".