Hallo!

Sunday, May 31, 2015

I had every intention on blogging my experiences while I was in Bali, keeping friends and family in the loop but with days packed with temple trekking and motorbike trips across the island, I had little time to sit in front of a computer screen. Although, I didn't mind.

I left off on Saturday, only day one.
Sunday, we stayed close to home. Sort of. We headed towards Ubud to seek out the Tegalalang Rice Terraces. We did have portable wifi and some access to GPS while we were there but quickly learned that with the poorly marked streets and underwhelming maps we were better off just asking locals for directions. On our way into Ubud, a man pulled up next to us while we were driving. Asking us where we were from, what we had done so far, and if we had seen _____. I couldn't understand him because of his accent and our HIGH SPEED but he told us to follow him. So we did. 
After a wild ride, we found ourselves in front of another coffee plantation. We were beginning to realize this is where the tourist traps are. Obligated, we entered and this time I bought of bag of Balinese coffee for mom. The man we followed had introduced himself as Nono and had one more stop for us...a waterfall. He led us to Tegenungan where he left us to hike down a few hundred steep steps and to cross slippery boulders. Amongst the other tourists, we snapped a few photos and headed back up the steps. We ran into a couple of Canadians who had picked up a fallen coconut and shared with us its juice. Off to the Rice Terraces.


We followed the GPS to a town claiming to contain these Rice Terraces and we found ourselves lost, on a bridge in the jungle, asking a few women on mopeds where to head. One pointed one way, another in an opposing direction, and the other had nothing to say at all. So we followed our guts. Still lost and nearly out of gas, we asked two little girls heading back towards town where to get gas and where to find the terraces. They helped, but in return we had to buy two packages of Bali postcards from them. They pointed us in the right direction (one major road over) and off we went!




The Rice Terraces were incredible. We slipped our way down to the base and explored what we could in our flips flops before getting back on that scooter to find the Sacred Monkey Forest, something I had read to be a "must see" site. 
We again found ourselves lost, in Ubud, near the infamous Yoga Barn, a yogi's wet dream. Two girls on the street who had just come from yoga encouraged us to stop there, get lunch at their Sunday Vegan Buffet, and utilize their wifi before heading to the Monkey Forest.


We did.
In true Thomas and Rae form, we made it to the Monkey Forest after a few wrong turns.
As we were walking to the ticket kiosk, monkeys were running amok out front. One very nervous visitor was squealing and begging her boyfriend to sell their tickets to someone else after she witnessed a monkey run up to a women, grab her grocery bag, and bite into the container of milk that she was carrying. The monkey trailing behind to lap up the spilled milk....Tucking our cell phones and motorbike keys into my purse, we entered the park.
Women sat at carts offering food for sale to lure the monkeys towards you.
"Banana? For the monkey?" A saying that is still stuck in my head. Anytime there were monkeys anywhere in Bali, there emerged a woman asking, "Banana? For the monkey?"
Thomas bought a small bunch of bananas and within seconds a big ass monkey owned those bananas.
Determined to try again, Thomas bought a second bunch. And this time, with the help of a woman and her slingshot to ward of the Big Daddy monkey, we were able to play with the smaller monkeys nearby.





This one nearly ripped my shirt off.

I wish I had stolen more photos of the park from Thomas' phone because that place was beautiful. Something straight out of Indiana Jones. Moss covered statues, bridges over streams, and vines hanging from massive trees in which the monkeys played. 
Once we had our fill of monkeys, we headed to Pasar Umum, the Ubud Market. This place was crawling with tourists! Booth after booth were were approached by a local trying to sell us I love Bali shirts, jewelry, or penis shaped bottle openers. After a bit of haggling, we headed home with a few souvenirs. 

Day Three.
Knowing we had a LONG trip northwest planned for Tuesday, we wanted to give our asses a rest from the motorbike and rest on Monday. So, we headed to partyville, according to locals. 
Kuta.
Honeymooners, fabulous gay couples, and bachelorette parties galore.
 We roamed the streets for awhile in search of a cocktail. It's nearly impossible to find a decently priced or poured cocktail in Bali. The locals don't seem to drink and when they do, its Arak. After reading a handful of cocktail lists, we settled for a large Bintang. Our go-to beverage in Bali.



We walked back to the beach to chase a buzz at La Lucciola, a fancy little restaurant facing the water, with only three sides to the building leaving one side open to allow the beauty to come spilling in.
We blew a large load of Rupiah on Lychee Lemongrass and Ginger Caipiroskas, Coconut Daquiris, Martinis, and Granitas. 


Worth every rupie.
With empty pockets and a little buzz, we spent the afternoon in the sun. Playing in the water, laying in the sand, and watching an hour long photoshoot of four Australian teens trying to master the perfect sandy ass cheek photo for their Instagrams.
We did the same.



#showmeyourkuta



We had originally planned to seek out more cocktails but barely made it down the beach before Thomas made a deal with some locals on surf lessons and a beach lounger for me. He surfed for two hours (and did pretty well aside from nearly losing his nipples) and I fell asleep in paradise.
We ate some spicy street corn before driving home in the worst possible traffic we'd ever seen. Losing a saddle bag, our minds, and any hope for Balinese traffic laws in the process.
We made it home, barely, and took ourselves out to dinner. I believe we walked that night...

Day Four.
The next morning we woke up before the sun to set off on our long journey to West Bali. Thomas had arranged for us to take a boat out to Menjangan Island to do some snorkeling. We were told this was the best location to snorkel so it was worth the three and a half hour drive up there. It was a long trip. And after 40 minutes on the motorbike seat, your ass is screaming at you. Stopping only for gas and directions, we finally made it there after almost landing ourselves in Java on accident. When we got off the scooter, we hugged and laughed at each others soot covered faces.
We met the Sea Rover staff in Pemuteran and hopped on their speed boat. They drove us out to the island, a serene little place with only a temple atop of it. Abdul, our guide, told us that nobody lives on the island. You are only allowed to worship at the temple and then you must leave. We snorkeled, a first for us both, and had an amazing time. We saw fire fish, a giant eel, fish that I liked to call 80's fish, and all the beauty that came with the coral reef. We opted for the staff lunch, which we still aren't certain of the name, but we're in agreeance that it was one of our favorite meals. The boat broke briefly so Thomas made his own fun snorkeling and I made mine laying in the sun, falling asleep on a boat in Bali. Once the boat was fixed, we snorkeled a bit more before heading back to shore.
We sat around taking in the scenery, drinking Balinese coffee, and talking to Ditta, a cute little staff member. She encouraged us to take a more scenic route home, through the mountains. As she pointed off into the distance at the mountain she described, we asked if the heavy gray clouds above it suggested rain. She said pretty confidently that it would not rain.

It rained.
We found ourselves heading up the mountainside in shorts and flip flops, soaking wet with rain and shivering from the elevation. I haggled some ladies for a couple of ponchos and we pressed on, laughing at the fact that there is never a dull moment on the back of that bike.
The ride certainly was scenic. We drove through villages along the coast and jungles along the mountainside, passing fields of hydrangeas, strawberries, cabbage, and corn. We stopped at the top of the mountain to look out over a lake and the villages below. There were monkeys sitting along the wall and passerbys were stopping to throw food out of the windows for them. Without fail, "Banana? For the monkey?"
Nope.
With still an hour before getting back to Sanur, we stopped along a road lined with warungs offering Babi Guling, suckling pig. Thomas had been wanting this dish since we had arrived. We stopped at Betty's Depot and split an order. Spicy, tasty, and Balinese to the fullest.
Another hour or so, a few more wrong turns, and we were home. That night we had dinner at the compound. Sarita, our host, served chicken, rice, vegetables, and salad. We shared a Bintang with a lovely gay couple, Panos and Alex, and talked about our adventures before turning in at 9:00 pm.
Unfortunately, we hardly took any pictures of this day.

Day Five.
We had yet to set foot in a temple so this day was dedicated to doing so. We had asked Sarita what her favorite temple was and she told us about Tirtha Empul, the holy water temple near Tampaksiring. We figured we'd hit other temples on the way home and we'd just feel our way around. Being two big white kids on a motorbike, we pretty much scream "we're not from around here." We attracted yet another local on his moped. He drove alongside us asking where we were headed. When we told him, he informed us that his village was near the temple and he'd show us the way. His name was Wayan and he drove to Denpasar every day to learn English and French. Soon, he'd be leaving for Germany on the Celebrity Cruiseline to work as a waiter and he wanted to practice his English on us. 
Perfect.
Like Saja, he was a wonderful photographer too.

We made it to the temple and toured the grounds. At the center of the temple was the Holy Spring, a pool of water with black sand in the middle where the fresh water bubbled up from. After getting our fill of statues and koi ponds, we were ready to bathe in the holy spring which the Hindu Balinese believe has purifying powers.







Locals and tourists alike were in the pool, chanting, praying, and washing away impurities.
The water was cold enough to take my breath away and by the final fountain, my eyes were filled with tears as I thanked the temple for having us. 
This was one of the most precious moments of my life.

Just down the road was Pura Gunung Kawi, another temple. Set in a valley, only accessible by walking down hundreds of steps, were ten shrines standing 23 feet tall, carved into a cliff face. I felt so small here. This temple was less crowded and we were able to walk around it leisurely, observing workers restoring hand painted houses for the Gods and rebuilding ruin. 


After hiking out of the temple, we were all starving. And because we turned Wayan down when he tried to take us to ANOTHER coffee plantation, we offered to treat him to lunch. He took us to the cutest little place with little individual huts containing tables facing out into a gorgeous field.




I had Nasi Goreng, what Wayan ordered (we learned to take the recommendations of locals when it came to ordering food.) It was delicious. Thomas had prawns, another go-to on menus while staying in Bali.
That night we ate out at Three Monkeys, a swanky little joint along the beach in Sanur. Lots of resorts, lots of tourists, lots of great food on this particular strip of shops and restaurants. We ate like kings. I even ordered wine and Thomas had whiskey. I had a Thai pumpkin soup with a ginger steamed seafood salad (I wanted the avocado in that salad mostly) and Thomas had Pepes Ikan, fish cooked in a banana leaf. We splurged on dessert, chocolate mud cake and tiramisu. We gave a new meaning to Bali Belly that night.

While I'm talking about food, I'll mention our breakfasts at the compound. Sarita had basically the same spread each morning but we never grew tired of the fresh fruit, coffee, toast, and yoghurt.

Mangosteen, papaya, bananas, and strawberries. I'd swirl in some passionfruit guava jam into my yoghurt and cover my toast with the apple jelly. We looked forward to going to sleep each night so that we could wake up to these breakfasts.


Day Six now.
We headed East on the trusty Scoopy to seek out what the Bali travel book had painted to be magical water palaces and gardens. Of course, we had some trouble finding our way until the GPS led us right to Tirta Gangga. We had lunch (more rice and seafood) before wandering around this water palace.









We had a pretty good time declaring it to be our palace and continuing to master the "jumping pic." The days we spent without a guide were typically our favorites. We'd run around, laughing and exploring and feeling our way through history.

In the next town over, we found Puri Agung, another palace. Without a guide we didn't learn much about the history of this particular palace...although there was a handout that contained some information. We mostly just wandered and I took in all the beauty of the doors on the grounds.




I love those little Bali doors.


Down the hill in yet another town we sought out Taman Ujung, a water garden. This place was a dream. With paths along the edge and through the garden, locals used these walkways as a running track. As we took pictures and walked the grounds, people all around us were running up stairs, jumping rope and stretching in the grass. If this were where I went to work out, I'd be in the best shape of my life because I would LIVE there.





Another successful day exploring Bali. The drive home was dark but Thomas was a professional at this point and we got home quickly and safely.

The last day.
Our flight wasn't until 11:00 pm so we had an entire day to spend before we had to go back home. Since we had covered most of the island already, we decided to take Panos' suggestion and head south to see Uluwatu.




Pura Luhur Uluwatu is a temple that sits at the edge of a 230 foot cliff. The view is incredible. We walked along the cliff taking in the scene. I bought a bracelet from an old local woman, haggling like a boss. 

At the opposite end of the cliff, we met another fabulous gay couple. Exchanging photography and stories of our travels, we learned that they were currently living in Thailand and had just arrived in Bali on holiday. We recommended a few places, feeling proud of our discoveries and headed down the mountain to find a secret swimming spot.
We never did find the swimming spot. But we stumbled upon a warung with cold beer and a surf competition. So we had lunch, a few Bintangs, and watched all of the drunk Australians talk about surfing. We bartered our way through a few purchases and headed back to Sanur to spend the last of our Rupiah before returning our motorbike and packing our bags.


With souvenirs and cupcakes in tow, we headed back to the compound at Padang Galak where I drove the final stretch home. Yelling out "Hallo's" to all of whom I crossed paths with. Skidding into the driveway, unable to figure out the handbrake, we were home. Laughing, tears running down my dirty face, and with four cupcakes and one good friend to enjoy it all with.
We had a swim in the pool, I had a soak in the outdoor tub while Thomas bought us our last Bintang, and we had one last dinner at the compound before a driver picked us up to take us to the airport.
The perfect trip.



This trip has been planned since November. A trip that originally had started out as a romantic get away with the man I loved. A trip that then turned into a personal challenge; a way to push myself out of my comfort zone and rediscover myself. A trip that ended up being a wild adventure with an unexpected friend that stirred things up inside myself that I didn't know existed. Worry and fear of the unknown blew off and away from me on the back of that motorbike, with the wind in my hair and soot on my face. An empty space inside of me was filling up with each new stamp in my passport and an intense desire to see more left me still hungry with wanderlust. I left Bali full of rice, full of happiness, and full of a love for discovery that I hope never fades.


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