Wednesday, October 7, 2015

Indonesian Travel Adventures

Much of this blog is based on travel and my hope for it is that one day it will become a full blown travel blog. With that said, a significant amount of time has passed since my return from Indonesia and I know a number of you have been asking where my travel post is about my time there.
Considering Indonesia was the last place I really saw my ex fiance, my heart just hasn't been in it to write about the trip. It was possibly the coldest and most confusing breakup I've ever had... but as the phrase in show business goes, 'The Show Must Go On.' 
So here I am, at 2am on a Wednesday morning back home in South Africa and finally braving this post. 

I was lying in bed now before deciding to flip open my Macbook and hammer with piece of writing out of me and thinking about the trip for the first time since I returned and I realised something. Much like with my experience in Rome when I backpacked and camped my way through Europe, Bali was the place out of my Southeast Asian travels that I was most excited for. It was the reason for the trip, the other stops along the way were just places to pass some time and to soak up another part of the world that never really stood out to me but that I felt compelled to see anyway. 

Sadly, much like Rome, Bali disappointed me and it saddens me to have that fall out onto the keyboard from my fingertips. 
I think Bali used to be great but over time it has become extremely commercialised and overrun with tourists which made my experience there completely different from what I'd imagined it to be. In Bali's defence, I had just flown in from the most gorgeous (seemingly undiscovered) gem of a tropical island in the Philippines - Siargao, which you can read about in various earlier posts of mine. The shock of being back somewhere so jam-packed with tourists and souvenir stores and people hassling you to buy things from them was overwhelming for me after such a tranquil visit to Siargao. The locals are not nearly as friendly as the Filipino's are and will often really try to rip you off. The waves were littered with surfers all paddling for the same ride and dropping in on each other, getting aggravated with one another. 
There's heaps of neglected starving dogs with heartbreaking mange trolling the streets and piles of rubbish just built up on the sides of the streets. I don't want this post to be a full on moaning marathon but as always, I'll be completely honest about my time there and I feel that if you're planning on visiting a place like Bali it's good to be prepared for both the inevitable great things you'll find there but to also keep in mind the not so great factors that come with anywhere you travel to really.

I arrived in Indonesia at about 3am and had a prearranged taxi pick me up at the airport to drop me off at my accommodation called the Bingin Inn
Please if you can do this before the time, ensure that your phone works when you arrive because Google Maps couldn't come in handier especially with a non-English speaking taxi driver at 3am in the morning. We got hopelessly lost. What should have been no more than a 20 minute drive took us nearly 2 hours of driving into the darkest, dodgiest little parts of Bali I have ever seen and I was completely alone and feeling very unsafe! Luckily he turned out to be a stand-out guy that was just not used to the area he was taking me to but our lack of communication and GPS was really pretty nerve-wrecking especially during the early hours of the morning!

I finally arrived at the hotel safely and was welcomed by Sam who let me get a few hours shut eye before our first full day together in Bali. We rented a scooter for our time there which is pretty essential in order to get around. You don't need to show your license when hiring - but I'd say don't take long trips far from where you're staying because you can get pretty crazy fines from Police if they catch you driving a) without a license or documentation and b) without a helmet. 

Here's something about Bali that you may not know - no matter where you choose to stay, something will keep you up at night! Night one entailed dragons from hell (AKA ginormous Gecko like creatures) seeking shelter in our air vents and squawking their little lungs off all night long. As mean as it sounds, throw some vodka or your other preferred alcoholic beverage around the air vent and they will soon bugger off. Believe me, it gets on your last nerve at some stage or another! 

If it isn't dragons it's the free range chickens and roosters making a racket or wild dogs howling at the moon - every night there is bound to be something. The most hilarious thing that kept me up at night however definitely had to be the ocean. Anyone that knows me knows just how much I love the ocean and often I listen to youtube recordings of it to fall asleep at night! Well... boy was there a stage in Bali where I'd have been really happy to never hear the ocean again in my life! After a couple of nights in Bingin, Sam and I found this close to untouched area of Bali completely devoid of tourists called Balangan. Quaint, stunning wooden shacks situated right on the beach alongside a handful of cafe's, with a beautiful Russian hippie called Flower (I kid you not) teaching yoga and meditation on the beach at sunrise and sunset, crisp fresh waves ready for the taking, rock pools and NO souvenir shops with locals trying to force you to buy things - this was our little blessing. We booked a shack right on the water and paid in advance for a number of days and the first night was absolutely incredible. It was so out of the way from everything and we felt like this was the real Bali we'd been hoping to experience.

I woke up after the first night in Balangan feeling so refreshed after the first good nights sleep I'd had since arriving and the owner of the shack even brought us coffee in bed! After doing a session of meditation and yoga on a hilltop with the sun rising in the sky above I was literally glowing. 

But day two brought with it a change in tides so the next evening, little did we know, the waves would sound like an actual Tsunami outside of our shack. It was impossible to sleep. Imagine the loudest ocean you can and then quadruple that...  that doesn't even begin to explain how loud the ocean was. 

Alright - now enough of the nitty gritty, every country you'll travel to has some of that... now I'll get to the fun bits. Of course the trip was worth it! Every trip is! You take something away with you from absolutely every country / town / place you go to, even if you didn't exactly have the best of times there, it was still an experience and not something that should be taken for granted!

A lot of Sam's friends were in Bali at the same time as us which is a pretty new thing for me to be in such a different part of the world and to have people I know around! They are all really amazing, fun loving people so it was wonderful to spend time with some familiar faces and some new ones. I think it is safe to say that no matter what, you will make friends in Bali. Everyone is so happy and soaking up the positivity and good vibes - so just embrace your days and get to know other travellers and the locals! 

As I'm not used to traveling with other people though, I needed to get away from familiar faces quite often to be able to really experience Bali. The people we knew there had all been there many times before so they weren't looking to do any of the more touristy things which obviously as a first timer in Bali, I was. Going to things like the fire shows and temples were things that people that have been there before probably won't recommend to you because they've been there and done that - it's not a big deal to them anymore! But you just have to go and watch the fire shows for the culture and the story and the extravagant outfits! It may be ridiculously touristy and without a doubt another rip off for sure, but you've traveled all this way, you might as well go! So try not to get too caught up with drinking on the beach and lounging in the sun all day long - get out there and do some of the touristy attraction things too otherwise what the hell was the point in flying over?

I organised one full day for Sam and I to get completely out of where we were based and took a crazily priced taxi to Ubud where we'd made a list of everything we wanted to do. We thought we'd have enough time to do everything in one day - we also thought we'd have enough money - we didn't. My recommendation for you if you were to be planning a trip to Ubud would be to definitely do it over at least a period of two days. Stay over the night somewhere so that you don't have to try and jam-pack everything into one day there... and also really do a thorough budget check because a lot of Ubud is really quite expensive! For instance, Sam really wanted to see the Komodo dragons but the price to get into the place that has them is insane. We didn't end up going in even though I'd offered to wait outside so that Sam could go and see the dragons himself before we went home but it would have been amazing. They are such majestic creatures and it would have been jaw-dropping to see them up close so if that's something high on your list make sure you factor a visit into your budget. 

The food in Ubud is DELICIOUS... It was the absolute best food I had throughout the entire trip although all of it was pretty damn amazing. In fact, if you find yourself in and around Bingin please go and find Warung Heboh which has the freshest vegetables and tastiest, healthiest dishes for the cheapest prices you'll find anywhere in Bali! We ate there almost every day to save cash and never once got tired of the food.

The massages (according to Sam) are not amazing though! He tried to get a massage while he waited for me to meet the spiritual healer, Wayan, for a few hours. Yes, the real Wayan, the one from Eat Pray Love that Elizabeth Gilbert went to. 

* Sidenote: It is hilarious how many people are called Wayan in Bali.

The spiritual healer, Wayan, is well worth a visit! I'd originally really wanted to to to Ketut but had heard that he's gotten dementia in his old age and that he doesn't make sense anymore. I had no real idea as to what to expect from Wayan, but I know I had a lot of questions and really wanted her to help me gain some peace as I was going through a really tough time personally. 

Something you may not know about me is that I have a lump in my left breast and I've been for all sorts of scans and cancer check-ups and the doctors say it's nothing to worry about, but it hurts all the time and they won't cut it out. I've hardly told anyone that and I sure as hell didn't tell Wayan... but the absolute first thing she did when she saw me was touch my shoulder, look into my eyes and say "You have pain in your left breast." 
It left me completely riddled with goosebumps. 
Absolutely EVERYTHING else she said to me during my fascinating time with her was bang on accurate and meeting her was definitely, definitely the highlight from the entire trip for me. 
She made me eat all these crazy leaves and herbs, most of which tasted diabolical, but she just knows exactly what your body needs and she doses you with it, offering to sell you things to fix certain illnesses you may have as well but this can get very, very expensive. 

As expensive as the drinks and touristy things can get though, there's so much in Bali which is free and so enjoyable - like just watching a gorgeous sunrise wrapped up in a blanket on the beach or surfing if you bring your own board along (though it's not too badly priced to rent a board for an hour either and you can always try to barter them down).

While in Ubud you must know how many stalls there are to go to! Ladies, you'll be blown away by all the jewellery. There's not many ATM's around as far as I can remember so bring a substantial amount of cash to blow on clothing and jewellery if that's in your budget for your trip!
I'm not really big on clothing and jewellery to be fair and spent most of my budget on getting into temples and show etc... one of which was the Ubud Monkey Temple which turned into a shopping expedition anyway because a monkey peed on Sam which had me in fits of laughter throughout the entire day.

There's also tons of watersports packages people will offer you - and when you decide to actually listen to someone please make sure to ask them how long each other these watersports lasts for! Sam and I booked a day out with a guy called Froggy from Balangan's cafe, Froggies. Haha. It was a lot of fun filled with parasailing, fly fishing and a trip to the turtle sanctuary (I would NOT recommend a trip to the sanctuary..... it was heartbreaking....) BUUUUT the parasailing lasted all of 5 minutes and and the flyfishing maybe 10 minutes tops... and it cost us something ridiculous like 40 US dollars each!! So we got MADLY ripped off here... so please just do your research before booking and being disappointed with what you've spent your money on!

Bali was actually pretty wonderful and to be honest now that I look back at my time there, I'd definitely like to go back there someday and give it another chance. I'd want to do the islands around it like Lombok and Nusa Lemongan. I think I went to Bali in the complete wrong frame of mind because my relationship was already falling apart. We tried our best to fix things here but it just wasn't enough. It's hurt me for a very long time and shattered my heart enough to keep me from writing but I'm finally really feeling like myself again...

Oh hey... another great thing about Bali???? There's a flipping Starbucks there!

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  1. looking at all your fun pics, i so want to go their
    looks like monkeys their are very friendly
    keep in touch

  2. Noooooooo, not Starbucks!!!
    I was SO excited to see this as I can see you ate Cap Jai!!! My absolute favourite dish in all Bali, though it cost 4000Rp when I was there!!
    I personally didn' Nusa Lembongan but you should visit Padang Bai in East Bali!x

  3. I agree with Kezzie - not Starbucks ;) but besides that - wow! What a lovely and fun trip you seem to have had! I would really like to go to Indonesia sometime. Next year we go to the Phillipines... maybe its somehow similar ;)?
    Could you do me a favor and vote for me in the Keimling Award contest? That would be sooooo nice of you! Its only one click on VOTE here: Keimling Award
    Thank you soooo much : )

  4. I'm so happy you finally started to write this. I know it must have been hard for you, but I also think writing is cathartic, no? I'm glad you can look past the heartache and remember the trip for everything else that it was, at least that what it looks like here. It really looks like a beautiful place and you so lucky that you were able to go. I am so jealous!

  5. Jade, I think I would like the outskirts of Bali... other than seeing the touristy things which I would want to do... It is good that you want to go back, even if you didn't have the best of times there. Break ups are incredibly hard to handle and I think you are doing quite will with it... I think I should have stepped back from writing about mine immediately as they were some really raw blog posts. I still cry if I read them, so I don't... Maybe one day I will be able to read them. Bali is on my list of travels but I will remember not to hang in the busy areas all the time...I always love reading what you have to write xox

  6. Loved reading about your trip! Its so sad that we were there just a few weeks apart otherwise we could have met there!! I agree with you and I was disappointed with Bali too. I guess its quite touristy and over rated. I prefer chilled out hippie havens like Goa so Bali was pretty different for me. I also realized how awesome Goa is after I went to Bali! That's why I went to the Gili islands after 3 days there. However, I missed Ubud and couldn't see the monkey forest which was on my list. BTW even though your India trip has a focus on the North, make sure you go to Goa and spend a couple of days there. It is heavenly!

  7. Wow such an awesome experience to read and feel about your trip and about the places!
    Loved all the pictures:)
    Feeling so happy after reading this post!!

    xo Epsita

  8. This feels like ages ago and like I've heard it or some, before, but that's because of Facebook.
    Has it stopped flooding there?!

  9. I really enjoyed reading about your trip. I'm sorry you have some sad memories from there, but it sounds like much of your trip was worth it for the experience. Loved seeing all your photos!

  10. I really enjoyed reading your post. I feel like, I've been traveling with you. I love the photos. Looking forward to read your next adventure!


  11. Hello pretty !!!

    Nice blog, congratulations!!!


  12. A loved your blog!

    Travellers and traveling adventures, convey joy and colorful.

    Cheers, pretty!!!

  13. The real comfort of travel is given by small little things not by luxurious things..........Indian Travel Agents & Indian Tour Operators


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