Ubud | Day 21-23
I woke up early and enjoyed one more morning on the sunny rooftop deck of my Brisbane hostel before heading to the train station. I got to the airport early without any problems and then spent the next hour lying on a couch watching AFL game coverage (which I know nothing about) before my plane boarded. I will watch anything on TV- literally anything- its a problem which is why I do my best to avoid it. Right before we got on a plane a woman loudly announced that she packed 5 different kinds of diarrhea medicine for the trip- A) major TMI and B) I got freaked out that I didn't have any (was unnecessary thank god). The flight was uneventful but way longer than I expected it to be (Australia is huge)- I just wanted to get to Bali!
We finally arrived to Denpasar and I found the driver from the homestay holding my name on a sign (first time that has ever happened). When we started driving I was surprised at how loud it was and I couldn't stop looking around at everything going on. Some initial thoughts were: there is a TON of construction going on, I've never seen so many KFC's in one area in my life, what the hell is a cat oven (saw multiple signs) and what exactly does a exclamation point traffic sign mean (no words just the exclamation point)?
We arrived a the homestay and I made my way through the buildings and the gardens to the reception. The balcony off my room was awesome (check out my view below) but the room was a little older than what I was expecting. I dropped my bags off and quickly headed out to stretch my legs and see what Ubud was all about.
Ubud has an awesome energy- there's the mellow yoga loving people wandering about and sharing the roads with the crazy fast scooters all while surrounded by cool buildings and carvings. It was different than anything I was used to and I loved it. I really enjoyed looking at all the carvings and statues. One of the first things that stood out to me in Bali was how friendly everyone was- always smiling, waving and wishing you a good day- it is awesome!
I didn't get too far before realizing that I was starving and stopped in at one of the first places I saw- Kebun Bistro on Jl Hanoman street. The food was delicious and the service was wonderful. I watched the sun go down (and the numbers of scooters increase) while drinking my Pims cup cocktail and eating a delicious salad full of veggies. It's incredible how much you crave simple, healthy food while traveling. It started to rain as I left, so I quickly ran back to my homestay.
I got back to my room and was greeted with bugs all over the floor- gross but not a deal breaker and I started stomping on them to kill them. Then I noticed dead bugs on the bed so I lifted up the blanket to shake them off and saw stained sheets and dead bugs IN the bed (gag). Out of the corner of my eye I saw movement on the ceiling which turned out to be a bunch of little geckos hanging out and staying dry from the rain. I LOVE geckos so that was awesome but they were not convinced by my pleading to come down to the floor to start eating all the bugs. And then I heard the 'tic tic tic' of little nails running across the roof and I was done. I have no idea if it was mice, rats or monkeys but there was no way I could stay there (yup call me a wimp). So I grabbed my bags, wrote the owner of the homestay a note that I would be back in the morning to settle my bill and ran as fast as I could carrying my gigantic bag to the hotel I saw down the street. Luckily it was the beautiful Alaya hotel and they had a room available for me. It was just as gorgeous at night as it was the next morning- my full review is on Trip Advisor so I won't bore you with that here. After the best night sleep in over 2 weeks I took my tea out to the balcony and lounged out there listening to the birds and enjoyed being lazy and knowing I didn't have anywhere to be. I finally dragged myself off the balcony and headed to breakfast.
I figured that the complementary breakfast would be the standard crappy complementary breakfasts I'm used to getting. Could not have been more wrong!!! First of all, the Petani restaurant is beautiful and totally open on either end so you can pick to sit near the road or chill out at the back overlooking the rice fields. Per usual the staff was fantastic- so friendly and welcoming- and the chef comes out to make sure you're enjoying your meal.
The food was delicious! They had three columns to choose from for breakfast: Indonesian, American and European. I didn't even look at the Americian or European options so I had delicious Indonesian food the entire time I was there. Each breakfast comes with fresh fruit, yogurt and pastery/bread basket plus your main course (nasi goreng or mie goreng for me mmm)... it makes for a pretty good spread. I also had dinner there one night and it was one of the best meals of my trip: beef rendang with pisang goreng (fried bananas mmm) for dessert...all paired with a fantastic Australian shiraz.
I ate dinner down the street at Nomad one night and while the dinner was ok (beef kabab bbq) the dessert of Balinese black rice pudding was delicious. In Nomad's defense, I was pretty spoiled from eating at the Alaya where somehow the entire staff managed to learn my name (and others) so it felt extra friendly.
I didn't do too many 'typical tourist' activities like seeing shows or going into museums- mainly I wandered around and took a TON of pictures of all the buildings and especially the temples. I loved the Pura Taman Saraswati (images below) and burst out laughing when I saw the Starbucks right next to such a beautiful temple. Everything was so green and lush- couldn't get over it. I really wanted to do a ricefield walk however I was there during the rainy season and it would go from beautiful sunny day to sheets of rain quickly and I didn't want to be out in that by myself.
I did manage to get over to the Sacred Monkey Forest Sanctuary and realized quickly that these were not cute little monkeys (except for a few) but rather monkeys with huge teeth that would rip glasses off your face if you ignored the warnings. Yikes. Despite that, it was super cool to hang around with them...at least until it started to rain. I'm not a stranger to rain but when the walking path turns into a river with water up to your ankles in 5 mins I would say that it is a little intense. Luckily it didn't last long and it was back to normal soon enough with a monkey stealing a ring off a guys finger and chucking it into the forest. #BadMonkey.
There are scooters everywhere! I am a terrible driver in a car so I didn't think renting a scooter was a good life choice for me but it was crazy seeing how many there were on the roads. You learn pretty quick that traffic laws are lax (from what I could tell) so crossing the street involves waiting for a break in scooter traffic and then hustling across. Also the honking was constant. From what I could tell honking happened:
-if you change lanes
-if you're turning
-if you're slowing down
-if you're about to get hit/about to hit someone else
-if you're a taxi (or taksi) looking to pick up a passenger
More than anything I was impressed with what people were able to fit on their scooters. From a mom and her three kids to a guy with building materials strapped all over it. If I ever lived in Bali I think scooter would be the only way to go.
As I mentioned before, I wasn't busy doing touristy stuff like I maybe should have. Instead I totally and completely focused on relaxing. I spent hours by the pool, I took naps on the balcony, I did lots of thinking and I read 4 books in 3 days. I also decided to splurge (it was less than $150!!!) on the 4 hour Samsara spa treatment at Dala Spa and holy crap that was one of the best decisions ever. It included:
-DaLa foot ritual
-body scrub (coconut with palm sugar)
-body mask (natural yogurt)
-bath (balinese seven flowers)
-spa lunch (salad, chicken and fruit with chocolate)
I can't afford a spa day like this in the US so I was so freaking excited I was shaking at the beginning. Luckily I pulled it together and had a wonderful experience thanks to Maria who took care of me that day. She managed not to laugh when I was so relaxed that I fell asleep during the facial and snorted myself awake <-- classy. And the food...omg the food...simple but delicious. Couldn't have asked for a better way to spend a morning.
On my last morning at Alaya, I took some time to take pictures of the hotel and lounge by the pool before heading to Seminyak in the late afternoon. Leaving this paradise was rough.
Seminyak | Day 24-26
Showing up to a beach front view helped to lessen the pain of leaving Ubud :-). The Seminyak Beach Resort and Spa was the original splurge on my trip as I figured I would have spent three weeks in hostels and a homestay and could afford to upgrade- plus it was 50% off at hotels.com (I love a good deal). Disclaimer: yes this place is beautiful and yes I was very lucky to stay there. However it was not cheap and so I was expecting a lot for my money. Also I wasn't planning on staying at the Alaya (brand new and awesome) so it was fresh in my mind to compare the Seminyak against.
To get the negatives out of the way, it was a lot bigger than the Alaya so it wasn't as friendly/welcoming however having your room be so close to the beach that you hear waves crashing all night is pretty fantastic. The grounds were pretty but I was bummed to learn that the cabanas cost extra so I didn't hang out in those. Also the rooms were nice but dark (think early 90s dark wood and pinkish marble) and I happened to be in the room one night while they did the turn down service which involved them spraying a Raid type bug spray into the bathroom and closing the door. Ummm what were you trying to kill in there? I didn't see anything besides a tiny gecko that wouldn't let me catch him/her.
The pool though...omg the pool. Yup could definitely get used to that. If it wasn't raining (or at least if it wasn't raining very hard- light showers don't bother this girl) I was by the pool. There was the big infinity pool as well as a smaller pool with a swim up bar. While the infinity pool was prettier, it took forever to get a drink so I spent a decent amount of time at the swim up bar.
The beach was beautiful and I enjoyed a good walk along it one afternoon. Only problem was there's quite a bit of garbage along the beach so I ended up doing beach clean up like a dork and taking bags of trash to the garbage can.
While Ubud wasn't a major tourist destination until the late 80s, Seminyak has been catering to tourist for awhile. This meant that Seminyak had lots of bars/restaurants and a much more active nightlife than Ubud. It also meant that it was quite a bit more expensive however I enjoyed eating out. I ate lunch at The Junction (cool architecture with the boards along the front) and Wah Wah Burger (really good burger and beer). For dinner my first night I ended up at Zappaz (good food, fun bar and a live band playing Shania Twain and the Beatles among others- and nailing it!) and my second night I went to the lively Motel Mexicola which was super fun (and delicious).
My flight to Syndey was an overnight flight so I spent the afternoon of my last day in Seminyak hiring a driver to drive me down to Pura Luhur Uluwatu, one of Bali's most sacred temples at the very southern tip of the island. Such a beautiful way to spend my last few hours in Bali- and the rain held off long enough for me to enjoy it! A definite 'must see' if you ever find yourself in Bali.
Overall I loved my time in Bali and especially in Ubud in particular. I would love to go back someday and explore it further- there's so much to see! After a wonderful week in Bali it was off to Sydney for the last stop on my tour.
And lastly this is a bit of a downer but I wanted to mention the puppies/dogs in Bali. Feel free to skip this part if you want. There were some healthy and happy looking dogs roaming about (this is common in Bali- they aren't necessarily strays) however I saw a lot of sick and injured dogs while I was there. Tiny puppies abandoned (?) along the side of the road or crammed into a crate for sale (so many that they couldn't lie side to side but were on top of each other). There is an organization working in Bali to help the animals called BAWA (Bali animal welfare association). They go around to different areas holding classes on how to care for dogs and cats, they have a mobile vet team doing procedures in the field and they have a huge foster program (their clinic was shut down this past year). I spent some time in their office- along with a cute little blind dog named Mia- and was impressed with what they were doing. Hoping they continue with their work (they accept donations via their website).