After 3 months of Accelerated life… time to chill out in Bali #chilltime #Bali

I flew in to Denpasar, met up Jen and Stephen, and we caught our car transfer early evening.
As we neared the villa, the driver told us that he would be dropping us at the ‘top office’, on the main road, as cars couldn’t take the road to the villa…
Turns out, that getting to the villa required us to mount up on the back of scooters, to be given a lift down the roads to the villa.

Day 1

Ubud

We decided to take it easy for the first day (in preparation for Day 2…) so spent the morning chilling by the pool in our villa, Pondok Naya.

Mid morning we ventured out. This meant we each grabbed a lift back scooters up to the road… Sometimes ignorance is bliss!

It turns out that the ‘roads’ down to the villa were used for splitting up the rice fields, and to create good irrigation routes. At most, they were a meter or so wide and with probably a drop of about 50cm on either side – either into the rice field or into the irrigation waterway!

Anyhow, we safely arrived up to the main road and started to wander into the town (about 1.5km away)…
We walked along the main road, stopping for a bite to eat, and then turned to head towards the Monkey Forest.

The Monkey Forest is exactly as it sounds, so we met some of the local wildlife there. The monkeys are pretty cute, and you can buy bananas throughout to feed them. When we stopped for a break in the amphitheatre, Jen was attacked by a little monkey, who after examining her head, tried to steal the map from her pocket…

After the forest, we circled back to the main road and then headed back to the villa to chill by the pool before ordering in and attempting to go to bed early.

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Pictures:
Our villa at Pondok Naya, just outside of Ubud (thanks for the photo Stephen)
Views around Ubud’s Monkey Forest, where we could feed the monkeys, and one decided to try and steal Jen’s sunglasses…


Day 2

Mount Batur

Thanks to us booking Bali Sunrise Trekking and Tours, it was a very (VERY) early start as we had to leave the villa for pickup just after 2am. Because of the time, we walked up to the main road, which was quite a nice change as it was cooler, and we could hear the frogs and cicadas.
We were then driven for around an hour out to the ‘base camp’ (hotel and resort) at Mount Batur, which was going to be our starting point for the trek. Already we were 1000 meters above sea level, but we would be climbing to 1717 within a couple of hours to see the sunrise over Bali.

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When you say out loud:

“We’re going to climb up an active volcano in the middle of the night, with only torches to light the path…”

It does sound a bit of a foolish idea…

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Pictures, thanks to Stephen!
Left – us attempting to descend the mountain, due to the slurry it was a cross between walking and skiing…
Right – my view from the top, and in perspective – where we walked to and from

In reality, because it was nighttime, it was cooler to walk in which was a blessing as it was tough work. For the main part, the sheer angle made it tough, but then there were areas where scrambling was needed. Again, we had “ignorance is bliss” working to our favour… until the walk back we couldn’t see the sheer drop from the walkway at the start, or from the rocks we scrambled over higher up…

We arrived around 6am as the sky was starting to lighten, and had about 20 minutes before the sun started to rise properly. At the top, as we watched the sunrise and looked out over the region, our guides fixed us up with breakfast, including eggs cooked in the volcanic steam!

Putting it simply, the effort was well worth it, as the views from the top were stunning!

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Pictures:
Jen, Stephen and I at the top of Mt Batur as the sun rose

After watching the sunrise and having breakfast, we took a walk around the crater and then started back down.

If we’d thought the way up was difficult, we were in for a treat trying to get back down! For about half of the way down, we were half-walking, half-skiing down through the deep loose ash… which was actually easier than the second section, when we attempted to walk on loose ash over hard ground!

It was a welcome relief when we arrived back at ‘base camp’ and had a chance to rest before we headed to the hot pools by the lake below. We stayed at the hot pools for an hour or so, which was a great way to relax out all of the aches from our trek.

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Pictures:
What happens when three omnivores go to a vegan restaurant…?
Most of our conversation was based around what meat could make the meals just that little bit more fulfilling!


Day 3

Ubud

As we’d worn ourselves out pretty well yesterday, we decided to take it easy in the morning, with a bit of a lie in (7am) and then chilling reading our books by the pool or in the pagoda at the villa.

By midday we ventured out, to again wander around Ubud centre. We visited the markets and shops we’d seen but not gone in the first time.

We spent the evening appreciating the Balinese culture, taking in a show from the Chandra Wati Ladies Orchestra & Dance troupe in front of the Ubud Water Palace, before having dinner at a local restaurant.

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Pictures: 
Left – Some refreshing drinks in Ubud; and one of the statues flanking Ubud Palace.
Right – Some of the intricate wall carvings in Ubud Palace; and the s
taging of the Chandra Wati Ladies Orchestra & Dance troupe in front of the Ubud Water Palace


Day 4

Ubud

After our rest day, we went a bit further afield and took in more of the Balinese culture on a full day trip.

Taman Ayun

Our first stop was the Taman Ayun, and the Temple of Mengwi, just south of Ubud. The temple is surrounded by beautiful grounds, with a couple of ponds and bridges around the central temple, and plenty of trees to shelter under from the sun.

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Lake Bratan

Then we headed along to the Hindu temple to Shiva, Pura Ulun Danu Bratan. Lake Bratan, and the surrounding mountains make this temple quite secluded, but more majestic for it. The bonus of being by the lake was that it didn’t feel as hot, so we didn’t need to search for shade!

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Jatiluwih Rice Fields

After Pura Bratan, we drove inland more, to visit the Jatiluwih Rice Fields where we stopped for lunch. After eating, we headed into the rice fields – or terraces, as they are aptly known, as they are flat sections cut into the hills to create large step-like fields. We really saw here how many Balinese lives revolve around rice…

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Taman Kupu-Kupu

Our penultimate stop off at Taman Kupu-Kupu, which is Bali’s Butterfly Park.
We stretched our legs, had a nice wander, and saw some of the native butterfly species flying around the park… on top of getting up close and personal with stick insects and some of the colourful moths!

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Tanah Lot

We finished up the day in Tanah Lot.
Tanah Lot itself has become a sight of pilgrimage for many Balinese, and there are actually two temples within a few hundred meters of each other:
– the island temple, Pura Tanah Lot, which sits on it’s evolving rock in across the causeway, just offshore and one of seven Balinese sea temples. Apparently each of the sea temples are built within eyesight of the next, as a chain around the coast on that side of the island.
– and also Pura Batu Bolong, which is perched on a sheer peninsula above the sea, with the waves rolling through the natural sea arch beneath.
Both would make for some great sunset photos, but on this particular day, the sky clouded over, so we didn’t stay for the full sunset and headed back early.

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Day 5

Ubud – Paon Bali Cooking Class

Today we went out of Ubud to do a Balinese cookery course…
Paon Bali Cooking Class’ are run by a local family, which makes it great to find out more about the food and lifestyle.

The day started for us with a guided-morning tour of the food market in Ubud. This was really good, as the guide could tell us about the local foods, and the ingredients that we would be using in the recipes that day – and it also meant that she could check if we had any food allergies and suggest alternatives in advance.

One of the other advantages of being part of a guided-group going around the food markets was that the guide could tell us about some of the more unusual local foods (especially fruits) that we wouldn’t be eating later, and we could split and try them as a group.

After the market, we were all taken up to some of the rice terraces outside of Ubud. There, the (husband) explained to us the crop systems, the history behind Bali’s great irrigation systems, and how much rice families could produce.

One of the things that really struck me throughout our trips was how developed the systems in Bali were – in particular the irrigation systems. As it turns out, and our food-tour guide told us, this is knowledge has been passed down through (recent) Balinese history, from their past as a Dutch colony.

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Pictures:
Welcome iced lemongrass drink, and getting to work on the base spice mix for our food later.
And hard at work doing prep and cooking our courses…

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Pictures – the courses we cooked:
Kuah wong sup jamur (Clear mushroom and vegetable soup)
Be siap mesanten kare ayam (Chicken in coconut curry)
Sate siap sate lilit ayam (Minced chicken grilled on bamboo sticks)
Kacang me santok gado gado (Vegetables in peanut sauce)
Jukut urab (Coconut and snake -string- bean salad)
Pepesan be pasih pepes ikan (Steamed fish in Banana leaves)
Tempe me goreng tempe kering (Deep fried tempe in sweet soy sauce)
And for dessert Kolak biu kolak pisang (Boiled banana in palm sugar syrup… w/ coconut cream)


Day 6

Ubud – Gili Trawangan

We left our villa and had our final trips up along the walkways on the mopeds… By this point we were well used to them, and I will definitely miss them.

From the main office, we caught our transfer to the high speed ferry which was going to take us over to Gili Trawangan.

Gili Trawangan is one of the three Gili Islands (the other two being Gili Air and Gili Meno). They’re actually all a part of Lombok instead of Bali, but it was too good of an opportunity to miss.

I had been a bit exhausted on the boat ride over, and when we arrived on Gili T, we had a bit of late lunch, before Jen and Stephen headed to their hotel, and me to my hostel, to chill out.

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Pictures thanks to Stephen – Departing to, and arriving on Gili T.


Day 7

Gili Trawangan

I was staying in a hostel on the other side of the island from Jen and Stephen, as I had booked it a bit later. After a bit of a lazy morning, chilling and reading at the hostel, I walked across to the other side, and took it easy around the pool when I got there too!

Over dinner, we had discussed and organised what to do the following day.

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Picture – my hostel had some great signs around…


Day 8

Gili Trawangan

So…Stephen decided to chill out some more around the resort, and Jen and I booked on to a day trip – for me this was to snorkel, and Jen to scuba dive. 

The first site we went to was difficult to navigate, with not much to see as the visibility was deteriorating due to the currents, so the guides pulled us back in a bit early.

After lunch though, the second site had much better visibility – and we saw 4 turtles! It was awesome to see turtles swimming in the wild after my previous experiences of only seeing them in sanctuaries.

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Picture – looking back at our snorkelling crew.
Sorry my underwater photos were a bit rubbish, so won’t include them.


Day 9

Gili Trawangan – Nusa Dua

This was our final day on the island, so we only had part of the morning to fill – dependent on what time we were all up.

As I have been waking up early at the moment though, I made the most of my time (and being on the more ‘central’ side of the island) so after a quick breakfast, I took a quick wander along the coast to the local turtle conservation farm. There they showed me some of the nesting cubes they have for the eggs, as well as their ‘new-born’ additions (4-days old), the 3-, and 5-month old turtles!

For the ferry back across to Bali, unlike the trip over, I was fully awake, so I decided to head up to the roof with Jen and Stephen to take advantage of the sun and sea air (sunscreen definitely at the ready for that trip).

I was really glad I did though, as the trip seemed to be a bit more bumpy than on the way over… so the fresh air and being able to see the horizon meant there wasn’t any seasickness!


Day 10

Seminyak

We spent our last few days in Bali staying in Nusa Dua, the peninsula on the south-east coast. The first full day, we decided to be ultimate tourists, and head around the markets and shops in Seminyak.

Seminyak is the epitome of a tourist trap. The town itself is filled with shops, a lot of them ‘western’ brands but cheaper as the clothes are made locally. Then, when you get to the outskirts, there are the beaches and the resorts…

We spent most of the morning walking up the beaches around the resorts, before stopping for lunch. Then the rest of our day was wandering along the main streets, checking out the occasional store, before heading back to the hotel for dinner.


Day 11

Nusa Lembongan

We headed out early to do a day trip on Nusa Lembongan island (just off the south coast). The trip was to go snorkelling and kayaking, so the morning was spent across 4 different snorkel/dive sites…

The first site was amazing – and quite nerve-wracking…
The boat anchored up about 30 or 40 meters into a cove, with high cliffs on two sides. The water was pretty choppy, with some of the waves raising the level by half a meter or more… but the reason we were there made it all worth it.

This area had a group of Manta rays swimming there… they were so large you could see the shadow of them from the boat above the surface. But when you got into the water (and accustomed to the tides) it was awesome to just watch them glide through the water beneath.

Mantas are so much larger than I realised… it wasn’t until some of them were gliding by beneath that I realised they’re huge – some of them had a wingspan the size of a small car!

They’re also pretty timid, even somebody kicking too hard in the water can make them change direction…

In part due to this, and the number of people on our tour, I hung to the outer edge of the group, which actually meant I saw a lot more of them!

Thankfully, we had paid a bit extra for us to have photos of the day taken, and the guide/diver/photographer was really good. – And quite importantly, had great lung capacity – so he managed to get some brilliant shots of the mantas up close.

Pictures – Thanks to our awesome guide, and his great lung capacity!

The second site was in one of the island inlets, and had some great coral, but the current was pulling all of us in one direction within the inlet, so the guide cut the time short there to spend more time at the other sites.

The third site was great, and involved swimming close to the island cliff wall, which jutted out over the water a bit. This meant that as you came to the surface, you were advised to raise one arm above your head – so that there was no chance of concussion!

There were some great reefs on this section, and some decent fish schools too. It ended up being quite relaxing (in comparison to the previous two) as the current pulled us gently along the guide’s route, alongside the cliff-face, so it wasn’t very taxing swimming!

And finally, the last site was out by a large waterpark platform. Here we were encouraged to swim away from the boat a little, and watch some of the larger fish up close.

We returned to Lembongan to dry off in the sun over lunch, and then headed out to kayak through the mangroves. This is the first time kayaked through mangroves, and I was accompanying the guide in his kayak as there were uneven numbers. After my previous experiences of open water/island kayaking, this was very different…

It took a while to get used to using smaller strokes, and being more focused on what was happening under the water, than where the kayak was going.


Day 12

Sanur – Silver-workshop

This was also Stephen’s last day in Bali, so we didn’t want to go too far… in saying that though, I had been wanting to do something a bit different in Bali. I had heard a lot about the crafts workshops around the country…

So after a bit of hotel Wifi and Googling, we had found a Silver-smithery not far from Nusa Dua, in Sanur. So we travelled about 30 minutes from Nusa Dua, up to the Sanur Jewellery Studio for a day’s workshop learning traditional silver-jewellery-making techniques.

At the workshop, we had the chance to design something (with their feedback as to what would be possible in the time) and then they taught us the basics of hand-crafting it into silver jewellery.

With a fair bit of input from the instructors, and their direction for casting, hammering, and stretching the metals – as well as some of the elements that I remember from workshop classes at school, like soldering and filing – I walked away at the end of the day with a pair of custom earrings, and a bespoke hammered silver and copper ring.

Now I just have to get used to wearing them all!


Day 13

Seminyak

This was Jen and my last day in Bali, with our flights in the evening. And as we still had Rupia to burn… (not much point bringing it back with the exchange rate) we headed back to Seminyak for a few hours, to see what we could find.

I managed to pick up a couple of extra t-shirts and jumpers (as it is winter in NZ after all) as well as a gift or two to send home. Hopefully Mum and Erin like them!

After exhausting ourselves wandering around town, we headed back to the hotel to chill out by the pool for an hour or so, before grabbing a taxi to the airport…