My Bali adventure began with a big fat Fine from the helmet police at the gates of the airport where my friend Paul kindly came to meet me but forgot a spare helmet. We risked it. We got caught. The fine was about 20,000 rupiah which is equivalent of £10. We paid. We shook hands. We went. By this point, I haven’t left Thailand six months and almost instantly, I felt different being in Bali. As I rode on the back of my friend’s motorbike, I was taken in by the majestic temples everywhere, statues upon statues of gods and animals alike and Balinese people in the brightest colours I have seen (I have been living in black and neutral clothing for months due to the King’s death). Everyone smiling, carrying pots on their heads and giving blessings outside their homes. These blessings come in the form of flowers, food and scented oil which carries through the streets, shops and fields of Bali. Throughout my short visit in Bali, the smell of incense and oil overwhelmed my senses. Except for Seminyak at night, that’s a different kinda smell altogether!
I stayed the night with my friend and some other surfers that were visiting him from back home in their homestay just outside of Ubud. Now, Balinese homes are like temples. They are beyond gorgeous. Flowers and plants everywhere you turn. Fountains. Statues. Even the brick work is full of decoration.
Being in the company of surfers, I was told that we were waking up at 6am to ‘catch the waves’ before we move into Ubud itself. The ‘surf’ in Bali is apparently one of the best in the world so I happily watched the surfers whilst sitting on a black sand beach. The sand is black from the volcanic ash. Little did I know that there are 4 active volcanoes on the small island of Bali and as I travelled around the island, I noticed the volcanoes all around me. Looming in the distance just dormant. Waiting to erupt.
Paul and I finally arrived in Ubud while the surfers headed south chasing the wind. I loved Ubud. Again, we stayed in an overwhelmingly beautiful homestay with its own family temple in the middle of the gardens. The place is called Ojek’s Homestay and comes highly recommended. I stayed in a female dorm which had no doors and huge bay windows letting all the light shine into the room. Even though security was at an absolute minimum here, I felt very safe.
Ubud in general is vibrant and full of energy but has a sense of peace about it too. It’s the hub of the island so there was no shortage of temples. However, being the hub, it has one big main road which is noisy, hectic and chaotic. The absolute opposite to the rest of the place. As soon as you turn off that road into the side streets, you are met with tranquillity and countryside. It’s a bizarre mixture of vibes but I suppose people have to get about somehow. Ubud is full of quirky cafes, unique shops, yoga barns and PALM TREES! So many people come to Ubud for the best vegan food, challenging yoga and meditation practices and I understood now why people spend the majority of the travel time here in Ubud.
Stuff we did in Ubud. We casually climbed one active volcano called Mount Batun at 2am in the morning. We’re both welsh and been hiking all our lives so we thought, Ha! This’ll be dog easy. Quickly it became a reminder of how unfit I have become living in Thailand and driving my motorbike everywhere and having no mountains available to climb. We started out at 2am and got to the top at approximately 6am ready for the sunrise. The climb itself was an awesome experience and the views of the sunset rising over the volcanoes is something I will never forget. One thing I will say about this trip is you have to book it through a tour guide and the total number of people going up there every morning easily exceeds 200. Kinda annoying when you’re trying to get that instagram worthy picture but you have a group of Chinese tourists and the German with the big head in front of you refusing to move…
Of course we trekked through the Rice Paddies. Just Wow. Who would’ve thought rice farming would be such a beautiful sight?! We met some of the workers there who happily posed for a picture and then quickly demanded money (so be careful when taking pictures!). They are seemed really happy even though the work is tiring and gruelling. We even watched one worker climb a coconut tree with no branches right to the top to knock down the ripen coconuts. These people continue to amaze me.
We also stopped at a coffee plantation where they make Kopi Luwak which is coffee made from beans that have been collected from the faeces of wild civets and then brewed. Apparently, it is one of the most expensive coffees in the world but can be found for a reasonable price here in Bali. Yes, I tried it. It’s an acquired taste for sure. We bought a taster board full of delicious coffees and teas and had a guided tour around the plantation itself.
Favourite places to eat in Ubud: Soma Cafe, Seeds of Life & Seniman Resto & Coffee.
From Ubud, I said goodbye to Paul as he headed down south to meet more waves. I also headed south to the town of Seminyak. A quirky, chic town. Completely different from Ubud. I felt this town was very westernised with its frozen yogurt, boutique shops and classy restaurants. Completely different vibe from Ubud. I stayed at Capsule Hostel (highly recommend!) where I met up with a friend from home Aaron. One of the best feelings seeing someone from home after being away for so long. My strong welsh accent instantly made a comeback around him as we bantered in welsh slang.
There’s not a lot to see or do in Seminyak to be honest. We ate, partied and met some awesome people from around the world. We did do a day trip to Canggu which is a quiet surfer town, almost with an Australian feel to it. We chilled on the beach, rode around and headed back for another night of partying.
From Seminyak, I said goodbye to Aaron as he flew to Singapore and join allies with my new friends to travel to the island Gilli Trawagan (Gilli T). We set off at 8am in the morning and arrived around 3pm in the afternoon. We stayed at La Boheme Sister which is a hippie hostel made of bamboo wood. Everyone stayed in a lovely air conditioned room while I got stuck with the funny Irish guy called Peter in the hut at the back! He turned out to be one of the funniest guys I have ever met.
The first thing I noticed about Gilli T was the use of horse and cart here. These horses have to pull heavy loads all day, every day and looked completely worn out. At night, they just stood still lifting their tired feet every now and again. They didn’t seem to have any respite and I didn’t like the way they were treated by their owners so if you happen to be in Gilli T, please don’t ride in the carts. The island is so small, you can get around by walking or we hired bicycles to explore the island.
We didn’t like the use of the Horse & Cart… so we rode bikes instead!
We found one of the most gorgeous beaches I have ever seen at the top of the island where we stayed all day. We swung, we floated on beanbags and glazed ourselves in the dry sun. For dinner, we went off the beaten track and found a small cafe where we had traditional food and cocktails and made good friends with one of the guys working there called Aria who took us a great spot for sunset and beers. The nightlife in Gilli can become crazy. It almost changes from a peaceful place to a party island in a matter of hours.
My last day in Indonesia was spent waiting for a boat that was threatening not to arrive along with hundreds of other travellers and tourists needing to return to the mainland. Only one boat came to the island that day and I felt like I was in the Titanic movie fighting for the lifeboat. People pushed and shoved and their behaviour became vicious so they could make it onto the boat. We had people shouting “Women and children first” while babies were crowd surfing their way to the boat. It was the most bizarre experience but us girls made it onto the boat. Sadly, Irish Peter did not.
Best places to eat in Gilli T: Pituq Cafe, Bayan Tree & the night market.
Bali is a very spiritual place and is everything I envisioned Thailand to be like. Both places have their own uniqueness and quirks but I wish I had more time in this magical island. Until we meet again in among the fields of Bali…