It was time to leave the inland area of Ubud and head to these famous Bali beaches we’ve heard so much about. Based on the amount of time we had left in Bali, we decided to hit up the beaches on the southern part of the island since they were most easily accessible and would be closest to the airport when it was time to go. Ubud is about 40 miles from the beaches and since we didn’t have our own transportation, we got in touch with the guy who originally picked us up from the airport, Komang. It was an hour and a half drive and he was asking for 350,000 rupiah, which translates to about $26 US.
As we got out of the car and I paid him, Komang seemed extremely grateful. I paid him the requested amount, but also tipped him by covering a highway toll of 10,000 rupiah ($0.75 US) and an actual tip of 30,000 rupiah ($2.25 US). It’s amazing how far the dollar goes in places like this.
Our hotel was located not far from the main hotel area in Jimbaran, a touristy area about 20 minutes south of the airport. This was one of those hotels where they won’t just hand you a key and let you be on your way. They asked us to sit at the front desk with them, gave us some fresh apple juice, and wanted to make sure we understood everything available to us and that they understood what kinds of activities and amenities we were looking for. We just wanted to relax at the beaches so we just made sure taxis to the beach areas wouldn’t be an issue, and it sounded like they wouldn’t be. There was a nice outdoor pool off to the side of the check-in area and all of the 20 or so rooms at this resort either walked out directly to the pool (first floor) or overlooked the pool (second floor). We were on the second floor. We had a sink and nice long counter (hooray, we should be able to do laundry!), a sufficient amount of space in the area with the bed, and a balcony. Looks good to us!
Megs was a trooper and did some laundry as we were getting settled. This consisted of putting some clothes in our small sink, adding the detergent, washing it with her hands, letting them soak, then rinsing and eventually hanging them anywhere there was space. A majority of the space happened to be in the bathroom so it ended up looking like the bathroom was in disarray after about the third or fourth “load” that she did.
After that, we decided we would head to Jimbaran Beach and hang out there until dinner. Rather than taking a taxi to Jimbaran, we opted to take the 20 minute walk. The way that Jimbaran is set up, there’s a line of about 10 different restaurants side-by-side to choose from… and hardly anything else in the immediate area. The taxis drop you off in a large parking lot (or in our case, you walk to this point) then you have to walk through one of the restaurants to get to the actual beach. Every restaurant has employees, mostly men, yelling out to you to invite you in. “Hungry? Come in! We have all types of seafood! Where do you want to sit?” It was a little more forceful that inviting, but you get the idea.
We decided we weren’t quite ready for food so we picked a random restaurant without an aggressive guy out front, walked through it (there were almost no people in the restaurant, if any at all… everyone was seated on the beach out back), and got to the beach, and started walking. The beach itself wasn’t too bad. Not too crowded. A little garbage but not so much that it looked run down. And the beach stretched in a half moon shape all the way to the airport. It was nice watching the planes take off from the airport in the distance and trying to guess where they were headed. Thailand? Australia? Kuala Lumpur? We should have told the passengers there’s no reason to go to Kuala Lumpur…
We walked along the beach for a while, which was nice since this is the first time on the trip we had been at a beach. We eventually got hungry and headed back to the restaurants. We looked over the menus of the first three or so before we realized they all had roughly the same options at roughly the same prices. We decided to head back to the one on the end because we would have one side where there were unobstructed views of the beach. Because of the slant of the beach from the restaurant down to the water, we chose a table a few rows back to get a better view for the sunset.
When we looked over the menu, we saw that most prices were in the form of cost per kg. We didn’t know if this meant all meals were served in a kg size, which would be 2-3 times bigger than what we normally have at home, or if it just meant that the price would be adjusted to a fraction of that based on the size of the catch. After asking our waitress, it seemed like it was based off of the size of the catch. I ordered barracuda and Megs went with mahi mahi.
We watched the sun set as we waited for our meals. There were some hills in the distance which made for a nice backdrop, even though the sun set over the water and not behind the hills. When the sun was mostly down and our food was delivered, I found out that the barracuda was actually a kg portion size. I looked at Megs and shrugged. I assumed there was no way I was going to finish it. As we were eating, I realized a few things. One was that it was dark enough that it took me until halfway through my meal to realize the head was still on my fish. As I was cutting pieces off for myself, I nearly chomped down on a mouth full of razor sharp barracuda teeth. Second, somehow I was slowly finishing all of it. At some point, Megs had called it quits on her own meal and jokingly asked if I wanted to finish it off. “Sure.” I took her plate and started eating the rest of it as she sat there watching me. This went on for a while and at some point I think it moved from disbelief that I was still going to it being comical. I eventually finished off her whole meal. Then I finished off the barracuda that I still had left. “Are you done?” she asked. I looked down at the table and saw some food still there. Nope, not done. “Mmm, vegetables! And there are still some peanuts left here…” I wasn’t actually hungry but I continued to be a garbage disposal and eat every last thing on these giant plates as Megs shook her head at me.
The next day and the following few days would be beach days. We didn’t know much about the specific beaches… just the vision of Bali beaches we had in our heads from movies or travel websites. We spent a little time that morning doing searches like “best beaches in Bali” and I had a good idea of where we would be heading that day. It looked like there were three or four beaches that seemed to be in a row on the southern coast of the island. We called a taxi, packed our day pack, and went downstairs to wait for the cab to arrive.
When it showed up, I told the driver where we wanted to head that day. I named one of the beaches from the list we saw online and he seemed a little uncertain. I named a second one knowing they’re all so close together and we could easily walk from one to the next. He still didn’t seem too sure. I named a third and he seemed to get it. We were on our way.
The drive was supposed to be about 20 minutes according to my Google Maps search before we left. A few times throughout the drive we would come to an intersection and he would ask me which way we should go. I don’t know, dude, you’re the driver who said he knew where we were going! I would just repeat the name of the beach and hope we ended up there. After about the third time of this happening, we were at an intersection where I saw the word “Uluwatu”, which I remember seeing on a map at some point but I couldn’t exactly remember if that’s where these beaches were. He asked which way, I said “Uluwatu”, and we were promptly on our way in the wrong direction.
After about 30-35 minutes, we pulled into a parking lot. There didn’t appear to be any beaches around. “We are here. Uluwatu,” he said. “Is there a beach here?” I asked. “Umm… maybe 20 minutes,” he replied. So… what’s here?
Apparently it was a temple that overlooked the water. I had read about this online so it was unexpected but not a complete bust. We decided we might as well check it out since we were here. He said he would wait for us to walk around so he could take us to the next place, but of course that would come at an additional fee. I had had enough of this guy. “Don’t wait,” I told him.
In order to get in, we had to cover up with sarongs. It took a few tries before we had them tied properly and looking acceptable enough for the guy at the front gate to allow us through the main entrance but we got it right and we headed in. On the way in, a guy passing us stopped me and said “I’d recommend you take that sunscreen out of the outside pocket of your backpack. If the monkeys see anything, they’ll come after it.” Ah, crap. More monkeys. Time to be on high alert so I don’t have a repeat situation from The Monkey Palace.
We spent about 30 minutes walking around, taking in the views, avoiding the monkeys, and even running into two of the people from our sunrise hike at Mt. Batur, our French friends Cecile and Charles. We also managed to escape the area without any monkey situations (though we did see them approaching a number of other people).
We left the temple and scanned the parking lot for a new taxi to take us to a beach. I saw some guys wearing the same type of shirts as our original driver so I approached them. They were all waiting for their previous riders and didn’t have room for us but they pointed us in the direction of a taxi stand. I approached the stand and asked if they could take us to Dreamland Beach. This wasn’t the beach that we planned to go to that day but I got my bearings straight and realized that by telling the driver to take us towards Uluwatu, it put us on the southwest corner of the island and to get to the south central part we would have to drive back to the central area then head south (in a V-shape) – there was no direct route along the southern portion of the island from beach to beach. Anyway, the driver pulled out a laminated card, pointed to Dreamland and it showed something like 250,000 rupiah. I laughed and said “No way. We were thinking about 75,000.” He laughed back and said he couldn’t do that. I thanked him and we started to walk away. He then proceeded to call after us a number of times. “Hey! Come back! How about 200,000? Why are you walking?” I only turned around one more time to tell him we wouldn’t be riding with him because he didn’t have a meter (which is something we read as being a must-have for any taxi you get in to avoid being ripped off) and we kept walking. We decided we would walk to the next beach that was 20 minutes away, based on what our original driver told us. Even if it wasn’t Dreamland, it would be a beach.
After walking on a small road for about 5-10 minutes, we wished we told the original taxi to wait for us. It seemed like a weird road we just didn’t like the feel of it, so when a taxi pulled up behind us and asked if we needed a ride, I saw the guy had the same shirt as our original driver and also that he had a meter, so we hopped in. He said the beach close by isn’t worth going to so he took us to Dreamland, which he said is his favorite beach on the island.
There was a long driveway approaching the dropoff area for Dreamland. The driver dropped us off and told us that when we wanted a ride back, to walk back up the driveway. Taxis like his would be cheaper up there. It had something to do with the fact that taxis who wait at the dropoff area of the driveway have to pay a fee to wait there whereas taxis who just drive to the beginning of the driveway don’t, and those fees, or lack thereof, are reflected in the cost to the passengers. We thanked him and got out of the car. We were finally at a beach, for real this time!
We walked down a boardwalk past some shops and bathrooms/showers that led us to the beach. I had refused to buy sandals due to limited space in my backpack, and also being cheap, so I carefully took off my Sperry’s as to not get any sand in them, picked them up, and headed for the sand. We walked across about 30 feet of sand before coming to a number of beach chairs and some umbrellas, most of them in use. We looked around for an open one and some older woman walked over to us and pointed out two under an umbrella. We thanked her and, before we could put our stuff down, she said “150,000 rupiah.” I was starting to understand that everything in this country was negotiable so I quickly shook my head and said “we have to pay? I’m not paying 150,000. Maybe 75,000…” She responded with “I give you good deal” (anyone selling you something always resorted to this). “I’ll do it for 100,000, but you must be quiet about it. They paid 200,000…” pointing to an Asian couple next to us. We agreed to 100,000 and we started to settle in. Before we could do that, the older woman asked “You want massage? Or body board?” We told her no, she didn’t seem to like that answer, lingered for a while to see if we would change our minds (which we didn’t), and she eventually walked away.
Fast forward five minutes and she was back with a body board. She leaned it up against my chair and said “body board?” and smiled at me with what teeth she had, as if seeing it would entice me to want it. “No, we’re good.” She kept lingering. She moved it around as if she was riding on the waves while she was smiling. “No, thanks”, I said. She kept lingering. I said “…maybe later” in an effort to try something different. She saw this as an opening and said “I’ll leave it here so you can think about it.” At least she finally left.
The next few hours were spent in the water, under our umbrella, telling the beach ladies “no” to their offerings of body boards, massages, food, drinks and whatever other things they offered, and of course people-watching. Some highlights of our people-watching were…
1. the Asian couple apply and reapply their sunscreen where, instead of rubbing it on, it was a mix of patting and doing karate chops on the other person, and
2. the group of 3 Asian women who were “having a Bali” and took pictures of each other for the better part of an hour. Our favorite times were when the one closest to the ocean was taking the picture and they tried to get the other person while they were on the beach, but an unexpected wave would come up behind the camerawoman and soak her. This was especially entertaining when they would get knocked onto their back and their straw hat would get taken away.
In our people-watching, we noticed that many of the women didn’t wear bathing suits. By that, I don’t mean these were nude beaches. Quite the opposite, actually. The women wore long-sleeved shirts (though a light material) and wouldn’t take it off to go in the water. We thought this was an interesting choice since they’d coming out of the ocean looking like wet dogs with their drenched clothes. To each their own…
We started to get annoyed by how crowded the beach was and how many “Balis” were going on so we opted to climb the hill next to the beach for a better view, then grab some food.
There were limited options for food so we just went for the first place we saw, just off the sand. We ordered a Hawaiian pizza and some fish. Megs started with the fish and I started with the pizza, then we did the ol’ switch-a-roo. Megs decided she wasn’t too keen on the pizza so we were about to switch back after I took one or two more bites of the fish. Megs ended up feeling pretty lucky that I decided to take those couple extra bites because after extra bite #1, I looked back at my food and saw that there was a full fly cooked right into the fish. Not one that had been killed and had been put in there. It looked like the fly somehow got IN the fish and was cooked that way. That was all the fish either of us would eat that day.
I told the waitress about the fly situation and she half-heartedly apologized and took it away for me. I told her we would take the check and she asked “do you want to pay for the fish?” I almost didn’t know how to respond to that. Are we still talking about the fish with the fly baked into it? We are? Ok, then no. No I do not want to pay for that fish. Thanks.
We paid our bill, watched the sun set, and got a cab back to our place. We didn’t get to the beach we were looking for, but we got to a beach. And we were in Bali. Hard to complain about that.
The next day we woke up and realized that our clothes that were hanging in the bathroom to dry were arguably smelling worse now than they did the day before. Maybe they would be better after they fully dried?
At breakfast that morning, there was a little kid running around. We picked our table and went to get our food. When we came back, the kid’s toy truck, probably at least a foot long, was on Megs’ chair. It was annoying but she just moved it to the ground without saying anything to them and we started to eat. A few minutes later, the kid came over and made himself at home by putting his hand on our plate of fruit. We shooed him away saying “no, no, no!” like you would to a dog, which worked, but when we looked up at the parents, they did and said nothing. They saw it all happen but didn’t offer to get us new food or even so much as apologize. Rude.
We decided we were going to try to turn this day around by getting a clear idea of the directions to Karma Beach (one of the beaches we failed to make it to the day prior) and get a better beach experience than Dreamland. We read that there would be a fee of roughly 400,000 rupiah, or the equivalent of almost $30 US (hopefully total and not per person, but we couldn’t find a straight answer to that) but, after some debate, we decided we were ok with it because it would be a private beach and we wouldn’t have to deal with the weird beach ladies trying to give us massages or all the people having Balis in front of us on the beach.
Today’s cab driver actually knew where we were going and properly got us there. It was a single resort at the end of a small, not-so-busy road. We walked down a walkway towards the back of the resort while being greeted by workers and a seemingly nice view that peeked out occasionally between the trees.
We got to the reception desk and the guy there asked if we were staying there or just visiting for the beach. Since we weren’t staying, he told us about the charge. The only difference is he told us the price was 500,000 rupiah… and it was per person. Per PERSON?! We weren’t expecting that. We told him we were going to think about it and walked away.
A portion of this fee, maybe 300,000 per person, could be used for food and drinks. If you didn’t use it, you lost it, though. We could get lunch here for “free” rather that getting it from another restaurant. But that’s still 500,000 that we’re spending. There was another similar beach nearby that was somewhere between 200,000 and 300,000 rupiah per person but we would have to take another cab there. We could just put this cab money towards staying here, so to speak. Ultimately, it was way more than we planned to spend on a beach but we decided to go for it and not let it bring us down. After a failed attempt to negotiate the price down a little, we paid the money and went in.
The resort was on a dramatic hillside with the beach below. The only way to access the beach was by way of an incline (shout out to the Pittsburgh Incline!). While waiting for the incline to take us down, we saw the views of the beach and were impressed. The beach was small but the water was a beautiful shade of blue. We looked at each other and agreed that we already felt like we made a good choice.
We got to the bottom and there was a hostess waiting for us. She asked where we wanted to be seated, under the roof near the restaurant or on the sand on the beach, and we chose the beach. As we were getting settled in, a server walked by and asked us if we wanted anything. Yep, sure do! Beers. We’re in full-on relax-and-enjoy mode!
There was a steep grade from where the waves were breaking and hitting the shore to where they would stop and head back to the ocean. This grade, mixed with the strong current and the rocks that had settled in the sand, created a challenge for exiting the water. It was quite entertaining to watch others struggle to exit the ocean from the comfort of our shady umbrella.
We eventually got in the water to cool off. It was warm but not too warm, and the water was fairly clear. It made for some nice swimming, especially with the scenery we were surrounded by.
After a while, it was back to relaxing under the umbrella. Another round of beers? Why I don’t mind if I do! Back to people-watching. There was an older guy who kept getting tossed around by the breaking waves. He constantly ended up knocked over and rolling in the sand. He was smiling so big, I doubt he even realized his back was bleeding from the rocks.
I took a little walk over to the next beach, the one that cost less but would have ended up being more because we would have had to paid to get there… it was bigger, maybe 150 meters compared to ours that was maybe 40 meters, but our water was nicer and there were less people. We made the right choice.
Eventually it started raining and everyone ran under the thatched roof of the restaurant which was only a few steps from our umbrella. We waited it out for an hour or so but it didn’t let up. We used up our allowance of our tab and decided we would call it a successful day and head back.
We cabbed it back to the hotel where half of our clothes were still smelling bad and we didn’t have time to do anything about that since we were leaving the next morning. We relaxed for the rest of the night, thought about what the cat might be doing back home (a thought we pondered multiple times throughout the trip), and got ready for bed.
The next day we were all excited for the trip to Thailand. We got to the airport and made it through security pretty quickly. As we were walking to our gate, Megs said “I don’t feel good.” I looked at her and tried not to look too concerned but her face looked a weird mix of pale and green.
There were multiple trips to the bathroom in an attempt to thwart the sickness before takeoff but she was still looking and feeling this way when we got on the flight and the probability of getting sick mid-flight was high. Our seats were in the front row, which we would normally be excited about, but there was only a bathroom in the back of this plane.
We took off for a layover in Kuala Lumpur (ugh, THAT place again) and once the seatbelt sign turned off, Megs headed for the bathroom again. While she was gone, the stewardess brought food and drinks and even came back to clean up. Megs was gone for more than 30 minutes and I was starting to get concerned. I got up and headed for the back of the plane to see if she was ok. Luckily, if you can call it that, I found her sitting in the back row with her head down. She said nobody was sitting in that seat and rather than possibly needing to get up multiple times, she would just stay there for the flight. At least she wasn’t passed out in the bathroom. She assured me she was ok and there was nothing I could do to help so I headed back to our seats.
Things weren’t much better on the second flight from Kuala Lumpur to Bangkok but we made it there without needing to move to a seat near the bathroom, so we’ll call that one a small victory.
And so begins our Thailand adventure!