Bali! We have arrived! For any of you that have seen Eat, Pray, Love, I’m sure you can picture what scenery was in my head. Bright, blue oceans, endless rice fields, people on bikes, and open air houses. I couldn’t wait. Our trip to Bali started off with an upbeat song, Jess Glynne’s “Hold My Hand”, that started playing on the airplane as it started to descend. I had never had this happen before but I liked it.
Our time in Bali was to be spent between Ubud and the beaches, starting off in Ubud. We had arranged a driver to take us to our Air B&B and much to our delight he was waiting for us at the airport with our names on a sign. Of course we wanted picture documentation but due to a slight language barrier our sign ended up in the garbage before the photo could be captured. Oh well. We hopped in the car and headed to our little house for the next couple of days. It had been advertised as “romance and ducks in the rice fields”. I liked the combo so it seemed an obvious choice. We were dropped off and the house was charming with a beautiful screened in porch overlooking rice fields. It was very serene. What wasn’t advertised was the huge gaps that lay surrounding the doors and windows. Also that the bathroom was outside. This didn’t bode well with someone that is terrified of snakes and had to run outside in the dark at night praying a snake wasn’t lying in wait outside the door/on the sink/ curled up on the toilet.
About 15 minutes after being dropped off at our house a lady with a moped showed up. One signature and $12 later we had keys to the moped for the next 3 days. No proof of license, insurance or any other things we would expect. We quickly realized the rules in Bali might be a little bit different. A quick test drive down the driveway and we were on our way into the town of Ubud. It was absolutely nothing like I had expected. No people merrily biking along through fields wearing floppy hats, no big trees blowing in the wind…. just people and mopeds everywhere . It was nuts. I’m also convinced there are absolutely zero traffic laws. Just cross your fingers, step on the gas and hope for the best. Luckily that mantra worked for us and we survived all of our moped treks. We spent a bit of time wandering the streets before heading back to our house before dark (understandably Tim was a little nervous driving after dark). There was a cute restaurant about 50 feet up the road from where we were staying so we enjoyed apps, drinks, dinner and dessert for $9. Holy crap this country is cheap.After dinner we headed back to our place to get ready for bed. We had forced numerous bugs out of the house and Tim was focusing on one last gecko. After about 20 minutes of trying to shoo the gecko out I finally told him to give up. He responded with “just let me finish …. don’t worry about it” . In my head I’m thinking it is a tiny little gecko that can’t really do any harm so I wasn’t understanding the urgency. He finally told me to take a look and upon him pulling back the curtain I understood why he was trying so hard. I can only describe what I saw as a mini alligator. It was huge! It was so long and thick. It had to be evicted immediately. If you would like to imagine what the next 30 minutes looked like, picture flashlights, lanterns, chasing, running across the bed, screams and finally a slammed door and victorious “hooray!” Gecko gone. Phew! The next day we woke up and decided to take a yoga class at the yoga barn. Personally I don’t care for yoga but it had been recommended and we were in what was supposed to be a very zen part of the world so we figured what the hell. We hopped on our moped and headed into town. After a bit of trouble parking the bike we had signed up for a beginners class and headed up to the yoga room. It was unlike any other yoga room I had been in. It had a thatched roof with open sides that looked out onto tons of trees and ponds. There was calming music playing and a soft breeze wafting through the room. Forget yoga, I’m ready for a nap! I was so relaxed. Nonetheless, the yoga instructor came in and gave us a class. It was surprisingly enjoyable. We bent, we stretched, we “ommmed”, we stood on one leg, we chanted, our instructor even played the guitar. Like I said, unlike any other yoga class I had been to. We left feeling extremely relaxed and ready to check out Ubud. One thing that had been recommended to us was the monkey forest. We had loved seeing the monkeys in Costa Rica, Guatemala and Japan so we figured a whole forest of them would be right up our alley. We were wrong. It started off well enough. The road leading up to the forest had monkeys running across it and there were several perched outside the entrance. They were cute and seemed harmless enough so we decided to head in. We had been forewarned that they like to steal anything they can so we put away all of our belongings into our shared backpack and began wandering through the forest. They were everywhere! Big monkeys, baby monkeys, noisy monkeys. It was all well and good until out of nowhere a momma felt threatened and ran right in front of Tim with her baby and started and hissing her monkey head off at another monkey. Tim froze until she retreated and then we decided to get away from some of the crowds of people. We took a different path and enjoyed seeing the monkeys playing, eating and sleeping. A little while later we were crossing a small bridge when a big monkey started eyeing Tim up. No matter where we turned the monkey kept staring at him. Next thing we knew the monkey jumped on Tim’s back and started stealing his backpack right off his back. Understandably Tim got nervous and basically started ripping the backpack off this back to hand it over. Meanwhile I was yelling “stop! Don’t give it to him! It has our passports, money and phones! Noooo!” Tim abruptly came to a halt and dumped the whole thing upside down, shaking the monkey off. We took off as quickly as we safely could and decided we had enough of the monkeys. A few wrong turns later we were safely out of the monkey forest. No more monkeys for us if we can help it! The rest of the afternoon was spent enjoying lunch, walking around town and signing up for a bike tour for the following day. We ended our day with dinner at a warung (local outdoor eateries) and headed to bed early to prepare for our early morning bike tour. We awoke the next morning and headed to a nearby coffee shop to grab coffee and wait for our ride. We were getting picked up to be taken to the departure point for our bike tour. My aforementioned “Eat, Pray, Love” fantasies had me very excited for the bike tour as it was intended to take you mostly through rice paddies. Our first stop was at Tengalalang Rice Terrace. It was gorgeous. The rice paddies were so expansive and so green. We took a few pictures and were then taken to our next stop, Luwak Coffee. Here we were given a tour of the coffee farm and were told about the different types of coffee they produce. They are known for their “poo coffee”. Ummmm what? Apparently the Luwak eats the coffee bean and then passes it, undigested, where the bean is collected and used to brew coffee. After our little lesson we did a coffee tasting including, you guessed it, the poo coffee. When in Rome, right? It actually tasted pretty good. We also tasted coconut coffee and bought some as a souvenir. Of note, this was before we had learned to haggle so we grossly overpaid for it. That one bag of coffee cost more than any meal we had in Bali.
After the coffee we had breakfast with a view of the volcano. We then hopped on our bikes and began our trek. It was awesome!! We biked through villages, under canopies of trees and alongside endless rice fields. It was the Bali in my mind come to life. We stopped periodically along the way to learn about how the rice is harvested, talk about the small towns we rode through, learn about the temples located in each town and the daily offerings made to them and view the beautiful scenery. Unfortunately, we did get slightly duped along the way. There was a massive hill that we had to bike up at one point. Everyone ended up having to jump off their bikes at some point and walk their bike because it was so steep. Tim eventually was walking two as he was graciously helping another lady on our tour. When we reached the top there were tons of kids at the top saying hi and handing out little bananas. As the tour has advertised fresh fruits along the way we took them and stared eating them. I made it about one bite before I stopped as it was full of some sort of hard seed. Next thing I know they are telling us we had to pay for the stupid bananas that we didn’t even eat! Like I said, duped. A little bit later we got stuck in a monstrous downpour. We pulled over and rain coats were handed out. Guess what was left for Megs. A garbage bag. Normally I wouldn’t be concerned about wet clothes and shoes but considering we only had about 5 outfits per person for our trip one ruined outfit isn’t the best. The tour guide leaned in uncomfortably close to me and whispered in my ear “shhh. The raincoats don’t actually work but the garbage bags do. You got the best option.” Ummm thanks? Seeing as I had no choice I threw the garbage bag over my head, jumped on my bike and we resumed our ride.
Our bike ride brought us to a cafe just as the rain was ending. My tour guide was right… the garbage bag actually worked. I was minimally damaged by rain and mud. We enjoyed a nice lunch overlooking the city and were treated to a performance of young girls dancing to traditional dance to Balinese music.
After that our guide drove us back to town. We had checked out of our hotel earlier that morning so we had our bags with us. As we were walking to our next place of residence we got stuck in another rain storm. A nice lady cleared out space on the floor of her small shop and insisted we come in and sit down to wait out the rain. Luckily it didn’t last long and we were able to move on. We found our homestay and walked into the courtyard. It was a bit odd as it seemed to be a lot of people’s houses all in one courtyard. We finally found the woman we needed to and she showed us to our room. Lesson learned. You get what you pay for. Our $14 room got us a bed, a toilet and a shower next to the toilet with no divider. Basically when you showered you got everything else in the bathroom wet. Luckily our plan was to leave at 2:00 a.m for a hike so we just needed a place to lay our heads for a few hours. We headed out for dinner and to sign up for our tour the following day which was a sunrise hike of Mt. Batur, a local active volcano. We ended up back at our home stay where we got about two hours of sleep before our alarms went off for our hike.
We got our sleepy butts out of bed and headed out to the street to wait for the car to pick us up. Standing on the street that early/late felt pretty sketchy, but not as sketchy as jumping in a random car that pulls up and says “Tim and Meghan? Ok, get in” . Ok…. I guess we are getting in. We picked up a few more people and drove for about 45 minutes before stopping for our 3:00 am breakfast of banana pancakes and coffee. We continued to drive until we reached the base of the hike. Of course the advertisement had promised everyone a headlamp. Of course not only did they only have flashlights, they didn’t have enough so Tim and I were asked to share one. Our guide was a tiny little woman that spoke broken English and had a hard time keeping track of us so one shared flashlight wasn’t ideal but oh well. Off we went. The hike that early was beautiful because you could see endless stars in the sky. We had a young German couple as well as a pair of friends from France on our tour so we enjoyed chatting with them as we hiked. The hike was very steep, only allowing for single file hiking (which provided more challenges with the shared flashlight). We could tell it was kind of sketchy but had no idea how much so until we came back down. It was pretty cool hiking up because all you could see was headlamps and flashlights so it looked like hundreds of ants climbing up a hill. After about an hour and a half we had reached the top, about 40 minutes before sunrise. Tim and I found a good spot and posted up to watch. The sunrise was unbelievable. It was just gorgeous coming up over a lake. We got fed a second breakfast of banana sandwiches while we took in the sights. Our poor French friends had their food stolen by the monkeys. We stayed for about an hour and then our group was ready to go. Not our tour guide, though. She was too busy laughing at the monkeys and taunting them with bananas and bread. It was weird.
The hike back down was very steep and provided a clearer indication of what we came up. How we all managed to get up without falling off the side of a cliff is beyond me but thankfully no one did. It was so rocky, narrow and windy that it would have been easy to misstep and over you go. The hike back down was beautiful but not as enjoyable as the one up. There were a bunch of college bros, I’m going to say they were Canadian to take some slack off of Americans, that were blasting their rap and party music. Not ideal when you are just trying to enjoy nature but oh well. Our guide also lost us at least 3 times, which was humorous. The sunrise lead to a gorgeous day, though, and we really enjoyed it. Definitely one our favorite things that we did in Bali. Our tour ended with another visit to another coffee farm and some fried bananas. In case you were curious that was 3 bananas in about 6 hours.
After being dropped back off at our room, we took showers next to the toilet, gathered our stuff and checked out. We were getting a ride to the beach that afternoon and had a few hours to kill before heading out. We had been talking about going to a fish spa and this seemed like an ideal time to do it. In case you don’t know, this is when you put your feet into a tank full of tiny fish and they eat the dead skin off of them. A couple of bucks later we were ready for our 15 minute “spa treatment”. IT WAS AWFUL. Terrible. I hated it but I think Tim mildly enjoyed it. I couldn’t keep my feet in without screaming and squirming like a tiny child and finally gave up after 10 minutes. I shudder just thinking about it. It was like an instant, ticklish vibration one your feet but watching the fish was so gross. Yuck. I pushed the awful experience aside and we enjoyed a quick lunch before heading to meet up with our driver. Thanks for the great time, Ubud! Now off to the beach!