12th Jul 2012 - 25th Jul 2012
Bali And A Lombok Hop
It was a case of early to bed and early to rise as we did our Medan sleepover and headed out early the next morning to the airport. We’d purposely booked the earliest flights possible so that we’d get into Bali at a decent time. Come the actual morning of the flights though, and with the alarm buzzing away at 3.45am, it no longer seemed such a good idea!! It took me quite some time to wake up properly and even by the time we got to the airport I still wasn’t fully functioning … forgetting to remove the usual bits and pieces before going through the scanner. Bleep … bleep … bleep … bleep. Damn it!! Time for the security bloke to wave his magic wand over me, which only led to another succession of bleeps. My belt, money belt, watch and even a small piece of metal in my dental floss thingy all giving Mr Security something to at the start of his shift. Luckily, even though my face and my passport photo no longer bear a lot of similarities, I was waved through and we headed off to our gate number. Next time I’ll definitely remember to remove all the necessary bits and pieces and stick it in one of those boxes. Even if it does mean I’ll come close to losing my shorts as I pass through security!!
To get from Medan over to Bali we first had to pass through KL and change onto another plane. The first part of journey from Medan to KL took no time at all, and we also didn’t have long to wait for our connecting flight to Denpasar in Bali. By mid afternoon we were sat in the back of a taxi heading towards our first stop … Kuta. Kuta has a reputation as being a party town and some backpackers pass by the place in favour of heading to another coastal destination or travelling inland to Ubud. For us it was a welcome change after Sumatra and we quite liked spotting a Top Shop and M&S on the taxi ride into town. The streets in Kuta are lined with bars and everybody except us seemed to be Australian!! After a while you get used to the regular shouts of “G’day mate” coming from the shop owners and stall holders. It is the bogan (chavy) Australians holiday destination of choice and the merchandise on offer includes vests/t-shirts with wholly inappropriate slogans and stickers pronouncing that ’any name you want’ is gay, fat or something else untypable!! Obviously someone is buying them but it sure wasn’t us. I won’t be coming home wearing a t-shirt with the Pepsi slogan replaced with the word penis!!
If the dubious t-shirts or the constant hassle from the shop owners … “have a look boss” … aren’t to your liking then maybe it’s time to find a bar/restaurant and chill out listening to Adele ... sang by one of the locals!! And you don’t have to look too far, as every few hundred metres you’re guaranteed to pass a place where they’ve got some entertainment to go along with your food. ’Never mind, I’ll find someone like yoooouuuuu …’ coming from everywhere. Some renditions are actually pretty good, although others are only recognisable by the tune!!
Most of our time in Kuta was spent just chilling out and using the half decent hotel wifi to bring the blog up to date. We did make it down to beach one day, but surprisingly we didn’t think the beach in Kuta was all that. Maybe there’s much better beaches in Bali or perhaps we’ve just seen too many beaches in the last 9 months?! Or maybe, as with a lot of things when you’re travelling, it’s the reality compared to the expectation. Bali to me was going to be a paradise island with amazing beaches, swaying palm trees, etc and Kuta just didn’t do it for me. Still, up next were the Gili Islands in Lombok which were more like I was expecting …
Gili Trawangan or Gili T as it’s known for short has a bit of reputation, similar to Kuta, as being a bit of a party place. If you’re looking for somewhere a little more laid back etc then there’s the more peaceful neighbouring islands of Gili Meno and Gili Air. Party place or not, we decided to head to Gili T on the basis that it would no doubt be cheaper for accommodation and food than its neighbours, and we could always gives the parties a swerve if we didn’t fancy hanging out with the kids. Some of them young enough to be our kids!! As it turned out Gili T isn’t an out and out party place these days. Ok, so there are still plenty of bars and backpacker hangouts but there has also been a boom in upmarket accommodation in recent years and as the Lonely Planet puts it ’Gili T has grown up’. This made it slightly harder than expected to find a really cheap room but no one can say we didn’t try. By about guest house number 8 we had finally decided on the best one and even got it knocked down by 10,000 rupiah to 140,000 a night (just under a tenner), including breakfast. The thing about the Gili Islands is that they don’t have all the facilities of the mainland… they are close … but they are still islands. The water in a lot of the cheaper hotel bathrooms is cold salt water, so brushing your teeth and showering is a bit weird. Also there are no cars, motorbike or motorised vehicles of any sort on the Gilis. This is cool but you still nearly get run over every day by the alternative mode of transport on the island … horse and cart!! Also there are no dogs only cats. Emma was in kitty heaven!! The cats are all a bit messed up though because they are mostly inbred and so a lot of them are quite small and with deformed tails. They all have either little stubby tails or lumpy bumpy bent ones, and they stroll around the place like dogs in groups, and often don’t want to be stroked. They could sure be friendly enough though at breakfast time when there was a chance they might get a feed!!
Early on during our time in Gili T we dropped into the turtle sanctuary they have on the island. It’s just a small place with three tanks where tiny turtles are looked after until they are old enough to fend for themselves in the water. They face quite a few predators in the waters and on the beaches around the islands, including the cats, and they need a bit of help when they are tiny. It was great timing on our part as the sanctuary was actually releasing a batch of 1 year old turtles into the ocean while we were there. We went along on the morning of the release and watched as the turtles were carried to the beach and sent on their way down the sand. It was a little bit of organised chaos with a small crowd and the turtles not sure of where to go, but they eventually made it into the water. It was a great experience to see them starting a new part of their lives in the ocean!!
We’d kept our last full day in Gili T free to do some snorkeling. Well to be more accurate in my case some coughing and spluttering around in the sea. Normally when you continue to do the same thing over and over again you get better at it, right?? Unfortunately when it comes to snorkeling I am regressing to the point where I think my next attempt will end up with me drowning!! Hopefully not though as I’ve promised to give it one more go on the Great Barrier Reef, before perhaps hanging up my goggles and flippers … sorry mask and fins … for good. Anyway despite my poor attempts at getting in the water in the first place, hiring rubbish equipment, and swallowing more mouthfuls of water than air, it all ended up being totally worth it as we got to swim with a big turtle … or two. I’m a bit hesitant to claim that we saw two of them as it might have been the same one we saw twice, either side of lunch. Either way it was brilliant. Watching it swimming along eating coral on the sea bed and then once in a while swimming up to the surface to take in some air and head back down again. It was truly awesome experience and one we were very lucky to have!! Seeing those tiny turtles let out into the sea and then bumping into a fully grown one only metres off the beach the next day made all the effort getting to the Gili Islands totally worth it.
What else happened on Gili T?? Oh yeah … some thieving git stole a pair of my flip flops. Ok, so I did leave them outside our room, but we were down a really quiet road, and others had also left some of their things outside their rooms. It seems that my ’genuine’ pair of Quiksilver flips were of more interest than anything else on offer that night. The morning after they went missing I spent a good bit of time checking out other people’s feet to see if they were walking in my flips. No joy, and after a few hours I was over it … hoping that if it was a local thief they were making the most of their new footwear or if it was another traveller they trip up in them!! Considering we’ve been on the road for a while now we haven’t got too many entries to list in the lost/stolen column. And besides a pair of thongs (well it is almost time for Aus!!), pales into insignificance compared to a $100 note still unaccounted for!!
After spending 5 nights on Gili T it was time to head back to Bali to complete the final week of our time in SE Asia. With the budget well and truly overspent for this part of our trip we were definitely heading back the cheap way by local buses. And starting out fairly early meant that we weren’t in too much of a rush either, so a few changes here and there weren’t going to matter. As it turned out we didn’t even need the first bus as we were kindly offered a lift by a German guy who runs a resort on another part of the island. Mind you he had to make two attempts to get us on board as weren’t sure what he was up to the first time and we did our usual ’no thanks’ and walked on. As it turned out he had just dropped someone at the ferry terminal and was heading the same way as we were to do shopping. Having done a lot of travelling himself when he was younger he was more than happy to help backpackers out where he could. We were really grateful for the more comfortable ride, the fact that it cost us no money whatsoever (we did try and pay our way, but it was handed back!!) and that he was genuine, meaning that we didn’t go missing and I still get to write this blog update!!
Next stop Ubud, a place that is often described as the real Bali. Although when you turn up in town you soon realise that’s not quite the case. Or at least it’s not since the whole Eat, Pray, Love phenomenon. The love bit relating to the main characters time in Bali/Ubud. Or at least that’s what I’m told. The book is for girls and I can’t stand Julia Roberts so won’t be watching the film anytime soon either!! The main streets in Ubud are very tourist focused with posh restaurants, spas, art shops, etc, all the way along. And as some of the other tourist attractions are out of town, a walk down any of the streets comes with taxi drivers asking you 100 times a day if you need transport or a taxi. As usual we were walking everywhere so our answer was always ‘no thanks‘. Sometimes you’re saved from the need to utter these well practised words by taxi drivers who can’t be bothered to ask anymore. They now just stand there with a laminated sheet with taxi written on it!!
Our hostel in Ubud was in fact more of a home stay located down one of the side streets. It was set in a traditional Balinese family compound. With the central houses and then completing the layout were interesting gardens and shrines. Our small bungalow had a porch with a table and chairs, where we had breakfast each morning, and it was decorated with Balinese stone carvings and a really intricately carved wooden door. For our complimentary breakfast we opted for the ‘local breakfast’ which was rice, fried veg, chicken and satay sticks. It was tasty … if a bit spicy some days! … but kept us filled up until lunchtime. From the hostel it was only a short walk to see the famous rice fields. They were beautiful and gave us a chance to see the picture postcard side of Ubud. We also saw some of the local inhabitants up close and personal one morning in the monkey forest. It is a small forested area which has some temples inside the grounds and currently a population of over 600 monkeys!! We weren’t so keen on going after we read a few accounts of people getting bitten and scratched by monkeys and having to have rabies or hep jabs but we took precautions and decided to give it a shot (that wasn‘t an intentional bad pun on injections!!). We left everything at home!! No sunglasses, bags or drinks and tried to cover up by wearing long sleeved tops and trousers!! When we got there everyone else had rucksacks, shorts and t-shirts and even bananas to feed the monkeys, but our over precaution did mean that we weren’t the ones with monkeys climbing all over us trying to take our bags or grab the food. I guess we weren’t so silly after all. We spent a lot of the time wondering around the forest and loved watching the playful monkeys running around the paths. It was also fun watching people who had just arrived thinking that if they put the bananas behind their backs the monkey wouldn’t know it was there. Yeah … right! They would try to crouch down and try to hand the monkeys the bananas nicely, but were more often than not left wondering why instead the monkeys had jump on them, climbed up their arm and grabbed it out of their hand. Maybe because it is a wild animal not a pet?!! At one point we were just about to leave when we saw a couple of Australian women coming in, one of them carrying a huge bunch of bananas behind her back. We both looked at each other and smiled. We had to see this!! And we only had to follow them for a short distance before a huge monkey spotted the bananas and moved in for the kill … heading straight for the lady at some speed. The aussie lady freaked out, screamed to her friend for help ‘Michelle!!!!!’ and chucked the bananas in the air as she made a run for it!! Priceless. We could have spent all day in there watching tourists freaking out, but we did have other things to do.
We rounded off our time in Bali … Indonesia … and SE Asia ... by heading back to Kuta. Not that we love the place that much, but it was a good place to be based before our flights to Singapore and then onto Brisbane. The shopping around the area is decent so we’ve managed to buy a few bits and pieces … saving quite a few Aussie dollars in the process. We thought it would be best to buy as much stuff as we could at Bali’s bargain prices. We found a cheap supermarket and brought more toiletries, I think this must the first time we’ve been travelling with doubles of quite a few things such as deodorants etc. We stocked up the medical bag with antibiotics, cold and flu tablets and paracetamol. Oh and Emma decided to have a hair cut too thinking ahead that one in Aus would cost a whole lot more!! Her trim was great and only cost 30,000 about £2. Bargain!! And as a final treat we’ve managed to squeeze in a visit or two to McDonalds, some junk food before we head back into the world of self catering!!
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