“Bali? Gawd no! I’ll never go there.”

It’s always been my mantra. Not founded on anything other than waaaay too many Australians go there… and usually cashed up bogans (red necks with money). I’m not saying I’m any better or worse, I just know that when I travel I want to be out of my comfort zone, so spending time with many fellow Australians isn’t my ideal holiday experience.

Stay with me though…

Here I am. That place I said I’d never go.

Only 5 days in and I’m yet to completely change that Fuck Bali attitude. However, many of my favourite people swear by Bali’s awesomeness and their enthusiasm towards this isle is infectious so I’ll give it my three chance policy.

Booked accomodation two nights before my arrival and they cancelled on the day of my flight here. Booked another one which, upon landing at Denpasar airport (easily navigated, albeit crazy busy), also cancelled. At least Nadi from Bella Apartments called me and apologised profusely then offered me a free dinner at her restaurant when she returned. So that’s two cancellations. Had to book an expensive villa in Seminyak because, due to Ramadan, nearly everywhere was booked out – in my price range anyway.

My ‘taksi’ driver from the airport charged me double what I should have been charged too (should have been around 200,000 IDR). I was informed to get a Bluebird taxi from the airport – turns out there are naughty charlatans dressed in blue with Bluebird lanyards waiting for unsuspecting newbies to rip off.

To add to the disdain I can’t seem to locate my Australian sim which I had swapped for a local Telkomsel sim… so if you need me grab a flight or whatsapp me.

Three chances done by this stage, right?! And it’s only day 1.

SEMINYAK – Another Australian town

Baby Melon Villas (lurve the name – it’s a few words explaining child birth, so I’m told) – is a special place. Wonderful, kind, gracious hosts (I say gracious because there wasn’t any judgement or complaint after they had to change my bedding when my superbly inebriated friend came to stay and pee’d the bed) and the accomodation with its stunning tropical gardens, grand open plan, minimalistic kitchen plus a pool, that I only had to share with a leopard speedo wearing permanent resident.. didn’t see those leopard budgie smugglers on said resi, sadly – I only saved them from blowing off the balcony. And I was surrounded by 4 gorgeous dogs and 3 cats – one cat looked like she belonged to Batman’s entourage.

Assuming I don’t waste all my money on cheap Haviana’s (thongs/flip flops) and Bintang, I’m coming back here.

I guess it’s not all bad here, I mean, I got to catch up with some of my favourite family members here. We spent nearly a whole day by the pool playing with mini humans and it was truly grounding. Don’t get excited Ma, I’m not coming home or having babies.

Travelling solo has its perks, but nothing beats quality family time.

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JIMBARAN BAY – Seafood

I’ve left Seminyak for Jimbaran and things appear to feel much better. Accomodation (Bali Breezz Hotel) is much cheaper here compared to Seminyak and less traffic thankfully.

I’m surprised at the lack of Australians and the influx of Chinese and Japanese people… well, it is a seafood Mecca, so I shouldn’t be that surprised.

I’m currently sitting here romantically involved with my iPad (whilst I flick flying creepies off the screen) – the two of us at a beachside table watching the planes appear to land on water as the sun sets over mirror-esque sea – I appreciate exactly where I am in the here and now.

This week’s lessons:

1. Never say never

2. Be in the present because it’s all you have

Finally a move to Jimbaran Bay restores a little faith in Bali. Sadly I’m not much of a seafood feaster, but for those that love to indulge, this is THE place to go. Spectacular view directly at the sunset over calm water as you sit in plastic chairs on the sand whilst being waited on hand and foot by the Balinese waiters. The Balinese people, as I get further away from that ‘other part of Australia’, are becoming friendlier and kinder.

Taking my trusty two wheeled steed back into Seminyak in an attempt to locate my missing sim was interesting. With the amount of unseasonal rain that pelted down for an hour (I hid undercover) it would have been quicker to don the floaties and swim the 16kms. Already I ride like a granny, so as I avoided puddles the size of Olympic swimming pools I think I annoyed the locals – its difficult to tell if honks are aggressive or a warning of “I’m coming through”. I’m learning that the advantage of age is not giving a crap about the traffic behind… can’t wait to do this when I’m 70!

Booked an extra night at Bali Breezz Hotel, Jimbaran Bay, so that I can explore. Today I cruised all around Uluwatu area and I’m in lurve. I really must re-learn to surf because I could easily live here, do yoga, teach Photography and/or English and surf.

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SANUR – Yawn

This is only a transitional stop whilst I decide whether to go to Ubud or Amed and Gili islands. Private car from Jimbaran to Sanur is only 250,000 rupiah and took an hour – 100,000 rupiah = approx $10 AUD. Considering it’s the same distance from Seminyak to Jimbaran I’m ok with the price – the previous trip cost me 400,000 rupiah. One learns pretty quickly which drivers to deal with in future. Always check the price before the trip, compare with others if you can and BARTER HARD people, be tough!

Arrived at Puri Kelapa Garden Cottages about 3hrs earlier than check in , but the helpful hosts have allowed me into my room early. A huge tick in my travel books. On top of allowing an early check in, these fantastic hosts (and my super friend, Ashy) helped me with urgent sim replacement from Australia. Well done kids!

A beautifully gardened locale close to the beach and shops a short walk.. this place is really peaceful… you know, other than the gale force winds and planes overhead.

Sanur is a bit quieter than Seminyak but I think the beach is better at Jimbaran. I guess the eternal winds here in Sanur don’t help the beach goers much.

UBUD – Hippie heaven

I’ve been looking forward to heading up into the hills of Ubud for health, relaxation, fun stuff and most important – yoga.

Accommodation: Krisna House for 9 days

Strangely I’m comparing Ubud to Rishikesh and not the very similar Chaing Mai in Thailand.. it’s still pretty hectic here, but somehow I find the people and traffic harder to deal with compared to India.

Saraswati yoga studio – absolutely brilliant! Small classes and really knowledgable teachers. All teachers were tremendous at adjustments, variations and explanations. A ‘real’ yoga experience, not just for Insta posers.

So a few escapes from the town into the hills are required. Little ‘Scoopy’ (scooter) and I head inland. I think we actually made it right into the middle of Bali one day. I love going through villages that wonder what this white person (and I am very white – nobody would believe I’ve been in summer weather for 8 months) is doing in their little lanes.

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The views of Mt Batur are spectacular as was the temple further up on a hill top – Pura Ulun Danu Batur is substantial in size and intricate detail.

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View over to Mt Batur and trusty Scoops.

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Pura Ulun Danu Batur

When I returned l’il Scoopy to her rightful owners I confessed to the hire guy that I went to the middle of Bali and showed where on a map. His eyes popped out of his head and he asked “on THAT?” Referring to Scoops.

The luscious green rice fields and volcanoes make for such beautiful viewing whilst Scooting on the backroads. Dodging roosters, that clearly have no idea when dawn is here in Bali (they crow any time, day or night and its constant).

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On my way to middle earth my eyes appeared to be attracting a lot of dust that somehow made it between my helmet and sunglasses.. I cursed the trucks, cars and motorbikes I was behind, until I was alone on roads and it was still happening. Lightbulb moment: that pesky volcano, Mt Agung, has been flexing her fiery muscles of late, so it must be her ash in my eyeballs. Volcanic ash is good for the complexion, yes? Airport closed for a day due to this ash.

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Mt Agung flexing.

Note to scooter riders; don’t smile whilst riding. The dust/volcanic ash in your teeth for hours after your ride is like chewing flies.

I had the privilege to learn authentic Batik painting from a young man at Nyoman Warta Batik Class.. sadly the main guru painter was busy organising a big cremation at the monkey forest (oooh, fingers crossed it’s an evil monkey removal strategy), thankfully, yet sadly, I met him after I’d finished my masterpiece because I’ve heard he adds some beautiful, creative finishing touches. There are plenty of options to have this meditative and cultural experience in Ubud. I can highly recommend this place and its helpful, kind and warm family.

Ubud is quite fantastic.. another organic, vegetarian and vegan haven with spas and yoga studios everywhere.

ULUWATU – The surf capitol

Left Ubud for a trip back to Uluwatu to catch up with my buddy, Ashy, visiting from Torquay on his first ever trip overseas. Klapa Resort in Dreamland Beach a stock standard, stale place devoid of personality… but loaded with a rooftop pool and bar show casing 270 degree views over some serious surf wonderland.

 

We found these tiny laneways around the cliffs that lead to Pecatu/Padang beach. These beaches are astonishingly special and beyond my dismal vocabularistic capabilities. I think it’s Bali’s version of Greece’s cliffs filled with wonderful hidden restaurants, B&B’s and bars that you can only get to via foot through narrow lanes and nasty stairs… My pick: Kelly’s Warung, Bingin – the perfect place for sundowners. What a sublime little area.

Bali is winning me over! Shhhhhhhh!

We witnessed a cleansing ceremony at one of Uluwatu beaches. Apparently a Balinese gentleman has had such bad luck in his life that they needed to remove all the negativity surrounding him by chanting, burning incense, flicking water from a holy bowl, blessing a juvenile duck and baby chicken (we were so worried they were going to be sacrificed that we seriously contemplated freeing our feathered friends), surrounding themselves with flowers and gifting their god with previously cooked roast duck and other pretty things.

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Man with a life of bad luck in the middle holding a black duck. (??)

I surprised my buddy with a trip into Legian to watch live Midget Boxing – thanks to the Cuz (Ryan) for the info on this craziness. FUNNIEST. NIGHT. EVER! If you haven’t heard or seen the footage and photos, I highly recommend looking here – Facebook; Blinked Travel. I had the absolute privilege of being a “Round 2” card holding bimbo and I kissed every single little ‘un on my 3 laps around the ring. Having a little person madly dry hump me when I went to hug him made my life feel worthwhile. My face and belly muscles had a better workout than my month in Rishikesh doing yoga.

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Side note; these little people are shunned in Balinese society, so the boxing gig is how they make money and survive everyday life in Bali. Every cent from door sales plus donations go directly to them. I think it’s quite gracious of the Y Bar owners to do this for a minority (groan).  If you’re in Bali, go find them at the Y Bar (pronounced ‘E Bar’ by locals and taxi drivers) in Legian and book well in advance because it is packed out! They’re on every Tues, Thurs and Sunday nights.

AMED – Ahhhhhh

4 hour drive North East from Uluwatu to Amed.. what an exquisite place. Black, volcanic stone/sand beaches lead you into pristine clear turquoise water with feisty Mt Agung as a backdrop.

We went snorkelling around an under water temple, saw plenty of fish and popped my head above water just in time to see Mt Agung puff some ash into the atmosphere – she’s normally covered in cloud but for this moment she was perfectly visible and gently flexing, as though she was pretending to nonchalantly lift her wine to her lips but showing off those fit limbs to all the boys. I’m crushing on this magnificent volcano, I believe there’s some exceptionally positive energy surrounding her.

Perfectly serene accommodation at Double One Villas. Chose the beach villa which overlooked the pool and beach. Doing Yoga poolside as our life giving fire ball appeared above the horizon each morning is spectacular.

My regular motorcycling buddy tried to get the little vesper (plus two of us) up the side of a large hill on dirt tracks while attempting to locate a different view of Mt Batur was an interesting field trip. Turns out, vespers aren’t made for off road biking.

GILI AIR – Perfection

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Oh! Hellooooo Gili Air! A tiny blip off the larger Lombok Island. I was in a rush to book a ferry over to the island and in such haste neglected to check reviews before hitting the ‘pay now’ button. Why did I think it was a good idea to check the reviews after the fact?? No glowing feedback whatsoever! Uh-oh. This put the wind up both of us – even my regular sea faring buddy.

Patcha Express… you did a marvellous job! First of the 3 express boats over to the islands, safely and without issue (at this point we haven’t returned to Bali, but receiving thumbs up for now).

Aaaaah, the serenity. It’s warm, it’s remarkable, white beaches encircled by the cleanest aqua, and it’s not full of loud Aussies. She’s only little and there isn’t anything motorised here, just horse and cart or pedal power to get around.. and one lap took us a couple of hours – I’m guessing a lap could take about 25 mins if there were sealed roads and not large patches of sand.

Staying at Colour Cottages on the East side of our islet and already my ever happy and friendly buddy has created a special bond with one of the locals, Sahrul. Sahrul has helped us with many touristy options without asking for a cent. Gotta love that want to just be kind for no reason.

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Unedited iPhone images. Impressive sunset (with Mt Agung in the background).

Snorkelling – some of the best I’ve encountered. Yup, better than Great Barrier Reef as far as visibility and diversity of swimming critters seen. Swam with a huge loggerhead turtle and I think some green turtles. How they appeared to swim so slowly against the current was bizarre to watch. They appear to just float without flapping their flippers and still overtake me as I madly kicked my fins to keep up with them – all this against the current. Show-offs!

Gili Air has it all. Fitness, serenity, pristine waters, bike riding, making life friends with the locals (and a fantastic Aussie couple – they travel, not holiday). ❤️

Return trip on Patcha Express… I’m still recovering 6 hours later. My goodness, Mother Nature put on a “swell” show on the way back to Bali. 🤮 Two travel calm and tissue in my ear wasn’t enough to stop the nausea.. no barf, but it was touch and go. Turns out, this was the last day of ferry travel for two weeks! Thanks again Ma Nature.

Big shout out to Ashy for his unwavering kindness and happiness in everything and everyone he approaches. He not only helped bring me a replacement sim, after doing all the running around with Telstra back in Australia, and at the expense of movie time with his son (that only cost me a t-Rex suit – can’t wait for footage, Seth), he brought me my fave biscuits and other gifts. His eagerness to embrace my way of travel, always smiling and talking to (mostly at) locals and new friends is infectious. Always offering to help carry my many bags and generally just wanting to be kind to everyone anytime, anyhow. He gave up some of his favourite clothing items to the staff at Colour Cottages just because they needed them more than he did. What a great trait to have.

I know I was hard on him by asking him to shoosh and internalise quite often, but he listened and stayed happy about it. (INSERT “SHHH” HAND GESTURE HERE)

Ashy, you’re an absolute gem! Thank you for everything and welcome to the travel bug.

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He looks a tad nervous.

SUMMARY

Another Asian nation and proof that everything is fluid. Buildings and pavement go around living things.. traffic – albeit chaotic in appearance – flows without aggression.. many waterways and of course mostly surrounded by beaches.. then there’s the people, ever kind, giving and free. The new Asian slogan – Asia, it’s fluid.

A lot of negatives I’ve said about Bali are in jest mainly because of my attitude pre-arrival. It’s proof that you manifest what you think. Honestly, if you don’t mind a shitload of Australians, nice beaches, cheap shopping, cheap food and warmth.. you’ll do just fine here. If you’re anything like me, then stay away from from Seminyak, Kuta, Legian.. and maybe even Ubud. Blaze your own paths my friends, it’s worth it. Meeting locals that will give you better advice than most holidayers is worth its weight in gold.

Stay tuned for the long awaited comparison between Thailand and Bali.. I finally have some decent knowledge to discuss the two fave Aussie destinations.

For anyone looking at travelling soon, I have a link to accommodation discounts with booking.com here.

Please tell me about your Indonesian “must do’s and see’s”… Because I’m going back!

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