Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Bali, Indonesia

Bali is the quintessential bogan (a.k.a. white trash) Australian tourist destination.  When I announced I'd bought cheap flights there more than one respectable eyebrow was raised at my decision.  But I assure you, Bali is a legit travel destination!  If you know where to go and where to avoid.

We spent the bulk of our time in the town of Ubud, the "cultural capital" of Bali an hour and a half north of the airport.  It's not quite central enough to be considered the middle of the island, but it's far enough from any coast to be considered inner Bali.  If it were up to me we would've spent all our time there, but other people (ahem, Martin) had other plans.

On the day we flew into Bali we didn't get to Ubud until after 4 p.m. so the day was a wash and we spent the evening eating and drinking our way around town.  That's how we do.  Not party drinking, though, make no mistake.  When we're on holiday we're lucky to see 11 p.m.  Sometimes we're in bed at 9!

In the awesome infinity pool at our hotel...

...we met a family from Brisbane who we got to chatting with.  Turns out they were headed to the same place we were the next day so we decided to carpool to save some cash.

For a whole $10 per person we rented a taxi and drove an hour to the Bali Bird Park & Reptile Park.  Admission to the park(s) is substantially more than $10 so it's not a bad idea to save on transport there if you can.

Martin, the biggest bird nerd on the planet, enjoyed the various exotic birds that get to roam around the park.

I am personally more of a reptile nerd (I think snakes are super cool) so lucky for us the reptile park is connected to the bird park and it's one admission price for both.  $core!

We spent most of our first full day in Bali nerding out to animals, which didn't leave much time or energy for doing anything else that day.  I took the opportunity to turn Martin's down time into shopping time for me.

It's customary to haggle in Bali, so I went to the market with my game face on and was expecting to flex my haggling muscles and get a serious bargain on the pashmina I wanted to buy.  I didn't screen my market stall very well because the one I settled on was run by a pregnant woman.  How am I supposed to haggle down a few bucks (that I can easily afford) which will literally mean food out of the mouth of that fetus?  I could've fought harder for a bargain, but I did get 2 items for less than her first suggested [extortionate] price for 1 item.  So I guess you could say I just warmed my haggling muscles up.  Next time I shop at a market I will get ruthless in my hunt for a bargain.    

The next day we were off to another really-not-cheap, animal-centric tourist attraction, the Elephant Safari Park.  This is a refuge for Sumatran elephants (not as big as African ones, but still huge) who used to work in the logging industry.  They let you feed the elephants:

Pose for pictures with them:

And ride them!

Super fun!  And yes, these elephants are treated well and are happy.  I wouldn't spend my money there if they weren't!

After that our driver for the day (more expensive this time, $30 or $40 for the day for just the 2 of us, I can't exactly remember how much) asked us if we'd like to stop at a coffee plantation.  We had heard about the local coffee delicacy, called lewak coffee, so we agreed to stop at what was guaranteed to be a major tourist trap.

What is "lewak coffee", you ask?  Well, first you must know what this little feller is.  This is a civet:

This little feller eats coffee berries, and then shits them out and you drink it.  I'm not even kidding.  I shit you not (hardy har har).

They take the half-digested coffee berries, that came from a butthole I remind you, and make coffee out of it.  And then you drink the coffee, which we did.

I think I have sufficiently proven on this blog that there is nothing I won't eat or drink when traveling.  I guess putting heinous things in my mouth is all part of the adventure!  I was right that it was a tourist trap, as a cup of poop coffee cost $5, more than a fancy flat white in Australia, renowned for its pricey yet delicious coffee.  But you know what?  Poop coffee wasn't bad!  It had a very deep, rich coffee flavor with minimal butthole aftertaste.  You can enjoy your scat coffee with an incredible view, too, which I miraculously don't have a picture of, but I do have a picture of Asians using a dork-ass selfie stick.  Priorities, yo.

If you go to the Elephant Safari Park you must make a stop by the Tegalalang Rice Terrace, which is really close by (with poop coffee in between):

We didn't go down into the terraces (partly because there were some gnarly looking storm clouds ahead, partly because we couldn't find the damn path to get down there) but from the people who were already down there we could see that each "step" was much taller than a person.  I'm told this rice terrace is teeny tiny compared to the ones in the north of the island so that would be a sight to see!

That night we went to a traditional Balinese dance at an open air temple:

It's pretty much a must do in Bali, and the pretty costumes make it worth it.

The next day, our fourth in Bali, we packed it up and moved out of Ubud.  We made a quick stop at the water temple, which we'd walked by 25 times already but somehow managed to miss:

Then on our way out of town we stopped by the Sacred Monkey Forest.  Monkeys!  Big ones, small ones, old ones, young ones, ones itching their arse:

We are damn fools for not allowing ourselves more monkey time.  I could've stayed for hours and watched all the monkeys go about their monkey business.  They're so entertaining, the cheeky buggers.

This one jumped on me when I wasn't looking!  He was getting fresh and playing with my chest.  When I shooed him off he bit me a little, but not hard enough to break skin.  They're more than cheeky monkeys, they're (lovable) little turds.

Our second Balinese destination was Seminyak,  This is a coastal area, farther south, but not so far south that it's in the super disgusting party area.

One thing Bali does really well is hotel resorts.  That was the highlight for me in Seminyak.  We picked our hotel, Villa Seminyak, because of the pool.  It is like the Venice of hotels!

You can go directly from the living room into the pool!

It is a really super cool setup and I had a great day of reading the Hunger Games and barely leaving the hotel.

The reason we came to this region at all is because some friends of our from Brisbane happened to arrive in Bali that day so the dudes just had to get together and go out in Kuta, the disgusting, Aussie-filled party region of Bali.

As expected, this area is best avoided.  It was just as feral and unpleasant was I expected!  It was loud, crowded and overpriced.  Needless to say there isn't a shred of culture, either, so I beg of you - avoid at all costs...unless of course you are 18.

On our last day we didn't fly out until 11:30 p.m. so we had the whole day to chill and do stuff.  Luckily we had Thomas and Allison's place in Nusa Dua to chill at, so we weren't completely homeless for the day.  We chillaxed at a nice ocean side, completely deserted resort and had the whole place to ourselves all day:

We didn't see a lot of coastline on this trip, but what I saw was totally underwhelming.  The beaches weren't good at all.  I know I'm spoiled living in Australia, but like I said before Bali does resorts - and infinity pools - really well.  But if you're looking for beach then fly the extra few hours to go to Australia.  Bali ain't worth your time.

Just before sundown we got a cab and went to Uluwatu, a temple on a cliff with prime sunset views and guess what, more monkeys!

While the monkeys at Ubud's Sacred Monkey Forest could be considered "cheeky monkeys" these ones can only be described as straight-up assholes.  They steal peoples flip flops and glasses just because they can, and chew on them until the break.

We watched them coordinate an attack on an old Chinese lady to steal her glasses.  She never got them back and they got destroyed.  One tried to steal my flip flop, but when I stood my ground and he couldn't take it off my foot I got bit - again.  No broken skin again this time, but these guys were seriously little shits.  Beware!  We had to turn back when the monkeys got too thick because Martin doesn't have contacts, so losing his glasses would be bad news bears.

Eyesight intact, Martin got this amazing shot, which showcases the awesome sunset and yawning - not screeching - monkey:

Between Uluwatu and the airport is an area called Jimbaran, well known for one thing: seafood!  The beach is lined with seafood restaurants as far as the eye can see, with tables set out along the beach:

The picture isn't great but it's hard to get a shot of 2 miles of coastline in the dark.  We had some last minute seafood before getting dropped off at the airport for our red eye flight back to Brisbane.  We slept on our 6ish hour flight back home, showered and went straight to work.  I do not mess around when it comes to milking all the time I can out of my travels!

I felt five days was a decent amount for our Bali adventure, no doubt the first of several if we hunker down and stay in Australia for a while.  It is the Australian travel destination.  Next time I'd like to go even farther north on the island, and completely avoid the grody south (which I knew I'd hate, but was pressured to visit by party animal dudes).

I realized something on this trip, something I'd never thought about but is pretty profound.  There are 3 things I really, truly care about when traveling (in no particular order): culture, wildlife and food (paired with, to a lesser extent, booze).  Bali hit all 3 of those priorities magnificently.

With that said, I think the food was my favorite part of this whole trip.  OMG, the food!  I will do a whole separate post because the world cannot live without seeing the unspeakable amounts of delicious food we ate!  The world has got to know!

No comments:

Post a Comment