12.10.2014 - 20.10.2014
The past eight days that we spent on Bali have been full of so many different feelings and sensations. Our experience was not your typical Balinese beach tour... as backpackers on a budget, we took the road less traveled, so we knew we would get more of an adventure. And with adventure, you get both the good and the bad...
We started our adventure in the south part of Bali, where we stayed a couple nights in Seminyak. The town itself is not very nice at all, but the big sandy beaches are, despite the large amount of tourists. Our favorite part about Seminyak, though, was the KuDeTa restaurant where we had food and drinks while watching the waves crash on the beach. We explored the southern most tip of the island where there is a temple on the cliff called Pura Luhur Uluwatu, and on our way back up north, we stopped for lunch in Jimbaran, where they are known for their freshly-caught fish... our red snapper did not disappoint! Watching the sunset at Pura Tanah Lot was also really great and worth the drive... this temple is actually IN the water and can only be reached by foot when the tide is low.
We liked central Bali more than the south because it offered so much more in terms of culture and scenic views. We really loved driving up the mountains, since the weather was cooler and more mild up there... it was a sweet escape from the super humid weather down at sea-level. We visited two temples, first the Pura Taman Ayun and then the Pura Luhur Batukaru, which is hidden in Mount Batukaru. We toured the Subak Museum, where they explained to us everything about rice production and the 1,000 year old Subak irrigation system, which is now a UNESCO World Heritage site in Bali. And then we actually came across the most beautiful rice terraces... gorgeous views of the green rice plants with the palm trees and mountains in the background. This is one of the Balinese paradises! We stayed in Ubud and really loved this cute little town the minute we arrived! The main strip has so many shops and restaurants and art galleries... Ubud is supposedly the cultural center of Bali. Our favorite part of Ubud was a trek through the rice fields... we were the only ones on the path and it was so peaceful and pretty. Along the way, we met a guy who works in the rice fields (apparently he is known as the Coconut Man) and his wife, who were the most genuinely nice Indonesians we had met! It was so cool watching him climb the palm tree in front of us and chop down a young coconut... his wife quickly cut open the top and we chatted with both of them while we enjoyed the sweet water. You can't get any fresher than that!
On our drive to the north coast, we stopped at a large fruit market in Candikunding , where we got so many fresh tropical fruits (YUM!). We also visited the famous water temple, Pura Ulun Danu Bratan and the waterfall near Munduk Village before arriving at Lovina Beach. This town was apparently really hip in the 70's, but now it's pretty run down. We did find this great restaurant called Global Village Kafe... it's a social project where the proceed go towards the poor Balinese people. The food was really yummy, and they also had a display about supporting the freedom of Palestine, so we were only too happy to give them business! We ended our Balinese adventure in Amed, which we found to be another paradise... we would snorkel in the morning and then swim in our infinity pool in the afternoon! This was the most relaxing part of this week for sure.
A word of advice when driving in Bali... DON'T DO IT! We had an idea of how crazy the drivers are here on that first day when our taxi driver drove us from the airport to the hotel, but no one can ever be prepared for the experience of actually being behind the wheel yourself. We rented a Suzuki Jimny (a 4x4 jeep) for the week, and in hind sight, we are happy we did because we got to see more of the island on our our own schedule, but all I can say is that my knuckles are still white from the perma death grip I had on the dashboard bar! I need to give a major shoutout and props to Jens for being the best driver ever!!! Despite so many close-call accidents, he kept his cool and never lost his patience, which I cannot say the same for myself. There are scooters EVERYWHERE, passing you on both sides, and they really do not care how close they get to your car. Apparently, its legal for 10 year olds to operate motorized scooters and that helmets are optional. It's bad enough that half of the adults do not wear helmets, but the super small children (i.e., babies!) that are sitting in front and in back them also do not wear any safety gear. The lanes are super congested with everyone passing each other, ignoring the fact there are 2-way lanes. Sometimes these scooters decide to drive on the other side into oncoming traffic. At night, you're lucky if most of them even have on their lights. Besides the scooters, cars, trucks and pedestrians also cut you off... you would think they are all on a suicidal mission! They just swerve in and out trying to be the fastest one and not caring about whether or not they run you off the road. And keep in mind, this is all happening while driving on the opposite side of the road! The funny thing is that there are never any accidents... all this madness somehow works! Despite the intensity of our driving experience, it was actually sort of exhilarating , at times, especially when off-roading! ;-)
Everything is very intense here in Bali... the overpopulated towns, the impoverished people always trying to sell you something, the smells of burning incense, fires, garbage, cloves, engine exhaust, flowers, and food, the super loud sounds from the incessant honking, the roosters cockadoodle dooing, and Hindu chanting blasting from temples... it's seriously sensory overload! There are some glimpses of that tropical paradise that one imagines Bali to be, but unless you pay the over-priced tourist fares, this, my friends, is the real Bali!!