The next chapter of my tropical retreat included Indonesia, namely Bali. People ask me whether I preferred Bali or Thailand and I honestly don’t have an answer for them. Thailand was so amazing with its breathtaking views and colours while Indonesia was just as beautiful, cheap and so friendly. Because I only spent just under two weeks in Bali I’m going to reserve my judgement for another day. I would love to return to Indonesia and explore it in much more depth. But let me first tell you a bit more about this magical country, then you could maybe help me with this little debate.
We arrived in Bali very early one morning after spending the night at the Phuket airport. The first thing I noticed was the weather. Our beautiful sun had not followed us from Thailand. It was overcast but still pretty warm. The runway at Depensar Airport starts out at sea and ends next to the beach. It was quite exciting to not see land at all until we hit the ground. We took a very cheap taxi to our first hostel. It was a very strange building that kind of looked like a viking ship with a thatched roof. We had booked a room for free but on arrival were told there was already a fourth member in our room. He turned out to be a very nice guy from Australia. His parents are from Indonesia. He could speak a bit of Indonesian which came in handy when we went for dinner that night. We were pointed in the general beach direction and started walking randomly. After passing at least two beautiful temples we reached what was clearly the main part of town. There were so many people walking around in the wonderful evening heat. Many foreigners with surf boards and sea hair. and for every surfer there was a surf shop. From Billabong to Rip Curl. Indonesia, and especially Bali, is a surfer’s paradise and thousands of surfers pass through here every year to experience spots like Uluwatu, Impossibles, Bingin and Dreamland. We had our first taste of Indonesian Mie Goreng and Nasi Goreng at a very nice restaurant that looked out onto the busy main stretch. It was the best fried noodle and veg I’d ever tasted. Little did I know what was to come. After dinner we walked through the busy streets of Kuta, Bali. We eventually stumbled upon the beach. From there we could see a long stretch of lights that ran along the water’s edge in both directions. The sea was flat, the sand soft and the air pleasantly warm.
The next day we decided to move to another hotel/resort that was closer to the beach and in a much more central area of Kuta. We said farewell to our Aussie friend and made our way (via one scooter, Shaun making 2 trips) to Suka Beach Inn. It was such a contrast to the place we had stayed the night before. When I stepped into the quart yard it felt like I was walking into …. well Bali. There were so many green plants all over, a giant koi pond that we had to cross with a little stone bridge. The breakfast area was a beautiful stone pillared structure, next to this was the pool with 5 half-naked surfers lazily floating around and the rooms surrounded it all. After dropping our stuff in the room we dove for the pool. For the next week we spent most of our time either lazing by the pool, shopping, going to the beach or eating. Not necessarily in that order. When I say we, I mean Debbi and I. Shaun went off every day or so to meet his cousin at one of the surf spots in the area. We joined him one day. I had to be lifted there by a taxi scooter as I was still not comfortable to ride in that traffic. I think the traffic in Indonesia, or Kuta at least, was much worse than Thailand. Shaun’s cousin and friend were staying at the top of a cliff looking out over 3 surf spots below. After a tough day of lying in the sun while the boys surfed we went for a scooter ride around the area. We stopped off at an amazing surf spot called Uluwatu. There was only a tiny beach or inlet surrounded by high cliffs. we stood at the top for a while and watched the little seal like forms move around in the waves below. Here I saw my old friend “turquoise” again. Next stop was at a blow-hole formed by the sea in some extremely sharp rock. I imagined this was what the surface of Mars might look like. But after looking at the 360 images from the Curiosity rover today I know it’s quite different (see here: http://www.360cities.net/image/curiosity-rover-martian-solar-day-2#75.03,8.81,110.0 ). we had to wait for about 5 or 10 minutes between each water explosion but there were one or two that were quite amazing. Especially when a bunch of people got really drenched.
During this week of complete relaxation we found some amazing places to eat down the many little alleyways and streets that make up Kuta. One that will stick with me was only about 100m from our green pool haven. They made the best Mie Goreng I have ever tasted. I can’t tell you why it was so amazing. It just was. Maybe it was the portion, maybe it was the price (about R13 or $1.6) or maybe it was the watermelon smoothie I always got with it. Whatever it was, I miss it. That was another thing I totally adored about Indonesia: the price. Everything was just so amazingly affordable. I bought so much stuff in that week I had to buy another bag to put it all in. I was so liberating. One night after a very yummy dinner with Shaun’s cousin and friend we came across a man and woman carrying 2 snakes around with them for people to touch and take photos with. The man said they were from a reptile rescue organisation out to collect donations. They had a medium-sized yellow constrictor and a small colourful banded snake. I can’t remember its name right now. Now anyone who knows me well will know that snakes and I aren’t exactly friend so I didn’t volunteer to have them creep and crawl all over me but I did touch one, briefly. And that was all. The next night we saw different people with 2 more snakes. this time they were both constrictors. But the one was so big that even if it were slung over your shoulders two-thirds of it was still on the ground. It was massive. And so thick. Thicker than my thick thigh. luckily we didn’t go and interact with these bad boys. I think that snake’s head would creep me out the most. Can you imagine how huge it was? Haikona.
After our amazing week or so in the hyper, load and drunken Kuta we were ready for some more peace and quiet. We started to make our way to the Gili Islands. These are three tiny islands that lie in a row off the coast of Lombok which is the next big island next to Bali. It took us a 2 hour bus ride starting at 7 in the morning and an hour and a half’s boat ride to get to the first Gili Island. This boat ride, however, is worth mentioning. This is known as the fast boat as it bounces through that water at what feels like 100km/h. It also didn’t help that this day the sea was rather choppy. It was fun and scary at the same time. It felt like the boat went completely airborne at least 3 times. but we reached the beach semi intact. This being because Shaun’s brand new board had sustained a very serious injury during the bumpy trip. Debbi’s and Shaun’s clothes were also all soaked because they had packed them into the board bags of the two surf boards which were stored on the boat’s roof. So while they tried to sort out their several crisis at our little BnB I got out of the way and went for lunch and a walk on my new island. Gili Trawangan was the biggest of the three islands. You can see the next Gili from its shores at about 300m away. There are no cars or scooters allowed in the Gilis so the locals use horse-drawn carts to haul tourists and cargo around the island. This really got to me after a while as these poor ponies had to run around in the sweltering heat for God knows how long. This was the only reason I was happy to leave the island when I did, so as not to see those poor ponies sweating and panting anymore. But back onto more pleasant things. Gili Trawangan was such a change from the hustle and bustle of Kuta, Bali. It consisted of one main road that went all the way around the island and a few little alleyways that made up the houses and BnBs on the east side of the island. There were also many diving schools here and I’d read that the diving in this area was really great so I was excited to find out about taking my new licence for a spin. Unfortunately I could only stay on this tropical paradise for two nights as my flight to Java and then Korea was to leave that Friday. So I went all out. Debbi and Shaun didn’t want to go diving but I sure did. I booked a deep dive (so as to be another dive closer to being an advanced diver) for the following morning. Every night there is a magical food market on the island where stands of street food appear in one of the squares and people gather to each cheap amazing food. The first night I had prawns and fried rice with a chocolate pancake/cake for dessert. Words can not explain how good those prawns tasted. It was such a great atmosphere. There were strings of light from cart to cart and many tables of seafood to order from, as well as the standard Indonesian stir fries and veggies. This obviously attracted the foreigners and tourists on the island so we made some more friends as we all sat at long tables in between the food carts. It felt like the Island version of October Fest. With seafood instead of beer.
The next morning I went on my deep dive. It was also a bit of a drift dive at the same time as the island is not really protected from currents. We dove to 30m. It felt like 10. It only really felt deep when we got to a giant wall of coral that gradually steeped up to the shallows. Here I could visually gauge how far it was to the surface. We stopped for a bit to play around on the sand. The guide whipped out from nowhere a can of coke and a straw. She then proceeded to open the coke, insert the straw and motion for us to take a sip. It was crazy. The coke stayed in the can. Because of the pressure and some other science I am unaware of the coke never floated out of the open can like it would in shallow water. We each took a sip of coke at 30 meters below sea level surrounded by coral, colourful fish and who knows what else. She then produced an egg, cracked it on her tank and broke it open. Can you guess what happened? The egg would probably behave the same if it were in space. It simply floated along like a round blob of egg. the yolk and egg white didn’t separate. I could hold it all in my hand. It was very cool. After swimming/drifting along a bit further and seeing some amazing sea life we got to a herd of Bump-head Parrot-fish. I like to compare these giant fish to a heard of cow. They slowly munched their way along the bottom, eating what must have been old coral, kicking up sand as they went. And in turn making new sand too. They looked like big blue rectangles eating sand.
That afternoon I took Debbi and Shaun to a great snorkeling spot my guide had pointed out to me from the boat. We spent the rest of the day snorkeling, tanning and swimming in that turquoise water I loved so much. That evening the three of us rented bicycles and cycled around the circumference of the island at sunset. Apart from the incredibly sandy parts it was a very relaxing ride. Just before we reached our starting point we sat on the white sand and watched the red sun disappear behind the Volcano on Bali in the far off distance. I rounded off my amazing Gili Island experience with an amazing Full Moon party on the beach that night. Shaun had a cold so Debbi and I danced the night away on the beach, drinking local drinks, watching fire spinners spin and just enjoying the island life under a big, fat, white moon.
The next day I bounced my way back to Bali and unrolled myself beside our pool for one last time before jetting off to South Korea once more.
If you want to see more pics check out the link to my Facebook on the right.