Goodness, feels like it’s been a while…sorry about that, told you Bali time is much slower didn’t I! Here is your next fix of Bali fun for you to enjoy vicariously even if it is rather belated. For the last 20 days of my trip, an old pal of mine: Will is joining me. We met many years ago when holidaying in Greece and have been friends with him and his family since!
Surfers paradise: Canggu, and art centre: Ubud were the next two sites on my tour of Bali.
Canggu: The area of Canggu spreads out over a pretty big area. However, Will and I mainly explored the beaches. Can you blame us? We stayed close to the famous Old Mans beach, known worldwide for it’s top class waves for surfing. So, predictably I was in the water, surf board in hand, ready to try and master the art of surfing as soon as possible. I had my first lesson the day before Will arrived and it was fantastic. I came off the water with a beaming smile and that fuzzy feeling in my tummy. This meant that as soon as Will joined me, we hired boards and took to the sea. Surfing turned out to be extremely tiring (no wonder all surfers are fit eh?!), we woke up most mornings clutching at our shoulder muscles, and the remains of the salt water still up our noses. However battered we got I still absolutely loved it.
Other than surfing in Canggu we didn’t do all that much. We were slightly restricted by the weather, which by the way, has been pretty pants recently. Although still not quite England pants. With big rain storms usually setting in around 2/3pm everyday and lasting into the evening, our afternoons activities usually consisted of sitting and eating our lunch in a sheltered restaurant for the heaviest hours of rain.
We also made some really good friends from our dorm in Canggu. These are 4 Swedish boys who we spent every evening socialising with. On one particular evening we first went to a bar away from the beach called “Deus” bar, where a live band was playing and we had a good groove here until the band ended and all the partiers were moved on. From here we migrated, on mass, to the beach where the party continued at “Sand Bar”. Here the dance floor was atop the riprap of the cove. Every now and then, while R-Kelly’s ‘Remix to Ignition” played, you’d be splashed with the spray from the crashing waves. All in all I liked Canggu a lot. Although things were very spread out, we managed to find plenty to do(mostly surfing and eating) in walking distance.
Ubud: Ubud is said to be the arts centre of Bali. Although it was not what I had expected at all. The main streets were busy with tourists and more boutique shops than you can count. I pictured a serene, green, clam town but Ubud is far busier and more like an English high street than I’d ever imagined. In the north of the town, there is a HUGE market basically only selling souvenirs. Along side the rows upon rows of “Bintang” vests were beautiful hand carved wooden goods: chairs, tables, pieces of art and of course the novelty penis bottle openers. I spent a good hour getting genuinely lost in the maze of pop up stalls, to the chorus of “sarong, sarong”, “yes, just looking Miss” and “new sexy sunglasses?”.
On our second day in Ubud we visited the “Monkey forest”. This is an area of jungle, with temples dotted throughout, where monkeys have taken over and made it their home. While we were there, one particular monkey took a liking to Will, and the packet of cookies at the bottom of his bag. One thing the monkey is strolling down a fence, the next it is perched on Wills shoulder grabbing at the bag and even attempting the zip. I must admit Will coped very well and even managed to smile with enough time for me to get a couple of snaps before the cheeky monkey jumped off.
We spent the afternoon taking a walk up one of the hills, into an are of rice paddies. I have never seen rice farming on the scale it’s done here. Layers and layers of rice plants grow in fields with irregular shapes, fitting together as jigsaws do, all up the hill sides. The open flat fields haven’t seemed common on the rest of my travels so this sort of strangely reminded me of the fields at home.
During our stay we also witnessed the sunrise over Bali from the top of Mount Batur. To do so we got up at 2am shortly before we were fed battered bananas and coffee to prepare us for the challenge ahead. We arrived at the base, in the pitch black, at 4am. Sadly when we got our out of the van it was raining so we began our hike, cold, soggy and questioning our sanity. After two hours of near enough rock climbing, through damp foggy air we reached the main base camp (not the very top but pretty close). At this point it was still pitch black and you could barely see 20m in front of you because of the fog. At 6:15 Will and I took our seats determined to see this sunrise, whatever the weather. As time went on the fog begun to clear as the sun begun to rise. This revealed views of the silhouetted mountains on the far side of Lake Batur in the light yellow light of a morning sun. Although not a perfect sunrise, it was undoubtedly still beautiful and something I’ve never done before. In true Sarah style, never foregoing a challenge, we continued the next 500m to the very top after the sun had fully come up. At the top the fog was far worse, meaning you couldn’t see beyond the mountain we were on and it was also hellishly windy up there. It didn’t matter that the weather was questionable because I was just chuffed to have completed it. We returned to Ubud in a strange daze, exhausted from the early morning and tough climb. I wonder how many people can say they’ve climbed up and down a volcano before 9am.
Whatever the number is Will and I are now two of them!
On our last evening in we watched a traditional Balinese dance. Again, something completely different to anything I’ve ever witnessed. The dance was made up of short scenes where different characters took it in turns to do their part, each acting out a part of the story. The dance had no music but was accompanied by a choir of 20+ men’s voices, chanting using “chak, chak, chak” as the basis for the song. When the show finished Will and I sat, silent for a second, trying to figure out what had just happened. I’m still not entirely sure I’m certain, even now, days later! They put on an utterly incredible show so unique and amazing. We walked home in high spirits trying to master the singing. Maybe one day…😊
The Swedes came to Ubud the day after us so we spent even more time as a group and doing a lot of laughing. I still believe one of the best things about traveling is making incredible friends in such a short space of time with people from all over the world.
Ubud was not what I expected, but not in anyway a disappointment. We had rain every single day but our spirits stayed high. I left Ubud having done and seen numerous interesting things I never had before. Is there much more you could want from a place?
After this it’s to the Gili Islands via Padang Bai for us. I can’t promise hugely exciting posts for that because the Gili’s are a trio tiny beach paradise islands where a successful day would be eating all three meals, at vaguely normal times. I’m sure I’ll have something to tell you though. I’m crossing my fingers for less rain so we can take advantage of the beautiful beaches and sea! The Swedes are coming too, as we’ve become somewhat of a six-some. I can’t wait to beach around and spend more time with such a fun group of people.