Dates: 21 December 2013 – 2 January 2014
DAYS 48-53: “Christmas in Kuta” (21-26 Dec)
Our first impressions of Bali were not great; upon disembarking the plane we had to queue with hundreds of Australians (about 5 flights landed within minutes of each other) to purchase our visas and then get through passport control…this whole process took about 3 hours and nearly resulted in us being a) arrested when we tried to jump the queue and b) stranded at the airport as the driver we had booked just about gave up on us. Luckily Agus was there waiting, having managed to extend his patience a little bit longer, and got us safely to our hotel in Kuta. This was when things started to improve, as we were in Bali over the festive season we had pre-booked 3-star hotels as opposed to our usual backpacker hostels. Bali Sandy Resort provided us with a private twin room, ensuite bathroom (with a bath), a plasma screen TV with cable and most importantly a swimming pool with floating bar…utter luxury! Having recovered from the trauma of getting out of the airport we hit the hay looking forward to spending the next 4 days topping up our tans and sipping on cocktails. Bali, unfortunately, was having none of this idea and we woke up to torrential rain which lasted the next 3 days. You can imagine how glad we were that we had our own room with cable TV!!
After the bed bug debacle in Singapore we decided the best course of action would be to wash the contents of our ENTIRE backpacks to ensure none of the little critters followed us abroad. We found Jenny, an enterprising Balinese woman, a 3 minute walk from our hotel. Jenny was a bit of a jack of all trades offering laundry services, waxing, massages, hair braiding and anything else you could pretty much ask for (even magic mushrooms – these are legal in Bali – don’t worry moms we declined her offer of these!!). Unluckily for us she also turned out to be a lying cow. When we dropped off ALL the clothes we had, bar the ones on our backs, we believed her promise that all 20 kg’s would be washed and completely dry by 2pm the following day. This however did not happen and to cut a very long story short, after sending back our clothes twice we ended up with still damp, pen-marked washing 3 days later. Once again we were grateful for our own room as we had to sleep starkers due to the fact that all of our clothes were being washed…the markets also benefited as we had to purchase new day wear, for fear of being arrested for indecent exposure!
On our first night in Kuta, we took advantage of a gap in the deluge and headed out for some dinner and drinks. After enjoying some delicious burgers we were quietly sitting, minding our own business, only to be provided with a round of drinks from 2 gentlemen at the bar. Sarah was quite happy to accept these and carry on the conversation (a deux) however Tam being the polite soul that she is invited them over to join us. Oh what a mistake this turned out to be. After enduring 2 hours of awful conversation, we made our excuses (to meet our imaginary friends at the next bar) and high-tailed it out of there. After that trauma we decided that that can never happen again, so we came up with a plan…if either of us wanted to bail we would say “we needed to go and buy smokes” – our signal to one another that we were ready to get out of the fire. Tam also came up with a few tricks to avoid getting stuck in the fire again:
1) Do not ask any questions. Simply politely respond to theirs with short, concise answers.
2) Avoid eye contact and keep peering over their shoulder while asking them to repeat the question.
3) Feign deafness and ask them to keep on repeating their questions while stating that the music is very loud in here.
4) Look at your watch and say it’s time to meet your (imaginary) friends, at an undisclosed location.
5) Bid the poor guy farewell with the promise of seeing him later at the club.
We headed to a few more clubs, finally ending up at Sky Garden, a multi-level dancers utopia. Choosing the top floor, we got drinks and got our groove on to some Avicii.
The next 2 days and nights were spent in pretty much the same style…hibernating from the rain during the day and hitting Legian Street at night. We made some friends with a group of guys from the UK and Holland who provided us with free drinks and ample entertainment (Saving Private Ryan bit Rainman’s fingernail off the one night whilst Pop Idol got up on stage and serenaded us with a version of Angels…we’ve taken the liberty of giving them nicknames…ask us one day if you want to know where these came from).
On Christmas Day Bali gave us the best present we could have asked for, the sun! So we took full advantage of the rays and spent Christmas Day chilling by the pool, heading out to Seminyak in the evening for dinner (pizzas) at Ku De Ta.
Unfortunately we didn’t get to see much of Kuta and it’s surroundings due to the inclement weather…but never mind, we’ll just have to go back :)
DAYS 53-56: “Unwinding in Ubud” (26-29 Dec)
On Boxing Day we headed inland to the mountains of Ubud for some rest, relaxation and detoxing. Turned out that Tam did more detoxing than she bargained for as she was struck with the infamous Bali-belly. Staying at Wenara Bali Bungalows, we spent our 2.5 days in Bali’s cultural capital wondering through the markets, trekking through rice paddies, checking out a few temples, admiring Mount Bitu (an active volcano!), enjoying massages and the highlight of our trip, getting a bit star struck at seeing the house that Julia Roberts lived in in the film “Eat Pray Love”. After the craziness that is Kuta (those of you who have been there will know what we mean…irritating street sellers, millions of motorbikes, thumping tunes, thousands of Australians), Ubud was a welcome change…it offered the most spectacular scenery…terraced rice paddies, deep canyons of jungle cut by rivers all set against a backdrop of viscous volcanoes. It also offers some phenomenal restaurants (Nomad, Ibu Rai, 3 Monkeys) which we took full advantage of. We ate like queens for 3 days, enjoying some of the best meals we’ve had (although these didn’t stay with poor Tam for very long).
DAYS 56-60: “Girlies on Gili” (29 Dec-2 Jan)
We left Ubud at sparrows fart on the 29th to make our way to Padang Bay which is where we boarded our boat for Gili Trawangan. Upon arrival to this little island we were greeted with relative chaos; people were trying to get off the boat, people were trying to get on the boat, there were bags and surfboards everywhere and it was seriously hot, like we had landed on the surface of the sun. But being the seasoned backpackers that we now are we located our infamous backpacks, declined the offer of a donkey taxi (there are no cars on this island so to get anywhere you walk, cycle or sit in a cart pulled by a bejewelled donkey) and walked the 7 minutes to Intan Inn Hostel…we didn’t even get lost.
We had heard so much about this island, one of three little pieces of paradise. The Gili Islands are an archipelago of 3 small islands, with Gili T the BIGGEST at 3km long and 2km wide, followed by Gili Air and then Gili Meno. These remote islands provide the perfect setting for scuba diving, snorkelling, stand up paddle boarding, surfing and suntanning…I’m sure you can guess which activity we took part in! The white sands and crystal clear water of Gili T provided the perfect setting for us to sit back, relax and absorb the atmosphere this special place offers…and at night there is always one bar where everyone on the island seems to end up, providing a lekker jol!
We got some beach time in before heading out to meet Tam’s friends, Sands and Shell (more London Wine Club members), who were also staying on Gili T. We found these 2 lovely ladies having drinks with 4 guys, they were from Australia…can you believe it?! So the now 8 of us had a few more drinks before going in search of food. After dinner at Pearl (highly recommended) we had to stop at the Irish Bar for some vodka joss shots (thank girls…not!). Let’s explain quickly what a “vodka joss shot” is: you pour a sachet of what can only be described as pineapple flavoured energy sherbert into your mouth and chase it with a shot of vodka. The effect being similar to that of a jäeger bomb…oh dear! We then thought it would be a good idea to head back to the boys place to help them consume their duty-free vodka and whisky. Let’s just say that there were some sore heads in the morning. We recovered in solitude and met up with the girls for dinner at the Irish Bar when we’d all pulled ourselves together. There were no vodka joss shots this time though!
New Years Eve on Gili T was something we were looking forward to as well as slightly apprehensive about. In the build up to the 31st all the hotels and bars erect temporary fences around their establishments. When we queried why they do this we were told that thousands of Balinese people come across from Lombok (a neighbouring island) to see in the New Year, none of them with accommodation etc. so sometimes things can get pretty intense (we were picturing Durban beachfront on Boxing Day…)! But we were assured that there would be no drama and we would be able to get into all places. We dolled ourselves up, met the girls for some pre-drinks at their place, lined our stomachs with a hearty dinner and then got our rave on. We went from bar to bar enjoying the atmosphere on the street as much as in the bars, definitely a New Years Eve to remember (or not in Shell and Sa’s case!)
Our last night with the girls on the 1st was spent at Scallywags where they offer the most delicious BBQ dinner with a choice of seafood/meat/poultry accompanied with all you can eat salad – just what the Doctor ordered after the New Years Eve celebrations. We left Gili T on the 2nd, sad to leave this beautiful island and the girls but excited to get to Sydney.