Before diving into Bali, quick shout out to the Singapore airport for having FREE foot massage chairs & McDonalds! Woot woot. Looking forward to our next layover there on route to Vietnam!
Now, onto the surfer’s paradise! From Manila we flew into Denpasar, Bali... taxied to Sanur Beach... ferried to Nusa Penida... and then taxied again to Atuh Beach to round out our 48 hours of commute. The last taxi almost did us in though. We haggled the driver down from 500,000 Indonesia Rupiah ($47CA) to 250,000IDR ($21CA) thinking Nusa Penida was a small island and no way would a taxi cost $47CAD. Well, let me tell you I would have paid the full $47 and considered this trip worth every dollar! There is one main “road” all the way around Nusa, it’s the size of ONE normal Canadian lane, cut in half for two-way traffic. Big tourist vans, work trucks, cars, motor bikes, pedestrians, dogs - all use this one little road. And then we started weaving up, and up, and up. Cliffs edges, no railings and coming head on with a big cement truck, who of course does not stop but simply pushes his side view mirror in and SQUEEZES by us as our van is on the outer edge of the cliff. Carter and I both just hung on to the “holy shit bars” and continued to watch the drama of the road unfold. And then, when we think it could not get any worse, we turn off the main road and continue up the bumpiest, windiest... I can’t even call it a road, so I am going to call it a path. After an hour and a half, we roll up to a parking lot that looks like it’s on the edge of the world. Needless to say, after 48 hours of commute, I haven’t changed my clothes, I’ve only brushed my teeth once and I am ready for a GOOD shower.
To my surprise, Carter had booked us accommodation in a tree house for two nights looking over the most surreal landscape! This is something I have always said I wanted to do! My spirits were lifted.
Until we were shown to our room. The process of checking into a room is fairly easy, everyone knows the drill: walk up to reception, give your name, go up an elevator, and voila your room awaits. This was a little more challenging...
Carter gave his name to a random man who said he worked there, he grabbed a blank note pad with just “Carter” written on it, nothing else, and said “ah, ok.” And he offered to take our bags (we each have 60L backpacks on our back and one day bag on our front), we declined and then he motioned for us to follow him. We started walking down a dirt path and then get to the edge of what seems to resemble a stairway down the cliff so, we start our descent on dirt, gravel, and loose rock with a piece of string to help guide us along the sideline. After 2 minutes of trying to see over my day bag and to not fall or slip, I give my bag to our guide. I still slipped. It took a solid 10 minutes to HIKE down this cliff side to get to our tree house. Immediately I could see that the beauty of this place will make up for the steep climb down, an outhouse as a washroom and the very real let down that I wasn’t going to have the good scrub-clean warm shower I was looking forward to (slash probably needed).
The tree house was AMAZING. I simply cant put it into words, so here are a few photos to help you put into perspective what we were looking at:
What we were looking out to from our balcony:
And a little glimpse of where we were situated to get prespective... (thank goodness for the Drone):
We stood on the balcony of our tree house, taking in the view and nature... and also mentally preparing. If it took 10 minutes to get DOWN the cliff, how long and hard would it be to get UP the dang thing where the food and water was! (Update: the first time up we had to stop 2-3 times for a break, by the end of the 3rd day we could go up with a lot of sweat but no breaks :) )
The next morning we had our first sleep in! Aside from some monkeys, we were the only ones on the cliff side. Finally, no roosters to wake us up. We made our way to Atuh Beach, a 15 minute walk away and 500 stairs down to a picturesque beach.
We spent the day here; you’d find our names under the definition of beach bums.
When we got back to our tree house, we had found that the resident lizard that we thought was so cute the night before, had took a big poop right on our bed! Needless to say, Carter was on his way back up the cliff to get the keys to the other tree house as I was packing our bags up!
The next day we made our way to Crystal Bay, which was on the other side of Nusa Penida. Our bungalow owner had informed us that tourists didn’t start coming over to the island until 2014. Just like the Philippines, Nusa is full of construction and ready to take on more and more tourists who want to get away from Australian-ridden Bali. The beach here was nice but nothing compared to the privacy and landscape of Atuh Beach.
Our third day, we made our way back to the main island of Bali and up to Bingin Beach. This entire coast is known for the surf: Uluwatu, Pedang Pedang, The Impossibles, Bingin Beach, Dreamland, Jimbaran and Kuta.
We checked into Suara Ombak Homestay through Thrifty Visuals and headed straight for the beach to test our skills on the waves. We got a lesson from a local surfer and beginner boards (big, buoyant and long) and headed out to catch our first wave. Sorry, there is no photo evidence that we got up, but we did! We were out there for just over an hour and closer to the end of our lesson, the waves were getting bigger and bigger. So much so that the good surfers, surfing behind us, were riding IN the barrel of the wave!
We had a WELL deserved meal at my favourite restaurant in Bingin Beach, Cashew Tree. It was an Australian owned healthy restaurant that also ran kickboxing, Maui Thai and yoga classes throughout the day! After coming from bread & rice fuelled Philippines, I had all the fruits and veg my body could take on while in Bingin!
The next day we rented a motor bike and headed down the coast to Uluwatu, the surfing capital of Bali. It was SUCH a cool spot, a fusion between Australia and Balinese culture, food and love for surfing.
Next we were off to Ubud! Getting to Ubud was an experience in itself... we drove through four villages in a row, each were known for a different art or skill: stone carving, silver & gold, wood working and painting.
Ubud is our favourite city in Indonesia. It immediately has a different feel than all the rest of Bali. It’s a chill vibe, hippy-ish, and there are SO many shops!! The town itself it’s made up of intersecting roads, mazes of market streets, and the monkey forest.
When we arrived in Ubud, we found a little homestay and headed out in the rain to get our bearings. Apparently in Ubud, it rains everyday at 2-3pm, and this day was no different! We went in and out of all the different shops that had hundreds of Balinese wood carved masks, paintings, stone statues, and silver jewelry. I’ve made a promise to myself that I will be back to Bali, more specifically to Ubud, with the agenda to SHOP. Shop for clothes, shop for the really cool wicker purses they have everywhere here, shop for silver, shop for home decor, just shop!
We wander through the Ubud art market and I found these bull hand carved heads I am OBSESSED with! Also, the amazingly talent Balinese men who were hand-carving custom doors right before our eyes were pretty spectacular too:
When we woke up the next morning, I was delighted to find that this was our first sleep in Indonesia where no lizards came in to visit us! We rented a motor bike and got to the Terrangang rice terraces early. They were beautiful! So pristinely cut out of the land and harvested:
We then went rogue and motor biked through the country sides and small villages as we made our way to Lehib Waterfall. Here are some pics we took through out the day:
Next up: Ubud’s enchanted Monkey Forest. This was a surreal experience. It was like a real-life version of Planet of the Apes, except these apes were much smaller and couldn’t give a damn about you (unless you had food!) We walked through the park for an hour with monkeys left, right and center of us. Some came too close for my comfort, as you can probably tell by my facial expressions:
After 3 days in Ubud, we were shortly closing the chapter on Bali. We took a taxi to the main X bus terminal just north of Denpasar to make our way east to Java, one of three main islands that make up Indonesia. Our taxi driver was great! He taught us a lot about Indonesia and Balinese culture and religion.
When we got to the terminal, a man without even talking to us, waved us over and wanted to put us on a random bus that was sitting in the middle of the parking lot. We tried to make sure as well as we could with the language barrier that this bus was going to where we needed it too. So we just listened to the man and the bus was off! We ended up at Medewi, a small surf town down the coast, right where we intended. Sometimes, you gotta learn to just trust the system.
We stayed at Medewi Inn, and it was great timing because the owners were also staying there as they were in town from Australia. The owners are Eddie and his Wife (I actually couldn’t understand her name so we will call her Alice the Aussie). Eddie is Javanese and grew up in Medewi, his family is one of the biggest in the village. The morning after, we caught a free ride from Alice the Aussie to the bus terminal in the next town over and headed toward Gilimanuk and the ferry terminal to get across to Java.
Because of Mt Agung, the ferry was MUCH busier than we anticipated, with travelers rerouting themselves to Sarabaya to fly out. Here is a picture of Mt Agung the day before it erupted from one of the ferries we took:
We were SO close to making the 1:50pm train to Probolinggo but missed it by 30 minutes, now we had to wait until 9pm for the next train out.
We went straight to the train station to scoop out the exact times of the next train and buy our tickets in advance. Little did we know... there is an hour time change between Bali and Java so we made the 1:50pm train with plenty of time to spare! The travel to Java was amazing because everything was just coming up roses for us. What made it even sweeter was that on the train, we were sat in a car with 2 of the funniest, sassiest sisters who I’ve ever met - they loved eavesdropping, talking crap, and laughing - my spirit animals. Also, 2 of the sweetest men, who thankfully studied in the US so was able to translate all the sassy comments the sisters were making. And of course, the real reason I loved them so much, was that they made it their duty to feed me. And I was HUNGRY, Carter and I got on the train with only eating breakfast 3 hours prior and not realizing this was a 4 hour train ride. The ladies said they were frequent riders of the train for their business but this was the most special trip for them because they were talking like family with strangers and friendly foreigners.
Here are all of us at the end of the ride:
Another highlight were two siblings sitting in front of us, a 5 year old girl and her 3 year old brother, who were soaking up everything Carter and I did like sponge! By the end of the train ride the girl was giving the peace sign, winking, blowing kisses, etc.
And that's the end of our Bali chapter, until next time friends!
Carter Bender & Brittany Wilson left Toronto, Canada to travel the world. Where will they be next? Follow their #cbwtravels blog to find out!