Bali marked the half way point for my globetrotting, and my entrance into Asia. After several months of comfort in New Zealand and Australia we flew from Perth to Bali (via Sydney) and had a bit of a culture shock. The Island of the Gods didn’t quite live up to our expectations on arrival – we arrived in Kuta at night and all the streets were flooded so we had to wade through filthy water up to our knees and ended up in a hostel full of cockroaches! We soon changed that after a night sleeping with one eye open!
While staying in Kuta, I had some clothes made at the tailors as well as matching shoes and bags made, and bought lots of souvenirs, it hadn’t been long since the tragic 2002 Bali bombings and there had been a massive impact on tourism so people were desperate to sell us anything they could, and it was very hard to ignore their desperate persistence.
We took a day to visit Ulu Watu temple via Nusa Dua‘s beautiful, if somewhat artificial, beaches, although we didn’t partake in any of the many watersports). Ulu Watu is dramatically situated on the top of a cliff and is swarming with grey monkeys. We stopped at Jimbaran Bay on the way back for a sunset dinner, literally on the best beach in Bali, and enjoyed fresh seafood by candlelight with my feet buried in the sand.
From Kuta we got a bus to Ubud (the cultural and artistic capital) and had a look at the palace, the traditional markets and the schools. I watched a cultural dance performance at the palace which was really impressive – such pretty girls and flamoyant costumes and expressions.
We took a day sightseeing the temples: Goa Gajah, the Elephant Cave temple (an old buddhist hermitage from the 11th Century) followed by the Mount Temple at Pejeng, which was a real experience as they were preparing for a festival so the temples were busy with hundreds of people decorating with flowers, cloth, incense and chanang (offerings) and preparing vats of food and drinks. After this, we went to The Rocky Temple at Gunung Kawi which had great views of the rice terraces and carvings into the cliff face, despite the rain. We finished at Tampak Siring village to see the Holy Spring temple (Tirta Empul), all based around natural springs, before heading for a local lunch at Penelokan to see Mount Batur, an active volcano and checking out Ulun Danu temple in Kintamani. We stopped on the way home at a plantation in Tampak Siring where we saw coffee, cocoa, vanilla, cinnamon, chillies and lots of exotic fruits growing, and we took some stunning pictures at Tegallalang, which had great views of the rice terraces.
After a week or so in Bali and following the recommendations of some travellers I met in Australia, I decided to head to the Gili Islands, so I took a basic ferry from Bali to Lombok, where I spent a night in Sengigi, before moving on to the islands.
I stayed on Gili Air, a small and basic paradise island with no internet and only horse and cart as transport. It was a beautiful and quiet retreat to laze around pagodas, watch sunsets, and snorkel from deserted beaches, although the accomodation was very very basic.