“Travel is more than the seeing of sights; it is a change that goes on, deep and permanent, in the ideas of living.”
In the days leading up to our arrival in Bali, Indonesia we had been checking the weather forecast religiously. It was rainy season in the Indonesian islands and they were forecasting 23 degrees and thunder showers for all of our four days there. With that being the case, we were not overly thrilled, nor had we planned any day trips or activities. We had mentally planned for four days sleep and overuse of our Netflix account. So you can imagine our pleasant surprise when our first day in Bali was hot and sunny, followed by the same weather our second, third and fourth days there!
We rented a scooter day one and tootled around the southern end of the island, Kuta. The beach nearest us was Labuan Sait, which was our first stop of the day. As we walked down the steep set of stairs towards the beach we heard loud singing and chanting. Our first view of the beach revealed hundreds of Balinese men, women and children in the midst of a religious ceremony. All of the women were dressed the same and all of the men were dressed the same and there was an alter set up, on which there was a large floral display. As we stepped foot into the sand we saw that the beach had clearly been divided in two: half for the Balinese to perform their ceremony and the other half was filled with travellers, watching the ceremony in fascination. We joined the travellers and watched as the women sprinkled flowers petals on the sand and the men loaded a weighted cage, with a chicken inside of it, onto a boat. The boat then drove out to sea and the cage was thrown overboard. Being the humane animal lovers that we are, it was difficult to watch, however we did not judge as it is part of their culture and religion. Upon asking a Balinese man about the ceremony a few days later, Jeff learned that it was performed to thank the gods for the rainy seasons, which had recently come to a close, leaving the island lush and green. The sacrificial chicken was their way of giving back to the sea, the water that had been provided to them throughout the rainy season.
Once the ceremony was over we left and headed to Padang Padang Beach. We didn’t stop for a swim, just admired the view from above and moved on.
Following Padang Padang we headed to Pura Luhur Uluwatu Temple. This ancient Balinese Hindu site was built on a 70m cliff overlooking the Indian Ocean. The views from the temple are spectacular and are accompanied by monkeys in the trees all around and the aroma of incense wafting through the air.
We ended our first day at Single Fin, a bar overlooking Uluwatu Beach, known as one of the best surf spots on the island. It was a cool place, playing chill music, with a cliffside pool; a clear attracting for many backpackers. We had a drink and watched the surfers dominate the massive waves, in amazement and envy of their skills.
Day two, sunny and beautiful, we rented the scooter again and headed to Ubud, a suggestion from our friend, TL, who was in Bali a few years previous. Ubud is inland, almost right in the centre of the island. It’s known as the cultural centre of Bali, whereas Kuta, where we were staying to the south, is more of a touristy area. On our way north, through the capital of Denpasar, a Balinese man on a scooter complimented Jeff on his skilled scooter driving at a stop light. He then asked where we were from and where we were headed. He said that he was going to Ubud too and for us to follow him, so we did. At the next stop light he asked if we wanted to taste, “the best coffee in the world”. We agreed, me reluctantly and Jeff eagerly, and he lead us to Jambe Asti Agrotourism – Luwak Coffee. Once we saw all the other tourists there we knew we would be fine. He gave us a brief tour of the grounds and explained the Luwak Coffee process. The luwaks, which is a weasel, eat the coffee beans, which the animals hand select. They will not eat a bean that is too big, too small or has any imperfections. Their feces is then collected and the whole beans are extracted, washed, roasted, ground and sifted and they’re left with, “the best coffee in the world”. The idea that we were drinking coffee beans that we once in an animals poop was a bit of a turn off, but we just went with it. After the tour we sat down for a tasting which allowed us to try eight different varieties of tea and seven different varieties of coffees, the luwak coffee being the last one. It was a fine cup of java indeed, but we’re preferential to flavoured coffee and enjoyed the vanilla and coconut coffee much more. We paid for our cup of luwak, thanked the Balinese man for showing us there, and continued on our way.
Two hours straddling the scooter and we knew we had made it to Ubud for the rice paddies to both our left and right. The vast fields are bright green in colour and tiered. Men and women working in the fields wore wide-brimmed hats to protect themselves from the beating sun. Our offline maps had shown a restaurant, smack in the middle of them, which offered a 180 degree view of the fields. After an hour of searching up and down residential streets we found Bambu Indah, a stunning resort with a viewing deck that, in fact, does offer a spectacular panoramic view of the rice paddies and dense tropical forests. After admiring the view, snapping some photos and a quick lunch, we hopped back on the scooter for the two hour drive back south.
Day three, once again sunny and beautiful, we decided to stick around our resort, Lullaby Bungalows. As we settled into our lounge chairs by the pool conversation sparked with an Australia couple who was siting next to us, Rachel and Steve. That afternoon we shared life stories, laughs and wine with the delightful couple. Drinks turned into dinner at Pizzeria Italia, which was Steve’s selection. Meeting people while travelling is so fun, because it’s unplanned and unexpected and can make for some of the best nights.
Our final day on the island, the rainy season made an appearance. That being said, Jeff was bound and determined to surf in Bali, so while he was doing that I read and wrote under a covered daybed by the pool at our resort. He came back from his lesson that afternoon completely wiped but exhilarated by the extreme sport. The dark clouds dispersed midday and we enjoyed some sun our last afternoon in Bali.
Our time in Bali was short but sweet. As a result of our limited time there, and the fact that the forecast was looking so gloomy prior to our arrival, we hadn’t done much research or planning. So each day when we woke up we waited to see what the weather was like and planned our day accordingly. This made for spontaneity and excitement around every corner. I’m such a planner and an organized person, but Bali forced me to let all of that go and live in the moment, and I have to admit…I liked it!