Monday October 19, 2015 (Asia, Indonesia, Southeast Asia)
Due to the vagaries of Aeroplan reward flight availability, Sandra and I were forced (forced, I tell you!) to fly ourselves to Bali enroute home. We had initially intended to head straight to New Zealand from Thailand but were unable to secure a flight home from Auckland during the busy holiday season. Or ever, really. Aeroplan availability sucks on Air New Zealand for the record. But hey – can I really complain that we get to spend a couple of days in Bali on either end of our trip to Middle Earth? Nope.
We arrived on the 15th and headed straight to Ubud. We’d heard some good things about it: a chill town with nice restaurants and some cool things to see in the vicinity. Sounds great! On our first full day in the town we made sure to drop in to the Monkey Forest. It’s… a forest full of monkeys. Surprise! But it’s pretty cool because the monkeys just kind of wander around freely and the the park is spacious and beautiful to look at. I had a lot of fun taking pictures of these simians in all kinds of compromising positions. I’ve actually left out some of the more… romantic images of the little guys.
One highlight of the trip was when I approached a little guy and put my arm out. In my mind, this was more of a handshake gesture. The monkey promptly jumped onto my arm and crawled up onto to my head. To make sure he wasn’t going to fall off prematurely, he made sure to take a good hold on my hair. And there he sat. After a short period, an employee at the park wandered by and warned, “Make sure not to let him sit there for too long. He will pee on you.” Great. I’m torn. I like having a monkey on my head. He was really quite friendly, apart from the hair-grabbing thing. He was dropping mashed banana bits all over my shirt. But I forgave that cute little gaffer. After another several minutes, the employee returned to shoo the monkey off my back. I didn’t really have a problem with him, but I guess the guide didn’t want to watch me get peed on. Fair enough.
Oh, and another nice bit came when a recently engaged (or recently married?) Balinese couple came to the park to get some photos taken. They immediately became the stars of the show, and all the tourists started snapping photos of them. Myself included. In my defense, I did ask the photographer if it was OK for me to take some photos as well. And I gave them my congratulations. I felt that was a bit nicer than some of the other gawkers who just started snapping away without asking and then walked off when they ran out of memory card storage.
One thing I’d like to mention about Indonesia (well, Bali specifically) is how amazing the temples here are. Bali is a Hindu island within a predominantly Muslim country. Their temples are almost all decorated in a red and grey brick style and are much more geometric in design than all of the temples we’ve seen elsewhere. They’re my favourite temples so far. The carvings are very detailed, and the visual impact of the religious sites is just awesome. I don’t have any remarkable pictures. Come see it for yourself, OK? Trust me on this one. Best temples.
Also shown in the pictures is a small religious offering. These are constructed afresh every single day and offered at a temple. They’re scattered around the streets at various spots, and they’re all very lovely and colourful. Well done, Bali.
As the hardcore travellers we are, I set us up for some serious party times before departing Ubud. We were going to awake a bit early to hike up Mt. Batur for the sunrise. If you think 1:30am is early. Which I do. That’s why Sandra looks a bit grumpy in the night photo of her while we await the van pickup.
The hike was pretty tame (only about two hours), but we hadn’t planned very well for the low temperatures. I brought along a set of pants that I didn’t end up using, but Sandra happily wore them as a scarf. It was a bit chilly up there at 1700m. Not a crazy elevation, but it can get cold up there at that hour! The sunrise was gorgeous, and we’re glad we did the hike.
After that excursion we were returned back to our hostel a bit before 10am. And like the hardcore travellers we are (see above), I had planned a pickup for a ferry to the Gili Islands for 11am. We packed our bags up, showered, had breakfast, and were back outside for the pickup. It was a relatively short drive to Padang Bai where we caught the ferry to Gili Air.
The Gili Islands are a set of three islands that officially belong to Lombok Island – a large island to the east of Bali. We’d heard they were nice, laid-back islands with good snorkelling. The ferry from Padang Bai was about two hours and uneventful.
Upon arriving at Gili Air, one is immediately struck by the fact that there are no gasoline-powered vehicles at all. Some electric scooters and many horse-drawn carriages. That’s it! The island is only a couple of kilometres in circumference, so it’s easily walkable. In fact, there’s not even a road taking you all the way around, so you end up doing horseshoe walks around the navigable perimeter. No worries.
We rented snorkelling gear for about 3 CAD each and checked out the beach on our first full day. We enjoyed some seaside meals at really low prices. And the weather was what we were expecting from the Thai islands – sunny, clear, and warm! With a light breeze! It was a really lovely time on Gili Air and we wish we’d stayed longer. Next time around it might be fun to check out Gili Trawangan: it has a reputation for being a bit more built-up but still incredibly relaxed by international standards. Oh, and I didn’t really take any photos of Gili Air. Sorry. Imagine a tropical paradise. You get the idea. We got some snorkel footage, so if I ever get around to editing more videos you will definitely see it. I promise I’ll get to those pesky videos…
And now we’ve returned to Bali proper for our last night! We’re now in Sanur, just a thirty minute drive or so from the airport. Our flight departs just after 9pm tomorrow for the last segment of our trip: New Zealand! Strange to think we’ll be back in a predominantly English-speaking country. It’s been… well, the entire trip, really! Sandra’s looking forward to the dairy. I’m looking forward to the microbrews. We have a car rental awaiting us upon arrival. We will choose our own adventure for just over a month. Let’s hope for the best!
Signing off from Bali! Suksma for the memories! See you again in December!
P.S. - Suksma (pronounced “SOOK-soo-muh”) is Balinese for “thank you”. The locals totally dig it if you try out some Balinese. The people are absolutely wonderful here. Bali has really exceeded my expectations. I was worried it’d be a big overdone mess of tourists, but they’ve really managed to maintain a great local culture and affordable prices. If you’re looking for a holiday destination, definitely give it a look!