Our first week in Indonesia saw us scooting around the island of Bali in search of paradise beaches, cheeky monkeys and delicious seafood.
Dinner at Jimbaran
Candle lit tables lined the beach whilst traditional dancers and local musicians entertained holiday makers along Jimbaran’s seafront. The shore break dumped onto the sand as we walked from the Southern restaurants where our taxi had dropped us to the middle section. The beach was dark, only lit by the flickering candles from the tables. A few stray dogs were resting along the sand but weren’t disrupted as we passed by. When we reached the next strip of restaurants we sat down at the first with a front row seat to the ocean. We ordered lobster and Barramundi fish and were asked by the concerned waitress a few times if the price was OK. Neither Laurie or I had quite managed to get to grips with the Indonesian currency and were relaxed in conversation enjoying the evening so just said it was fine and continued to chat. We sipped on Bintang and watched the waves crash under a starry sky.
We were served our seafood with rice, greens and a selection of sauces. It was fresh and tasty and filled us up a treat. We sat for the evening enjoying the warm air and beach setting. When the bill came we realised why the waitress had asked us more than once to agree the price. We had misread the zeros and tried to pay with 10 thousand RP when in fact they wanted 1 million RP, not quite what we’d budgeted for!
We walked back along the road to find a taxi home but couldn’t remember our hotel address and didn’t have it written down, this wasn’t great when none of the drivers recognised the name. A 10 minute Google on the drivers phone later and we were finally on our way. Luckily he was quite amused at how unprepared we were at that point.
Padang Padang beach
Leaving our guest house just opposite , we wandered across to the temple which doubled as beach entrance. Paying 10,000 RP we continued along a paved path through imposing rocks. The little cove was idyllic with crystal clear waters and white sand. We headed along the shore walking between large rocks standing in the shallows. As we waded through the warm water, looking up we spotted hidden bungalows nestled in the cliffs and wished we’d looked a little further up the hill for our accommodation.
Back at the beach we headed for the water and floated around in the sunshine. It was relatively busy but had a relaxed atmosphere as people chilled in and out of the ocean. Surfers paddled out in between us to the reef break just out from the beach. When it was time to head back we packed up our belongings and I realised I’d lost my flip flops. I couldn’t quite remember where I’d left them but they were definitely gone! This was not what I wanted when I reached the tarmac road which had been heating up all day under the beaming sun, I hopped across as quick as I could with every step sizzling under my feet. I quickly replaced my flip flops at Akaw! Surf shop.
Ulu Watu on the bikes
We hired bikes from a man just up the road from our guesthouse and headed South for Ulu Watu. We stopped for a smoothie at Ulu Watu beach road before heading for Pura Luhur Ulu Watu, a Hindu temple on the top of sheer cliffs which dropped into glass clear water on the South Western peninsula. We paid on entry and were given sarongs to wear. As we walked down stone steps to the ocean the location was as spectacular as promised with the path perched on the edge of the dropping cliffs. We walked around the temple and along to an amphitheater taking in the stunning scenery.
Leaving the temple we continued south on the relatively busy main road. We were passed by other bikes, cars, mini buses and lorries. The road weaved through villages, past surf shops and a huge and pretty vulgar golf course entrance. We stopped at a roadside cafe and filled up on seafood noodles before heading back for Ulu Watu beach.
Parking the bikes in a crammed car park we walked down the steep and windy steps that took us past cafes, bars and board rentals. The beach was overhung by the rocky cliffs and the water was crystal clear. We swam around in the refreshing shallows, enjoying it even more after a hot day on the bikes, and watched the surfers out on the reef.
Leaving the car park turned out trickier than expected when our bikes had been completely blocked in. A lot of shifting of heavy scooters later and we were able to leave, thankfully our visions of motorbike dominoes weren’t realised!
Back in Padang Padang and on our way to a dinner of fish tacos we passed four fire engines on the side of the road. The bungalows on the beach which we had been envious of just a day before were a blaze. Someone was burning rubbish below them and the wooden structures with straw roofs didn’t stand a chance. Very scary for the owners and people staying there.
At 10pm a woman working at the guesthouse knocked on our door, I had arranged earlier that day for a massage when she finished work. It was very firm handed and involved a lot of pulling and rolling over the muscles, rubbing coconut oil into my newly sun-soaked skin. When she had finished she asked us what our plans were and when hearing we were travelling to Ubud she arranged for her friend to take us in the morning.
Ubud is a hub of lively streets lined with stalls, shops, cafes and tour guides. The side streets are filled with markets and stalls selling trinkets and any souvenir you could think of. Galleries and cool coffee shops sit between chain retailers and beauty spas. You could easily lose yourself here for days wandering around and bartering for bargains. Laurie and I managed to actually get lost in the first couple of hours but were quite happy browsing what was on offer as we tried to find our guesthouse.
The sacred monkey forest was a must for me so we walked down from our guesthouse on our first day in Ubud. I bought a bunch of bananas from a woman selling them along the path and was soon approached by confident little grey monkeys with a practiced snatch and run technique, 30 seconds later I had no bananas. We walked through the forest to the temples and watched as monkeys played together and interacted with the tourists. I was pretty intimated by the bigger ones and was on edge trying not to make eye contact with them. With help from the woman selling bananas we managed to get the classic tourist monkey on shoulder shot and left the forest in search of lunch.
The rest of the day was spent strolling the shops and stalls and buying silver rings before an evening of tapas, mojitos and live music.
When hiring a moped we asked for directions for Gunung Kawi, one of Bali’s oldest monuments. The man gave us some basic left then right then straight, straight directions and we headed out of town past roadside shops and rice fields. At the bottom of a lush green valley we found the entrance to the stone temple. It was enclosed in a water garden lined with pink flowers and ponds filled with fish. It was quiet and peaceful as we walked around. A chicken pecked in the dust and a few local kids were playing in a small stone swimming pool to the side of the temple. On the ride back we stopped for an Indonesian chicken curry. Our cafe terrace had a stunning view across a steep rice field valley, the perfect backdrop for lunch.
Back in Ubud we had an afternoon dip in the guesthouse pool and I went out to the market to buy a fabric flag. I’m pretty sure I paid over the odds for it, haven’t got the hang of bartering yet.