Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Never ask someone in Bali for directions

Tuesday 4 March

We are off to Bali!!

We sadly departed David’s and took the scenic route to Perth Airport. It actually took us a little over 5 hours. Partly because we could NOT find the airport. There would be a sign for the airport, but then not another. We seemed to circle it in a WIDE circle a few times :-/

I guess this is what we get for not splurging on a GPS ;) Just wasn’t worth the extra expense. But, this does lead me to another thought…I am having the HARDEST time functioning without my cell phone and constant internet access!! I only got a smart phone about 3 years ago and already I can’t live without it?? I want to look something up every five minutes. I find it nearly impossible to find a good hotel. I mean, I can find a hotel…surreee…but is it the best rated one?? Are we getting the best deal?? Where should we go for dinner?? I know that traveling is all about just wandering and FINDING cute little places and nice hotels, etc. We are doing our fair share of that… but, I’m a planner!! I like to do my research.

ANYWAY. We finally did find the airport…and we were like 4 hours early…much to Preston’s delight:P He LOVES getting to the airport early. I’m more of a walk on the plane as soon as I arrive kind of person. Funnily enough, the Virgin desk didn’t open until 2 hours before our flight. So strange!! I’ve never experienced that. So, we had no choice but to hang out in the check in area for a couple hours.

We met another traveler Donovan from NZ…he gave us lots of great Bali tips. 

Finally, we were able to check in for our flight and got completely robbed on the baggage fees. Because we had a third bag and a surfboard…we had to pay $160. Stinks so bad!! I probably could’ve done some re-arranging, but there was a long line behind us. Virgin has very strict carry on rules. In America, our third bag could EASILY have been carried on, but b/c it weighed more than 7kg (15lbs)…we couldn’t carry it on. Truly, my backpack with my computer weighs more than that, but no way were they taking that from me. Apparently, we can expect more of this across Asia. We can’t have more than a 20kg checked bag and 1x7kg carry on. I have MAJOR bag anxiety. Honestly, I’m not sure what we can get rid of, but we are going to try in Bali.

We boarded our flight and watched the sun set over the beautiful ocean. It was about a 3 hour flight to Denpasar and we landed without incident. The airport was very modern and customs were a breeze. We had to pay $25 US dollars each for a visa, but there was almost no line and it all went quite smoothly.

Goodbye Australia

We had to wait a long while for our bags, specifically the surf board, but it finally came.

We met our drive Ketut on the curb. It was important for us to arrange a driver ahead of time with an agreed price, because we've been told you can easily be taken advantage of here.

It was quite late (nearly midnight), but the streets were still crowded and people were milling around or hanging out in food stalls talking. The drive to Pecatu was about an hour long.

We arrived at our hotel…Harmonious Surf Camp and were greeted by Made (Ma-day)

I’ve learned since that the first born child of a Balinese family is named Wayan, the second Made, the third Nyoman, and the fourth Ketut. This explains why we’ve met so many people with the same name J

We were delighted to find our room HUGE and cooled with air conditioning. We had a big king sized bed and happily collapsed into it.

Our room-who knew my camera did this cool panorama thing all on its own??

Wednesday 5th March

We woke up this morning to the roosters crowing. They seem to crow at all hours!! Someone tell them the sun only rises once a day ;)

We decided to walk to find some breakfast. Made told us to turn right and then turn right…so that’s what we did.

The area we are staying in is known as the Bukit (Boo-kit), called so for the peninsula. The Bukit mostly comprises a few little ‘towns’ all in a row. We were closest to Padang-Padang.

Our walk took us down a paved road filled with mangy dogs, chickens, cows, people, and tons of trash. We found the main road and wandered along the shoulder towards the ‘town’. Padang Padang is not so much a town, but more a strip of a few shops and restaurants.

We did not immediately get our bearings. Everything seemed closed and we were confused about where we should eat. We walked further, but were met with only more road through the jungle. Across one bridge, we got a glimpse of the crystal blue ocean and breaking waves.

We decided to turn back and settled on breakfast closer to our hotel at “Buddha Soul”. The food was DELICIOUS and while cheap in comparison to Australia…was somewhat expensive for Bali. We didn’t know this yet and were happy to have a breakfast feast for under $20!!

We returned to the hotel and asked Made how we could access the nearby surf beach. He led us down the road in the opposite direction from the town to a limestone wall that said “Impossible’s Beach” in spray paint. This is a well known surf beach, so we made our way down the jungle path. It was narrow and roughly carved from rock. We even saw a snake!! We dodged the long jungle vines before coming through a cave-like entrance to the beach. Only problem was…there was no beach. The tide was high and the treacherous waves were crashing against the rocks. We tried to walk on, but there was no further to go.

No beach.

 As we stood there trying to decide if we were in the right place or not…to our amazement a young German kid came down with a board and just hopped into the water crashing between the rocks!! I can’t believe he wasn’t crushed!! Then another person came and did the same thing!!

We decided that Preston would take me back to the little pool at our hotel and then return to try to surf.

Heading back up

The pool at our hotel was small, but perfect. The sun here is unbelievably hot as we are 8° from the equator. I relaxed in one of the two lounge chairs and met Leilani, who is temporarily staying at the hotel till she finds a place.

Leilani is a super cool chick!! :D She is actually from Huntington Beach, Ca (near where I used to work), but has been living the dream in Bali for the last year and a half. She just up and moved to Bali one day without having ever been here. How cool and brave is that??

Leilani knows the area really well and offered me some great tips.

One of her suggestions was that we head to the Single Fin in Uluwatu for dinner…she said the views were a great place for a first sunset.

So, we headed to Uluwatu. We rented a moped ($5/day!!), because walking at night would be somewhat dangerous and it was a bit far. No one wears a helmet here, which is also kind of scary (sorry Mom!!).

Single Fin was a fun bar perched atop the cliffs overlooking the ocean. The cliffs are crazy. Nearly every open area is occupied by a building perilously perched on the cliff. I sat at the bar with my feet dangling into the void.

Panorama didn't quite get it right, but you get the idea

Leilani was right on, because the views were unbeatable!! There was a band playing perfectly funky music and the vibe of the place was great.

We ordered 2 bintangs (the local beer) and some yummy food (veggie curry and seafood fried rice) and watched the sun go down and a storm rolling out across the water. It was the perfect ending to our first day in Bali.

Caught the lightning!! 

Thursday 6 March

Today we decided to try to find another surf beach. Bingin beach is another popular surf break, so we headed there.

Made said…turn left, then right.

Ok…let me just tell you that people here are not very good with directions. It’s never as simple as they make it seem…and it’s RARE to find someone that gives you detailed, STEP-BY-STEP directions.

It’s more like this:

They say…turn left, then right. So, you do that. And you are driving down a jungle road through heavy forest…dotted with sleeping dogs, chickens, and people. Little restaurants/hotels/houses pop up amongst the trees…but no beach. You drive and drive and drive. No beach. So, you turn around and decide to take a random right hand turn. You follow that road for a while…you try not to maim the dogs sleeping in the middle of the road that don’t even bat an eye as you pass. You reach a gravel road. It becomes a dead end at a house being built that makes you seriously question the structural soundness of the places where you eat/sleep. You turn around again. You go to the main road and on the way see a sign that wasn’t visible from the other direction for a DIFFERENT beach than the one you are hunting, so you follow those signs. Turns out that was the ONLY sign and you are at another dead end again. You turn around. You see another sign for a bunch of hotels and think…the beach must be there…so you turn down that road. From there you turn down a driveway and run into an English speaking person that gives you equally ambiguous, but seemingly more clear directions like, “oh just go up here and turn right or left. You can do either, but we usually go left. Then just keep heading down hill between the houses and you’ll find the beach”. Ok!!

Uh huh

You park and follow his instructions. But it seems you are just entering into hotel property. You find another couple (this one from Australia) ALSO wandering aimlessly around looking for ANY beach. You join forces and follow the directions of ‘downhill between the houses’. You walk through ankle high grass in your flip flops praying there are no snakes. You reach a guard house that tells you that this is not the way to the beach and motions in the other direction. You turn around. Finally you see another sign to the beach but again, it’s the ONLY sign. You take a chance and follow the Australian girl down a path between two high walls. It seems like it might be right!! You enter insanely narrow concrete alleyways wedged between houses. The stairs are steep and oddly spaced so you have to walk extremely carefully. You can hear crashing waves. You squeeze between two buildings and see sand!! Finally---you are at the beach!! :P

So, we found Bingin. The tide was low enough that the Australian girl (Jane) and I put our stuff on some rocks and carefully made our way across the shallow reef to jump in the water. It was so refreshing, because it was SO hot and it was only 9am.

The beaches here are pretty rocky and the sand is grainy. The whole time you are laying in the sand—dogs are running around you and Balinese women stop and sit very close to you before asking you a bunch of personal questions culminating in “you want Ma-saaage?”. Not the best beach experience I’ve ever had, but the scenery is beautiful :)

This will all be under water come high tide

We made our way back up the hill and had a yummy and cheap breakfast of corn fritters and a burrito at The Cashew Tree Café out in the jungle trees.


Back at the hotel, Preston decided to try Impossibles again for a surf, but I opted out and stayed by the pool. Much more comfortable than the beach!! I just love this place...I could stay here a month!!

View from our porch

No stray dogs OR offers for ma-sa-ges :D

We followed Leilani’s advice again and took the moped up to a pizza place.

We ended the night watching DVDs in our comfy room.

Sidenote:You can buy new release DVDs here for SUPER cheap…like $1…so there were a ton in our room—awesome!!

Another crazy thing about Bali is that EVERYWHERE has FREE wifi. How is it so much more technologically advanced than Australia and NZ in just this one way??

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