Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Bali Trip - Part 3

Diving with Manta Rays, incredible rice terraces, sea temples, and dinner on the beach... I'm sure you're thinking, "it's not possible for this trip to get any more amazing!"... but you're wrong.  Our last few days in Bali were some of the most memorable - for different reasons.  Day 5 started off incredibly.  Our ever faithful driver Gusti picked us up at our villa in the morning, and we made our way up to my favorite area in Bali - Ubud (as seen in the movie Eat, Pray, Love).  One of the best parts of the day was getting to rent a mo-ped and drive around exploring the city on our own.  Ubud is pretty much in the middle of the Bali jungle.  However, Ubud central is a tiny, bustling area with many shops, restaurants, temples, and markets, and it was quite easy to find our way around.  It was also the only place in Bali I felt remotely safe trying to drive at all!

The first stop of the day was to the famous Monkey Forest, where we had even more fun interactions with monkeys than our first day of the trip.  I'm telling you, this vacation completely changed my idea of monkeys!  For some reason, I used to think they were cute, furry, little animals - sort of like puppies or kittens.  Not the case.  Monkeys are vicious, thieving, little creatures - sorry to the monkey lovers out there.  Matt and I purchased a bunch of bananas at the front to feed them as we walked through the forest, and we made it only about 100 feet before the bananas were all gone.  Once the monkeys see you have bananas, they pretty much come at you from all angles, including from above!  Matt was the one with the bananas, and he literally threw the whole bunch to them just to keep them from surrounding him!  I thought it was kind of funny.  The rest of the time in the forest, we watched the monkeys steal things from tourists, jump on tourists, get into fights with one another... they were EVERYWHERE!   

One monkey in a fight with a child for the string of his pants

Check out this video to get the true Monkey Forest experience:

After we had had our fill of monkey, we drove the moped to go get some lunch.  And by "we", I mean Matt drove the moped - and I sat on the back (Thailand-style).  Our driver Gusti had found this one road for us that led up to an organic restaurant that I had wanted to try, but he told us that it was a road that no cars were allowed on.  Matt drove us to this road, which went way up-hill and wasn't much of a road at all.  I would describe it as more of a very narrow dirt path, myself.  Anyway, it was really a neat area, because after going up-hill, it opens up to gorgeous, green rice paddies on all sides of you!  It was such a cool area to explore on our own.

Matt on our moped
Ducks in a row:)

Having watermelon juice at Sari Organik for lunch - this restaurant was in the middle of the rice paddies with an amazing view!  Ubud is all about health, wellness, and inner peace... I think most of the other patrons had just finished up with their yoga classes - no joke!

After lunch, we stopped at a tiny and natural spa called Cantika, also located right on the rice paddies. I got a facial with their fresh masks made from the herbs they grow right there on site.  

Check out this video clip of our moped drive through the rice paddies:

Matt and I spent the remainder of our day driving around central Ubud, having a blast, until I ended up getting majorly sick from something I ate and needed to have Gusti drive us back to our villa.  Matt swears that it was the organic food I made him eat, but I felt like I had a fever from the time I'd woken up that morning.  I'll spare you the details here, but when I say majorly, I do mean majorly sick, like almost couldn't get myself off the floor sick.  I've never felt like that on any trip before, or in my life before, and I never want to feel like that again!  Second to feeling as if I was about to die, I was also upset over the possibility that I would be ruining the rest of the trip.  At this point, we still had two more full days ahead of us!  Thank God Matt was able to get to a nearby pharmacy and explain what I was going through.  He came back to the villa with a whole mess of meds, which - long story short - quite literally saved me and the trip.  Within an hour of re-hydrating and taking the pills, I was feeling slightly better.  Although we had to cancel our tour the next morning because I wasn't feeling well enough to rappel down waterfalls, I still woke up feeling 100% better than I had the night before.  Matt and I took it easy that morning, and by early afternoon, we were back in Gusti's car to see a few more places around Ubud.  

Amazing Gunung Kawi

Matt (in another skirt) & our driver Gusti

Tirta Empul - healing water temple

These type of gates are so unique to Bali

Central Ubud

Offerings on the street

Matt with the Balinese Police

Ubud Market

Luckily, the experience of food poisoning really didn't ruin our time in Bali at all.  Don't get me wrong - it was an experience I will always remember - but, with the exception of not getting to go out for dinner that night, it really didn't take anything away that we had planned for the trip.  We still got to see and do everything I had wanted to, including our last tour, which we were able to switch to our 7th and final day in Bali.  As I alluded to before, we were cliff jumping, watersliding, and yes - rappelling down waterfalls - in what is known as Canyoning.  This was AMAZING and the perfect, adventurous end to our trip!

Matt and I suited up and ready to rappel!

Natural water slides - these were so fun!

Me taking a giant leap

Matt on one of our tallest waterfalls

That's me!

Our last waterfall of the day - a giant TWIN waterfall - you can see tiny Matt down in the water below!

Check out this video Matt took on his helmet-cam while rappelling down the twin waterfalls in Kerenkali Canyon:

  Adventure, beaches, scuba diving, fun shopping, gorgeous sunsets, unique restaurants, culture, and private villas - Bali has it all!  Matt's on the fence, but for me, this was the most amazing trip and the most amazing place I think I've been to - even despite the food poisoning;)

Thanks for following along on our world travels!


Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Bali Trip - Part 2

Days 3 and 4 of our Bali experience were even more amazing.  We spent Monday on sightseeing, sightseeing, and more sightseeing!  There is truly so much to see in Bali, and we got to see a lot of it on this day.  Matt and I ended up scheduling a day trip with a driver who we had tried to hire the first day of our trip (the Hindu holiday) with no success.  His name was Gusti, and he turned out to be an awesome driver that we used for 3 different days of the trip. 

I had heard of hiring "private drivers" while planning the trip, but I pictured something like a taxi driver that would just drop us off places and wait for us to return to the car.  In Bali, however, a driver is much more like renting a tour guide for the day.  Gusti had a really nice car with great air conditioning and a cooler in the back full of cold soda and water.  He didn't just drive us to places - he went out of his way to take us through scenic areas, all the while telling us about Bali and answering any and every random question we had for him!  He also went with us into every temple and place we wanted to go, acting as an unofficial tour guide.  He explained all about the different religions in Bali, the government, the terrorism in Indonesia, the caste system that still exists today, and we even got to learn about his own family and about his son that would be following in his footsteps as he attempts to grow the family driving business.  Through Gusti, Matt and I were able to learn more about Bali than any other place we've traveled to before. 

One of the first stops of the day - and one of the most spectacular things I've ever seen - the enormous rice terraces of Jatiluwih!

There are rice terraces all over Bali - smaller ones even while you're driving through the towns - and they all have these amazing staircase-like terraces in all different organic shapes where the rice grows.  Rice needs an incredible amount of water to grow, and these steps are a way of keeping that water retained for the rice to thrive.

The shapes that the "steps" make are so unique

One great thing about Jatiluwih was that it was a little far to get to, which meant there were hardly any tourists there.  In fact, there weren't very many people there at all - Gusti explained to us that the workers that harvest the rice work only in the mornings and evenings as mid-day is way too hot in the sun for them. 
We literally went "off the beaten path" as we walked across the ledges to get right in the middle of the terraces!

Check out this panorama video clip of Jatiluwih:

Another note-worthy stop of the day - Pura Ulun Danu Bratan - one of the most famous temples in Bali.  The tall pagoda is sitting on a pretty lake with moutains in the backdrop.  In fact, it is one of the symbols of Bali, and it is also on the Indonesian currency (Rupiah). 

Matt and his 3 tiny owl friends:)

Our last stop of this sightseeing-filled day - Pura Tanah Lot - another one of the most famous temples in Bali.  Tanah Lot is known as the "Sea Temple" because it is literally sitting IN the ocean! By the way, there was no one else down on the beach here except us... we had to be different and climb down there!  And our faithful driver Gusti, ever concerned with our safety, followed:)
The one side of Tanah Lot was a black sand beach - so cool!

Tanah Lot at low tide - at high tide, you cannot walk up to the temple on land!

Probably THE most popular place in Bali to watch a sunset, Tanah Lot did not disapoint! 


The following day we had planned for some scuba diving off of a tiny island called Nusa Penida.  We were warned that the waters around Nusa Penida were cold and contained strong currents.  However, we were also told that this is the area to see larger fish such as Manta Rays and Mola Mola (odd-looking, oceanic sunfish).  I'm sure we are incredibly spoiled here in Okinawa where the water is always decently warm to dive in, but when I jumped into that water for the first time in Bali, it felt like ice!  I was literally shivering most of the time, and that is even wearing TWO wetsuits on my second dive of the day!  On the positive side, the water was quite clear, and there were many, many colorful fish and coral around.  Although we never did get to see the elusive Mola Mola (Matt's still upset), we did get to dive with Manta Rays - something we've dreamed of for the past few years!

Paddang Bai - the harbor that we left from on our dive boat

The island of Nusa Penida

Our first and third dive sites - Crystal Bay.  This is where the Mola Mola were supposed to hang out, which is why we dove it twice - in hopes of spotting them.  They weren't joking about the currents here, though - they were super strong!

Our second, coldest, and best dive of the day - Manta Point - where we saw (you can guess...) Manta Rays!

So big, yet so gentle - they are beautiful creatures

Check out this video clip of us diving with the Mantas:

Tuesday night - we ate at one of our favorite restaurants of the trip - Ku De Ta.  The actual restaurant portion is super fancy, but it also has the most amazing outdoor lounge/restaurant area that is slightly more casual and trendy!  It was AWESOME!  Basically, the scene is a bunch of reclining sofa/lounge chairs with umbrellas and candles that are right on the beach.  Live music is playing, and you can order drinks, food, even cigars to enjoy on your lounge (we did all three!)  So relaxing!

One more part of our Bali-extravaganza coming soon - stay tuned!!