Week 7 in Bali

Week 7 in Bali

IMG_0738

The photoshoot at our hotel that we were asked to participate in went pretty well in so far as it was quick and wasn’t too taxing.

We didn’t know it at the time (though perhaps we should have known judging by the dithering antics of the photographer) but the photographer was an amateur. He didn’t really give us any direction during the shoot and considering neither of us were professional models that wasn’t very cool. In the end we just done the best that we could to try to convince the camera that I enjoyed fooling around on the inflatable gold swan (I did not), and that we both found the food that was presented to us delicious (we didn’t).

Nonetheless, we looked forward to receiving the images to provide memories of our travels in Bali.

When we received the photo’s back we were a little disappointed with them as the quality of the images was poor. The resolution on the camera seemed very low – infact we could have taken much better images on our iphones! Considering these images are going to be used on their website and other promotional material (we even had to sign a waiver agreement), I don’t see why they didn’t employ someone with a better camera and better skills to take the pictures but hey ho. Of course, they’re not all bad.

_DSC5101

The Golden Swan and Me 

IMG_0788

IMG_0790

Josh and me with our floating platter of food outside our Lagoon Pool Access Room

IMG_0789

Happiest on the beach 

We have had a few issues since staying/living at this hotel. My main one I have mentioned before: The food, which is questionable to say the least, but another pet peeve has been the inconsistency of service.

Since we are still the only couple at this hotel (well we had a family here for 2 days and another couple have just arrived), it seems to me that we should receive exceptional and consistent service the whole time we’re here, but while the manager skives off, he has left us with a whole host of staff who it seems, are on their first jobs straight out of catering college. They are eager and friendly but what they aren’t is efficient. And they don’t seem to employ the gift of common sense particularly either.

Some days at breakfast we will receive a pot of tea, other days just a cup. Some days magically pool towels will appear rolled up on the sunbeds, other times we won’t get a sausage.

Occasionally we will receive a food menu to choose from at breakfast, or our waiter will write our order down, other times a piece of paper with multiple choice food options will be presented with a pen for us to indicate what we wish to eat.

Most times the pool bar isn’t open for business (despite the huge sign indicating that it is). But what IS consistent, and infact highly predictable, is the question asked every morning of us by the waiter who it seems simply must know where we are going that day. This is despite us repeating the same answer each and everyday of “we don’t know yet, we will decide later”. Guaranteed, this simple answer does not suffice and it does not dissuade him from asking us with a highly predictable regularity and sense of urgency it seems.

Our answer, given to him every morning without fail does not indicate to him AT ALL that a) it’s none of his business and perhaps we don’t want to tell him or b) we are quite spontaneous and do what we want as and when the mood takes us or depending on the weather. None of this occurs to the man. He just stands there with an urgent look on his face as if our answer has the meaning of life or death to him. It is VERY odd and EXTREMELY annoying.

Another thing that is consistent is the music played at breakfast every morning. It is Bob. And by Bob I don’t mean Dylan, I mean Marley. These people rinse out Bob Marley’s album like there’s no tomorrow. Initially, when the distinctive drum beat for “Is this Love” made it’s entrance on cue whilst I was raising my granola parfait heaped spoon to my mouth I assumed it was some kind of announcement of my presence at breakfast. Really.  Well you’d be surprised what simple minded ways people find to try to let you know that they’re feeling your culture and I remember in Thailand that they were obsessed with my braids and with Bob Marley in particular.

So it didn’t offend me, I just found it a little amusing is all. But after about the 11th day in a row of hearing the album playing it was starting to jarr a little bit. Thankfully that Bob Marley album is a classic so it didn’t jarr too much but why on earth must they rinse the same album over and over again??

Well I was left speechless this morning when at breakfast there was two car loads of Indonesian officers wearing their uniform also at breakfast and I was convinced that the staff wouldn’t be brave enough to take off their traditional Indonesian music to put on Bob Marley but they did! And the funniest thing of all was one of the officials started singing along to it, tapping his feet! Well I never!

Because of the poor standard of food at our hotel I’m ashamed to admit that we go out for food every afternoon and every night without fail. We do not want to find ourselves in a position where we have to eat the food at the hotel as it is a woeful affair. The only meals we eat here is breakfast and even then I only have granola.

Shopping in Seminyak

We went for brunch in Seminyak for a change. There’s so many great, healthy cafe’s around Canggu that we really haven’t had a reason to leave it but we thought it would be nice to go back to Sisterfields as we had been really impressed with the food the last time we went there. Seminyak wasn’t as busy as we remembered it being, undoubtedly this was because of the volcano situation that was still ongoing. The reports of this volcano which thus far hadn’t done any damage at all, was scaring people off the island, an island which depends almost exclusively on tourism.

For them, this natural disaster was an absolute disaster and even though they had taken all of the necessary precautions to make sure there would be no fatalities this time, somehow the media had taken the opportunity to make it seem as though everywhere in Bali was in imminent danger. The exclusion zone and surrounding area this applied to yes,  but not here.  Nonetheless, it had been successful in keeping literally thousands of people away potentially crippling small business owners and guaranteeing that we had this brand new hotel to ourselves.

Josh and I thought back to Pumpkin Village and Jihwa, who had been a wonderful host, we wondered how she was faring considering she was running a boutique hotel, with only 5 villa’s in it and being in Ubud, was closer to the volcano site then we were. I hoped her business wasn’t being affected by all of this because she had only been open for 5 months! – No idea what it is with us and newly opened hotels!

We had brunch at Sisterfields which was really nice and then I went off on my own to see what I could find in the shops while Josh stayed there working. Technically, apart from short forays to coffee shops and the like, this was our first time apart. We are always better together! lol. Alas, I wanted to shop and he did not so I went on my own and before I had even turned the corner I heard a group of fairly old Indonesian men call me out of my name, trying to get my attention by calling out “Blackie”

Now I did not have the luxury nor the desire to find out whether this was meant to be an insult or said in fondness, but I did not appreciate being yelled at across the road and I found the name “Blackie” ignorant if not insulting. Nonetheless, I very much enjoy being a “Blackie” and since it was clear that they really wanted to get my attention I could only take it as a compliment. On the way back from shopping during which I picked up 2 dresses from Bamboo Blonde they were sitting in the same exact spot yelling at a bunch of white girls who were across the road too so they clearly had nothing better to do but chat nonsense allday! FOOLS.

Overall, my experience here as a black woman in Indonesia has been pleasant. I get the occasional looks but as a people they seem very tolerant and not as ignorant as other nations I have come across in my travels and of course there is the thing about me modelling to advertise a Balinese hotel! It is a different experience being a single woman walking on her own though, and I’m sure that Josh has shielded me from that just with his presence on a few occasions, but still, I would say that it is very safe to be a woman here, a woman of colour and a woman travelling on her own. Safer then even Thailand perhaps.

We decided that it would be a beach day so we took ourselves down to La Brisa to work. The tunes were pumping, the surfers surfing, and we got talking to a couple from Las Vegas who had just arrived the night before and began telling us about their life in Las Vegas and about their travel plans. They were nice but the girl was pretty much telling us her whole life story and in the end she was draining both of our energy resources with her nonstop chat. Even her boyfriend left her to it, and after 30 minutes of it we decided to do the same!

When we got back to our hotel we spotted the beginnings of a stupendously beautiful sunset so we jumped on the scooter and took it the short 30 second ride down to the beach! That was the benefit of being where we were – being surrounded by miles of emerald green rice paddies, hills and valleys but with a view of the sea being only walkable distance. When we were living in Ubud I never thought that being by the sea would be that big of a deal for me since I am more a lover of countryside, vast green pastures and vibrantly coloured flowers but having the best of both worlds here really was a treat. And I really couldn’t think of anywhere else I’d been before that was quite like it.

When we arrived at the beach we were left simply astounded at what we saw before us.

“Honeymooners Santorini” had nothing on this sunset and I had been pretty impressed with Santorini, but this, well this was just off the chart!

The colours of the sunset were like an exploding rainbow, with the primary colours of blue and red on the scene aswell as purples, oranges, pinks underlit by a luminous gold and yellow sky. I honestly was in shock by the magnificent beauty of the sky. And I could see that many other people were too. People began to gather. It was the most beautiful sky I have ever seen in my life, brought together by a culmination of a setting sun and underlit by the fluffy white clouds. Devastatingly romantic. Of course I made an exception and took LOTS of pics for this one!

IMG_0758 (1)

IMG_0746

IMG_0755

IMG_0765 (1)

Sunset on Echo Beach

IMG_0738

The view from our hotel

Tanah Lot

We haven’t done many touristy things since being in Canggu because we haven’t really felt that inclined to. Being in Ubud gave us access to the “real Bali” which provided us with a taste and feel of living there. Without having to seek them out we got to see the temples, and the beautiful, dramatic landscapes that Ubud was famous for. The sheer abundance of temples on offer on a casual walk down the road meant that you really didn’t need to bother visiting one, but in Canggu, religion and temples was a lot more understated.

Tanah Lot was considered to be one of Bali’s most sacred sites. Essentially a Hindu temple in the middle of the sea, Tanah Lot, which means “Land in the Sea”  was supposedly so sacred that people from all of the world regularly done pilgrimages there. To access it you had to cross a group of large rock formations when the tide was low but once there you were treated to a view of an old temple dating back to the 16th century that provided stunning sunset views and a dramatic panorama of the surrounding coastline that stretched for miles.

To enter the temple you had to dress conservatively – women had to wear a sarong covering their arms, shoulders, knees and below. Also, women (these types of things are always directed at women aren’t they?!) were forbidden from entering if they were pregnant or menstruating. So that was me out then! But the curse of the period was a personal thing, known by me alone, how could they possibly know if I was on my period or not?

It was simple: they could not.

So, disrespectful though it may have been, I thought that it would be far more disrespectful if I didn’t bother going at all or completely ignored their dress code then not enter because I had the misfortune of being in my time of the month!

So I put on a sarong and off we went. The weather was glorious and the ride pleasant. It was only about a 30 minute ride away so we got there on the bike in no time. When we arrived we expected to see lots of signage giving us directions to the temple and general information about the site but it just seemed to be one huge barren area that was poorly signed and it looked very disorganised and rundown. We had to pay to get in and the lady at the kiosk didn’t seem to be particularly concerned with what we were wearing and already I could see plenty of other “Westerners” and others wearing casual shorts exposing their knees and more. Meanwhile I was sitting there in full garb sweating like there was no tomorrow! In addition we weren’t given any pamphlets or any directions as to where this temple was.

We began to get annoyed as we couldn’t find any signs for parking or anything. Also, we were beginning to understand why the woman at the kiosk seemingly couldn’t care what people were wearing to visit the temple, as we were soon starting to see that the entire area was teaming with cheap and nasty looking market stalls selling cheap and nasty looking tat. There were loads of them! I found it really hard to believe that here they were marketing this as some kind of sacred site when they are allowing cheap clothing sellers onto the site to sell their nasty wears. And there was nothing of quality – it was all just bargain basement t-shirts and print dresses that had absolutely nothing to do with Tanah Lot or anything within it. They had succeeded in cheapening their own offering, and it was very disappointing to see.

We hoped and prayed that this wasn’t a sign of things to come!

After parking we stumbled our way around the huge, dusty complex, which was very confusing to say the least with no adequate signage whatsoever, and came out to a clearing where finally we could see this temple. By now there were lots of other tourists in the area (lots with professional photographers following in their wake), taking pictures of the scene before them and as if on cue I too was asked to take a picture with an Asian lady who clearly hadn’t seen a black person before. But this phenomena is pretty normal for me when I travel so I agreed with pleasure.

The temple did indeed look impressive, standing tall and grand in it’s majestic position in the middle of the sea but Josh and I began to wonder just how we would get there as to us it seemed that there was no way to cross – the tide was in. Alas, there was no information as to an alternative way of viewing this famed temple and no information telling us the most appropriate time to view the temple and soon it became abundantly clear that we weren’t going to be able to. It seemed that the entrance was not the only area littered with these “retail” businesses either – there were hawkers everywhere trying desperately to sell their abominable wears and it was starting to get ridiculous. Everywhere we walked we were inundated with offers from various people trying to sell us things that were completely unrelated to the thing we had come there to see.

It was not only disheartening but for me, disappointing. In Ubud, Bali’s Spiritual Centre, it was easy to experience what it was Bali was most known for: their spirituality and wellness traditions but for some reason coming here I was experiencing quite the opposite.

This place wasn’t sacred at all – it was consumerism all the way and for a non religious person like myself, perhaps this shouldn’t have bothered me, but it did. If a sight is sacred, then let it remain so. Bali: Respect and uphold your traditions for goodness sake.

On the way outside of the main area where people were gathering on land to watch the temple from afar, we were again surprised to find that Tanah Lot had an entire road dedicated to retail stores selling absolutely anything and everything to unsuspecting tourists who had to pass by. It was in very bad taste. I went into one of them though as they were claiming to have Agarwood for sale, which is a very expensive and very rare Absolute. Infact it was so rare and pricey that I hadn’t even smelt the pure essence yet. Ony dilutions or imitations of the real thing. Since I had picked up some rare and beautiful Lotus Essential Oil in Ubud I felt it was my duty to find out whether I could smell and perhaps even buy some Agarwood here in Tanah Lot. But after smelling it I could tell immediately that it wasn’t pure, and the shop assistants in the shop were trying a little too hard to get me to buy something. It was coming over a little desperate to be honest so in the end I thanked them and went on my way without the essences.

The next shop I walked into was another branch for a women’s clothes shop that I had remembered seeing in Ubud but hadn’t had the chance to go into. The clothes there had a distinctly bohemian feel with beautiful hand embroidery and jewelled flourishes that gave the summery, floaty dresses a bit of glamorous sparkle.

We were met at the door by a middle aged Indonesian woman who greeted us into the air conditioned, well stocked shop to take our time and peruse the aisles of brightly coloured clothes. Already, without even looking through the racks I could clearly see that there was at least 3 frocks that should belong to me. Considering I had already identified this shop in Ubud as being somewhere that I wished to shop it was pretty obvious to me that I was going to find something here that I would love. However Josh did not agree with this shopping spree, particularly since he was already peed off about wasting an afternoon in the grossly underwhelming tourist trap that was Tanah Lot. In theory I was in agreement with him, but I also knew that I wasn’t going to be going back to Ubud anytime soon so the chances of me being able to go to the shop again were slim to none.

No, this was the time to purchase some wares!

I tried on about 6 different outfits and chose 2 but noticed that one of them had a stain on it so we told the shop owner that we would take it provided she give us some money off. This is standard practice in any clothes shop I’ve ever gone to and these dresses were not cheap. Neither of us anticipated that we would essentially have to argue with this woman to tell her that we qualified for a discount because the clothes she was selling as new were grubby. Not only that but the table where the till was situated had one of their traditional basket of Balinese flower offerings on it along with other food items including bars of chocolates and biscuits which we had regularly seen stray dogs eating when they came across it on their travels. Because there was food in this basket it had attracted flies. Lots and lots of flies both big and small and they were literally swarming the thing. It was DISGUSTING.

How this woman could sit there whilst flies were swarming her customers and her face while she is trying to sell boutique clothing is beyond me! How she could bare standing there whilst flies were swarming the place was beyond me. It was pure nastiness. Clearly this thing had been sitting on her desk for a very long time for it to have attracted so many of them but more importantly, this feisty woman was trying to tell us to WASH THE DRESS she was trying to sell to us rather then give us a discount! AND to make matters worse, the friendly and helpful attitude that she had employed earlier had now gone and was replaced with a stank face while she repeating the request for us to wash this garment without acknowledging that she was trying to sell us dirty wares like a robot.  Moreover, she didn’t even try to give us a reason as to why she was unable to give us a discount and wouldn’t answer our question as to why she was selling dirty clothes in the firstplace. The woman was FEISTY I tell you and I could see that Josh’s patience was wearing thin and he was about to blow!

In the end he asked me whether I still wanted the dress and I said yes, because of course I did but when we pondered on it later we both agreed that out of principle we both should have done the right thing and walked out without it.

As we were leaving the miserable place that was Tanah Lot I told Josh that I needed to go to the toilet so before we walked out of the exit I went towards the toilet sign which had the word MANDI and price 6,000 rupiah written on it and another word with the price 3,000 rupiah written on it. Unsurprisingly as with everything in this bloody place, they wanted money for the pleasure of going to the toilet but I never quite understood what exactly “Mandi” meant. The old lady who was guarding the entrance to the toilets said to Josh and I:

“If you want pee pee, 3,000 rupiah”

“If you want doo doo, 6, 000 rupiah”

Yes, MANDI meant DOO DOO in Indonesian and if you needed to do one then you would have to pay this woman 6,000 rupiah to do it! How they could possibly know what you done once you were in there I did not know but I wasn’t even going to bother trying to find out. I certainly had no intention of telling this woman my toilet plans or any other.

IMG_0723Tanah Lot

Merah Puriah

We went to this restaurant in Petitenget and had a wonderful evening. The decor in this place was stunning and the food was great. The appetiser they gave us was particuarly memorable – they said it was a fish soup but it tasted far more amazing then that!

The Jamiroquai Concert

Back in March I had purchased some tickets for the Jamiroquai concert that was due to happen in June. The tickets were EXTREMELY difficult to get ahold of and infact on the first attempt of getting some tickets they completely sold out and had to release additional dates because of the overwhelming demand. Both myself, my 3 brothers and sister was brought up listening to Jamiroquai and none of us had seen him perform live before so this concert was a pretty big deal for us. In the end I managed to get 3 tickets: 1 for myself, one for my brother and 1 for my sister. My youngest brother already had tickets for himself and his girlfriend. But before the concert had arrived I received an email from AXS the company who I purchased the tickets from notifiying me that the concert had been rescheduled until December as Jay Kay had suddenly become ill. Now knowing what I do about his habitual drug habit I was immediately suspicious but when I did further investigation it did indeed appear that the man was ill in hospital with back problems. I checked the new date of the concert and was horrified to find that it fell on a date that I could not do because I would be here, in Bali, then.

So I contacted AXS and requested a refund. There was nobody else I knew who was keen on paying £60 to pay Jamiroquai so it made sense. AXS processed my refund and told me to just destroy the ticket I had got a refund for as it would no longer be valid. So I forwarded on the original tickets to my brother and sister who would still be going. Since they didn’t issue me with any new tickets these tickets were clearly still valid but just to be sure I also sent the email from AXS confirming the cancellation of my ticket.

9 months later and the day of the concert came around. Being in Bali I was none the wiser about the concert and had already gotten over the fact that I would no longer be able to attend it, I was just happy that at least my brothers and sister would be able to experience what could possibly be his last concert ever (if he persisted in his druggery exploits). The following morning I looked at my phone to see multiple missed voice calls and Facetimes from my brother, sister and Mum who had been desperately trying to get hold of me as my brother had been refused entry to the concert.

Frantically and with an overwhelming sense of guilt as I hadn’t heard the phone (I was 8 hours ahead so they had been calling me at 3:30 am in the morning) I opened my messages to find the horrific situation reveal itself before me. My brother didn’t get in. He was denied entrance because I, as the named person on the ticket, wasn’t there. But how could I possibly be there when I wasn’t in the country I fumed!

I had already provided proof of my refund so why were they harassing my brother when he had a perfectly valid ticket?! I was absolutely SEETHING. I was so angry that I found it very hard to formulate the words to adequately convey to Josh how furious I was. How dare they?! I fumed. My poor brother!! I felt utterly awful. He had waited 9 months to see Jamiroquai, almost an entire year, paid £60 for the pleasure AND the date had been rescheduled. How could he have possibly been happy about this? I could just imagine his shock as he presented them with tickets but was still told that he wasn’t getting in. I felt sick to my stomach at the thought. I was powerless to change the current situation but I was determined to at least get his money back. I contacted AXS and a feisty woman called Agnes who was supposedly their senior adviser responded saying that “unfortunately she was unable to help”. What does she mean she is unable to help? – Of COURSE she can help – she can give me my fucking money back!!

This duncebreed woman was basically trying to tell me to contact the O2 but as far as I was concerned it had nothing to do with the O2 since they couldn’t process refunds on their behalf. She clearly thought I was stupid. I purchased 3 tickets from AXS and got a refund for one of them but the remaining tickets essentially became null and void as soon as I done that as they wouldn’t let the other ticket holders enter because I wasn’t present! Since it was impossible for me to be present as I was out of the country I failed to see how any of this could have been avoided by us in any way and I was most certainly not going to let them just get away with it!!

My brother had been left embarrassed by the whole episode and there was absolutely no excuse for it. He had the PDF of the tickets therefore they should have let him in. End of. The tickets make absolutely no mention of the fact that the named person on the ticket needed to be present in order to validate the tickets and their idea of calling me when I was 8 hours ahead was ridiculous. I had not been informed by AXS that there might be an issue when I refunded my ticket and if there was going to be one then they should have changed the names on the tickets to my brothers name.

No, I was going to WAR with these people. After weeks of back and fourth emailing this abominable Agnes woman I haven’t got much further. She has a strategy of not answering questions, being sugary sweet with her responses (which could be conveyed as sarcasm), taking absolutely no responsibility and trying to pass the buck over to the O2. She hasn’t bothered to give me a reason as to why I’m not due a refund. I’m sure it was an overly excited doorman at the O2 who blocked my brother from entering but since I didn’t purchase my tickets from there I fail to see how they can help.

Abominable Agnes has got me so mad with her non responses that I have had no choice but to demand the email address of her manager. Furthermore I am also in talks with the O2 to admit their fault in all this and additionally I am going to complain about abominable Agnes to an independant complaints company for AXS. Kind of like the Ombudsman.

If someone doesn’t apologise and pay up soon all hell’s going to break loose because I’m not having it!!!

In one more week we’ll be gone from this wonderful paradise which we have spent such wonderful, memorable moments.

Legian Beach

We decided that we would drive down to Legian Beach as we had never been to that beach before and it was supposedly one of the most picturesque of the Balinese beaches. Down at Echo beach where we were, the sand was dark, in some places even black due the volcanic ash that was naturally a part of Indonesia. Did you know that they have 76 active volcanoes?! They have more active volcanoes then any other country in the world!

When we got to the beach we parked up and walked down to a very wide and sandy stretch of beach where we were immediately approached by a man asking us if we wanted a sunbed. We said we did and chose two close to the shore. The beach was massive and clearly well prepared to accomodating thousands of tourists but due to the volcano unfortunately there weren’t thousands there. I really felt sorry for them. This must be excruciatingly bad for some of these business owners and considering how calm and sunny it was it was hard to contemplate that people would be scared to come here. Alas, for now, this was Bali’s reality and as we had never been before, it was no different to us anyway.

The bed, though a little well worn was actually REALLY comfortable. It was so thick it was almost like a mattress! The beach itself however left alot to be desired. If this was one of the best beaches in Bali then I was seriously underwhelmed. Yes the sand was lighter then at Echo beach but it still wasn’t white. It was like a dirty brown. Hardly picture postcard perfect. And of course you still couldn’t swim, it was far too rough here. But it was infact the sea itself that was the problem. It was spewing out all kinds of rubbish onto the beach and there was literally a TRACTOR on the beach going around clearing it all up. It was a mammoth task. The beach was positively filthy, with everything from seaweed, tree bark, discarded clothes and lots and lots of articles of plastic strewn about the place. Obviously it was coming from the sea and being washed up here but I was astonished by the scale of it.

When I went for a dip hoping that I could at least get to splash some water on my overheated body I literally couldn’t go in such was the level of filth that I was seeing before me. The water was brown and there were unidentified objects floating about the sea that I didn’t want touching my bare skin. In addition, because there was so much plastic in the water I knew that I would probably freak out and mistake a floating bottle for a floating box jellyfish and that would never do. We fell out of love with that beach after that. Even though our beach had black sand the water was MUCH cleaner, and there was much less hawking going on- we literally couldn’t relax for touts trying to sell us their cheap and nasty wares on this beach. One woman even started picking at my toe nails such was her desire to paint my nails. Funny thing was her feet were horrendous – crusty with uneven nails. Not a good selling strategy if you ask me.

No, our beach was much better. It was FAR less touristy, with absolutely no hawkers whatsoever, the sand was strangely beautiful, with luxurious black sand with bits of silver shimmering in it, and aside from the occasional natural debris that swept onto beaches naturally, there was nothing nasty floating about in it. Plus, our favourite beach club La Brisa and all of the really good surfers were down here!

Som Chai 

Bali is fast becoming the foodie capital of the world and I’m not in the least bit surprised. We have had so many great meals here and been to some utterly stunning restaurants that rival many that we have frequented in the UK. We passed Som Chai on the bike on our way home from the beach. We didn’t know what it was but it immediately caught BOTH of our eyes when we passed it and we were wondering what it was. Mysterious and dark the only thing we could see were the lit up words Som Chai but even that was done well enough to get our attention.

When we got home we were looking for somewhere to go for dinner when Josh came across a Thai restaurant that had been highly rated on The Bali Bible. He didn’t know at the time that it was the same restaurant that we had been ogling earlier that day but when he told me the name of it I knew it was the same place immediately. I don’t believe in fate but this was a fate of some kind.

When we arrived at the restaurant a huge iron door opened without us even touching it to open into a devastatingly dark and sumptuous room with luxurious furnishings, including even a swing and mood lighting throughout. Then we were taken for a walk through this area which I had assumed was the restaurant (it turned out to be a bar and a very nice bar it was too!) through another absolutely HUGE gold door, which again opened by someone automatically operating it from the other side into the restaurant where both of us almost dropped our jars in amazement. It was AMAZING. Beautiful lantern like lampshades swung delicately from the highest ceiling in a restaurant I think I’d ever seen. It was also very dark and seductive, with a waterfall and pond providing the simple, magical sounds of nature.

Rather then giving us a normal wooden chair at a table I could see that ALL of the chairs in this illustrious restaurant were actually sofa’s.  One seaters and two seater sofa’s in luxurious velvet fabrics. These people weren’t here for games. Comfort was clearly their number 1 priority.  I also really appreciated the pearlescent table mat that was before me. It’s the little details that make all the difference and that done it for me. That and the music which to this day I would say was the best compilation of music I have ever heard in a restaurant. There have been alot of firsts for this trip but the musical consistency has been the most surprising of all. These tunes were SERIOUS. I began to Shazam them because they were so good but then decided against it since I realised that we were basically in a fine dining restaurant. It was not appropriate to Shazam in a fine dining establishment, but honestly I had never had to use it in such a place before. These people were playing Robert Glasper for goodness sake!

First we ordered some cocktails – I had one called Siem Julip, which sounded very sophisticated. It was a combination of honey, nutmeg, rum and other delights and I was curious to see how it might taste and was left surprised by the freshness, the strength of the alcohol (it was VERY strong), and the complex yet tantalising flavours. Josh was suitably impressed with his so I knew that this place was going to be a winner.

Well when the food arrived it was a winner, and coupled with the cocktail which I decided was my best yet, I was absolutely loving the place. The food was AMAZING. The drinks were amazing and the decor was amazing. What wasn’t to like?

Turns out for me and Josh: nothing. We loved the place and thus Som Chai has made it’s way to our top recommendations list, where it sits in it’s rightful place.

INSTA FOOLS

There has been a strange phenomena circling the internet lately and that is IDIOTS (and usually women afterall as they are the most vein/insecure), who have gone to the exclusion zone near Mount Agung and taken pictures of their scantily clad bodies striking various poses with the steaming mountain in the background. I have a few problems with this. Partly, haven’t you got anything better to do is a question I would LOVE to have an answer to. And then there’s the issue of them being so up their own asses that they would think it’s okay (or more likely not bother thinking at all), to make a mockery of people who had lost loved ones in the last big volcano explosion that killed literally hundreds of people OR the ones who were currently displaced because of it, losing their homes and livelihoods. You would think that that would override their instafoolishness, but no.

Unfortunately, the rise of selfies has in many ways been the worst thing to happen to civilisation as suddenly it has bred a different, less self aware, more selfish and far more self absorbed and hideously vein type of person. All they want to do is receive “likes” on their Instagram pages for pathetically staged photo’s, mocking other people and cultures shamelessly in pure ignorance and who they haven’t cared to help or care the slightest about in the process. I find it utterly abhorrent.

Advertisements
Week 6 in “Ubud by the Sea” Bali

Week 6 in “Ubud by the Sea” Bali

IMG_0401

First there was an earthquake, then there was a volcanic eruption and then came the cyclone!

Unbelievably, we are still the only guests in this hotel. Events have conspired to keep it this way and we are more then happy with the outcome.

The volcano finally DID erupt, months after flirting with the idea, and it ended up being so bad as to close the airport as Josh predicted it would. This gave us the much needed leverage with Airbnb to get our refund as it was all over the news, both local and international, and thousands of people were stranded in Bali unable get home for days, leading to mass panic. Luckily for us we still have another 2 and a half weeks here so we don’t need to worry about the flight situation just yet.

After days of not hearing anything from the stupid Airbnb woman who initially promised Josh a refund and then tried to backtrack on her offer, he escalated the issue to her superiors and was immediately offered a refund by Airbnb for our entire stay, not just the remainder of our stay as was offered initially. FOOLS.

In the current situation where the airport was closing and then reopening every other couple of days due to the ash cloud, it was a completely unpredictable situation, and one that only mother nature was in control of. Thousands of Indonesian people had been displaced because of it, and thousands of holidaymakers were stranded on the island because it wasn’t deemed safe enough for them to leave. The airports were in chaos. Tourism, which makes up to 60% of Indonesia’s GDP was at risk.

They knew that they could no longer deny us what we were due. They had to pay up!

Even though technically we were not affected by the volcano at all because a) we were too far away from it to be affected by it and we were not leaving Bali for another couple of weeks (though they didn’t know that, they thought we had already left and were currently in Thailand, lol), it no longer mattered. Bali’s volcano, potentially the biggest one they had had in over 50 years was erupting, and it was all over the news in all of it’s sensationalised splendour. Even people back home had been messaging me frantically demanding news of our safety, but most days we were lounging poolside in bliss. Though we heard about the cyclone, we honestly couldn’t be none the wiser about it’s presence. Again, we were too far away from it to be affected.

When we moved to Sense Canggu Beach we had no idea that it was a brand new hotel that had only just opened. We didn’t realise that we would be only the second people to ever stay there when we booked it, or that we would essentially have the place to ourselves. And when we were welcomed into the hotel like long lost friends by the general manager and introduced to the staff, we still had no knowledge that our experience there would feel much more like we were millionaires in our own villa with an army of staff looking after us. But it did feel a lot like I would imagine a private villa with staff to feel like because not only did we have the run of the place with no other person in sight in a brand new luxury hotel with all of the fixtures and fittings you would expect from such an establishment, but the constant presence from the staff was a constant reminder that they wished to make our stay there as good as it could possibly be.

And is it right to complain about such a thing? Should we bother to complain at all? Even when we love the sense of peace and quiet and privacy that such a place provides? Especially since we moved TWICE to escape the dirty, noisy, polluted concrete jungle that is Kuta and Legian?

Perhaps not BUT what I will say is that I don’t particularly like to have people breathing down my neck all the time, trying to get all in up in my business, to find out where we’ve been or where we’re going. What I do want is to be left alone sometimes. On the very first day that we arrived at Sense we had no less then 7 knocks on our door from different members of staff trying to see if we needed anything. From the pool towel boy, to the boy who picks up the dry cleaning, to the general manager, room service and cleaners, we had them all. And it was really beginning to jarr. There is no mistaking the fact that we’ve lucked out here, that much is obvious, but I just wish they would chill out a little is all.

Soo Santai

The beanbag at our hotel is very comfortable. It is made with a special kind of material that is flame resistant aswell as waterproof and resistent to UV rays. Not that we go around sampling hotel pool furniture or anything but this thing is seriously impressive. It floats, but you can also use it as garden furniture, or indoors if you wish – it doesn’t retain water so it doesn’t stay wet, it can take 2 fully grown people (and some who don’t act grown like Josh on occasion), and it is so sturdy and wellmade that you can literally stand on it without it even wobbling. It is without a doubt the most comfortable beanbag ever. So what? your asking . WELL we were both so impressed with it that we looked on the label to see what the brand name was and when we found out (it is called Soo Santai – silly name I know) Josh emailed them to enquire about wholesale opportunities! They got back to him too, lol, and have practically offered him a part of the business so that he can expand it in different territories. He has been even been sent a copy of the contract! Just like that! Things move fast here in Indonesia presumably because there isn’t as much beaurocracy.  Alas, they obviously don’t know him like I do so they weren’t to know that the ease in which they offered the opportunity that he sought has only managed to put him off!

IMG_0310

Hard at work on the Santai floating beanbag!

Our room here is stunning. We are very comfortable and would happily stay here for the month and beyond iuf the airport situation doesn’t improve! The materials used is of a very high quality throughout, with candlelit nights spent soaking in the luxurious tub the highlight for me. The marble floors, walls and table tops are a delight and I appreciate the generously appointed storage, which is a rarity in most hotels of this size. The bed is one of the most comfortable beds I have ever slept in, and Josh, who suffers from a bad back agrees. But of course the piece de resistance is the “lagoon” pool access which delights everytime because a) there is never anyone in it, plus it is vast, clean and the water warm. The hotel is located a short stroll from the beach and is nestled amongst rice fields with cows grazing contentedly. Birds tweet, butterflies flutter, cicada’s call. We  are in the middle of the countryside here and it is both beautiful and peaceful.

IMG_0585

Love my Bathtub

In Canggu, which unsurprisingly is nicknamed “Ubud by the sea”, we have discovered 2 specific places that are worthy of note. One is called La Brisa, a stunning and uniquely themed beach club and the second is Peloton, a fantastic vegan cafe. Like Clear Cafe and Karsa Spa in Ubud, these places are the ones we have returned to time and time again and we have yet to be disappointed with their offerings.

La Brisa is the sister to La Sicilia, La Favela and La Laguna, that other unique beach club that Aunty Jac took us to on our day with her in Canggu. Despite the “La” preluding it I had no idea at the time that they were all linked despite being VERY impressed with the unique decor in all of these places when visiting them. And once I found out that they were all designed by the same husband and wife team it immediately made sense. They were all themed – La Favela was fashioned off the favela’s in Brazil and even had a Jesus Christ the redeemer statue that looked scarily similar to the original one, La Laguna, felt like some kind of shipwreck, with vintage artefacts scattered everywhere. La Sicilia, was a stunning multi storied restaurant, cocktail bar, club, with a uniquely Sicilian/Italian Vintage feel and La Brisa was a seafood beach club, in a HUGE ship, the scale and intention to detail the likes of which I don’t think I’ve ever seen before. During the day it acts as a beach club, with a perfect position on Echo Beach which overlooks some of the best surfing spots and framing a stunningly beautiful sunset in the afternoon.

The food is fresh seafood that is caught daily and it really is some of the freshest and tastiest seafood I’ve ever had the pleasure of tasting. The DJ that was playing when Josh and I went there just in time to watch the sunset was AMAZING, playing a mixture of tunes that I could only describe as super soul. I couldn’t name any of the artists and I couldn’t place the time in history that they came from (though I would hazard a guess at the 70’s), but it was so chilled, so cool, so random, so head bumpingly good that I just had to give the guy props. It’s so rare to find a DJ (who incidentally was a local Indonesian man), who can consistently play good music and introduce you to artists who you’ve never heard of before, and for which you cannot quite describe but he was good! And I have to say, the music in general in Indonesia has been exceptional. I’m not referring to their local music I’m afraid because I haven’t been impressed with this cymbal banging music they keep on carrying on with but the music they play in the cafes and restaurants is so good I have shazamed more times then I care to mention and alot of the time nothing has come up! (and to me that’s a sign of good music right there!).

Anyway, I digress. To describe this place is to test one’s vocabulary because it is so varied, with such a staggering array of trinkets sourced from near and far and such an attention to detail that I hesitate to even try as I really want to do it justice – to give you the sense of scale and ambience that this place possesses and to share with you the magic they have somehow managed to conjure up.

This husband and wife team are something else. Most people, when they decide to offer “themes” for restaurants just come across as tacky or not very well executed but not so with these guys. When they say they are going to do a fisherman’s domain then that is exactly what they do. By creating a supersized wooden boat structure with multiple levels, and using trees, bark, rope, lights, shells, fishing nets, buoys and swings, all made out of natural materials conjuring up a feeling of a wizened old fisherman’s abode in it’s perfect location in the sea they have created something very unique that simply cannot be replicated. Even the staff walk around dressed up in sailors outfits. The consistency is so awe inspiring. Sitting at the front of the beach club overlooking the beach feels like you are at the helm of a very large ship with the waves of the Indian Ocean crashing before you. Sometimes words are not enough to aptly convey an experience and this is definitely one of those times.

IMG_0357

Josh and I after a lovely evening at La Sicilia in Seminyak

Peloton, a bicyle themed restaurant, offers great food, great ambience and is totally guilt free since it is a healthy food cafe, offering a menu that is exclusively vegan. And the food is better then average – the food is amazing. They do healthy salads, smoothies, and deconstructed meals using purely plants and no diary (such as their vegan hot dog and “tricken” burger for instance), that will blow your mind away with it’s tastiness and again, consistency. We have gone there to work on numerous occasions and have found both the service, the food and drinks great.

IMG_0595

Healthy Salad at Cafe Vida 

Indonesian Culture & Temples

There are temples everywhere. Infact I have never seen so many temples before in my life and these people are not joking with their worship – they even have mini temples in their homes and they are in almost every restaurant and hotel too. They are amazingly varied and intricate – mostly made out of stone. The Indonesian’s stonework is legendary. They regularly leave “offerings” to the God’s on the roadside and outside their homes and businesses and burn sweet incense constantly. I love the smell of the incense but can’t take the thick smoky air particularly as we are travelling exclusively by scooter. But I’m impressed by their dedication.

The Indonesian People are such peaceful, happy people. Living amongst them for almost 2 months has been an absolute pleasure. Humble, light-hearted yet deeply religious (most are Hindu’s), they seem to be very tolerant, open and recipient to other cultures and people. I have been pleasantly surprised at how welcoming they are to black travellers (which I have seen a few of, though not many and they are mainly women), which is much more then I can say for other nations who see black people regularly (Italy comes to mind!) yet insist on treating them despicably. They seem to be comfortable with who they are as a people and are very serious about but are relaxed with their traditions and customs.

Country Bumpkins 

Now that we are here in Canggu we have finally relaxed. We feel very much at home here and being here is such a complete contrast to the horror’s of Kuta and Legian it’s almost as if that was in another life. In a completely different place. We have realised that we really don’t like the busy, dirty, noisy parts of Bali – we much prefer the peace and tranquility of living in the countryside even if it means we have to commute for just a little further. Not much apart from the beach and a few local restaurants are in walking distance here but that’s okay. Waking up each day to fresh air, vast countryside and the smell and sound of the sea is perfectly okay with me!

Greenleaf

Josh brought his Apple TV with him so of course we have been keeping up to date with the relevant Netflix programmes, namely Billions when we were staying at Pumpkin Village and now Greenleaf now that we’ve moved to Sense. If you haven’t already heard of Greenleaf it is a fabulous series with an entirely black cast (which I personally cannot remember having ever seen before), about a rich and powerful family of the church. There is scandal, there is dirty deeds and there is excellent acting. We absolutely love it and watch one every night. We finished watching the first series back in the UK so are onto the second series now which we both agree is even better then the first. If you haven’t seen it already “Netflix and Chill” it now!

The Weather

The weather here is quite predictable. We are in the rainy season so despite the first couple of weeks of our arrival not having hardly any rain at all we were not so naive as to think that would continue to be the case. It has rained consistently everyday almost every afternoon. The weather is sunny, with cloudless blue skies in the morning but then in the afternoon it almost always rains for a bit. When this has happened and we have been on the bike we have just ducked into the nearest cafe and we also have some pretty heavy duty waterproof jackets that we carry with us.

Surfing and Motorbikes 

Deus Ex Machina is a Custom Motorbike Shop/Barbershop/Surfboard Shop/Cafe/Live Music Venue, it might even have a Tattoo Shop – basically an everything cool shop! We went there for lunch, and then later on Josh got his hair cut there whilst I popped into the local spa Spring Spa to get my eyebrows did and have another massage whilst I was at it. Not that I’m counting anymore (well I’m trying not to anyway), but that massage was like my 7th in Bali!

Canggu is the home of surfing and motorbikes. When I came to Indonesia I had no idea this was the case but being here has opened my eyes to a completely new lifestyle. One that revolves around eating healthy and being healthy. There is such an abundance of healthy eating restaurants and cafes here that it would blow your mind and people look great – toned and tanned. We have not struggled AT ALL to find vegan and vegetarian food here and the ease at which healthy food is available is incomparable to anywhere else we’ve been in the world. Similarly to Ubud (afterall this is Ubud by the sea), they also have spa’s and yoga studio’s galore, but unlike Ubud, Canggu has the unique benefit of being by the sea. And for us staying at Sense, the sea is just a short stroll away. Here you can watch surfers of all abilities surf from dusk til dawn honing their skills in the formidable Indian Ocean. The sea here is rough, made for playing in and surfing in not for swimming in, but the crashing waves and the surfers riding the waves at sunset is utterly mesmerising. There is definitely something magical about the sea, which draws me into a deep sense of peace and relaxation whenever I am near it. The smell of it is unique and magical and reminds me of holidays past. The Indonesian’s not only surf, but they are really into their motorbikes too (both men and women), and Josh and I have seen some truly enviable custom motorbikes being here, and alot of them have been carrying their surfboards with them as they ride. So cool!

In my opinion, Indonesian’s are the coolest Asian’s on the planet. They have something of a swagger about them that reminds me a little of Jamaican’s and they always seem really relaxed and happy. They are like the cool cats of Asia!

Models R US

The manager of the hotel we are staying at approached us the other day about being models for the hotels promotional material. I’m not kidding. He asked us if we would model for them, and the pictures are to be used on the website and other promotional material! I tell you, Josh and I really do have a VERY unconventional life! The things that happen to us, situations we get ourselves into, and the occasional fantastic strokes of luck we get sometime never ceases to amaze me. Our life is never dull!

Of course we agreed, in part because we found it hilarious, and partly because we didn’t feel that we could say no considering we were staying in their most expensive suite for no additional cost for an entire month, but also, we wanted the pics! The manager also offered us a complimentary candlelit dinner at the hotel after the shoot. In our travels we almost never have any pictures, either of ourselves or of the amazing places we’ve been/experiences we’ve had. This is in part because we are far too busy enjoying ourselves and partly because we find it a bit of an effort to take them. Getting pictures of ourselves together hardly ever happens because we don’t like the idea of constantly asking people to take pictures of us. Neither of us are that vein. Sometimes I wish we had more pictures of us together but being together is always better then wasting precious time showing that we are.

Let Sleeping Dogs Lie

Dogs are a plenty here. Stray ones and pet ones, but the difference between them in alot of cases is very slight. This is because they look similar – most are big dogs, they hang around in “dog gangs”  together on the streets or sleep in the middle of the road and there’s LOADS of them.  For some strange reason that I haven’t yet been able to work out people, (to be fair mostly Australians who come to Bali to live) own AT LEAST 5 dogs each. One night we passed about 30 dogs in 2 big groups on a residential road. Since they just stroll into the road like they own it without any concern for being run over Josh had to swerve in and out of them in order to avoid hitting one of them. It wasn’t a pleasant experience particularly since I’m not a big fan of dogs anyway, half expecting them to bite me and the lighting out here in the countryside is almost nonexistent. And on another occasion we saw one man with 10 dogs! 10 dogs!! And he wasn’t a dog minder trust me.

Potatohead Club

We went here after trying to go to the beachclub Ku De Ta but after finding out that there pool was undergoing maintenance we made a swift exit. How can you run a beach club without a pool?? Potatohead Club was our next choice in our beach club adventures but it turned out to be better then we expected, perhaps even better then Ku De Ta?

Firstly, it was HUGE. Spread out on a magnificent beachfront, it had multi-levels and multiple restaurants serving both Indonesian and Western food, bars, lounge areas, not to mention sunbeds for rent, and even a retail shop. There was no charge to hire the beds, but they did have a minimum spend. The pool was massive and included a compulsory swim up bar serving magnificent cocktails that was impressive in their inventiveness not to mention their size! Spending the day there was somewhat of a luxury as the beds were super comfy and if you didn’t fancy eating there then you could just take a quick stroll to one of the 3 restaurants on site, and the food was GOOD. Josh and I ordered a deconstructed Banoffee Pie and it was AMAZING! Best I’ve had. Watching the sun go down was really lovely and there were playing some serious tunes too, of all genres, I even heard West African music up in there. Hi-Life all the way!

IMG_0401

Potatohead Beachclub

Bali Hotel’s Next Top Models! 

Lol. Today we did our “photoshoot” at our hotel.

The day before the shoot we met with the owner of the hotel and two of the girls directing the shoot who gave us a rundown on the locations of the shoot and what we should wear.

We were initially told that we would be required for a full 4 and a half hours but then they changed it to 2 hours at the lastminute (likely because they were afraid that it would rain). This worked for us as I for one didn’t have any idea what they wanted from us and despite initially losing weight on this holiday when we first arrived I have put it back on and then some, lol. We have frequented a Mexican restaurant called La Mexicana on a few occasions and had a real blow out each time because the food is SUPER!! It’s the best Mexican food I’ve ever had and they even do good guacamole! So good!

Anyway my belly isn’t the flattest at present and I haven’t done any modelling for years and Josh hasn’t done any before period, lol. I wonder whether they even know his age? He looks so good for his age that people regularly think that he’s about 10 years younger then he is. I’m always telling him that “black don’t crack” and that he must cream his skin accordingly and thankfully he has listened to me and thus his skin continues to look great. Mind you I do think his good looks is partly hereditary as his whole family look far younger then they are.

We were told that we would be doing a photoshoot beside the pool, then at the bar and then at the beach. When we had gone to the beach the other day we had been openly laughing at all of the people who pathetically were posing it up and doing mini photoshoots on the beach like as if they were in there final days. We thought they were bloody ridiculous but now we were being told that we’d be doing the same with a camera crew in tow! Great. At least, I reasoned, we are going to actually get some professional pictures of us and it’s going on their website – it’s not just for us to use on our bloody Instagram feeds!

The first shoot I had to be in a bikini and as soon as I turned up to begin modelling they directed me to a HUGE inflatable swan that Josh and I had been mucking about with in the pool the day before. I was mortified as this thing was lethal! It took 2 guys to hold it for me to get on it without falling in and then it was really wobbly. I did like it though – it was the one I had been considering buying on Asos but it was £50 and I really could not justify spending £50 on an inflatable gold swan when I didn’t even own a pool. We took some pictures of me “swanning about” on it, lol. Afterwards Josh and I had to pretend to eat some snacks at the swim up bar. It did feel very fakery as we had to smile and laugh like a pair of fools whilst pretending to eat the questionable looking meat based dishes placed in front of us. And it wasn’t just the fact that it had meat in it that was the problem, it was the fact that the food at this hotel didn’t leave alot to be desired.

Unfortunately for us we were on a photoshoot and had to pretend the hell out of it plus the chef was there standing there watching us expectantly as was the entire hotel’s staff. It wasn’t the most relaxing experience but at least it didn’t take that long – 30 minutes tops. Afterwards we had to pretend again to eat breakfast (another shoddy variety of food – they really do need to do better with that!) with a floating tray outside one of the lagoon pool rooms. The tray looked amazing though – the food DID look good but being here for almost 2 weeks already we knew different.

Afterwards we went down to the beach which was my favourite part because it didn’t require us to cackle away and give each other googly eyes, it just required us to be our natural selves walking along the beach in the surf which we could most certainly do with no issues at all. Needless to say they were my favourite pictures of the day.

IMG_0613

Our “Modelling” schedule

IMG_0445Candlelit Dinner at our hotel

We are now taking bookings for further modelling opportunites in exotic locales if anyone is interested! lol

Week’s 4 & 5 in Bali (Ubud, Kuta, Legian & Canggu)

Week’s 4 & 5 in Bali (Ubud, Kuta, Legian & Canggu)

IMG_0505

It has been a funny couple of weeks and BY FAR the most challenging in our travels thus far.

Infact, the very reason why I’m writing about weeks 4 and 5 in the same post is because I literally haven’t had the chance to breathe much less to write!

Our last few days in Ubud went by in a flurry – we visited our beloved Clear Cafe for the last time, where I topped up on my fifth massage since arriving in Bali. I chose the massage entitled “Lomi-Lomi” and had a Balinese Pedicure too. Whilst we were there we  tasted Kombucha for the first time, which is a traditional non alcoholic fermented tea that the Indonesian’s call “Champagne of the Gods” for its sparkly fruitiness. It reminded us of a mixture between cider and shandy. Josh and I really liked it!

That evening I had booked a dinner/show for us at the Kayon Resort, a beautiful five star resort in the middle of deep jungle which we accessed by bike in the pouring rain whilst I was dressed up in my fineries (not very glamorous).

During dinner (which to be honest was average at best) we watched a performance of Balinese dancers in beautiful, vibrantly colourful traditional costume. They were excellent –  I particularly enjoyed the male solo dancer who had some cool, intricate footwork going on. He was wearing a terrifyingly scary mask which looked like a mixture of a clown and a dragon and you couldn’t see his eyes. He also had some kind of Edward scissor hands thing going on with long talon like nails on each finger. But the music he danced to, though repetitive and used lots of symbols and clarinets, was strangely hypnotic as his moves encompassed intricate hand, foot and head movements that had been timed to perfection. I was found that I was mesmerised by his scary perfection and in awe of his dramatic costume which looked bulky and uncomfortable but that he seemed to move in with ease, but what I loved most of all was seeing traditional Balinese dancers dancing to traditional Balinese music. It was fantastic!

Of course the dancing looked easy enough, but even I wasn’t so naive as to think that I would be able to copy their dance moves so when I was invited on stage by one of the female dancers to dance with her I walked towards the stage with a mixture of terror, excitement and dismay..

During the dance, where I tried in earnest to keep up with her graceful hand and arm movements, I realised that I looked a bloody fool but I was enjoying it immensely so I decided that I did not care. Afterwards Josh and I took a picture with the entire cast of dancers on the stage. It was a night I’ll never forget.

IMG_0284.jpg

Josh and I with the dancers 

Jungle Fish

We visited the legendary Jungle Fish the following day – a unique beach club in the jungle (with no beach and no sea). Odd it may sound but the effect of having a beach club in the middle of the jungle was very original, not to mention brave of whomever came up with the concept. Upon entering the resort, we were greeted by 3 huge bronze statues of naked animal like women in various poses. The effect was striking.

Similarly to Hanging Gardens of Bali, the resort was a hotel aswell as a beach club and it was huge, with beautifully manicured gardens that meandered down past ponds filled with giant carpe, waterfalls, flowers, trees and plants before opening up into an area which looked very beach clubby, amongst the staggeringly lush jungle. Even then, I was still astounded and left in awe by the sheer health and vitality of the natural environment in Bali.

The infinity pool was cool and inviting and overlooked the jungle so of course it demanded further investigation. We reserved ourselves some beds, which came complete with a swinging beach chair, and spent the afternoon sunbathing and just whiling the day away in peace and harmony, with tunes bumping from the heavy duty speaker. Had the weather not suddenly turned we certainly would have stayed much longer but there was no way that we were going to sit around in our swimwear whilst it pelted it down. We would definitely return though!

IMG_0501

IMG_0264

IMG_0265

Jungle Fish

The Sayan House 

On our last night in Ubud we went to The Sayan House for dinner. The restaurant described their food as being a Japanese and Latin fusion and tbh we were both a little confused about what that might be, or whether they would even be able to pull it off but when we got there we were pretty much blown away with their unique food offerings not to mention the position of the restaurant, which is on the precipice of a cliff with views of the surrounding hills for miles and miles.  Original, with exquisite flavours, textures and presented beautifully, I was so impressed with the food at Sayan House that I decided that it was definitely my favourite restaurant of our trip so far.

We had really enjoyed our stay at Pumpkin Village but after a month there we were ready to move onto the next chapter in our travel adventures. I was keen to move on to more civilised territory (and by that I mean LESS BUGS), somewhere that was perhaps a little less remote, where maybe we could commute to the various cafes, coffee shops and restaurants on foot rather then 20 minutes on the bike, somewhere where I wouldn’t be constantly be inundated with bedraggled stray dogs waltzing into my path. This is what I was hoping.

We had picked our next destination Seminyak as we knew that it was a complete contrast to our current place, which offered beautiful countryside and nature, a relaxed, spiritual, healthy way of life and traditional Balinese culture. Seminyak was the place with a happening nightlife scene, high end restaurants, coffee shops and boutiques. It was far busier there, and far less “natural” but what it didn’t have in beautiful landscapes it more then made up for in glamorous establishments and after a month of not wearing a single fancy frock, I was more then ready to get my glad rags on!

Our new home in Seminyak. Or is it North Kuta?

The following day we were picked up at Pumpkin Village by the driver of the guy who owned the villa in Seminyak that we would be moving into. When he arrived it had just started to rain and the rain just got heavier and heavier and heavier until all of a sudden it was torrential. In order to get our luggage into the car we had to drag it through deep puddles of muddy water and in the effort of pulling my 30 kg worth of clothes, shoes and toiletries the handle on my Amazon suitcase came right off! Yes, it was only cheap, but it promised to be able to hold at least 50 kg so I was vexed!

The drive down to Seminyak wasn’t particularly memorable. To my eyes it just seemed to get more and more heavily conjested, with more traffic, more dirty fumes, more people and less and less countryside. However, I was excited about our new start in Seminyak and confident that we would enjoy our elegant 2 bedroom villa with it’s private pool and sweet little garden for leisurely nekkid midnight swims.

I don’t know what it was that I was expecting but I was a little surprised when we pulled off of a busy main road into what I would essentially consider a dark and dingy alleyway where our driver cheerily informed us that we would soon be there. Soon be there I thought? – I certainly hope not!

By this time it had still not stopped raining, so things that perhaps once would have looked good, looked pretty shit, but still, when we pulled up outside a crumbly looking property with a rickety wooden door where upon a small tired looking Indonesian woman emerged, I became increasingly more alarmed. I was guessing that this was our cleaner, Lena, (aka Lena and Cleaner), who was supposed to be our host aswell as our cleaner, who was responsible for giving us the keys on the behalf of the owner who lived in Paris. But Lena looked tired and miserable, and as far from being the representative of a luxury villa as you could get dressed in a tatty, baggy t-shirt and pants. Rather then coming out and greeting us with a smile and perhaps a nice cold drink or towell (okay perhaps that’s going a little far), she kind of just half stepped out as if she had something to hide.

Did she??

When we walked inside I got the shock of my life!

This WAS the villa in the pictures we saw online, but it was almost as if it wasn’t the same place as this place was very rundown and shoddy looking. I wasn’t feeling it at all.

Considering we had arrived almost 2 hours late I was expecting the place to be ultra clean and immaculate. But it wasn’t. Even the pool looked dodgy, with odds and sods floating on the top and languishing at the bottom. And did I just see a floating worm??

The cleanliness of the villa was average at best, and this woman Lena just seemed odd. She wasn’t rushing forward to give us the keys to the villa or to explain anything about the place or how to work the appliances, infact she looked both slovenly and not particularly bothered at all. What kind of establishment is this? I wondered out loud to Josh.

Perhaps the villa was nice at some stage, but those days were long gone and I began to feel the unmistakably cold and icky feeling of trickery running down my neck back.

Had we been tricked into booking this shoddy establishment on Airbnb that was in need of refurbishment? Was this tired looking woman standing before me a representation of it? Were the pictures of this place taken 10 years ago with no repair/refurbishment since? And was this woman even an actual cleaner? – as her cleaning skills didn’t seem very advanced to me.  These were the questions that I was asking myself as I walked around the villa with distaste when I realised that the grass in the garden was overgrown and could go with being mown, the kitchen was so open as to invite all sorts of beasts into it. The two bedrooms were located off the open plan living area, and overlooked the dirty swimming pool – which despite being described as being a swimming pool was infact more like a plunge pool as you could easily do one breastroke and reach the end of it. And when I went to open one of the bedroom doors (mysteriously they both had keys lodged into them), one of the bedroom doors was locked. So I asked this miserable woman (who couldn’t seem to string two words together!) why the bedroom door was locked , and then she told me via the Google Translate app that I thrust into her hand, that the boss told her that she should lock it!

What a bloody cheek! Locking us out of our own bedroom?! I don’t think so love.

Josh got right onto Airbnb and messaged the owner to ask him why we were being locked out of one of the bedrooms  when we had paid for use of the whole villa and he got a reply back pretty much straightaway telling him that he had infact not told Lena the Cleaner to lock the room but to just make up the bed in one of the bedrooms as we were a couple so would only be using one.

But that’s not for you to say! I fumed. In theory, I could understand that there was no point in her making up two beds if there was only 2 people staying since it’s a 4 person villa but as far as I’m concerned, that’s her job as cleaner. Who is she to assume which bedroom we would want? Or that we’d only want one? Once we had booked the whole villa as far as I was concerned nowhere in it was off limits to us, even though alot of it should have been because of it shoddyness. I really wasn’t impressed. Soon enough Josh got the owner to tell Lena and Cleaner to open the door and make the bed. FOOLS.

Soon it became clear that this woman didn’t have a scooby doo what she was doing, she clearly was no good at cleaning and she couldn’t speak a word of english, and I do mean A WORD. So how on earth this woman was responsible for inviting people into the home and showing them how everything worked was beyond me. After trying in earnest to communicate with her in English to no avail, it soon became clear to me that I would clearly have to rely on Google Translate and communicate with her in Indonesian. Thankfully for me, Google have updated their app and it now works extremely well and can translate lots of languages accurately. And even better then that, you can translate offline if you download the translations beforehand. Genius. And crucial in this particular instance.

It turns out as I suspected when I first clapped eyes on her sweaty face, that Lena the Cleaner didn’t know a bloody thing. Didn’t know a thing about how to get the wifi activated (not even the password for the wifi), didn’t know a thing about pool cleaning, didn’t know where the coffee machine was, didn’t know how to lock the front door properly – not a single thing. When I asked her (via Google translate of course), whether she had an information pamphlet about the villa to give us, she typed back “no, no information”. This woman really was a BIG FOOL. We didn’t like her at all but we were both determined to get as much information out of her as possible before she left. I couldn’t tell what cleaning she had actually done, but apparently she came to clean everyday at 12:00 pm. Worse, she didn’t even know that we were going to be staying there for a month! Pretty rubbish considering she is the so called “villa manager”. Shoddy.

That night, in the midst of the torrential rain in the questionable looking apartment down the dark, dirty, crumbly alleyway, Josh’s laptop wouldn’t turn on. We spent the next couple of hours, before we had even had a chance to unpack, trying to fix it but it wouldn’t turn on for love nor money and then we both began to really panic.

We had spent a glorious month in sunny Ubud, in the middle of rice paddie fields, getting massaged to within an inch of our lives, in clean and luxurious surroundings and pampered to perfection.

WHAT ON EARTH HAS GONE WRONG??

This miserable establishment was not somewhere that I could see us living as happily as we lived at Pumpkin Village for though we had our own place, with our own private pool living at Pumpkin Village it was almost as if we had our own place there anyway as we pretty much had the place to ourselves, including the pool, which was far bigger, and far cleaner then this. I was furious when I thought about the lovely pictures advertising the place online which made the villa look as if it was stylish, clean and comfortable. This place was not. And the location, far from being in Seminyak as had been advertised, was actually in North Kuta, and though it was only around a 10 minute walk from Seminyak it was not in Seminyak at all. Trickery at it’s finest.

With the combination of the horrendous weather, the open air living area which seemed far more luxurious then it was before flies and mosquitoes began landing on you, and Josh’s laptop suddenly deciding to give up the ghost, this trip was turning into an absolute nightmare.

The following morning we got up and went for breakfast at a local cafe, which I could tell was new because of how much the owner was hovering over us, desperate for us to enjoy our breakfast. It was not enjoyable.

Afterwards we walked into Seminyak village, which was only supposed to be a few minutes walk away, but because of the intense amount of traffic (it seems Ubud was not the only place to go into scooter overdrive!), it took us much longer, and was far more dangerous then I would have liked. Good looking people dressed in a surfer-chic rode scooters and custom motorbikes like it was going out of fashion and as we walked we saw lots and lots of great looking interior design shops with the kind of style we liked boho balinese and to me, the most amount of retail shops that appealed to me that I’d seen anywhere else. This was because the boutique shops here had a distinctly glamorous but laid back style that I really liked. They had lots of floaty dresses, pashmina’s and bohemian summer dresses. It was my favourite fashion style but living in cold England, with no access to California or Australia nobody designed like that where I was from simply because nobody could wear this kind of clothing there. Simply put, it was wasted on us. But here, here it made sense. And my eyeballs were literally popping out of their sockets seeing all of this splendour. So many dresses, so many dresses!!!! And so beautiful. So unique! But since I didn’t come travelling to shop I just tried my best to ignore them. Seminyak had lots of great looking restaurants and cafes, so it was clear that we would have no issues finding new places to eat here.

On our way back it suddenly started raining and then it wouldn’t stop. It was miserable in Bali when it rained. Partly because you were nearly always never dressed for the occasion and partly because the rain was cold and the droplets big. If it rained for a sustained amount of time then you would get soaked, it’s as simple as that.

And we did get completely soaked. That was despite us both wearing waterproof jackets. Unfortunately for us, unlike Pumpkin Village which provided a genuine feeling of homeliness and comfort to come home to, our new villa did not fill me with a feeling of relaxation, even after it had been cleaned by Lena the Cleaner. Infact, I was beginning to dislike the place more and more. The fact was that the bathrooms did not have a bath, which for a bath lover such as me put it at an automatic disadvantage, but also, the bathrooms were partially open and again, unlike at Pumpkin they were actually partially open with no netting to protect you from the elements, or the creatures that lived within it, and it was dark. In theory, I have nothing against a dark bathroom, so long as it has adequate lighting. But this dark bathroom had a few things wrong with it – partly, I did not like the design, it was too dark (there were only 2 lights in there and against the dark concrete you could hardly see a thing), and lastly, it was partially open and you know what that meant: Creatures were coming on in. Therefore when I was on the loo in the middle of the night, with the sounds of the various nature surrounding, I could not relax for I wasn’t sure whether a mosquito would feast on me, a spider would crawl on me or god forbid, a rat would scurry over me. I was not at ease.

Due to my disappointment with the description of this villa and it’s boasty declarations of being in Seminyak when it was infact in far less glamorous North Kuta, coupled with the dirty pool where I had confirmed that there was indeed a worm languishing in the depths of it, Lena the Cleaner who was rubbish at cleaning and not particularly friendly, the villas location down a dark alleyway with stray dogs lurking on it, and the fact that any and every creature could come flying into it due to it’s more then partially open design (the kitchen, living room and bathroom areas were all open), and was overrun with gecko’s fighting for position on our ceiling, I was ready to move. I did not feel comfortable there.

Since we had booked on Airbnb I began looking into ways for us to get out of our month long stay in this villa and found that if we complained within 24 hours of arriving and our complaints were considered valid by Airbnb then we could get refunded. But after discussing with Josh, he didn’t feel as though our claims were valid enough to get a refund so he said we should try and make the most of it.

When we arrived home, sodden from the rain after being barked at by dogs sitting underneath cars as we walked down our own dark alleyway, after Josh had accidentally trod on a HUGE frog who died instantly underneath the weight of his size 11’s, we opened the door to be greeted with 2 giant snails on our patio floor – they’d just walked (or rather slithered), right on it. This was unacceptable. Josh used the metal dustpan with a long handle to scoop them up and then he chucked them over our wall into our next door neighbours garden, lol.

Gecko’s were running up and down the walls (yes, I know they kill mossies and spiders but it doesn’t mean that I want a whole family of them living with me), I could still see the worm in the bottom of the pool and because of the poor standard of Lena the Cleaners cleaning I couldn’t be certain that we weren’t living in a cockroach infested environment. We were practically living in our air conditioned bedroom since anytime we ventured out of it it we were under seige by all manner of creatures who were living happily in our open kitchen.

We jumped in the pool after Josh removed the worm using the trusty metal dustpan again. Since we were completely surrounded in our own private gardens that was when having the villa came into it’s own, since we could easily sunbathe and indeed swim naked so we had a little night swim which was nice but I still couldn’t shake the feeling of us being in decidedly average facilities. I realised that for most people on holiday this would be fine. More then fine. A two bed villa with a garden and private pool a few minutes walk from one of the most glamorous areas of Bali? And we were travelling! Surely we didn’t have to have the same standard of living as when we went on holiday, but there are a few things I cannot do, and that is FROWSINESS and UNCLEANLINESS. And in my opinion this place was both. No, it wasn’t terrible, and I’m sure for the area it was very nice in alot of respects, far more then adequate and perhaps even luxurious to some, but for us it just wasn’t up to scratch. Alas what could we do??

Lena the Cleaner actually had the audacity to ask us 2 days in a row when she saw us whether we wanted our room cleaned. WHAT KIND OF QUESTION IS THAT FROM A CLEANER?? I was struggling with this woman I tell you.

Today was the day of errands for Josh’s laptop still wasn’t turning on and he was getting increasingly more stressed out about it. It was a perfectly good DELL laptop that he had only had for a year and a half and we hadn’t dropped it or anything – it had been working perfectly fine before it just decided to cease working! So today, despite the third day of torrential rain (which was now starting to get quite depressing), we were off on a mission to get it fixed. I had found somewhere online in Denpaser that had come highly rated but as it was quite a drive away Josh had found somewhere else that was about a 20 minute or so drive away.  We picked up a new scooter from an overweight woman with a sweaty top lip who rented scooters on the highroad and off we went. The sweaty lipped woman couldn’t believe her luck when we told her that we wanted to rent the bike for a whole month and she even accompanied us to the bank to make sure that she got her money! lol

Since we didn’t have wifi (as neither of us had bothered to get any data before we left the UK and we didn’t think there was any point getting an international sim), when we went anywhere we had to plan our route first using wifi on Google Maps. It wasn’t a very reliable way of getting about but it was the only option we had since we didn’t intend on paying extortionate fees in data whilst we were travelling. And it had worked reasonably well, until now.

I was in charge of reading the map, which didn’t actually give any directions – just showed us where we were in relation to where we were trying to get to. But it was difficult to read and the relentless rain was making it almost impossible to see, plus I was trying not to get the phone wet, and then there was the issue of us simply not being able to find the bloody place. In the end we were getting so lost and so wet that we just parked up and decided to try and find the place on foot instead. We were both pretty miserable at this point. It seemed as though everything was a bloody shambles and the locals were looking at us like they’d never seen the likes of us ever before in their lives, likely because wherever we were, no westener had ever ventured. But we desperately needed to get Josh’s laptop fixed, it was critical since he needed to work whilst we were here and he had already lost a couple of days whilst it was out of action.

According to the map we needed to go down what looked an alleyway filled with residential homes to get to the shop. It didn’t look right and it certainly didn’t FEEL right. Plus it had all of the elements to make me utterly miserable: I didn’t know where on earth I was going, I was cold, I was soaking wet as it was STILL raining heavily, I felt dirty and then worse of all I saw a rat the size of a cat squashed into the pavement. I COULD NOT DEAL. However, Josh I could see, was at his very lowest ebb, so I decided not to point the squashed rodent out to him which I think in hindsight was a good idea.

We passed what looked like a laundrette or something (though I couldn’t say for sure as the place looked positively FILTHY), and we asked the locals in there where this computer repair place was. The guy with the best English, who incidentally also had the blackest, most horrendous teeth I’d ever seen, told us that the shop was in someones house. “In someones house?” we ask him again. Yes, he said. We didn’t go any further.

On the way back, in the wet and rain as we tried to navigate our way home, our map, which we had sneakily tried to download via wifi before we had left home, also gave up the ghost, which meant that now we really didn’t know where we were going or how to get home. And then Josh’s phone, unsurprisingly after getting wet as I tried desperately to use it repeatedly for navigation, just stopped working. Finally, we both had reached our limit. For us, we just couldn’t see how it could possibly get much worse then this.

After driving around trying to find somewhere where a) we could get Josh’s laptop repaired and b) get some shelter and wifi so that we could navigate our way home, we found a place that said they did laptop repairs so in we went. The guys in there said they would try and fix it and let Josh know if they couldn’t in a few days time so we left it with them and after sorting out our map situation we went home.

We went to Le Bistrot for dinner that night, a french inspired, vintage restaurant. I loved the decor and the food was good too. We also passed by a open air drinks spot, and had some cocktails there. It was like an open air platform with seats you could sit and have a drink on where you could watch the world go by. Very cool.

The next morning there was a spider in the shower. Of course I loved being in nature, but I was beginning to realise that there was such a thing as being too exposed to it, and it was never more evident here.

I had heard about an Australian allday Brunch restaurant called Sisterfields that had opened a branch here in Seminyak so Josh and I went down to check it out. It was lovely. Such good (and healthy!) food.

That morning we received an email from Airbnb to inform us of the impending Mount Agung’s volcano eruption which had happened that morning. We checked it out on the news and found out that it had indeed erupted and it was serious enough to even have been featured on BBC News. Airbnb informed us that if it affected us since we were staying in Bali then we should contact them straightaway.

Well, this was our golden opportunity to move we thought immediately!

Josh set about sending them an email telling them that due to the volcano risk (we were nowhere near the volcano so there was no chance of it affecting us whatsoever), we needed to leave our current property immediately due to the fact that flights may be disrupted and we couldn’t be stranded in Bali. It was genius! Cleverly, he wasn’t claiming to have any issues with the property itself (even though of course he did), but that we were terrified that we could get stranded. He sent the email to 3 seperate Airbnb addresses and almost immediately he received the following response from one of the Airbnb representatives:

“The situation in Bali is considered an Extenuating Circumstance so if you would like to leave your current property then you would be entitled to a full refund. Please let us know if you would like to leave. Your safety is of course of our highest concern”

Well I can tell you we whooped and we hollered for joy. FOR JOY I tell you! What on earth were the chances? I had been desperate the leave that miserable villa and there didn’t seem a way out of it but now it seemed that we were basically being offered the perfect opportunity to leave and they weren’t to know that it wasn’t just because we didn’t like it. We used the volcano as a cover and they had completely bought it! RESULT.

YES! WE ARE LEAVING!!!

I was bloody ecstatic I tell you.

The rest of the day went by in a flurry of activity as we packed and began looking for alternative accomodation that we could move into the following day. Josh was busy “negotiating” with Airbnb and the owner of the villa, who needless to say wasn’t too keen on us leaving and tried in earnest to convince us that the threat in Bali wasn’t severe and thus, would be unlikely to affect us at all. However what Josh cleverly tried to maintain with both Airbnb and the owner whose name was Tom, was that he wasn’t concerned about the volcanoes affect on us directly per-say, but he was concerned about the impact it might have on flights going in and out of the island and since we were travelling onto Thailand to attend a wedding, he didn’t want us to be stuck there.

He maintained that he was happy with the current accomodation (of course he wasn’t), but since the Airbnb rep had already offered us a full refund he wanted to claim it and move as planned the following day instead of in a months time. As far as I was concerned it had already been agreed so I found a 4 start hotel with very good reviews in nearby Legian (that I didn’t know too much about but I had heard that it could be a little on the noisy side), and we booked the remainder of our stay there.

Alas, the situation with Airbnb suddenly became a concern when the lady Josh was communicating with suddenly started to insinuate that Josh’s refund would be dependant on the host being happy to refund our stay. This was not what she said before.  She said we could get a full refund, which according to their terms meant that Airbnb would override any decision from the host and provide the refund for the remainder of our stay. So why is this bitch face now trying to renegade on her offer? Why is she trying it?? OF COURSE the owner is not going to want to miss out on a months earnings! So why is this bitch face asking us to try to negotiate directly with him to ask him to do so? Why is she trying her bits?!

Airbnb were starting to vex us, and moreover, the situation has just got real since at this point we had already gone ahead and booked our month long stay at our next place.

That night I was restless. Restless not only because I was unsure about what might happen with Airbnb and whether or not Josh would get his money back (alot of money I hasten to add considering we were meant to be staying in a 2 bed villa for an entire month!), and I still could not relax in this place. The shoddyness, not to mention the lack of cleanliness, creatures crawling all over the place in the open living room area, kitchen and bathroom and when we were trying to relax A BAT, yes you heard me, A BLACK BAT came a flying in and landed right outside our bedroom on the floor. Now at this point Josh had already killed the spider in the bathroom, 2 giant snails on our patio floor, the worm in our swimming pool, the frog in the alleyway, and now, he had to deal with the black bat. The bat was so black that you couldn’t even see it’s face (which was probably a good thing as bats are hideously ugly.) I had never seen a bat so up close before and it was bloody terrifying (these things have rabies you know!), so I hid behind the dining room table whilst he set about getting rid of it. His chosen strategy was to throw his heavy shoe at it and it died instantly. He then used the dustpan (which was becoming a really handy tool!), to scoop it up and chuck it into next doors garden, lol.  I thought that was the end of our bat attacks but less then 5 minutes after that another bat (this time a brown one) came flying into our villa and back out again, twice. What is this bat attack business all about?!

Finally the day had come where I could leave this god forsaken place. I had been utterly miserable there and I felt relieved that such a well judged get out had been successfully staged by us.

 A Rude Awakening

Miserable faced Lena the Cleaner turned up at her usual time, no doubt after being briefed by Tom about our impending evacuation and as usual she was as unfriendly as ever as she sullenly watched us drag our suitcases out to the front to await our driver. We didn’t bother saying goodbye. Since we had no data we had to rely on Uber to do this which thankfully worked well whilst we were still connected to the villa’s wifi. We still had the scooter we had rented from the fat woman with the sweaty top lip so after loading up the vehicle with our luggage, Josh followed the car on the scooter.

When we arrived at our new hotel we expected it to be in pristine condition with elegant decor but it was very far from looking pristine. It was rundown and filthy dirty and the people who were walking around the area looked questionable to say the least. I didn’t know much about the area Legian, but what I could see of it I didn’t like much at all. It looked dirty, conjested, busy and noisy.

I chose the hotel because it had been rated very highly on Tripadvisor and would give us the santuary that we so desperately needed. After our experience with the shoddy villa, we could no longer afford to stay in another one, not when there was the possibility of the pictures not matching the reality. So we made the decision to stay in a hotel, where at least we figured the hotels standards would remain consistent and we could demand it if it wasn’t.

When I arrived with the luggage Josh was already there and along with the driver and various members of hotel staff we finally managed to get my oversized suitcase (minus it’s handle) out of the vehicle and into the hotel. I don’t know what exactly I was expecting from this hotel, but I did expect it to at least be in good condition. According to the pictures online, and other people’s reviews, it was. But both Josh and I were less then impressed with the standard of the foyer of the hotel in particular. Similarly to our villa, it looked tired. Since the foyer was so tired looking, which was unacceptable in my opinion since that was the place that most people walked through, did that also mean that our room was? – I bloody well hoped not!

The staff were nice enough, and were clearly very happy that we had decided to stay with them for a whole month but there was something about the manager, perhaps a whiff of desperation that I could sense coming from her, which coupled with the tired furniture in the lobby, with a dusty looking table and cigarette butted chairs, gave me cause for concern.

When we got our our room we were relieved to find that that at least was perfectly clean and reasonably spacious. It was a hotel room so we weren’t expecting miracles but well, the bathroom was spacious anyway. Since we didn’t have a bath in our last villa I had made sure that our next accomodation had one, and this one was both spacious and well designed. All of the rooms in the hotel overlooked the huge pool on the ground floor. Online it had looked classy, here, it looked tired. Overweight Australians who were dying to have a beer gaffawed and belly flopped into the pool like it was going out of business, and unfortunately the design that once looked California inspired, now looked seedy Las Vegas. The sound from the pool area carried all the way up and into our room and because the building was surrounded on all sides, not only did it carry people’s voices, it amplified them and echoed them too. It was really quite unbareable. We decided to leave our luggage where it was (we didn’t want to unpack just yet), so that we could have a peruse around the hotel and check out the area.

The thing we first noticed was that the shoddyness continued. These people must have taken the photo’s for this hotel years ago, but since then it had fallen into disrepair (similar to the villa). It was a shame, since I liked the design and could clearly see how at one point it might have been lovely, but that time was past. These people clearly didn’t know that hotels required maintenance, but at least our room was clean I thought, and would be cleaned by a cleaner who I’m sure had better cleaning skills then Lena the Cleaner and at this stage that was good enough for me. Despite the fact that we would have to share the pools (there were 2 pools in the hotel) with other guests, at least the pools looked clean. And there was a spa here, breakfast was included and it was close enough to the shops for us to just be able to walk and get food whenever we needed. These things were the bonuses of staying in a big hotel such as this. It did mean that we wouldn’t be able to sunbathe or swim naked, or have the place to ourselves but I was willing to trade that in for a bit of comfort and cleanliness  as after last nights black bat encounter, I decided that I really couldn’t take much more of these constant creature attacks. I needed to be shielded from the beasts and big hotels such as this could provide such shelter.

The first thing we did was go back down to reception to check out one of the restaurants but when I saw the state of the food being displayed on the counter my level of horror began to steadily increase. Worse yet, the staff in there seemed shocked to see us. It was as if nobody ever went in there. Well, I could take a hint! – the food looked vile. They wouldn’t catch me or Josh eating in there.

Afterwards, we went downstairs to see the gym which also looked like it had seen better days. Even the corridors were in disrepair. Why had these people let it come to this? I wondered. You can’t just put up a hotel and not do any maintenance to it!

Then we went onto the rooftop which had a cocktail bar and rooftop pool. It sounded nice in theory as did the spa, but as soon as we stepped foot out of the lift we both immediately wanted to go back in again as the hideous noise that we could hear coming from a bunch of young, drunken Australians (despite it only being around 15:30 in the afternoon) was unbareable. They seemed to be playing some annoying dance sounding music at full blast, and it wasn’t contained – it was so loud and distorted that you could hear it everywhere in the hotel. Even when we went back to our room we could still hear it.

The spa also looked tired and the man sitting at the spa reception desk looked as though he couldn’t believe his luck when we walked in there. We had initially booked some treatments for the following day but by the time we got back to our room and realised that we could still hear the horrendous dance music from the rooptop pool, coupled with seeing who was frequenting the hotel (even more loud, brash, drunken Australians), we knew that we could no longer remain. It seemed hard to believe that we were even thinking about moving again as we had already moved three times in the space of a couple of days, but we simply could not remain in frowse.

As it was the situation with Josh’s Airbnb refund was still ongoing and he didn’t know whether he was even going to get his money back now despite the bitch face woman blatantly offering it to him in her first email. And now we had booked another months stay with this other place. Shit was getting ridiculous. But we checked the terms of our booking with the hotel and as we had booked on Booking.com we saw that provided we cancelled that night before midnight the money for our stay would be fully refunded minus the night we spent there and a cancellation fee of course.

We hadn’t found any alternative accomodation yet but we had made up our minds: we were moving. Our trip into Legian confirmed our suspicions: This place was the absolute dregs. The people were loud and leery, almost everyone and I do mean everyone was carrying a beer walking down the street (despite it being torrential rain), and apart from the locals the only other accent I could hear was Australian. Had we essentially moved into the Australian version of Magaluf?? – I really couldn’t bare the thought.

And to make matters even worse, we were directed to a restaurant by the staff at reception called Mama’s German, which was a German restaurant. I had absolutely no interest in eating a white sausage – bratwurst, weisswurst or any other atrocity. But this apparently was a restaurant that served good food (according to the guests of the hotel he told me). But the guests of the hotel are questionable!!! I wanted to shout back at him as a gang of them came in from the rain wearing no shoes and you guessed it: carrying bottles of beer! Alas at this point we had no better options as I refused to traipse the streets looking for somewhere else still serving food, and we still had to pack, so we went in. As soon as we walked in I knew we had made a mistake – there were lots of old and crusty looking German men in their with their bratwursts and a Indonesian girl at least twenty years younger then them by their side. The food looked dodgy too – I could tell because they felt the need to have huge pictures of each dish they served which is always a bad sign. And worst of all: they pretty much had absolutely no food for vegetarians. All they served was meat. Meat, meat, meat and beer. Not my kind of thing at all. And judging by the dirty peed looking people who sat there smoking ciggarette after ciggarette after ciggarette whilst there bored looking Indonesian date sat there in silence with a sullen look on her face: sorry, but these were not my kind of people. We had made a massive mistake coming here. We needed to get the hell out of this abominable town!!

Know Thyself

When we first started looking at where to stay/live in Bali, we had initially chosen 3 areas: Ubud, and then either Canggu or Seminyak, so how on earth was it that we had come to two areas that we were warned against: Kuta and Legian?!!

We cannot make this mistake again I say to Josh who agrees wholeheartedly. Since Seminyak is a little too busy for us we have no choice but to move to Canggu, which was on the coast in middle of the countryside. Now, we just had to find somewhere to live in Canggu.

On our way back to our hotel to give them the bad news, find somewhere to live and pack we tried in earnest to navigate a wet, noisy, dirty, polluted road packed full of people with children begging on the streets and then I looked out of the corner of my eye and saw at least 4 HUGE cockroaches roaming freely about the place. I felt physically SICK TO MY STOMACH. Surprised I was not but sick to my stomach I was. I dragged Josh across the road and told him that on no uncertain terms would I be going any further. I had reached my absolute limit. I was happy to stay at the hotel that night but tomorrow, I had to leave. It was FILTHY here! ABSOLUTELY FILTHY. And the people here were filthy too!!!

We informed the hotel that we would be leaving the following day and then set about packing our things and trying to find somewhere in Canggu to live. The hotel did try to offer us an upgrade to stay but they could have upgraded me to a presidential suite with a helicopter I wouldn’t have stayed a day longer. This place was the pits.

We had found a good deal on Expedia for a hotel called Sense in Canggu, a few minutes walk from the beach. Now that I knew we had finally chosen the correct area in Bali to live I just needed to make sure that the hotel was not frowsy and according to all of the information that I could find, it was not. I really liked the design, and though we could not afford the most beautiful suite with it’s bath and direct pool access, all of the rooms were the same size and looked like the fixtures and fittings were stylish and of a very high spec. It was a boutique hotel so we would not be inundated with lots of skanky people making noise and carrying on like fools and since we would now be located in the countryside and not in a busy area like Legian, I knew that the quality of people would be massively improved also. Along with our present nightmare of a situation Josh’s laptop still hadn’t been repaired so he took the opportunity to go down to the repair shop whilst we were still in the area and then he followed me in the car in his bike as we moved to our third property of the week. Thankfully, for once it was not raining.

When I began to see the beautiful green countryside and rice paddies coming into view and smell the fresh air my mood immediately started to lift. Finally, I was on my way somewhere I could relax. Yes, here reminded me very much of Ubud, and that was what we wanted – peace, quiet and natural surroundings. Our painful experience in Kuta and Legian respectively showed us what it was we were looking for, what we knew that we were looking for all along: serenity.

Josh went ahead in the bike and was already there by the time we got there because we got caught up in some heavy traffic and then my driver got lost. When I arrived I found him sitting down with the manager of the hotel with a cold bevvy happily swapping life stories. Upon sighting me he helped with the luggage and then proceeded to tell me that this hotel was brand new – it had infact been open less then 2 weeks and we were their second guests. Therefore not only did we get a massively reduced rate to stay there but essentially we had the whole entire contingency of staff, including all of the cleaners, pool staff, reception, mixologists, gardener’s, maintenance men and chef’s looking after us aswell as the ridiculously fortunate benefit of having the entire hotel all to ourselves!!!! Yes, we were literally the only guests there. And the hotel was beautiful!!

Overlooking vast countryside, including Indonesian rice farmers and even cows grazing in the fields from here we could see the sea and smell the unmistakable waft of sea air and for once, since leaving our beloved Ubud, some fresh air. I was ecstatic. But that wasn’t all – because Josh had been sitting there sweeting up the manager, coupled with the fact that we were their second guests of all time, the hotel was brand new and we would be staying for a whole month no less, he had managed to negotiate the best room in the entire hotel for us which nobody had ever stayed in before. For free!

The suite we had been ogling, the one that would normally cost £5,000 to book, the one that most certainly looked like a honeymoon suite with direct lagoon pool access, with it’s own private balcony, with beautiful shiny marble floors, a huge bathtub and a stunning velvet headrest with chiffon drapery and stone head carvings in a classic and elegant forest green, white and grey colour scheme, was to be our new home. This wasn’t merely somewhere we’d be staying for the next couple of days or even weeks like a normal holiday, it was to be our home for the next month, and once again, similarly to Pumpkin Village, we were to have the whole hotel team at our beck and call. Because there wasn’t a soul else here!! It was just us. Just us!

When we booked this hotel yesterday we had absolutely no idea that it had only been open for a few weeks, and though understandably they still had some building works going on that was not going to stop operation Newman and Jackson as we luxuriated in the “lagoon” like only we can. We had lucked out AGAIN. And this was simply because we had refused to give up.

IMG_0300

Quality Control: Our decorative towell has been made into a Kung Fu Master!

IMG_0299

The pool is just a step away…

Just a few hours ago I had been staring in the face of a family of cockroaches, with a fat worm floating in our pool, watching a decrepit mini Hitler try to seduce one of the teenage locals, a rat the size of a cat squidged into the floor, lost in a storm, Josh’s expensive laptop not turning on, a bat outside our bedroom door, miserable Lena the Cleaner with her non cleaning antics, the sweaty top lipped scooter rental woman, drunken aussies stumbling about wearing no shoes in a monsoon, 2 fat snails and a dark dingy alleyway but here I couldn’t be further from such a miserable reality.

The sun was shining, my beloveds laptop had been fixed and we were now being waited hand and foot by a team of staff in one of the most luxurious hotel rooms we’d ever been in as if this was our own private villa. GET IN!!!

P.S The Airbnb dispute is ongoing.

gallery-accommodation-07

Marbled Out! Our new bathroom accomodations

 

 

 

 

The Island of the God’s – Week 3

The Island of the God’s – Week 3

IMG_0213

Unbelievably, we’ve been in Bali for 3 weeks already!

We have one more week here in Ubud before we move to our new home in Seminyak.

Time is fast running out, so after some consideration we have made the decision to forgo our visit to the Gilli islands in favour of doing some other things in Ubud before we leave to maximise our time here, but we haven’t done too badly if I do say so myself! 3 weeks has given us a real taste of what Bali has to offer and we continue to find new and exciting things on a daily basis.

The creatures that reside here are a continual terror – from the militant flies that come out every breakfast without fail to terrorise us for our pancakes and fresh honey, to the caterpillars who surely are too hideous to be turning into any form of butterfly, to the rabid stray dogs who amble down the road with their flea bitten selves. These dogs are not hungry in the slightest – they are well fed, eating the literally thousands of offerings to the Gods that the Indonesian people leave littered on the roadside.

I respect their religious traditions but I really do wonder what on earth they think is going to happen if they leave flowers, plants and food parcels on the pavements. Of course the dogs are going to eat them – not the Gods, the dogs. I have seen bigger dragonfly’s and cicada’s that I have ever seen in my life here, not to mention frogs, cockroaches (so far thankfully only 2), centipedes, mosquitoes, gecko’s, spiders (lots of jumping ones, lots!), rats, beetles and ants (huge ones). This abundance of life is fascinating when they are not trying to board me. The spider I can take so long as it doesn’t jump on me. The caterpillar is fine so long as it doesn’t crawl on me. The fly acceptable so long as it doesn’t buzz near me. Unfortunately, thus far I haven’t been so lucky.

This abundance of nature means that I come in contact with them on a regular basis. Thankfully the bristly contraption that the owner of our villa put on the bottom of our door works well but that doesn’t stop the beasts from entering when our room is cleaned each day.

Since we have been living here we have seen probably only 2 other individuals in the “Village” and even that has only been for a very short period of time. It would appear we are here all alone – at breakfast we see no one else, in the pool not a soul and we have never seen anyone else when we return from one of our allday trips in the evening.

We haven’t heard anyone, we haven’t seen anyone. In theory this should be a good thing, and in many ways it is but it does mean that we have the entire team of staff doting over us and they are already overstaffed here in my humble opinion.

Does it really take 4 people to make our breakfast? –  afterall we have the same breakfast everyday: Pancakes, omelette, bali coffee, honey, yoghurt and fresh fruit. Does it really require 4 people to make it? For 2 people? Alas, it remains as quiet and private in these villas as when we first arrived and since the gardens are continually maintained, just as beautiful.

We are clocking up some serious miles on this scooter of ours. Everywhere we go we go via bike – infact I haven’t stepped foot in a taxi, a car or an Uber since arriving here apart from that day when Aunty Jac came up to visit.

Karsa Spa

We have our treatments today at the spa that we happened upon on our travels to Campuhan Ridge Walk and I cannot bloody wait! It means that not only do I get 2 hours of extreme pamperation but I also get the pleasure of walking through those beautiful green fields yet again. The beauty of this walk is well renowned – and the fact that it is literally walking distance from the middle of Ubud town is a bonus.

Even today there are lots of tourists here taking pictures of the surrounding hills and jungle as it isn’t difficult to take amazing pictures here, infact its almost a guarantee.

When we arrive at the spa we are immediately given a refreshing cup of traditional Balinese tea before being taken down to our treatment room that is located down a secret passageway within the tropical gardens. On the way we pass lily ponds, exotic, sweetly fragrant flowers, vast green fields, plants, trees, stone sculptures and water fountains. It is a garden of plentiful and natural abundance. We arrive at a huge wooden door that is buried within ivy. Upon opening the secret walled garden room we are greeted again with our very own water fountain, fresh flowers, plants and the sounds of roosters and cicada’s in the background. A huge sunken tub decorated with flowers lays at the bottom of two inviting treatment beds ready for us.

I have gone for the most expensive treatment that they offer: a 2 hour massage, body scrub and flower bath. I thought it would be stupid not to considering all of the treatments here are obscenely cheap, and seeing how beautiful this private space is where we will be having our treatments makes me realise just how much good value we are getting.

The massage is wonderful. I am feeling thoroughly relaxed and at peace when she begins exfoliating my body with a beautiful smelling homemade body scrub, and after she is finished doing that I lay back whilst she slathers on a thick and creamy body lotion no doubt for the purpose of letting it sink deep into my tissue layers before she leaves me to indulge in my 30 minute long flower bath in the middle of this tropical oasis.

In it they have put literally hundreds of pink and lilac rose petals and frangipani and  left a pot of fresh ginger tea to sip whilst I luxuriate. My bath smells glorious and my skin is drinking up all of the extra attention with pleasure.

Afterwards Josh and I go back to reception where we are offered yet more tea (which is hot and delicious) before paying up and leaving. I noticed that they also had some handmade beauty products for sale such as soap, body lotion and essential oils so of course I couldn’t leave without purchasing some. In the end I got myself some bottles of Jasmine and Lotus Essential Oils, which I have literally never had the pleasure to smell until now. Since we have an oil burner in our villa I have been using the oils to provide an extra burst of exotic-ness to our exotic surroundings.

IMG_0327

The entrance to Karsa Spa 

I survived an Earthquake

No, I’m not joking, I really did. I was in a deep, dreamless sleep when I heard (and felt) a rumble, the building shook and I awoke immediately to ponder whether it was the impending volcano Agung erupting or an earthquake but after considering how much the building shook and knowing that Indonesia has earthquakes on a regular basis I immediately realised that we’d had an earthquake. Josh was fast asleep at the time so of course I woke him. His response when I asked him whether he realised that we’d just had an earthquake was comical – he said he had probably just moved in the bed!

And then he just rolled over and went back asleep when all I could think about was our survival and how I could ensure it. I reasoned that if we were buried alive within the soil that would at least be better than being buried underneath concrete – the benefit of living in the countryside and not in the middle of the city I guess. I imagined that if I heard that noise again I would jump up, get our dressing gowns to cover our naked bodies and collect a couple of bottles of water to sustain us whilst we waited to be rescued in the undergrowth. But of course it didn’t come to that or else I wouldn’t be writing right now! lol

Hanging Gardens of Bali

As I had established, these people were a little up their asses but I suppose it was for good reason. They had managed to secure one of Indonesia’s finest and most famous architects Popo Danes to build one of the world’s most beautiful spa hotels here in Bali. Tripadvisor quoted it as having “the world’s most beautiful swimming pool”. High praise indeed.

When I first saw Hanging Gardens I knew that somehow, someway I needed to get there. To experience it’s most beautiful swimming pool yes, but also because it was located in one of the most unique and inaccessible locations you could think of – right in the middle of a dense jungle. Unlike Pumpkin Village, which was located in a rural area that had jungle surrounding it, Hanging Gardens, like it’s namesake, was at the highest point, in the middle of the jungle so that when viewed from above it looked as if it was somehow suspended in the sky with miles and miles of dense jungle surrounding it.

This place was designed by Popo Danes to have maximum effect and be at one, and in complete harmony with the jungle it was within. This combination of ultimate luxury and nature was something that I decided that I just had to experience. But again, like alot of my other selected destinations, this was definitely one for the Honeymooners. The cost of the spa treatments alone told you that, not to mention the exclusivity of the location. But I didn’t care – I was prepared to pay for this once in a lifetime experience in the middle of the Balinese jungle so I emailed to enquire about us getting a couples spa day before receiving an email back from the Hanging Gardens booking team subtly trying to “suggest” we go for the most expensive packages they had on offer.

After a few attempts by them of “suggesting” their exorbitantly priced treatments we stuck to our guns, booked the treatments we wanted to have and then told them we would be coming and we wanted to use the swimming pool too!

Hanging Gardens was a 7 star establishment, which for Bali was probably one of the only of it’s kind. I well understood it’s uniqueness, but at the end of the day treatments of any kind in a country as poor as this can never be equal to the price of treatments in my native UK. It is completely obscene to suggest otherwise, and of course I know they are advertising these “romance packages” mainly to honeymooners but that should not exclude other luxury seekers such as ourselves, from participating in their exorbitantly priced offerings. Somebody at Hanging Gardens is milking it, and I’m almost certain it’s not an Indonesian.

These days, we were getting about exclusively by our scooter. It was a far cry from the days of Uber, taxi’s and other means of travel, but it meant that we turned up at this 7 star spa hotel in our bike clothes which was probably another thing they were not used to seeing in this ultra secretive location. Alas, we don’t do what is expected, we do what feels right.

As I anticipated the place was impressive from the off. The foyer, vast and airy with the typical open sides that I had come to expect from traditional Balinese architecture, was furnished with elegant dark wooden furniture and unique statement pieces of artwork and impressive floral displays. We were offered cold towell’s and a refreshing cold drink as we awaited the entrance of our spa therapist. The foyer provided one of the most picturesque views of the surroundings from its birds eye perch at the top of this magnificent structure with an almost vertical drop below. To get down you had to take a cable car, which meandered through the trees at a deliberately slow speed to give you a real feel for the lush jungle environment you were entering. It felt magical.

Upon arriving at the spa a couple of floors down we were greeted again by a team of beautifully dressed therapists with immaculate makeup but initially there didn’t appear to be anyone else apart from staff at the hotel. Of course we couldn’t be the only ones at this hotel we mused, but with these prices I’m sure we will only be one of a few!

After speaking to our therapist she confirmed that it was indeed mostly honeymooners at this hotel, that and very rich individuals who could afford to drop a few grand whenever it took their fancy. Also she told us, they had the privilege of seeing wild monkeys swinging in the surrounding trees. This was the benefit of the location they had. What an awe inspiring thing it must be to be that close to monkeys in their natural habitat going about their business! I thought.

After yet another cold towell and refreshing drink she and her colleague take Josh and I to a private room with a direct open view of the jungle where we will be having our treatments. The room is huge and beautifully appointed but it is no Karsa Spa. The experience of being outside, with the sights and sounds of nature, in the midst of beautiful tropical gardens and lily ponds, with the warm breeze kissing my skin, the smell of fresh flowers filling my nose and the sound of a waterfall falling gently in the background is second to none. If I had felt like I was in a Timotei ad in my bathroom before, visiting Karsa Spa had made me feel even more Timotei/Herbal Essences inspired. It was simply wonderful.

Now this was a luxury of it’s own – the room was huge and it had a seperate bathroom with luxurious toiletries and another big stone bath with an interesting pebble feature trimming the rim plus one of the most well made and comfortable dressing gowns I’d ever put on, but it was still no Karsa Spa. It was too designed. And though I loved the sweet touch of having it partially open to the jungle, it still wasn’t the same as being in it. And don’t forget I was paying more then quadruple the price for less time and less treatment. Saying that though, the massage was fabulous. My masseuse clearly knew what she was doing and when she found a knot in my back (as I was astounded to find existed!), she worked it out completely until it was no more. Before our treatments Josh and I also had a foot bath each before our therapists got us to lay on our respective beds whilst they placed a warming towell on our backs and instructed us to do breathing techniques before they started our massages. The fact that I had so many knots in my back meant that the other massages I had received had not removed them at all – just disguised them. So perhaps you do get what you pay for!

After my massage, I was invited to get into my bath that had been specially drawn for me.

What do Frangipani, Milk, Honey, Ginger and Vanilla all have in common?

They were all in my bath. At Hanging Gardens I had chosen to have a Milk, Honey and Vanilla bath. Like Cleopatra who used to bathe herself in milk everyday to keep her skin soft and silky, I decided to do the same! My chosen Essential Oil to have my massage was Frangipani, which was a sweetly scented flower that was abundant in Bali that reminded me a little of Ylang Ylang in it’s odour profile. And they served me fresh Ginger tea. The smells that was being conjured up in my bath that day was most worthy of a new perfume creation! Perhaps it could be called Bali Bath. Whaddya think? 🙂

After our treatments (and of course Josh invited himself into my luxurious bath too!) we went back upstairs via cable car to experience the “world’s most beautiful swimming pool” that we kept on hearing about. Black tiled, with a circular shape that jutted far out into the jungle, this infinity pool was multi tiered with a waterfall that cascades dramatically over the side into the even larger pool below. Dramatic it is, and very very picture worthy. The whole pool area is surrounded by jungle and in the distance there is a temple, so far in the distance that a mist partially covers it. I’m sure this is the very reason why they chose this location to build Hanging Gardens, because it does feel almost unreal in it’s contradiction to it’s surroundings, but yet in harmony with it.

We sample the delights of the pool, which to our surprise actually has a reasonable amount of people in and around it. It is refreshing to be in but there are strategically placed platforms in the pool which you can hardly see because the tiles are so dark, which makes it hard to swim. We soon realise that this pool is for posing in. The platforms are for posing on. That is all.

We have a light lunch at Hanging Gardens before the weather starts to change from being reasonably overcast to very overcast and so we decide to leave as we have a long drive back. The benefit of travelling by bike is that you always get the wind so I was delighted when I could smell wafts of Ginger, Vanilla, Frangipani, Milk and Honey all the way home.

Since we were pretty much the only ones staying at Pumpkin Village we only had jacuzzi access twice a week. I had no idea how they heated up but it clearly was a bit of a struggle for them hence why they only made it available a few times a week but tonight was jacuzzi night so when we got back home we got changed into our swim wear so that we could take full advantage of it!

IMG_0179

IMG_0207

Hanging Gardens of Bali 

Canggu Adventures 

We drove down to Canggu to visit Aunty Jac and Uncle Dennis today. After they had come up to visit us last week we agreed to return the favour and it would also be good for us to get a feel for where we’d be going next since the next stop in our travels was Seminyak which was close to where they were staying. We left out early as we knew that we’d have to leave earlier then we would normally have liked because of the distance and the fact that it got dark early. It took us a little longer then we thought it would to get there as the tire on our bike was actually a little flat and we had to find somewhere to pump it up but eventually we got there.

The drive down turned from being really green and rural with not much people to more people, lots of traffic, petrol fumes and concrete. Since we’d been in Ubud for almost a month the contrast was quite dramatic but then the concrete suddenly opened up to green rice fields, surf shops, artisan coffee shops and Indonesian warungs (local restaurants). The mixture of old and new was strange to see but somehow it really worked! This was undoubtedly where the “cool” people resided, and it was going to be our next stop! Lots and lots of boutique restaurants, hotels, shops, spa’s you name it, they had it here – infact they perhaps had too much – my eyes didn’t know where to look there was so much cool shit to look at!

Rabid dogs were here too but there seemed to be less of them. When we arrived at Aunty Jac’s hotel The Haven Suites we were greeted by an enormous, uber stylish hotel right on the beachfront that boasted a huge swimming pool and cool greenery effects hanging at strategically placed spots around the hotel. With lots of one of a kind local wood furnishings they had effectively brought the things that make Indonesia beautiful – it’s nature, within a formal hotel setting. Their suite, which directly overlooked the pool and beach, was very generously appointed, with a stunning bathroom with a latticed wood mirror feature, a statement bath and beautiful black and white tiled floors. On their balcony, there were 2 very inviting, wooden rocking chairs that were perfect for reading a book on whilst watching the sunset. It was a lovely hotel but then I wouldn’t have expected anything less!

After changing into something more comfortable we went down to the beach via a rather precarious rope and wooden plank river crossing and directly onto the beach. After being in Ubud the feeling of sand in my feet and the salty smell of sea air was very refreshing. Also, despite Canggu being overrun with Australian’s (who see Bali in general as their local holiday destination the lucky buzzards!), the beach was almost empty. Unbelievably, the Aussies consider the exotic delights of Bali (being only 3 hours away from them if they are from Perth), with it’s rich culture, delicious food, fair weather and welcoming , tolerant temperament of it’s peoples to be their playground!

Bali was like their equivalent of Spain! What an absolute blessing. Now I personally cannot stand the Costa Del Sols’, Tenerife’s, Lanzarote’s, Benidorm’s and Mallorca’s of this world. I avoid such destinations like the plague and the individuals that choose to frequent them. Such places are devoid of any culture whatsoever as it has been rinsed out to capacity by the culture hating Brits that only want to speak English, drink beers, wear football t-shirts in the midday sun, and eat pie and chips. They are not interested in the local culture in anyway and infest the places they frequent with their bland food, lobster bodies and limited perspective on the world and the part they play within it. But this was different – Indonesia was a country rich in natural beauty, food and culture – one of the richest I had ever experienced infact. Of course the Aussies would wish to leave their blisteringly hot and barren land to come to this paradise. The people were friendly and welcoming, the weather fair, with beautiful beaches, an abundance of nature and a rich culture that the people were very proud of. It was a no brainer. If I were Australian I’d be moving here too!

The sand just kept getting hotter and hotter and the soles of my feet were beginning to feel hotter then a furnace so I looked to the sea to see whether I could cool myself down in it. I had brought my stinger suit along as I had been reliably informed that the deadly box jellyfish were in these waters but looking at the currents I soon realised that there was no point in me wearing it because the sea was ROUGH. This sea was not for swimming in. It was a surfer’s paradise, not a swimmers one. A glance up at the flags on the beach verify’s what I already know: Red flags. I can’t even see any swimmers brave enough to swim in this but I can see plenty of surfers. The conditions are perfect for surfing here. I kind of already knew this but seeing it confirms it. The current is so strong that even standing in the surf could get you knocked over.

Intense it maybe but that doesn’t stop Josh from having a go though even he has to admit that it is not possible to swim in it – just dive and dunk. No thanks.

Aunty Jac takes us for lunch at a restaurant on the beach called La Laguna.  South American in design, with eccentric, vintage, almost pirate like influences, it sounds weird but it was very original with bags of character. A sprawling restaurant overlooking a lagoon it has an impressive collection of artifacts and antiques, darkened areas, mis matched furniture and ambient lighting. The drinks seemed to be pretty good too.

Aunty Jac ordered a bright magenta coloured cocktail called Purple Night that had Dragonfruit in it that once they got right (i.e added more alcohol) was delicious, and I had a delicious tropical drink with rum that was served in a Coconut. The best thing about the drink apart from it being served in a Coconut with a Bamboo straw was the extremely generous amount of alcohol in it and the size – it was huge!

My lunch however was slightly disappointing. All I ordered was some sourdough bread with avocado, sundried tomatoes, poached egg and feta, which in theory should have tasted fresh and flavoursome, but these people went and put about a ton of salt in the avocado. If there is already feta in the recipe then the avocado hardly needs to be salted aswell. A rookie mistake. It was so salty that I actually couldn’t eat it and Aunty Jac reported the same issue with her meal too. Afterwards we went to Finn’s Beachclub, a popular beach club with a great view of the sea and the surfer’s that frequented it.

IMG_0425

Lunch at La Laguna 

Rather then burn the soles of our feet like last time, I put on the sand shoes that Aunty Jac had had the good sense to bring with her. We passed a few dogs on the way too – some came scarily close to me no doubt trying to whiff me out. It wasn’t clear at first whether these were strays or not but I didn’t want to wait around to find out – their fear sensors were up and a few more seconds with me would have told them without much prompting that I was indeed scared shitless. After some time sunbathing on the beach and then trying not to get knocked over in the surf we retreated to the safety and comfort of their hotel, where we went for a swim in their gigantic pool and I sampled one of their star drinks: Black Mango which was a non alcoholic smoothie, a mixture of Mango and Blackcurrant. Delicious!

But now it was time to leave as it was getting dark and we still had the long ride back to Ubud. My Aunt and Uncle were going to be leaving Bali the following day but they had liked it so much they said they were planning on coming back again next year!

These creatures are doing me in – in some ways I have become accustomed to their presence but in others, I really cannot stand it. I am being inundated with beasts left and right and it’s driving me crazy! It’s easy to say that I should just ignore them but it’s damn near impossible. This is the catch with living in a place such as this. It’s the creatures – there’s so many of them! I really do not think I can deal with it on a longterm basis. Just today I have killed about 15 flying ants that found their way into our room. And as for the caterpillars – well you know, they are numerous! And I have finally found out where else they are entering from – our sunken bath tubs plug hole! I saw two of them emerging from there with my very own eyes. So much for a luxury bath!

IMG_0422

Josh and I on Canggu Beach 

IMG_0391 (1)

IMG_0397

Dinner at Folk Pool & Gardens 

Bridges

We went out for the day and almost got caught in the rain. So far we have managed to avoid it and today was an exception, but it did mean that we had to stay in the restaurant we were working in for longer then usual whilst we waited for the rain to stop. Afterwards we decided to go and get something to eat for dinner since we didn’t want to go back to our villa only to have to come out again. We had had a big lunch so we weren’t feeling very hungry but we decided to go and eat anyway. I remembered seeing Bridges restaurant on a restaurant guide online and it came highly recommended for the food.

I hadn’t gone into too much detail when I had read about it so I had no idea what type of restaurant it was or what kind of food they served but the food was supposedly good so when I saw it on our travels I suggested we go there. At the time I was wearing a very short pair of shorts that was borderline batty rider so it was with great dismay when I realised that it was a fine dining establishment and it was too late to cancel so down we followed the elegantly dressed lady down a circular stairway into a beautifully lit room with formally dressed tables with white tablecloths placed strategically around a beautiful view of the jungle and “Bridge” like it’s namesake. I felt seriously underdressed. Here were people clearly out for their romantic meal and there I was with my bum cheeks hanging out of door sitting there with Josh wearing an Adidas vest and we’d been out allday so we hadn’t even had a shower. It wasn’t a good look alas the servers didn’t  bat an eyelid at what we were wearing. Had we have been in London there was no way we would have even got in! The food, as expected was really good. Definitely somewhere I would be happy to go again.

It started raining heavily as soon as we got home so we took the advantage of going for a nighttime swim in or pool the rain. The water was warm and the rain just got heavier and heavier. It was utterly delightful!

Monkey Forest

Since we have been in such close proximity to Monkey Forest and have even seen a few monkeys spill out onto the road as we are driving by I don’t personally see the point in paying to go and see them in their habitat but Josh wanted to go and see them so once the weather is sufficiently cloudy enough we make the trip there to see them. We go inside and realise at once that for the monkeys this is monkey paradise – they are essentially free – not locked up in chains, or having to do stupid tricks for the pleasures of duncebreed humans. They have a vast forest of natural habitat that is perfect and safe for them to live and play and they have a continued stream of food. They are never going to go hungry here and the people that come to visit them are told to restrict their boundaries. They are safe here. At Monkey Forest they have approximately 678 macaque monkeys though from what I can tell there’s probably quite a few more then that. There are monkeys of all ages here – lots of cute babies ones too.

They are delightful to watch and the babies are completely adorable. There is one baby monkey in particular that I decide that i’m ready to take home – he’s a small brown one with a tuft of hair similar to a mohawk, and he’s currently trying to rip into the small green banana he has with his teeny little hands. He keeps looking around incase a bigger monkey appears and tries to steal his find, but he is determined to get the fleshy part of this banana and keeps going with intense concentration to break it open, until finally he gives up. It makes me happy, to see monkeys, one of my very favourite animals, along with elephants not just surviving but thriving in their own natural environment without human beings interferring with them or worse: trying to eat them! They look comfortable here, are clearly used to seeing humans, playful, well fed and healthy. Welldone Monkey Forest. As we walk on we see a monkey jump onto a girls backpack (one of them even done it to Josh no doubt looking for water bottles which they love), and as she set about trying to get this clever little monkey off her back he was concentrating on trying to remove the water bottle (which was far bigger then him in size and weight!) out of the pouch on the side of her rucksack. First, he tried to use his teeth to unscrew the lid on the water bottle, all the while a large crowd of people giggling their heads off is gathering. Then when he can’t quite manage to do that he proceeds to try and pull the bottle out of the pouch so that it will smash on the floor. Seconds later he has managed to do just that and drenches the poor woman with her own water in the process! These monkeys are utterly fascinating. Highly intelligent, determined, agile and gentle (you can see how gentle they are and how much they understand just by looking into their eyes), what a blessing it is to be related to such an incredible animal!

We haven’t managed to go to Yoga Barn yet, and another place that has been recommended to us: Komune, a beach club. I’m not sure whether we will get to do either of these things now as Komune in particular is weather dependant and both today and yesterday it has been raining. The weather forecast doesn’t look much better for the coming week either unfortunately and Komune is a long drive down to the coast.  We have a Balinese Dinner Dance booked at Kepitu restaurant on Friday which I’m really excited about. Another thing we have been meaning to do is see some traditional Balinese dancers and this way we can combine the two.

They keep on playing the same tunes at breakfast – traditional Indonesian music that is repetitive and heavily features the xylophone. It’s not that I don’t want to hear their local music, I do but must they continue to rinse the same simpleton tunes time and again? – It is a struggle I tell you.

Apologies for this being so long – I had alot to get out!

Smell you later!

STori X

IMG_0326

Karsa Spa 

Bali Diaries: Week 2

Bali Diaries: Week 2

IMG_0318

I seriously cannot believe that 2 weeks have gone already!

We are feeling much more settled here now. We have been using the scooter to get about (which is an absolute steal at only £3 a day!) and it’s been a blessing in disguise as our villa is in quite a remote location and Ubud town isn’t really accessible by foot so we have to drive in which takes around 20 minutes each way. Food has been a bit of an issue in the evenings due to the distance from our villa to the best restaurants and it has been challenging to find good restaurants that deliver this far alas I still wouldn’t change the location for the peace and quiet it provides.

The weather has been scorching everyday, though sometimes overcast and we have had the occasional rain but the humidity is intense. I am very much enjoying my tan! It has been gradual to arrive but it’s here now and I’m loving it.

There’s a Mouse in Ma Kitchen What am I Gonna Do?!

We received an email a few days ago notifying us of a terrifying development back at home regarding our cats Frankie and Sansa. Apparently, less then a week and a half after we left our house to go travelling, Frankie and Sansa caught not 1 but 2 mice! When we were emailed by our temporary lodgers to inform us of this I almost had a bloody heart attack. In the 4 years that I have lived there I have never encountered any mice, Frankie & Sansa have never caught any mice and there has been absolutely no evidence of them being present in the house so I seriously cannot believe what I am hearing.

The only occasion I have ever seen a mouse was a few months ago when I was in the attic and I saw one lone mouse who had the audacity to squeak at me as I was trying to locate some candle making ingredients. I was stunned to see it there, and even more stunned and horrified at it’s casual greeting. Did that mean that this horrendous creature was living in my attic? I most certainly hoped not!

After that day we fortified the attic with potent mice and rat killer (just incase) and I placed both Frankie and Sansa in there on a regular basis so that they could locate the mice if indeed there were any but they never found anything therefore I was convinced that that meant that the coast was clear and the mouse I did see was long gone. In all the 12 years that Josh has lived there he has NEVER seen any mice or evidence of mice so why the bloody hell are these people telling me that we have a mouse infestation literally days after we have left?!

I couldn’t help but to be suspicious as to the state that my house was being lived in for such a despicable thing to occur all of a sudden. I’m sorry but I had to wonder. Josh tried to assure me that at some point in time all houses had an infestation of mice but I’m struggling with that level of simplicity. DAYS after we have left and after an extremely extensive clean and clear out by Josh and I whereby we saw and heard NADA all of a sudden we have a mouse infestation in our house when 2 complete strangers and a social recluse who probably eats in his room on a regular bases are conveniently left in charge?!

What kind of thing is this I’m hearing?!! I CAN NOT DEAL I tell you.

The very THOUGHT of returning home to a house infested with mice makes my skin crawl. I very much doubted Frankie and Sansa had even seen a mouse before now! Of course I am proud that they were living up to their reputation that British Shorthairs have of being one of the best hunters of all the cat breeds, but precious cats should not have to be collecting mice in my house like it’s going out of fashion! We have instructed the lodgers to call out Rentokil or whomever else can rid us of this problem.

I want them GONE!!!!!!!

The Creepy’s Keep on Crawling

We’ve had the caterpillar prevention installed on our villa door and it seems to be working pretty well but even that is not foolproof. As I mentioned before our bathroom, though utterly beautiful with it’s luxurious stone sunken bath tub and outdoor rain shower complete with plant installation and white pebbled floor, is partially outside so these nasty caterpillars still find a way in. Either they are coming in from the ceiling (but it does have a mesh covering so I doubt it), are living within the soil that our plants are planted in (very possible), entering via the plug hole (unlikely), or are one of the determined ones who somehow manage to squeeze their horrible caterpillar bodies past the bristly blocker put on the bottom of our door.

Either way on the odd occasion we see them (though mainly in the bathroom), and that’s simply not good enough. If I was certain that they would just stay in the bathroom and crawl around in the soil minding their own business then that would be okay but it’s when they come out of the bathroom and crawl onto our bed that’s a problem as I have seen on 2 seperate occasions. Now that I cannot have. But what can I do about it in the middle of the night? I cannot see them, nor can I stop them in their endeavours but I tell you if I feel one of these crispy, multi legged creatures on my naked skin in the middle of the night I am very likely to scream the place down and nobody wants that!!

I love being in the middle of nature. I’ve never been anywhere quite like this before – it is so natural, and so wild, that you cannot help but feel a strong connection to it. It’s undoubtedly a more simple way of living, a healthier, spiritual, more ethical way of living that makes you feel at ease. All of the troubles that come as standard when you live in a city as busy and go getting as London just seem to melt away into insignificance.

For instance, I can’t tell you last time since being here that I’ve even thought about Brexit, Theresa May or Tramp Trump. It just doesn’t factor into my lifestyle here. The only thing I worry about these days is whether or not the giant cicada is going to land on that huge palmed tree trunk or on my naked lap? Will that caterpillar remain in the bathtub going round and round in circles or will it make it’s ugly way over to our queen sized bed and take up residence there? Does that rundown dog that looks like a hyena and is itching itself to within an inch of it’s life have rabies? will it attempt to bite me as we fly past on our scooter and if so, precisely how much time does it take to get to a hospital? That big lumpy brown frog rib rib ribbeting over there with it’s huge bubble throat, can it see that that’s our threshold and does he know that he should go around the side instead of towards it? Bats, Rats, Dragonflies, Flies, Cockroaches, Spiders, Centipedes and other questionable looking insects, will you keep away from us for the duration of our stay?? And does the pizzeria Spacanapoli deliver to our villa? Is our jacuzzi open for business today? – These are the types of serious questions I ponder day to day in this place. Granted they are different questions then I would ponder in London Town but no less important to me right now.

I am not loving these Bali Dogs but at least they aren’t as menacing as the ones in Thailand. They generally keep themselves to themselves and in comparison to the Thai dogs they look pretty knackered if I’m honest. If push came to shove I think I would be able to outrun them. Let’s hope that I never have to try!

Despite me wearing 30% DEET insect repellant every day without fail these miserable mosquitoes are biting me up anywhere and everywhere they can! My knee has actually swollen up I’ve been bitten there so many times not to mention everywhere else they have managed to sink their bloody thirsty fangs. I’m in pain!

One of the local nail shops overcharged me for shellac. What a bloody cheek! The only reason why I went there in the firstplace was because I stupidly bought these stick on nails from Superdrugs and they were falling off after only 2 days. I had never worn stick on nails before but my sister said she had tried them and they lasted for around 2 weeks and I thought it would be the same for me alas after only a mere 24 hours they were coming off. Pathetic. So I went to the closest nail shop that I could find in Ubud and they took the remaining 4 that I had on off and gave me shellac. I am never going to bother with the fake nail nonsense again. I really liked the design on them but in the end it wasn’t worth the hassel. Everything is so cheap in Bali that when the nail therapist told me it would cost me 430,000 Indonesian Rupiah I didn’t bat an eyelid. I still haven’t quite worked out how to convert their currency to GBP without the use of a calculator and at the time I assumed it would be as cheap as everything else was there, plus I just really needed to get it done but this fool charged me £29!!! Since when was it £29 to get your nails done in Ubud when you could feed 4 people with drinks for that price? Petrol for our scooter was £3 so where is this woman going with £29? – I can get my nails done in shellac for £15 in London! Josh suggested we go in there again some other time and ask them the price again to see whether the woman was trying to scam. Or perhaps that’s just her “Westener price”. Either way she won’t be getting another penny out of me!!

Familial Joy

Aunty Jac and Uncle Dennis came up from Canggu today and we had the best day ever!

Josh and I had decided to surprise them with a lunch at our favourite vegetarian restaurant Clear Cafe, complete with a treat to a Royal Balinese Massage for the two of them before we ate lunch and then later we planned to take them to dinner at Cascades, a restaurant that was part of the Viceroy hotel brand, with one of the most romantic views in the world. Our lunch at Clear Cafe was both special and ultra relaxed as on top of having one of the most original idea’s for a restaurant in the form on their on site spa, and eclectic, ambient atmosphere, the staff were also super relaxed, and you could basically stay in the restaurant for the entire day without being bothered if you wished too as Josh and I had done on numerous occasions. My Aunt and Uncle loved it there, the massages aswell as the food and I was so happy to have been able to take them there. They had actually hired a driver for the day so it was really convenient to get to the restaurant and then back to Pumpkin Village for a mid afternoon swim and a relax before getting ready for dinner at Cascades.

Cascades had been on my radar once I had read an article about how beautiful it was and I had seen the pictures to confirm. I wasn’t that interested in the food, though as it was an award winning restaurant I was sure that I wouldn’t be disappointed but it was the views I was interested in..

Walking into Cascades was like walking on to a set. I had specifically chosen an early dinner time as I was determined to get the best possible view of the surrounding landscape and have the opportunity to see the sun go down. I had asked for the best seat in the restaurant and that is exactly what I got. I had to remind myself that we weren’t in Game of Thrones as I walked through the gigantic foyer with marble floors down the triple width stone staircase, past the elegantly dressed bowing waiters, opulent fountains and statues and a perfectly manicured lawn complete with an infinity pool and flower displays such as you’ve never seen.

In front of us was a view that was both dramatic and eye wateringly beautiful with a panorama that overlooked the “Valley of the Kings”. I don’t say Valley of the Kings for effect, though I know it sounds very Game of Thrones like, however in this instance it is probably Game of Thrones that has taken inspiration from here as that is the actual name of the valley and the view is of impeccable splendour, grandeur and more than a hint of magic. Coming from below was a chant like singing that simply didn’t seem real but it just added to the atmosphere.

A huge thatched dining room, with long white bellowing drapery and stepping stones led to a table with a perfect view of the green valley below. This was our table for the evening and when we arrived we were the only ones in the entire restaurant. Needless to say it was a very lovely dinner.

IMG_0069.jpg

Me and Aunty Jac outside Clear Cafe 

IMG_0347.jpg

Lounging by the pool at our villa with Josh, Aunty Jac and Uncle Dennis 

IMG_0341.jpg

Dinner at Cascades 

IMG_0275.jpg

IMG_0273.jpg

Tonight Matthew, I’m Dining in the Sky

I was so happy to have the rare pleasure of seeing my Aunty Jac in Bali. It felt really quite surreal and very special. We have told them that if the weather remains as good as it has been then we will return the favour and make a trip up to Canggu to visit them.

I can already see that I’ve lost weight since being here. Of course I wasn’t trying to lose weight but it has happened naturally probably because of the combination of me swimming everyday, and eating healthily. I’m sticking with this vegetarian thing and it’s doing me the world of good. Both Josh and I feel as though we look and feel healthier as a result of it though I’m sure being uber relaxed in a paradise setting doesn’t hurt much either 😉

We visited Campuhan Ridge Walk today, an area of outstanding beauty just minutes away from Ubud town centre, and whilst we were there we came across not just miles and miles of perfect rice paddies and lush jungle on our walk, but at the very end a treat in the form of a restaurant and spa called Karsa Spa. I think it was blessing that we even made it there because the walk through the rice paddies (which was suggested to us by one of the waiters in a restaurant we had visited the other night funnily enough) was more tiring then I thought it would be and we had forgotten to bring water with us so when I couldn’t see this cafe that was advertised on the posters after we had made it to the other side and could spot a stray dog or two I was more than willing to give up. Especially since we still had to walk it all the way back before nightfall. But after seeing lots of other tourists going by, clearly determined to make it to this elusive place we decided to carry on and oh what a wonder did we behold!!!

These Indonesians really have something special here. Such an abundance of the most beautiful sights I ever did see. Had I of known about this place I would have definitely suggested that we go there with Aunty Jac alas, at least we were here now.

This cafe had a prized position of the unobstructed view of miles and miles of perfect rice paddie fields, and was surrounded by a botanical garden complete with lily ponds,  and exotic plants and flowers. It was so perfect it was almost as if it wasn’t real.

The hue of the sunset was a mixture of lavender, amber and pink and was utterly stunning from the top deck of the cafe (also which demanded bare feet). We only stopped there for a much needed drink but after seeing the beauty of the grounds we felt we had no choice but to do some exploration and after meandering around the gardens which had been designed to be almost maze like we happened upon a spa. In this setting, with this sunset?? OH YES.

We booked ourselves in for treatments a couple of days later.

IMG_0321.jpg

The Grounds of Karsa Spa

We have 2 weeks left here which feels me with a slight panic for there are still lots of things I want to do before I leave but thankfully if the weather remains good (there has been some rain today), then I think we may just be able to fit them all in.

1 is Hanging Gardens of Bali which is another spa hotel extraordinaire (yes, I do love me some pamperation). The place is tremendously beautiful and romantic – set in the forest and is 7 star so I can’t blame them too much for being a little up their arses but irrespective of how special the place is they should keep in mind that they shouldn’t be charging UK prices in Indonesia. It’s obscene. Anyway, I’m going!

2 is Gilli Islands.  A collection of islands that don’t allow any form of transport on them (Trawangan, Air and Meno), close to Bali with gorgeous beaches (there are no beaches in Ubud), and lots of fancy restaurants, cafes retail shops and hotels.

3 The Yoga Barn – the world’s famous yoga barn where all of the serious yogi’s go. I have never done yoga before but I have deliberately waited especially to come here to learn as there is no better setting and afterall, yoga is all about atmosphere.

4 – Swept Away Restaurant – a restaurant that has intimate tables placed besides a rushing river. You can’t get anymore dramatic then that!

Josh and I have also started videoing some of our antics and we will be releasing them for viewing very soon. We’re calling them #balicam so watch out for them!

Since we have been here we have Skyped my Nan and Grandad, Josh’s parent’s and brother, my sister and my Mum so we haven’t been doing too badly with the contact so far! I have worn my new Birkenstocks religiously since being here and they are so comfortable that I refuse to take them off! Sadly, Josh’s Birkenstocks that he has had for around 10 years and has always praised for their comfort and quality broke the other day so he had to get another pair of sandals whilst we were out. They look slightly like Birkenstocks but they are an Indonesian brand so we’ll have to see how they work out!

I have realised that the Indonesians are very conservative people – conservative in the way they dress and the way they are and so despite the searing heat I have felt a little underdressed walking around in little shorts so I decided to buy some Balinese style trousers – long, white, floaty trousers with discreet slits at the sides to keep you cool. I really like them but more then that I feel much more at ease with the way I’m dressed now afterall, despite the fact that shorts are the norm when in a hot country I wouldn’t want to offend anyone by showing too much skin.

Rest assured I am bloody loving it here. We both feel relaxed and happy and don’t see why on earth we should have to return to the UK at all!! Alas we still have another 2 weeks here before we’re onto our next stop: Seminyak.

We can’t complain too much I guess!

Smell you later!

STori x

IMG_0306.jpg

Campuhan Ridge Walk

Week 1 in paradise

Week 1 in paradise

I’m living in paradise here. I simply don’t know how to describe it any other way.

When we first arrived in Bali I was somewhat bewildered with just how different it was to the UK – now in the throes of arctic like grey and wet misery. I seriously wondered whether I would be okay here.  Would I ever be able to come to terms with the intense level of humidity, the weird creepy crawlies, the strange noises in the middle of the night being omitted from the nearby jungle, and the numerous stray and possibly rabies infected dogs?..

We are staying in a beautiful villa, in a rural part of Ubud amongst the rice paddies. When we chose to come to Bali we knew that we were coming at the beginning of the rainy season so we expected occasional downpours of rain but apart from our very first night so far we have had nothing but sunshine and cloudless blue skies.

Our villa is everything a good holiday accommodation should be – beautiful, comfortable, spacious and clean, and this of course is no coincidence, for when I agreed to do this travelling thing, I told Josh that on no uncertain times would I be staying in shabby accommodations and shabby this is most certainly not.

Set back amongst beautifully manicured tropical gardens, with abundant trees and fragrant flowers surrounding, is a collection of 5 private villa’s, part of an exclusive set of accommodations called Pumpkin Village. Owned by a Korean woman (South not North she assures us!) and her husband, and open for a mere 5 months, she has turned this into a tropical oasis of true peace and tranquility, surrounded by a magnificent abundance of nature.

Our villa, called Indigo, is in a traditional Balinese design, sporting a stunning sun terrace overlooking the lush gardens and water feature, with large vaulted ceilings and tiled floors. The bathroom features a huge stone, sunken bathtub and rain shower in a bathroom that brings the outside in by using all natural materials and having a partially open ceiling amongst natural greenery.

Breakfast is a small but healthy and delicious option of pancakes, natural yoghurt and various tropical fruits and eggs and other things. No meat is served for breakfast here.

At night the outside is alive with the calls of the cicada’s, dragonfly’s, frogs, bats, dogs and goodness knows what else but the most abundant creature here surely must be the caterpillars. At first I didn’t know what on earth these little brown centipede looking things were I kept on seeing. They looked safe enough – just little harmless squiggly looking things who wriggled about on the floor, but when they started entering our villa via the front door (they just crawled right underneath it), I knew that they had to go.

I am not a big fan of creepy crawlies and these were no exception. I understood that technically we were in their territory (aka the jungle), but did they really need to venture into our villa??

On the first day after complaining to the owner about our new roles as caterpillar killers (we had trod on about 10 so far that day), she provided us with some insect spray to kill them with, however though this worked on flying creatures like flies and cockroaches (thankfully we were yet to see any of those yet) and spiders, they did not work on the caterpillar’s and they just kept on coming in unhindered into our room. It was driving me crazy and made my skin crawl everytime I saw them wriggling about on our shiny white tiled floor.

I’m sure that she was quite amused by my obsession with all things creepy and crawlie however I didn’t have a problem with seeing them outside going about their business, I just did not want them crawling on my bed and over my face in the middle of the night.

The Moustache

On the second day, after having a horrifying experience in the middle of the night where Josh and I happened to look over and see a huge black moustache looking thing with literally hundreds of legs crawl right underneath our door and into our villa with a frightful amount of ease we knew that we had to do something drastic.

This beastly thing looked like a super sized centipede, either that or another bloody caterpillar. It was really big and moved so freakishly that even Josh let out an impromptu yell when he saw it and then promptly stomped on it. I do remember the thing being scared of Josh yelling at it as when he did so it stopped dead in it’s tracks (and was dead literally after the fact). After that horrible encounter Josh came up with the brilliant idea of stuffing our spare bath towell’s underneath the door to block the gap that they were coming from. After setting about blocking it with double folded towell’s and then checking it worked for the first 30 minutes I finally had a deep and peaceful sleep.

When we woke up the next morning we assessed the damage and found a few chancer caterpillars crawling around but for the most part it had worked. We had cause for celebration!

During the course of the day we found that a few managed to get through but nothing like it had been before, and the ones who did manage to get through we promptly disposed of.

On day 3 the owner of the villa’s had come up with an even better idea – she affixed a blocker to the bottom of our door (only ours you understand as essentially we were the only ones staying in the complex which I could not understand but was certainly not complaining about!). This blocker was like small bristles that even the smallest of creatures couldn’t penetrate and since she put it on we haven’t seen any caterpillars at all! Hurrah!

We are however living with 2 gecko’s. One who we have called Gordan and another much smaller one, a baby one infact who we have affectionately named Gordan’s son. No idea whether they are even related but there you go. We are happy for them to live here for we hardly ever see them and they are taking care of the spiders and other ad hoc creatures that do somehow manage to find their way in.

Pondering on our creepy crawly killing campaign afterwards, I would be lying if I said I didn’t feel a little bad about all of the ones we’ve killed. Afterall the Indonesian people are a people with an accute respect for nature and the creatures within it. I did wonder what they felt about having all of these Westerners essentially come into their environment and kill what was there before them.

Did I feel a little guilty for that? Sure I did, but I maintain that I can appreciate the abundance and variety of the creatures that live here, and even be in awe of them but what I most certainly cannot deal with is caterpillar’s crawling around my abode. This is my refuge and I cannot be bombarded with creepy crawlie horrors. I am infact repulsed by the very thought of them. So for that reason alone I felt that we had no choice but to dispose of them until we found a better way of dealing with the issue. And thankfully now we had.

We are getting about by scooter here as this is the most effective and popular mode of transport in Bali. There is a little issue of poor street lights, insane traffic, no road safety (like traffic lights or street signs), and stray dogs waltzing into your path but other than that it’s fine. At least it’s faster then taking a car due to the very small roads and congestion, and you can park pretty much anywhere.

We have found lots of great places to eat and coffee shops from which to work from – and there are two places we’ve been particularly impressed with: Clear Cafe and Folk Pool and Gardens.

Clear Cafe was recommended to us by the owner of our villa. Josh and I have been vegetarian for 2 months so we were on the look out for the best places in Bali for vegetarian food and she told us that the food there, a mixture of vegetarian and fish dishes, was good but more than that she said that she thought that we would appreciate the decor. Since she herself obviously has an eye for interior design and ambience based on the high standards of our accommodation, we knew that we could rely on her to give us good advice and so one afternoon we went there to check it out.

When we arrived we entered via an intricately carved round wooden door in the middle of a busy side road.

Greeted by flowers at our feet and a strong scent of incense permeating the air, we were met by a smiling Balinese girl in elaborate traditional dress who after welcoming us in promptly asked us to remove our shoes. There were to be no shoes worn by anyone in this establishment! Even the staff were barefooted. For some reason I was really excited by the thought of walking around barefooted in a restaurant!

We padded through, taking in the beautifully decorated open air restaurant with it’s ambient and lighting, scented with a sensual floral-woody fragrance, a small bridge over which we crossed with carpe swimming underneath, past the tropical, green plant walls and up the stairs with flower blooms scattered all over them. When we made it up with the stairs as I was loving every moment of walking around barefooted and having all of my senses stimulated, I was getting increasingly excited about eating here – especially since they were ethical enough to only be offering vegetarian food.

I had already decided I loved it here and that was before I knew about the in-house spa! Not content with just providing tasty vegetarian food in a laid back and ambient environment, these people had gone one step further and opened up a bloody spa in the restaurant. So one minute you could be eating a vegetarian nasi goreng and the next getting a deep tissue massage and facial in one of the back rooms by one of the resident masseuses. Unbelievable!! I was in awe of this place – what an amazing idea to combine a spa and restaurant, and you simply wouldn’t believe how cheap it was either. Criminally cheap!

Unfortunately, on this occasion we wouldn’t be able to enjoy the delights of Clear and their clean cuisine and luxury spa treatments as they didn’t take cards (just cash) and since we had run out of cash we were unable to eat there but rest assured – we will absolutely be going back and will update you accordingly. Infact Aunty Jac is coming to Ubud in a few days, as she’s here for an extended holiday with my Uncle Dennis so I have decided that we will take them there for lunch!

Folk was a place we stumbled upon when we were looking for somewhere to have a coffee and do some work. Josh is working on his Amazon business and I’m helping with it aswell as doing some writing and taking the opportunity to work on my website etc whilst I’m away.

While we were there we ordered a prawn and lemongrass curry which we were pretty sure would be average but average it was not!

The decor at Folk was cool- wooden, shabby chic, nothing much to rave about but this prawn curry really was something else! Bursting with flavour, languishing in a homemade sauce of indescribable deliciousness, this prawn curry was undoubtedly the best either of us had ever tasted. I could see a sign telling us that they also had a pool and garden but it was far too humid to work for long in the air conditioned building let alone be out in the mid day sun so we didn’t bother checking it out however on one of our nights in town looking for somewhere to go for dinner we happened to pop into Folk again as Josh was going to leave me there for a short while while he went and collected the bike and brought it closer. We were on Monkey Forest Road which was indeed where the monkeys had their forest, and when we had walked past them they had been jumping through the trees and squawking loud enough for me to not want to walk past there again, not to mention the numerous stray dogs that we had to pass on the way down. But before I could even sit down to read the drinks menu a member of staff came up to Josh and I, and told us to follow him – the gardens out back were much nicer for dinner at night he told us. I didn’t know why he singled us out particularly as I could see plenty of other couples sitting in there but I wasn’t going to argue. If he was taking me to a better area then I was all for it!

Well, I can tell you it was a MUCH better area. The ambience alone was well worth it. Tables and chairs had been placed around a huge pool, with day beds on one side and tables with umbrellas on the other side, a large circular bar area and outdoor restaurant seating area with a huge floral display on show and there were deck chairs on a large patch of grass at the back and lounge tables underneath the trees complete with fairy lights and some seriously good music (I even shazamed some it was that good).

The place felt casually magical and the food was on par with what we’d experienced when we had eaten here before. I was really happy and relaxed there. Apparently you could book one of the day beds or the beds beside the pool and the restaurant had different themes each night. We’ll be back!

Back at our villa we were being treated like a king and queen to the point that sometimes it did feel a little uncomfortable. We were staying in a boutique hotel which by their very nature are always more personal and attentive, but we were also in low season and were staying for a whole month which meant we got the whole team of staff looking after us aswell as the use of the facilities to ourselves. We didn’t even see anyone else!

The Timotei Effect

I feel like I’m living in a live ad of Timotei or Herbal Essences shampoo. It’s so beautiful and peaceful here that it is hard to believe that we are not amongst paradise itself. The plants and trees are so abundant and so green, the flowers so vibrant and fragrant, and the sounds of the birds and cicada’s relaxing. Even the birds and butterflies here are superior – fluttering about in a dreamy like motion, and as for the fruits! – well, the mangos, banana’s and pineapple are some of the best I’ve tasted.

The best part of our accommodations aside from the setting itself is definitely our sunken bath. We have had a luxury bath almost every night complete with Rituals Bath Oil curtesy of my sister and citronella candles to keep the beasts away and I can tell you it has been glorious!! I also brought some Rose scented Bath Bombs from Lush with me from England and I am very much looking forward to using them at some point in our time out here. In addition to this we have rainbows in our shower. No, I’m not making it up! – we actually have rainbows. The combination of the sunlight, water and mirrors creates a rainbow every time we shower. It’s beautiful! Now do you believe me when I say we’re living in paradise?

Since there has been alot of development from Westerners, mostly the Aussie’s who are a short plane ride away from Bali, there are lots of notable retail shops, restaurants, yoga establishments and hotels popping up everywhere,and they all make the most of the Balinese sense of nature, beauty and spirituality. We have also had the pleasure of witnessing not 1, not 2, but 3 seperate blessing ceremony’s in the short time that we have been here. They are very religious here (but not in the militant Christianity or Islamic sense of the word). Their religiosity is more an appreciation of nature and the continuation of life which I can respect.

Our villa has already been blessed twice since we have been here – and I’m not talking about the daily housekeeping and impeccable service which has been faultless so far, but literally blessed with the whole staff team coming around with scented incense, flowers and offerings to leave on and around our villa. It both smells and looks beautiful.

I can’t say whether or not I feel that we have been blessed, but thus far, being here has indeed been a blessing.

Checklist for my SE Asian Travels

Checklist for my SE Asian Travels

Beautiful Bali

When I decided a year ago to go travelling around SE Asia, I never quite realised just what was involved. I had assumed it was just a matter of getting my passport, packing up my things and leaving but how wrong was I!

What with the Visa’s (both Thai and Indonesian), renting our house whilst we’re away, securing cat sitters, vaccinations, flights and accommodation, it has taken us a full year to get everything lined up. And then there’s the danger element posed by a location such as this – the stinger suits for box jellyfish and super strength mosquito repellent for the Zika, Dengue, Japanese Encephalitis and Malaria carrying mossies. The vaccinations for the Japanese encephalitis alone cost an eye watering £170. The travel clinic also suggested that we get a Rabies injection but at £150 and no intention of going anywhere near stray dogs, that wasn’t gonna happen.

I guess it hasn’t sunk it just yet that I’m off for 4 months to an exotic and strange locale but that might just be because I’ve still got so much to do!

Here are a few things I’m taken with me from England that I just can’t live without:

Liz Earle, Cleanse & Polish Hot Cloth Cleanser – this cleanser keeps my skin soft, supple and clean. It also is made using natural ingredients which is very important to me.

Lush, Rose Jam Shower Gel – an absolutely beautiful smelling shower gel made with Turkish Roses. It smells heavenly and usually only comes out at Christmas so I made sure I got the biggest one I could find!

Yogi Flow, Shower Foam – because I’m going to the spiritual home of Bali and this is something the God’s would surely approve of.

Australian Gold, Sun Cream (30 SPF) – I love the coverage of this product and it smells pretty good too!

Ben’s 30, Insect Repellent  – Following some intensive research, this brand of insect repellent was thought to be the most effective in repelling the dreaded mossies and since I am particularly susceptible to their bite (don’t ask me why!) I thought it best to pick up a few. This one has 30% DEET in it but I also bought a natural mosquito repellent.

Stingray Australia, Stinger Suit – I bought this suit after finding out that the deadly and almost transparent creature the Box JellyFish are in the waters of Thailand and Bali. There have been a number of deaths over the past couple of years from this creature and no doubt even more then what has been recorded. Swimming Without Stress seem to be the only company in the UK that stock this suit, which has been specially designed to withstand the deadly sting of the jellyfish. Since there is no way of preventing the jellyfish from stinging, and you can hardly see it in the water, I decided that in order to preserve my life (or just feel at ease whilst swimming in the sea), I would wear one.

Laura Mercier, Tinted Moisturiser – I stopped wearing about 10 years ago and only wear Tinted Moisturiser now as I find it doesn’t clog my pores and keeps my skin looking and feeling healthy. This one from Laura Mercier has an SPF of 15 which means it’s great for wearing in the daytime also though I don’t really wear makeup on a daily basis – I keep this for nights out instead.

Superdrug, Cocoon Perfume Mist Spray – since there’s not much point wearing heavy perfumes which you’ll just sweat off in the Bali heat I thought that this mist spray, which is an intoxicating mixture of Jasmine & Musk would be a good idea to wear instead. It’s really cheap (only £3.99!) and has surprising sillage (a fancy word for ‘throw’).

Sunday is the day I’m flying out via Singapore and my first stop is Ubud! I look forward to updating you on my travels as I go and who knows, I might even try some surfing while I’m there?!

surfer-wave-sunset-the-indian-ocean-390051