Week 1 in Koh Samui, Thailand

Week 1 in Koh Samui, Thailand

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We arrived in Koh Samui, Thailand with a great sigh of relief.

Our long transfer between Don Mueang Airport in Bangkok to Suvarnabhumi Airport left us with literally minutes to spare before our plane took off and we were convinced that we would miss our flight.

We had no idea when we booked our flights to Koh Samui via Bangkok that the transfer between it’s airports would be so long and during the what felt like almost 2 hour transfer we grew increasingly more and more relieved that we hadn’t chosen Bangkok as one of our travel destinations because from what we could see Bangkok looked utterly horrendous.

Bangkok was a city that was both noisy, busy, dirty and absolutely HUGE. Not at all what we were looking for.

2 years ago Josh and I had visited the Thai island of Koh Samui and had fallen in love with the tropical paradise that seemed to offer alot more then just stunning beaches. A true taste of Thailand, it was a great spot from which to visit the many other neighbouring islands, see ancient Buddhist temples, sample the world famous Thai cuisine, meet with endangered animals, languish on palm fringed beaches, and experience the centuries old wellness traditions that see Thailand as having some of the best spa’s in the world. Indeed, Koh Samui appeared to have it all.

We have never been the slightest bit interested in visiting Bangkok because it sounded as if it was the seedy part of Thailand. We wanted to experience a much more natural environment and see a more traditional way of life so we had chosen Koh Samui as our first stop in Thailand where we would be staying for a month and then we were off to Chiang Mai, the magical, spiritual place in the mountains.

After our experience with miserable Lena The Cleaner at Uncle Tom’s Rotten Cabin in Bali, I was a little concerned about what we might encounter when we arrived at our new villa in Thailand. In Canggu, we had been staying at a brand new luxury hotel, and being only the second people to ever stay there it was ultra, ultra clean with no creepy crawlies whatsoever. And now that I had firsthand experienced of people essentially LYING about the quality of their establishments on Airbnb I had cause for concern because I knew that I would not be able to deal with any frowsiness or nastiness therefore I was praying that the description and pictures that had been posted online were accurate.

Our 3 bedroom private villa was located in Mae Nam, in the middle of Santiburi Golf Course – Samui’s largest Golf Club. From what we could see of the pictures the villa looked not just huge (it was over 4 thousand square feet!) but lovely too, with lots of beautiful and original features, it’s very own infinity pool, balconies from the bedrooms overlooking the surrounding forest and mountains, a sala (a traditional Thai open pavilion where you can sit and be protected from the sun and rain), tropical gardens and an out-house, where the master bedroom was located with it’s own luxurious outdoor bathroom.

When we had found it we were immediately seduced by the spaciousness, and how clean and immaculate it looked. Also my sister was going to be coming to Thailand to stay with us for just under 2 weeks (yay!) so we knew that we had to get somewhere reasonably big and this villa comfortably housed 6 people so we had plenty of space!

We were picked up from the airport by the villa manager called Tor (yeah I know, lol) who seemed lovely and very professional (not at all like miserable Lena the Cleaner!)

I knew that we were staying in a private residence that was essentially on the grounds of a golf course but this still did not prepare me for the long drive through the forest to get to our villa.

When we turned off of the main road onto the windy road that was to be our refuge for the next month I began to get excited. What an entrance! With gigantic coconut trees lining the path on both sides and the sunshine streaming through the trees it was all very wild and dramatic. Round and round the windy road we went, with the forest getting denser and denser as we went. We passed a few small houses on the way, but the more we drove the less habitation we saw and then I could have sworn that I saw an animal amongst the trees – it looked to me like a bull or something. What kind of location is this? I’m being taken to I began to wonder.

Minutes later and we were still driving through this jungle of a place and I began to get concerned as it dawned on me that Josh and I would have to do this journey everyday! And since Josh was so into this scooter business at the moment then we would have to do this journey everyday on a scooter in the dead of night as this place had sporadic lighting.

Almost 6 minutes later and we arrived at our villa and by then we were so deep into the forest that I couldn’t for the life of me remember the way back!

Our villa thankfully, came as a pleasant surprise. Located down the end of a quiet, residential tree lined street, it had an immediate feel of calm and exclusivity about it. Despite being so deep into the forest, there were clearly many other foreigners who had bought land here and had built their own villa’s in this very remote and peaceful location. You really were surrounded on all sides here by thousands and thousands of Coconut trees that seemed to go on for miles and miles. All you could see where Coconut trees, and apart from the roads that meandered to the various houses scattered among it there were no other roads, therefore no road noise.

And despite the lack of a sea view, it had a magnificent view of the surrounding hills and mist covered mountains that was spellbinding. I needn’t have worried about frowsiness thankfully because the villa was immaculate. Clearly belonging to an older European couple, the villa was crammed full of oriental art and statues, plus it had books for days! The owners had left us a manual, which was both comprehensive and funny, giving us lots of information about the house and the surrounding area.  They said that they lived there for 3 months of the year and we could tell because the place felt very homely though the decor was perhaps a tad dated.

When we arrived we also met the cleaners who had done an amazing job of cleaning the villa and had left us with fresh flowers in almost every room and a bowl full of fresh fruit and a fridge full of drinks to welcome us. And we did feel very welcome.

We took a stroll around the villa and were pleased to find the 2 double bedrooms in the main house immaculately clean with towell decorations and flowers on the beds, plus they both had en suites and balconies with stunning views of the mountains. I was sure my sister was going to be very pleased with either!

The large kitchen was open plan and lead out to the tropical gardens on one side and a generously appointed infinity pool on the other. Seating too was abundant, with a dining table in the kitchen, comfortable sofa’s in the front room, another dining table outside by the pool, cushioned chairs in the sala, chairs on the balcony outside our room, sunbeds beside the pool and chairs in all of the bedrooms. We were literally spoilt for choice when it came to where we chose to luxuriate ourselves!

Our master bedroom was particularly lovely. It had floor to ceiling windows on all sides and though slightly overlooked on one side due to it partially facing a neighbours poolside it was protected by foliage, yet still felt wonderfully private and luxurious. It was HUGE, with a dark wood four poster bed and carefully chosen pieces of art signifying it’s grandeur. But of course for me being the bath lover that I am, and certainly my main reason for me wanting this villa in particular, was the bathroom.

Double doors lead us into a marble floored bathroom which was spacious with his and hers sinks, a seperate shower and a glass partition that lead outside to a stunning outdoor bathtub with a surrounding wall, pebbled flooring and a view of the tall coconut trees swaying in the breeze.

Conjuring up an evening outside in the bathtub by candlelight with the scent of orchids and frangipani’s growing freely in our gardens I felt at ease.

Yes, I considered. I think we will be happy here.

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Our 3 bedroom villa with seperate master suite and infinity pool 

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Double doors leading into our elegant bathroom

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The Master Suite

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An outdoor bathtub (yay!)

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Pool Access, just like at Sense, but here, we have it all to ourselves!

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Balcony view from our villa 

Skeeter Syndrome 

The next morning I awoke to an intense throbbing and itchy pain on my buttocks, my thighs and my legs. The mosquitoes had DESTROYED ME. Realising that when the cleaners were here preparing for our arrival they must have left the doors and windows wide open, the mosquitoes probably sensing new blood (i.e me because they never seem to go after Josh!) had basically ravaged me and when I awoke to see how many times this abominable mosquitos (or indeed mosquitoes) had bitten me I was left in shock. They had literally bitten me about 20 times!!

After Josh checked me over properly he found that it was even worse then we had initially thought – some of my bites had swollen up and were hot to the touch – particularly the one on my thigh. I have had this reaction before to mosquitoe bites – it appears that I am allergic to them. I had felt really hot in the night, partly it was because it was hot (our ceiling fan was not working and we had turned the AC off), and partly it was because I was uncomfortable in this new place. It always takes me at least a few days to acclimatise particularly when staying in a place so WILD.

Since we had encountered so many abominable creatures in Uncle Tom’s Cabin (such as bats, snails, gecko’s and spiders), and caterpillars and even cockroaches in Pumpkin Village, I was on edge at what might lurching in the darkness. Also, I had heard strange noises in the middle of the night. It sounded like it might be a gecko. For this reason I had probably been sweating like woah, and therefore the mosquitoes had probably gone into into a feeding frenzy (since they are attracted to body heat).

The pain and discomfort on my legs and buttocks, despite me using bite soothing cream did not appear to be improving and instead some of the bites began to become inflamed and I struggled to sleep because of the discomfort. These buzzards had eaten me alive and now I had to sleep on my back to try and get some reprieve.

What is the bloody point of mosquitoes anyway?! I ask you.

 Josh done some further research online and he encountered a symptom of mosquitoe bites called Skeeter Syndrome which he immediately diagnosed me with. Skeeter Syndrome is a severe reaction to the saliva from a mosquitoe which produces an enlarged swelling of the infected area (check), that itches, is painful and is hot to the touch (check, check, check). That’s it! Doctor Josh, lol, prescribed me some antihistamine tablets and hydrocortisone cream to bring down the swelling, plus we got some salt to add to a bath to reduce the swelling also which we picked up from Boots the Chemist would you believe?! Yes, there is a Boots here and they have a Tesco’s too which is where we’ve been doing all of our shopping. It’s great! lol

Bathtub Betty

Now that I have been diagnosed with an allergy to mosquitoes we need to be especially careful about me getting bitten. In our villa we have patio doors with internal mesh sliding doors that you can use when you want a bit of fresh air with no creatures (always then!) and once we had decided to sample our luxurious bathtub we made sure to buy lemongrass scented candles (since we couldn’t find any citronella), and have our bath in the early evening before the mosquitoes emerged to try and find their human dinner. The bathtub was big and comfy, and having the gentle breeze kissing your skin, with the sounds of nature whilst you sit in a steaming hot bath with a rose scented bath bomb is second to none.  The bath was lovely but I still think they should have put mesh over the top as creatures can still fly on it and that is not the most relaxing of experiences. At Pumpkin Village we also had an outdoor bathroom with mesh covering and that seemed to work well (mind you they had an infestation of caterpillars!)

*sigh* this wildness really is a challenge!

Fishermans Village

Fishermans Village is a popular, pedestrianised area in Koh Samui, a short drive away from our villa in Mae Nam, with a collection of some of the best restaurants and boutique retail shops on the island. It’s location alongside Bophut beach, featuring free nightly fire dancing entertainment and it’s famous Friday “night market” where locals sold their arts and crafts and street food, made it one of the most popular places for tourists on the whole island. When we had visited 2 years ago, we liked it so much that we visited it a few times and it was always busy and vibrant. Plus, because alot of the sellers were locals you could pick up some really unique handmade gifts for cheap. There was a particular restaurant that we had discovered whilst there which done really good food so we decided that we’d go back there for dinner.

Barracuda was a restaurant in the middle of Fishermans Village offering deliciously fresh seafood and since Josh and I are trying to stay away from meat, the abundance of fresh fish on their menu suited us just fine. When we visited again we were delighted to find that the food was just as fresh and the menu just as original as we’d found it 2 years ago.

Josh’s Birthday 

It was Josh’s birthday the following day and I had booked a spa day for the both of us and then a wine tasting experience and dinner at The Dining Room, a restaurant in Lamai that we had discovered in Thailand in our previous trip and had fallen in love with.

If you’re wondering whether we have spent all our times in luxury spa’s then you wouldn’t be completely wrong as this would be our 8th spa treatment since being in SE Asia. Not bad at all!

Anantara, the giant of a hotel brand that had stunning resorts all over Asia, was somewhere that I knew would be right up Josh’s and my street. It was both mysterious  and exotic, decorated in a luxurious and unique asian inspired style and heavily influenced by nature so displayed by their use of local wood, distinctive lily ponds and coconut tree lined resorts in far away locales. This is where I had chosen to take Josh for his birthday, during which he would experience almost 3 hours of their spa treatment aptly named the “Gulf of Siam”. Comprising a shower, foot bath, royal thai massage, foot reflexology and an Anantara signature facial after which he was then served a light snack, sounded perfect and I was sure that this, combined with the unique location of the spa amongst a tranquil paradise like tropical gardens, with lily ponds, water fountains, coconut and palm trees, and secret passageways would make for an exceptional experience of pure luxury and abundant relaxation. And I was right. We were taken to a large private walled suite within the gardens where we were pampered to within an inch of our lives.

I had chosen their “Journey of Siam” spa package which was just over 2 hours long and featured a floral foot ritual, herbal thai steam, shower, coconut body scrub, another shower and then a royal thai massage and refreshment and I was utterly knackered by the end of it. Each treatment was equally relaxing and equally luxurious, and the showers amongst the gardens made me feel like I was in the Herbal Essences/Timotei advert again!

They used a blend of wonderfully scented natural ingredients that just soaked right into my skin. I could FEEL the quality. My therapist seemed to know every trick in the Thai book of massages. And in my experience they are the best at it. Afterwards I felt as though I was floating in the air and I was so content and literally falling asleep that at one point I think I may have even dribbled! lol.

Josh on the other hand was literally on the verge of a coma when he returned from his 3 hour pamperation. He even LOOKED different. His body and feet had been massaged to within an inch of their achy lives and his face had been transformed into a shiny new (and perhaps younger) version of his self. I hadn’t told him beforehand what they would be doing to him but all the while he said that he was just thinking to himself: How long can this possibly go on for? lol.

I will admit that it did feel like a deliciously long time but I guess you get what you pay for!

Whilst we were there, we took the opportunity to enquire about Anantara’s Vacation Club – essentially a timeshare for staying in their luxury resorts worldwide. Since we were now convinced about the Anantara brand based on the standard and style of their hotels and the locations of their resorts (they were based througout Asia though they also had a few locations in Africa, and the Middle East also), we took them up on their offer to attend a presentation to promote their various “packages”. Really, we were already half convinced that they were going to come with a request for an extortionate amount of money to opt in that we had no intention of paying but we thought we would hear them out anyway and besides, they were offering free vouchers (worth quite alot of money) to use in their spa’s, select excursions and various high end restaurants on the island whether we did or did not sign up so it was a no brainer!

It was a wonderful experience at Anantara but unfortunately it didn’t leave us much time to go home and change before we had to leave for our dinner reservation and it didn’t look like we would make the wine tasting.

On the way to dinner we remembered seeing a sign for a “Shortcut to Lamai” which was where the hotel/restaurant was located. As I was keen to make the wine tasting that was happening an hour before dinner I agreed that we should definitely take the shortcut which was off of the main road. But little did we know what this shortcut consisted of.

Not more then 5 minutes in we start creeping up a steep incline, it was almost as if we were climbing a mountain it was so steep. I didn’t sign up for this! I scream at Josh and we just about make it over one incline and down a sharp hill that we can’t even see over the dashboard and up another extremely steep mountainous like terrain. I felt like I was in the krypton factor or something – some kind of bloody assault course or a ride in Alton Towers. When we looked ahead all we could see was sharp turns and steep drops on both sides of the road. It was by this time getting darker and darker and we had extremely poor visibility due to the insistence of the Thai authorities of not providing lighting in these kinds of remote areas. It was utterly petrifying. A part of me, a big part, was utterly convinced that we were going to fall to our deaths either because of our gears giving up the ghost and rolling backwards to our deaths or by falling over the side of these narrow and extremely sharp mountain ranges. And since we were not driving a 4 x 4 this was a very possible outcome. It was tense. Thankfully we arrived there in one piece but it was not without a calm and skilled level of driving by Josh.

When we got to the restaurant and told them about our journey the waiter basically told us that it was far too dangerous to drive that way at night, alas there was absolutely NO SIGNAGE to tell us this before we embarked on the perilous journey, or even to inform us of the steep inclines of the road (i.e mountain!).

We decided we would not be going back that way no matter how long it took us how to get home. We were very keen to stay alive.

Dinner was wonderful. And as special as we remembered. The Dining Room is the restaurant of a boutique hotel on Lamai beach called Rocky’s Boutique Resort, which in my opinion is a rubbish name that certainly does not convey the unique position it has on the beach that is both romantic and glamorous at the same time. Thousands of red lanterns hang from the surrounding trees and chairs are set up with huge cushions with tables and twinkling lights on the precipice of a rock face where you can hear and see the waves of the Andaman Sea gently lapping against the shore. Food is a mixture of French and Thai inspired modern cuisine which is delicious and the service is both professional and friendly at the same time. Since we had been there before two years ago I was a little concerned that it wouldn’t be as magical as before but it was the perfect place to spend Josh’s birthday. We sat there reminiscing whilst reflecting on our time in SE Asia so far and how much we were looking forward to the future.

We spent Christmas Eve at Fishermans Village where we watched fire dancers on the beach from a brand new restaurant/beach bar called Coco Tams, which was playing simply AMAZING house music and serving great pizza’s (pizza’s that rivalled Spaccanopoli in Ubud even!). The fire dancers perform nightly on the Bophut beach, and it’s completely free to all. Spinning sticks engulfed in flames, blowing flames sky high and creating a fireworks like display of sparkles with unbelievable care and skill was awe inspiring. And being it was Christmas Eve it felt even more special.

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An abundance of nature and tranquility at Anantara Bophut

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The scene is set at Rocky’s Boutique Resort 

BAP HIM!

That night when we returned home from dinner we found our resident gecko (who doesn’t deserve a name because I didn’t like him), scurrying around our bathroom like a madman. Clearly the gecko was utterly petrified of us and wished to find a place to hide from us and I can well appreciate this, but the fact remains that I’m bloody scared of him too and I do not want to see a small brown lizardy thing scurrying about my bedroom quarters, oozing white tipped brown poo from his scaly bum, and discarding his crusty scaled tail (as they do) as he goes! I’m not into it!

I understand his strategy: He wishes to seek shelter in our abode whilst trapping small insects in the easiest way possible. And he’s completely harmless to humans – he doesn’t bite, scratch, pounce, anything. Perhaps he’s even safer then many other types of household pets such as dogs and cats who can be vicious or carry diseases but the difference is I choose for them to be in my abode. I didn’t choose him. He snuck himself in and scared the bajeezers out of me when I was trying to brush my teeth, then again when I was going to the toilet in the middle of the night, when I was trying to sleep but was rudely awoken by his distinctive clicking sound, or when I grabbed for the towell that he was hiding under after having a shower.

I do not like this element of surprise and I do not like the idea of him pooing his white tipped poo onto my head in the middle of the night. I want him gone! I tell Josh. Josh suggests that he trap him in the bathroom with a box and a broom and gently try to brush him into it, but this gecko doesn’t want to be swept. He wants to live in our abode but that will never do!

The gecko quickly scurries away and hides underneath the sink and after 10 minutes of clearing the whole bathroom and trying to coax him out of his hidey hole Josh eventually decides to give up this particular strategy. Instead, he suggest, I’ll wait for him to appear again and then I’ll BAP HIM!

Nooo! I say to him. I do not want you to BAP HIM! That’s evil! I want him to remain alive but I want him out of our abode. You’re going to have to find a way to get him out without hurting him. I feel sorry for him since we have closed every available entrance (for other creatures such as mosquitoes who might have been getting any ideas about setting up home here) and thus an exit (for him). He can’t get out even if he wanted to.

Josh says to me again that since the gecko is too fast it will be impossible to get him without BAPPING HIM so he plans to go ahead with his plan but he promises to just BAP HIM to stun him not to hurt him. Reluctantly I agree.

Since then we haven’t seen nor heard hide nor hair from the gecko. He must understand what BAP HIM means, lol.

 The Weather in Samui

Unfortunately we haven’t had fantastic weather since we’ve been here. It hasn’t rained but it has been overcast which hasn’t really made us feel inspired to go to the beach and I feel as though my tan is fading which will never do!

Nonetheless, we have been swimming in our private saltwater infinity pool at our villa and it has been wonderful. And we visited Cheong Mon beach, considered to be one of the best beaches in Samui for the firsttime too. We didn’t think it was all that when we saw it but perhaps that was partly because it didn’t seem to be that big, there was lots of children and it was overcast that day. Chaweng is the most popular beach in Samui because it’s huge, there are lots of beach bars and restaurants etc posted on it and it has some of the cleanest, clearest water and white sand. But because of this it also attracts hoardes of tourists, including lots of Brits but unfortunately, they are not looking the best.

In comparison to Bali, where everyone was healthy, tanned and lovely, the people who come to Thailand look decidedly bloated, and suspiciously red raw like a lobster. Perhaps they are spending far too much time in the sun, eating far too many pies and drinking far too many beers *sigh*.

Christmas Day

Christmas Day we spent at the beach as in the afternoon the clouds decided to clear and we experienced brilliant sunshine for a couple of hours. The beach wasn’t as busy as I remembered it being thankfully, and it was refreshingly devoid of hardly any mention of it being Christmas Day which suited us just fine. The Thai people do not celebrate Christmas so why should they make an exception for Westerners. Do we make exceptions for their religious/important holidays? No, of course not. So I very much enjoyed spending a day without having the commercialism of Christmas being rammed down my throat, the cheesiness of the songs and the tackiness of the decorations. I was very happy! We had a leisurely lunch at The Library, another Thai establishment well known for it’s original, contemporary designed hotel and more specifically it’s red coloured swimming pool which did look very inviting I must say. The food was delicious – we both had vegetarian green thai curry and it was fresh and very very tasty.

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Chaweng Beach

Zazen

The decision to spend our Christmas Dinner at Zazen (minus the actual Christmas menu like all good Thai hotels on Christmas Day) was in part because Zazen had been my original choice of where to take Josh for his birthday dinner before deciding on The Dining Room as it was special to both of us.  Zazen, along with The Dining Room, were both considered to be two of the most romantic restaurants in Koh Samui, and perhaps coincidentally they both featured the colour red prominently in their establishments.

Like Rocky’s, Zazen was also a hotel, spa and restaurant, and perhaps similarly to Anantara, they were all about creating an otherwordly type of experience by combining unique architecture, with natural materials, an exquisite and ultra luxurious Asian inspired decor, landscaped tropical gardens and an impressive entrance. And as it was Christmas Day, even though they were far too high end to be cheesy with out and out Christmas decorations, they still used the combination of twinkly lights to full effect by draping almost every tree in them in the leisurely and extremely long walk up to the main reception through the beautiful natural gardens.

By the time we made it to the restaurant both Josh and I were already sold. The place was simply magical.

But they had more for us. We went for a 6 course seafood menu, and each and every dish they brought us was beyond our expectations. The food, and in particular the prawns which were hands down the best prawns I have ever had in my entire life! was certainly prepared by the hands of a master chef. The prawns were the juiciest, the freshest and the moistest and most flavourful I have had. I don’t know how long they had been marinating in the sauce but goodness me!

The decoration too, was tasteful but simply festive and Josh and I had the pleasure of being sat next to a huge red hued Christmas tree which made it feel very festive indeed. Such an absolutely stunning, stunning place! I was so impressed with the service, the food and the restaurant and hotel itself that I have decided that when my sister arrives we’re going back!

When we returned home from dinner we made sure to Skype both of our families to with them a Merry Christmas. Funnily enough they have seen/heard more from us since we’ve been away!

This Christmas in Thailand has been so special, so very relaxing and stress free that the only thing that has been missing has been our families. If they had been here then I believe we would have easily reached perfection (and we didn’t even exchange gifts!)

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Magical Zazen

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STori x

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Bali: The Good, The Bad, The Ugly and the downright FUGLY

Bali: The Good, The Bad, The Ugly and the downright FUGLY

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Joy Berries Kombucha at La Brisa 

After two glorious months in Bali, “The Land of the God’s”, we have finally reached the end of our time here.

Tomorrow, we travel onwards to Thailand “The Land of Smiles, where we will be spending another two months in Koh Samui and Chiang Mai.

So, what can I tell you about Bali?..

Well, I can tell you that it is a land of contradictions and immense natural beauty and I can also tell you that we have both enjoyed our time in Bali so much that if our families weren’t so far away we could happily live here.

Bali has recently been named by Tripadvisor as, and I quote “The best destination on earth” and now that we have been here for awhile we understand why.

Since we have lived in essentially 4 different areas in Bali, including Ubud, North Kuta/Seminyak, Legian and Canggu, I feel that we are both reasonably knowledgeable about what to expect in each of these places.

Ubud is Bali’s Spiritual Centre. A magical place with an abundance of ancient temples and ancient Balinese traditions. It is a place of staggering natural beauty – a land full of magic where you can see the most beautiful rice fields, rainforests and rolling green hills. Though it wasn’t the easiest to live there, the sense of peace and tranquillity I experienced there I will always remember fondly. People go there to experience it’s beauty of course, but also for it’s more laidback way of life – the pace is much slower there then in the other places we visited. It is also well renown for it’s yoga and wellbeing culture, which I could attest to after stumbling upon places such as Karsa Spa and Clear Cafe.

North Kuta/Seminyak where we lived for 3 terrifying nights in Uncle Tom’s Rotten Cabin was a horrendous experience all in all. To cross the road to get into Seminyak Village you were essentially gambling with your life as seemingly the whole of Seminyak was on a motorbike or scooter and with no foreseeable traffic lights or road safety period, it was truly an everyman for himself type of situation, including you if you were on foot. Timing and bravery was imperative just to survive.

Though Seminyak wasn’t a bad choice of areas to stay because it was close to lots of fancy restaurants, coffee and retail shops, it was perhaps a little too busy for us and unfortunately our accommodation there left alot to be desired. Uncle Toms Cabin was a bloody shambles. To think that he had succeeded in tricking us into booking his miserable establishment via Airbnb still vexes me. I knew as soon as the cab started meandering down a dark and narrow alleyway that something was amiss. And when we clapped eyes on the bedraggled Lena the Cleaner who didn’t so much as smile at us upon our arrival I knew that we had made a grave mistake. I will also remember the dead eyed expression on her face and her monotone answer when I enquired after information about the villa. She said: “No information”

What do you mean “No information” you abominable woman?! – we booked this villa on Airbnb and it was not cheap, yet you don’t seem to know fuck all about it and have had the audacity to try and lock us out of one of our own bedrooms!

What a bloody cheek.

This slovenly looking woman didn’t even know the WIFI password for goodness sake. Plus the pool was dirty with questionable looking things languishing on the bottom. Pray tell how she can be described as a cleaner or a villa manager?! What a joke.

I felt uncomfortable the entire time I was in that place. Dirty and uncomfortable. We literally had a family of gecko’s living in our villa. Now I have nothing against gecko’s per say but they are supposed to be seen and not heard yet these ghetto gecko’s were literally fighting for territory on our ceiling!

What on earth is going on?!

Initially the notion of having an outdoor kitchen and living area sounded great! We imagined that we would sit there in the afternoon having a leisurely lunch cooked by ourselves in our kitchen and then a dip in our pool buck nekkid. Oh yes. We were very much looking forward to the ultimate sense of privacy we would feel in our very own private garden and pool. But OH NO. I was scared in that bloody place! I honestly didn’t know what I was going to see next! In the 3 short days that we were there I had seen every conceivable creature one could imagine. I know that we were inundated with those bloody caterpillars in Ubud and they were really annoying but that is something you would kind of expect living near a jungle in the middle of the countryside but this villa was in a busy city!

Why on earth are there giant snails in the garden? a worm in the pool? a spider in the bathroom? a bat on the floor? a gecko on the ceiling? rabid dogs in the alley? cockroaches on the roadside?

I’M NOT INTO IT I TELL YOU!!

After our experience at Uncle Tom’s Rotten Cabin I do not recommend outdoor kitchens at all. They look nice in the pictures but in theory unless you are happy with creatures crawling around in your cornflakes then it’s not a good look. In our villa we had to keep the 4 doors in it closed so as to not invite creatures i.e mosquitoes into our bedrooms. It was not a user friendly experience at all.

According to the pictures online the villa looked brand spanking new, clean, stylish and modern. So what the bloody hell had happened?!

Josh reminded me of our first foray into town from Uncle Toms Cabin just last night  – he asked me if I remembered seeing a lump of dog poo on a patch of artificial grass on our way there. Now if that isn’t a sign that we needed to get the hell out of there then I don’t know what is!

Legian was the worst of all. When we arrived at our hotel The Akmani we initially thought that we had done bloody well. We hadn’t been happy with Uncle Tom’s Rotten Cabin and finally, through sheer determination and a little strategy we had found a way out of our contract to stay there for a month and move to a new place, but when we arrived at our new hotel it soon became abundantly clear that we were in the wrong area: AGAIN. Despite doing my research before we had come to Bali and identifying either Seminyak or Canggu as being the best areas to stay in we had somehow been tricked into booking this Legian nastiness.

In Legian, there only seemed to be one type of person there: Loud, drunken Australian’s. I simply could not identity any other type of person asides from the Indonesian’s themselves who compared to the ones we had experienced in Ubud, also left alot to be desired. In Legian, the streets were even busier then in Seminyak with an overwhelming amount of motorbikes, cars, taxi’s and scooters crowding the roads and lots and lots of market stalls selling cheap tatt to drunken barefooted Australians crowding the pavements. There was also suddenly lots of beggars which we never saw at all in Ubud.

I reached my lowest ebb the same night we arrived when we went for a meal at Mama’s German, which had been recommended to us by staff at our hotel, but which was literally one of the most foul restaurants I had had the misfortune to dine in. Coupled with the abominable German man in there with his German sausage and far too young Indonesian girlfriend and the American man who looked like he had just escaped from Iraq, also with an Indonesian girlfriend who he never spoke a word to, and the fact that almost everyone in the restaurant was smoking a cigarette with their dinner (yes, that is okay here), I simply could not deal. Needless to say the food matched the decor and the clientele: Horrendo.

Had we of left it just a little bit longer, had we of decided to give the Akmani, and Legian as a whole more of a chance, we would have found ourselves up shit’s creek without a paddle. In short: we would have been stuck in Legian. This is because we had booked the hotel on Booking.com, who had a policy of allowing you to cancel only up to midnight on the day you arrived to incur only a minimal charge and thank goodness we had had the sense to look into those terms when we arrived in order to make the decision on the same day that we were moving. Again.

Moving to Canggu was a no brainer. We had been looking at staying there initially but eventually had become tempted by this villa in North Kuta/Seminyak that turned out to be a nightmare. Since being in Canggu I haven’t seen not one cockroach. Compare this with just 4 nights of staying in Legian/Kuta where I saw on average around 7 cockroaches looking like they were very much at home there and you will understand what I mean when I use the word FILTH. Canggu reminds both Josh and I of Ubud here, and has confirmed what we already knew: we don’t like busy cities. We don’t particularly enjoy it when there are lots of people around, or when it’s too noisy and for us cleanliness is of paramount importance. We have had that here. And what we have also had is an abundance of healthy eateries, even more so then in Ubud infact. Because Canggu is the place for healthy bodies and minds. There are lots of Yoga studio’s here and a huge surfer lifestyle.

Infact if you don’t surf (like me), then you are in the minority. It is far more chilled here too, unlike in Legian and Kuta which I assume has lots of cheesy nightclubs. The music playing in the restaurants, cafes and coffee shops in Canggu has been nothing short of amazing.  The play better music here then in any other public place in any country that I’ve been to. And that includes London. How could this possibly be? you ask. Well I really haven’t got a clue but it is a fact. I know it because I’ve shazamed music more times here then anywhere else!

Finn’s Beachclub we visited a few days ago and we had the best of times. In part this is because it’s a really cool place to go during the day, partly because of the food (I had some crepes there and they were delicious!) and partly it’s because of the music that this particular DJ was playing there. Shazam was simply unable to return any matches for my searches.

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Delicious, fresh coconut!

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Another magical sunset at Finns

A country of wonderful contradictions

Stay away from Legian and Kuta unless you like frowsiness, traffic, dirt, beggars, cigarettes, fry ups, cockroaches, or drunken Australians and Europeans on the prowl for young Indonesian girls.

Seminyak remains a good choice if you want to stay in a fancy hotel close to the beach where you can still be in walking distance to all of the great Seminyak establishments such as Sisterfields and La Favela or do some retail shopping. They also have lots of amazing interior design shops there.

Canggu is for people who want a more laid back, quieter stay in Bali that’s close to the beach but in the middle of picturesque countryside. Though it is quite developed in some areas with fancy coffee shops and healthy food restaurants etc, it is still essentially a residential area that is mainly inhabited by Indonesians. We could easily live here and be happy.

Ubud is a remote area in the centre of Indonesia, famed for it’s tourism due to it’s infamous landscapes that it has in abundance but for us it ended up being a little too remote. It does however have a special kind of magic and is a perfect holiday destination for nature lovers. And thus of course, we will be back!

Burns Victim

I have been a victim of being burnt by a boiling hot kettle.

Living with a black woman, Josh has had to endure his fare share of afro haircare duties and trials and tribulations that at the time must have seemed completely alien to him, lol.  He has (albeit extremely reluctantly and with moaning and complaining throughout) helped me to remove my micro braids, my faux locs, and just recently, I asked him to help to dip my freshly twisted hair into a kettle of boiling water (which is a technique braid and locs hairdressers use to create waves or curls) as I couldn’t quite reach the back. Now before you (Mum!) tell me how dangerous this is, I was wearing a towell at the time, and we have done it before, but on this occasion I was sitting in an awkward position on the edge of the bath and as he was dipping the ends he started telling me that the towell wasn’t on properly so naturally I began to adjust it and as I done so he accidentally poured the boiling water down my back!

I let out a loud yelp!

He felt really bad about it afterwards and I used his guilt to good effect as I played patient and he played doctor for the rest of the day. Thankfully it didn’t burn my skin, it just irritated my mosquito bite is all, which is probably a good thing!

METIS

The restaurant we went to before our party was a fine dining French restaurant in Petitenget, which incidentally wasn’t too far away from our beloved Som Chai. Petitenget was renowned as having a “restaurant strip” with some of the best restaurants in Bali (including Som Chai, Merah Putih and METIS amongst others) within walking distance of one another. I had identified METIS as being somewhere that I wanted to go to because it wasn’t just a fine dining restaurant but a fine art gallery too!

The setting, understandably considering it was an art gallery also, was suitably refined, with lots of statues for you to peruse on your way into the restaurant and the gallery had many many beautiful pieces of art, including a particularly stunning collection of paintings featuring beautiful African women and children. Alot of what they had there was vintage and clearly extremely expensive. Obviously I’m no art collector but I could see that what they had there was rare and beautiful. The food was good, Josh thought it was just okay, but it was the setting was what it was really about. Clearly the owner wanted to showcase this wares and what better way to do it then to combine the two.

The gardens that the restaurant was built around was magnificent. While we waited for Josh’s souffle to be cooked we meandered around the gardens which was essentially a huge Japanese garden with a difference. It was beautiful and very well done! In it there were various water features, statues, flowers, trees and ponds. You couldn’t possibly be bored in this garden of wonders.

La Brisa Rave Up!

La Brisa had a party to celebrate the opening of their new expanding beachclub which I didn’t quite understand as trust me this place didn’t need to be expanded AT ALL. I don’t know how many people you could get into this place, but it surely had to be thousands! Looking at it from the beach it looked deceivingly small, but once you entered it it was like a neverending maze of a place, with multiple levels, a huge swimming pool, an area for hundreds of bean bags, hideouts, lounge areas, dining areas, and if you were really smart, sleeping areas! It was still our favourite place of all in Canggu so when they invited Josh and us to their upcoming party that was happening 2 days before we left Bali of course we said we’d go. As it was, we had been there, to Sisterfields and to Peloton enough times that the staff remembered us in each place. Not sure if that’s a good or a bad thing!

When we got to La Brisa it had just started to rain but that didn’t stop the people from arriving in their droves for the best party on the island! What I loved most about La Brisa was it’s mystery – it had so much magic to offer and most people didn’t even know it existed! But I had seen posters advertising this party as far as Seminyak so I knew that the place would be jumping. And it was. The DJ was playing some bangers, and for the first time since arriving in this sleepy part of the countryside I was about to really get down and it felt GOOD. By the end of it both Josh and I were sweating hard as La Brisa had the benefit of a good sound system and great house DJ playing.

When we got too hot we were able to go directly from the club onto the beach and watch the waves crash against the shore. It was a luxury I had never experienced in London and knew that I never would.

The Motorcycle Accident 

On our way back home following a great evening at METIS for dinner and then onto the party at La Brisa, we had a motorcycle accident and I injured my foot. This time, it was because Josh had misjudged the space between our scooter and the literally thousands of others that were parked on the beach, and when he went to drive through a very tight space at speed between the parked scooters he accidentally scraped my foot against one of the parked vehicles causing me to yelp loudly! again.

Josh has asked me not to report these abuses as he feels too awful and embarrassed by them but what good is the story to leave such scenarios out? lol. My foot is fine anyway, I just scraped it a little but the irony was not lost on either of us as we have literally had a scooter everyday for a whole 2 months driving it here, there and everywhere and we have never had an accident of any kind despite being in many hairy moments on the road! Josh is a very safe driver normally yet 2 days before we leave Bali we have an accident in the bloody car park! Typical.

 Unique Indonesia

At Clear Cafe, they have a restaurant and a spa.

At METIS, they have a fine dining restaurant and a fine art gallery.

At Deus Ex Machina, they have a motorbike shop, a cafe, a barbershop, a surfboard shop and a tattoo shop.

At Dandelion (which coincedentally had the friendlist staff I have encountered anywhere!), they have a restaurant and pet rabbits.

THIS is essentially what makes Bali unique – the ability to blend so many different concepts so effortlessly. For some reason all of the randomness works here, even better then that – it’s what makes Bali so special.

The choices at breakfast at Sense hotel haven’t been great. On our first morning here we went for the popular choice of sourdough bread with avocado and poached eggs though suspiciously it came with hollandaise sauce. When it arrived I was sickened to find that I couldn’t even SEE the poached eggs nor the avocado as it had been drenched in this hollandaise sauce and when I tasted it was FAR too buttery and salty and so completely drowned out the delicate flavour of the eggs and avocado. After two mouthfuls and literally feeling sick, I couldn’t continue. After that experience I didn’t order it again but there were other choices on the menu such as the continental breakfast option which consisted of toast (which was really bread as it was practically white in pallor), and dry croissants and fruit. It was clear that the pastries had been bought in bulk and had not been made freshly on the premises. How disappointing.

Another option was their American breakfast, which came with eggs,  sausage, bacon, tomato, toast (aka white bread), croissants, fruit, juice, tea or coffee and cheese. Or you could have what they liked to call a “Healthy Breakfast” which was just a small glass of Granola. Since I had tasted their American breakfast and found it wanting I went for their Granola Parfait instead, but because the portion was so tiny and there was no fruit following I asked for a croissant aswell (despite it being dry as a bone) but was told that no, I couldn’t have a croissant because I had “coconut flakes” in my granola, as if that was somehow comparable to having 3 full plates of food!!

Needless to say every morning I walked away from the breakfast table STARVING HUNGRY.

VROOM VROOM

Unfortunately, being in Bali for so long has made me yearn for the most dangerous of pastimes: Motorbike ownership. This is solely down to the sheer amount of BAD ASS MOTORBIKES I have seen whilst here, and more specifically about one particular instance when I saw a girl with two massive tattoo’s, one on each thigh whilst she was a top of her HUGE FAT WHEELED MOTORBIKE. She looked immensely cool and dare I say sexy as fuck! Now I’m not a lesbian but tis true – the girl was sexy! And I could tell that she didn’t know it and probably didn’t even care which was the best thing about it. She was just going about her business, but unfortunately, now I want one too, lol.

Now before you start to lecture me about the dangers of owning a motorbike: I am FULLY aware of them trust me. And currently I don’t even own a driving licence with which to pursue my motorbike dream BUT it has been on my mind ever since and should the situation present itself i.e when I am NOT LIVING IN LONDON, then there is a strong possibility of me getting one. I have even seen the type of motorbike I want!

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This one will do!

But, what’s wrong with a scooter I hear you ask? – No thanks. Scooters are lame. Sorry, obviously there’s nothing wrong with a scooter but it cannot be compared to a motorbike which looks HECTIC and sounds just as good! Also, I love the fact that a Motorbike is basically considered to be a vehicle for men. Well, I like them too! Especially the custom bikes like the ones by Deus Ex Machina and the Vintage Motorbikes. They are so cool!

Anyway for now I can’t drive so don’t worry yourself (Mum), lol. Josh has said that he is not keen on me getting one in London as it’s too dangerous and I’m inclined to agree with him there. But if/when we move to the South of France then it’s all on!!

There has been absolutely no indication of crime here. Josh has accidentally left his phone in the front of the scooter on too many times to mention and on all occasions it has either been returned to him by the staff of whichever cafe or restaurant we have gone into or he has gone back outside to get it and it has still been there. Apart from the danger on the roads because of the overwhelming amount of motorbikes and scooters, and the potential for a volcanic eruption, cyclone or earthquake (all which we have experienced since we’ve been here, lol), I have felt no danger posed by the people. This is rare in my experience. I have felt far more unsafe walking through Rome during the daytime then I would ever feel at night in Indonesia. This is despite them being far more poor economically then alot of countries, which lets face it is the main reason why people commit crimes in the firstplace.

Why is that? you wonder. Well, it’s a cultural thing. I don’t think they believe in doing harm to other beings, which is a concept that is severely lacking in many other countries despite what they claim.  They may not have much materially but they are far more rich in other ways which bring them a true sense of happiness and contentment. I know which I prefer!

These bloody dogs are so annoying. Why can’t these people sort out this dog situation? – they are taking over for goodness sake! Everywhere we go there are dogs on the roadside. Now because we are hardly on foot, and before you say we are lazy then please be aware that nobody else is on foot either! we don’t have the “special experience” of having to deal with these mutts directly but they do bark at you suddenly from the sides of the road, they do sit there scratching themselves raw, they do waltz into the road as if they own it causing you to have to swerve suddenly so as to avoid hitting them, they are on the streets all hours of night hanging about in dog gangs and some I assume do have rabies.

Also in some questionable restaurants (such as one called Monsieur Spoon for instance) which served nasty food and had a nasty waiter with zits on his face who felt no way to rub a stray dogs head in the middle of serving food in the restaurant!, dogs are allowed to just walk right on in! Nawsty.

Places of note:

Clear Cafe – a unique, vegetarian cafe with an onsite spa and beautiful decor. Ubud’s best kept secret!

Karsa Spa – heavenly spa treatments set in the middle of rice paddies, lily ponds and tropical gardens. Paradise discovered!

The Hanging Gardens of Bali – the world’s first 7 star boutique hotel and thus extortionately priced but worth it for the astounding views of the jungles it is set within with some really great spa treatments.

Jungle Fish – a really cool beach club, without the beach or the sea! Worth it just for the unique setting.

The Sayan House – a combination of Latin and Japanese food that works surprisingly well. Nestled in a dramatic position perched on the edge of a cliff face.

Peloton – a vegan cafe with a difference. Simply delicious food, great service and an original, healthy menu.

Sisterfields– Consistent food, great menu and the best burger I’ve ever had! (well worth giving up my vegetarianism temporarily for!)

La Mexicana – The perfect place to go when your really hungry as they do great, authentic Mexican food with HUGE portions.

La Brisa – what can I say about La Brisa? – well, it remained both mine and Josh’s favourite place in Canggu of all. Unique and absolutely stunning decor with an amazing attention to detail. Comfortable. Versatile! – so many seating areas to choose from we didn’t even touch the surface of what they had to offer there. Great service, definitely overstaffed rather then understaffed. A great place to watch surfers in the morning and to watch the sunset in the afternoon. The food was fresh and delicious – the seafood served is caught that same morning and you can really taste the difference. We particularly enjoyed the black cod croquettes! SO GOOD!

Finns –  though a really cool place in general, makes the list because the food (in particular their crepes with cinnamon, orange and lemon marmalade sauce) was to die for! And because of the DJ, who was playing a ridiculously high level of tuneage with an impressive degree of consistency.

Som Chai – Best meal we had in Indonesia. And in such beautiful and seductive surroundings. This restaurant could be anywhere in the world and receive rave reviews no doubt about it!

Btw, this is not an exhaustive list, just some of our favourites. There are infact many, many excellent places to be unearthed in Indonesia and I’m sure, many more to come!

The Good

The people – Friendly, respectful, open, happy, curious. Definitely the cool cats of Asia!

The place – Untouched in many places. Beautiful landscapes with the greenest grass you’ve ever seen, stunning sunsets and idyllic beaches (some idyllic beaches, though not Legian obviously!)

The Culture – Unique, interesting, sweetly scented and colourful!

Kombucha – a natural, non alcoholic fermented sparkling tea we discovered for the first time here. We particularly enjoyed the Joy Berries variety.

The Bad

Broken down dogs all about the place. Why on earth don’t they sort this bloody dog scenario out?! It’s nawsty. I saw one doo doo on the beach the other day with wanton abandon. What kind of thing is this?!

The traffic in Bali is INSANE. If you’re not lucky you could get yourself into some serious trouble as these people drive like loons. Indonesians start riding scooters from the tender age of 8 and everyone and their grandma (including their grandma and even their great grandma) is on one. They carry animals on there, farming equipment, luggage, sleeping children, newborns, trees, even entire families (I have seen up to 4 people on one scooter before) so these people aren’t here for games with this scooter and motorcycle business.

The Ugly and The Downright Fugly

Tanah Lot was ugly, disappointing and pretty pointless.

Our food at Sense was pretty shoddy but now that we are representatives of the hotel as we have been plastered all over their bloody website and promotional materials I feel it is my duty to give them a breakdown of where they are going wrong and urge them to fix it forthwith so as to not associate me or Josh with such questionable goings ons!

The chef at the restaurant needs to start again. Since it has become abundantly clear that he has never eaten western food in his life he needs to try some first and then perhaps go to cooking school to learn how to cook it. I would suggest that for now he sticks to cooking Indonesian food (though to be fair he’s no good at that either!)

Also, the clientele in Canggu are generally pretty health conscious so offering them a menu that is predominantly meat based is not a good idea. And for us, it was a challenge ordering from it as it seemed we could only have either Margherita Pizza, Chips or Pasta. Not the most original of offerings.

Legian is fugly beyond belief. No self-respecting person who like cleanliness, comfort and peace and quiet would wish to venture there. It is a place for dodgy individuals on the prowl for the cheapest beer they can find and nothing more. They are not interested in having a “cultural experience” or infact any kind of experience that doesn’t involve alcohol. In addition, though perhaps unsurprisingly the place is crawling with cockroaches. STAY AWAY or be it on your head!

In conclusion:

We have been happy here and travelling has brought us even closer together. We have had our fair share of trials and tribulations and alot of laughs but essentially travelling has confirmed that we are both looking for the same thing: To experience life. For the very first time for both of us, we have felt as though finally we are actually living, not just existing, and we like it and want to continue! Commuting to work day in and day out, spending most of my days with annoying individuals, living in a dreary grey country that’s soulless and only obsessed with making money and fleeting success, essentially living a mundane existence, is not for us. Should we somehow manage to find a way a way to make it happen where we can travel more often then this is how we would love to spend our time.

We finished watching Greenleaf finally and we are now onto Season 3 of Narco’s.

On our last night in Bali we had a choice of watching Narco’s or having a candlelit bath, and after much ponderation we finally decided to do both at the same time and it was wonderful!

Farmers, Craftsman, Surfers alike. For two months I lived among them and it was beautiful.

I will miss Bali but like Arnie said:

I’LL BE BACK!!!

(stay tuned for my upcoming Thai Adventures!)

STori x

 

 

Week 7 in Bali

Week 7 in Bali

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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.

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The Golden Swan and Me 

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

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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!

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Sunset on Echo Beach

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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.

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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.

Week 6 in “Ubud by the Sea” Bali

Week 6 in “Ubud by the Sea” Bali

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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!

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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!

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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.

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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