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

 

 

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