Unbelievably, we’ve been in Bali for 3 weeks already!
We have one more week here in Ubud before we move to our new home in Seminyak.
Time is fast running out, so after some consideration we have made the decision to forgo our visit to the Gilli islands in favour of doing some other things in Ubud before we leave to maximise our time here, but we haven’t done too badly if I do say so myself! 3 weeks has given us a real taste of what Bali has to offer and we continue to find new and exciting things on a daily basis.
The creatures that reside here are a continual terror – from the militant flies that come out every breakfast without fail to terrorise us for our pancakes and fresh honey, to the caterpillars who surely are too hideous to be turning into any form of butterfly, to the rabid stray dogs who amble down the road with their flea bitten selves. These dogs are not hungry in the slightest – they are well fed, eating the literally thousands of offerings to the Gods that the Indonesian people leave littered on the roadside.
I respect their religious traditions but I really do wonder what on earth they think is going to happen if they leave flowers, plants and food parcels on the pavements. Of course the dogs are going to eat them – not the Gods, the dogs. I have seen bigger dragonfly’s and cicada’s that I have ever seen in my life here, not to mention frogs, cockroaches (so far thankfully only 2), centipedes, mosquitoes, gecko’s, spiders (lots of jumping ones, lots!), rats, beetles and ants (huge ones). This abundance of life is fascinating when they are not trying to board me. The spider I can take so long as it doesn’t jump on me. The caterpillar is fine so long as it doesn’t crawl on me. The fly acceptable so long as it doesn’t buzz near me. Unfortunately, thus far I haven’t been so lucky.
This abundance of nature means that I come in contact with them on a regular basis. Thankfully the bristly contraption that the owner of our villa put on the bottom of our door works well but that doesn’t stop the beasts from entering when our room is cleaned each day.
Since we have been living here we have seen probably only 2 other individuals in the “Village” and even that has only been for a very short period of time. It would appear we are here all alone – at breakfast we see no one else, in the pool not a soul and we have never seen anyone else when we return from one of our allday trips in the evening.
We haven’t heard anyone, we haven’t seen anyone. In theory this should be a good thing, and in many ways it is but it does mean that we have the entire team of staff doting over us and they are already overstaffed here in my humble opinion.
Does it really take 4 people to make our breakfast? – afterall we have the same breakfast everyday: Pancakes, omelette, bali coffee, honey, yoghurt and fresh fruit. Does it really require 4 people to make it? For 2 people? Alas, it remains as quiet and private in these villas as when we first arrived and since the gardens are continually maintained, just as beautiful.
We are clocking up some serious miles on this scooter of ours. Everywhere we go we go via bike – infact I haven’t stepped foot in a taxi, a car or an Uber since arriving here apart from that day when Aunty Jac came up to visit.
We have our treatments today at the spa that we happened upon on our travels to Campuhan Ridge Walk and I cannot bloody wait! It means that not only do I get 2 hours of extreme pamperation but I also get the pleasure of walking through those beautiful green fields yet again. The beauty of this walk is well renowned – and the fact that it is literally walking distance from the middle of Ubud town is a bonus.
Even today there are lots of tourists here taking pictures of the surrounding hills and jungle as it isn’t difficult to take amazing pictures here, infact its almost a guarantee.
When we arrive at the spa we are immediately given a refreshing cup of traditional Balinese tea before being taken down to our treatment room that is located down a secret passageway within the tropical gardens. On the way we pass lily ponds, exotic, sweetly fragrant flowers, vast green fields, plants, trees, stone sculptures and water fountains. It is a garden of plentiful and natural abundance. We arrive at a huge wooden door that is buried within ivy. Upon opening the secret walled garden room we are greeted again with our very own water fountain, fresh flowers, plants and the sounds of roosters and cicada’s in the background. A huge sunken tub decorated with flowers lays at the bottom of two inviting treatment beds ready for us.
I have gone for the most expensive treatment that they offer: a 2 hour massage, body scrub and flower bath. I thought it would be stupid not to considering all of the treatments here are obscenely cheap, and seeing how beautiful this private space is where we will be having our treatments makes me realise just how much good value we are getting.
The massage is wonderful. I am feeling thoroughly relaxed and at peace when she begins exfoliating my body with a beautiful smelling homemade body scrub, and after she is finished doing that I lay back whilst she slathers on a thick and creamy body lotion no doubt for the purpose of letting it sink deep into my tissue layers before she leaves me to indulge in my 30 minute long flower bath in the middle of this tropical oasis.
In it they have put literally hundreds of pink and lilac rose petals and frangipani and left a pot of fresh ginger tea to sip whilst I luxuriate. My bath smells glorious and my skin is drinking up all of the extra attention with pleasure.
Afterwards Josh and I go back to reception where we are offered yet more tea (which is hot and delicious) before paying up and leaving. I noticed that they also had some handmade beauty products for sale such as soap, body lotion and essential oils so of course I couldn’t leave without purchasing some. In the end I got myself some bottles of Jasmine and Lotus Essential Oils, which I have literally never had the pleasure to smell until now. Since we have an oil burner in our villa I have been using the oils to provide an extra burst of exotic-ness to our exotic surroundings.
The entrance to Karsa Spa
I survived an Earthquake
No, I’m not joking, I really did. I was in a deep, dreamless sleep when I heard (and felt) a rumble, the building shook and I awoke immediately to ponder whether it was the impending volcano Agung erupting or an earthquake but after considering how much the building shook and knowing that Indonesia has earthquakes on a regular basis I immediately realised that we’d had an earthquake. Josh was fast asleep at the time so of course I woke him. His response when I asked him whether he realised that we’d just had an earthquake was comical – he said he had probably just moved in the bed!
And then he just rolled over and went back asleep when all I could think about was our survival and how I could ensure it. I reasoned that if we were buried alive within the soil that would at least be better than being buried underneath concrete – the benefit of living in the countryside and not in the middle of the city I guess. I imagined that if I heard that noise again I would jump up, get our dressing gowns to cover our naked bodies and collect a couple of bottles of water to sustain us whilst we waited to be rescued in the undergrowth. But of course it didn’t come to that or else I wouldn’t be writing right now! lol
As I had established, these people were a little up their asses but I suppose it was for good reason. They had managed to secure one of Indonesia’s finest and most famous architects Popo Danes to build one of the world’s most beautiful spa hotels here in Bali. Tripadvisor quoted it as having “the world’s most beautiful swimming pool”. High praise indeed.
When I first saw Hanging Gardens I knew that somehow, someway I needed to get there. To experience it’s most beautiful swimming pool yes, but also because it was located in one of the most unique and inaccessible locations you could think of – right in the middle of a dense jungle. Unlike Pumpkin Village, which was located in a rural area that had jungle surrounding it, Hanging Gardens, like it’s namesake, was at the highest point, in the middle of the jungle so that when viewed from above it looked as if it was somehow suspended in the sky with miles and miles of dense jungle surrounding it.
This place was designed by Popo Danes to have maximum effect and be at one, and in complete harmony with the jungle it was within. This combination of ultimate luxury and nature was something that I decided that I just had to experience. But again, like alot of my other selected destinations, this was definitely one for the Honeymooners. The cost of the spa treatments alone told you that, not to mention the exclusivity of the location. But I didn’t care – I was prepared to pay for this once in a lifetime experience in the middle of the Balinese jungle so I emailed to enquire about us getting a couples spa day before receiving an email back from the Hanging Gardens booking team subtly trying to “suggest” we go for the most expensive packages they had on offer.
After a few attempts by them of “suggesting” their exorbitantly priced treatments we stuck to our guns, booked the treatments we wanted to have and then told them we would be coming and we wanted to use the swimming pool too!
Hanging Gardens was a 7 star establishment, which for Bali was probably one of the only of it’s kind. I well understood it’s uniqueness, but at the end of the day treatments of any kind in a country as poor as this can never be equal to the price of treatments in my native UK. It is completely obscene to suggest otherwise, and of course I know they are advertising these “romance packages” mainly to honeymooners but that should not exclude other luxury seekers such as ourselves, from participating in their exorbitantly priced offerings. Somebody at Hanging Gardens is milking it, and I’m almost certain it’s not an Indonesian.
These days, we were getting about exclusively by our scooter. It was a far cry from the days of Uber, taxi’s and other means of travel, but it meant that we turned up at this 7 star spa hotel in our bike clothes which was probably another thing they were not used to seeing in this ultra secretive location. Alas, we don’t do what is expected, we do what feels right.
As I anticipated the place was impressive from the off. The foyer, vast and airy with the typical open sides that I had come to expect from traditional Balinese architecture, was furnished with elegant dark wooden furniture and unique statement pieces of artwork and impressive floral displays. We were offered cold towell’s and a refreshing cold drink as we awaited the entrance of our spa therapist. The foyer provided one of the most picturesque views of the surroundings from its birds eye perch at the top of this magnificent structure with an almost vertical drop below. To get down you had to take a cable car, which meandered through the trees at a deliberately slow speed to give you a real feel for the lush jungle environment you were entering. It felt magical.
Upon arriving at the spa a couple of floors down we were greeted again by a team of beautifully dressed therapists with immaculate makeup but initially there didn’t appear to be anyone else apart from staff at the hotel. Of course we couldn’t be the only ones at this hotel we mused, but with these prices I’m sure we will only be one of a few!
After speaking to our therapist she confirmed that it was indeed mostly honeymooners at this hotel, that and very rich individuals who could afford to drop a few grand whenever it took their fancy. Also she told us, they had the privilege of seeing wild monkeys swinging in the surrounding trees. This was the benefit of the location they had. What an awe inspiring thing it must be to be that close to monkeys in their natural habitat going about their business! I thought.
After yet another cold towell and refreshing drink she and her colleague take Josh and I to a private room with a direct open view of the jungle where we will be having our treatments. The room is huge and beautifully appointed but it is no Karsa Spa. The experience of being outside, with the sights and sounds of nature, in the midst of beautiful tropical gardens and lily ponds, with the warm breeze kissing my skin, the smell of fresh flowers filling my nose and the sound of a waterfall falling gently in the background is second to none. If I had felt like I was in a Timotei ad in my bathroom before, visiting Karsa Spa had made me feel even more Timotei/Herbal Essences inspired. It was simply wonderful.
Now this was a luxury of it’s own – the room was huge and it had a seperate bathroom with luxurious toiletries and another big stone bath with an interesting pebble feature trimming the rim plus one of the most well made and comfortable dressing gowns I’d ever put on, but it was still no Karsa Spa. It was too designed. And though I loved the sweet touch of having it partially open to the jungle, it still wasn’t the same as being in it. And don’t forget I was paying more then quadruple the price for less time and less treatment. Saying that though, the massage was fabulous. My masseuse clearly knew what she was doing and when she found a knot in my back (as I was astounded to find existed!), she worked it out completely until it was no more. Before our treatments Josh and I also had a foot bath each before our therapists got us to lay on our respective beds whilst they placed a warming towell on our backs and instructed us to do breathing techniques before they started our massages. The fact that I had so many knots in my back meant that the other massages I had received had not removed them at all – just disguised them. So perhaps you do get what you pay for!
After my massage, I was invited to get into my bath that had been specially drawn for me.
What do Frangipani, Milk, Honey, Ginger and Vanilla all have in common?
They were all in my bath. At Hanging Gardens I had chosen to have a Milk, Honey and Vanilla bath. Like Cleopatra who used to bathe herself in milk everyday to keep her skin soft and silky, I decided to do the same! My chosen Essential Oil to have my massage was Frangipani, which was a sweetly scented flower that was abundant in Bali that reminded me a little of Ylang Ylang in it’s odour profile. And they served me fresh Ginger tea. The smells that was being conjured up in my bath that day was most worthy of a new perfume creation! Perhaps it could be called Bali Bath. Whaddya think? 🙂
After our treatments (and of course Josh invited himself into my luxurious bath too!) we went back upstairs via cable car to experience the “world’s most beautiful swimming pool” that we kept on hearing about. Black tiled, with a circular shape that jutted far out into the jungle, this infinity pool was multi tiered with a waterfall that cascades dramatically over the side into the even larger pool below. Dramatic it is, and very very picture worthy. The whole pool area is surrounded by jungle and in the distance there is a temple, so far in the distance that a mist partially covers it. I’m sure this is the very reason why they chose this location to build Hanging Gardens, because it does feel almost unreal in it’s contradiction to it’s surroundings, but yet in harmony with it.
We sample the delights of the pool, which to our surprise actually has a reasonable amount of people in and around it. It is refreshing to be in but there are strategically placed platforms in the pool which you can hardly see because the tiles are so dark, which makes it hard to swim. We soon realise that this pool is for posing in. The platforms are for posing on. That is all.
We have a light lunch at Hanging Gardens before the weather starts to change from being reasonably overcast to very overcast and so we decide to leave as we have a long drive back. The benefit of travelling by bike is that you always get the wind so I was delighted when I could smell wafts of Ginger, Vanilla, Frangipani, Milk and Honey all the way home.
Since we were pretty much the only ones staying at Pumpkin Village we only had jacuzzi access twice a week. I had no idea how they heated up but it clearly was a bit of a struggle for them hence why they only made it available a few times a week but tonight was jacuzzi night so when we got back home we got changed into our swim wear so that we could take full advantage of it!
Hanging Gardens of Bali
We drove down to Canggu to visit Aunty Jac and Uncle Dennis today. After they had come up to visit us last week we agreed to return the favour and it would also be good for us to get a feel for where we’d be going next since the next stop in our travels was Seminyak which was close to where they were staying. We left out early as we knew that we’d have to leave earlier then we would normally have liked because of the distance and the fact that it got dark early. It took us a little longer then we thought it would to get there as the tire on our bike was actually a little flat and we had to find somewhere to pump it up but eventually we got there.
The drive down turned from being really green and rural with not much people to more people, lots of traffic, petrol fumes and concrete. Since we’d been in Ubud for almost a month the contrast was quite dramatic but then the concrete suddenly opened up to green rice fields, surf shops, artisan coffee shops and Indonesian warungs (local restaurants). The mixture of old and new was strange to see but somehow it really worked! This was undoubtedly where the “cool” people resided, and it was going to be our next stop! Lots and lots of boutique restaurants, hotels, shops, spa’s you name it, they had it here – infact they perhaps had too much – my eyes didn’t know where to look there was so much cool shit to look at!
Rabid dogs were here too but there seemed to be less of them. When we arrived at Aunty Jac’s hotel The Haven Suites we were greeted by an enormous, uber stylish hotel right on the beachfront that boasted a huge swimming pool and cool greenery effects hanging at strategically placed spots around the hotel. With lots of one of a kind local wood furnishings they had effectively brought the things that make Indonesia beautiful – it’s nature, within a formal hotel setting. Their suite, which directly overlooked the pool and beach, was very generously appointed, with a stunning bathroom with a latticed wood mirror feature, a statement bath and beautiful black and white tiled floors. On their balcony, there were 2 very inviting, wooden rocking chairs that were perfect for reading a book on whilst watching the sunset. It was a lovely hotel but then I wouldn’t have expected anything less!
After changing into something more comfortable we went down to the beach via a rather precarious rope and wooden plank river crossing and directly onto the beach. After being in Ubud the feeling of sand in my feet and the salty smell of sea air was very refreshing. Also, despite Canggu being overrun with Australian’s (who see Bali in general as their local holiday destination the lucky buzzards!), the beach was almost empty. Unbelievably, the Aussies consider the exotic delights of Bali (being only 3 hours away from them if they are from Perth), with it’s rich culture, delicious food, fair weather and welcoming , tolerant temperament of it’s peoples to be their playground!
Bali was like their equivalent of Spain! What an absolute blessing. Now I personally cannot stand the Costa Del Sols’, Tenerife’s, Lanzarote’s, Benidorm’s and Mallorca’s of this world. I avoid such destinations like the plague and the individuals that choose to frequent them. Such places are devoid of any culture whatsoever as it has been rinsed out to capacity by the culture hating Brits that only want to speak English, drink beers, wear football t-shirts in the midday sun, and eat pie and chips. They are not interested in the local culture in anyway and infest the places they frequent with their bland food, lobster bodies and limited perspective on the world and the part they play within it. But this was different – Indonesia was a country rich in natural beauty, food and culture – one of the richest I had ever experienced infact. Of course the Aussies would wish to leave their blisteringly hot and barren land to come to this paradise. The people were friendly and welcoming, the weather fair, with beautiful beaches, an abundance of nature and a rich culture that the people were very proud of. It was a no brainer. If I were Australian I’d be moving here too!
The sand just kept getting hotter and hotter and the soles of my feet were beginning to feel hotter then a furnace so I looked to the sea to see whether I could cool myself down in it. I had brought my stinger suit along as I had been reliably informed that the deadly box jellyfish were in these waters but looking at the currents I soon realised that there was no point in me wearing it because the sea was ROUGH. This sea was not for swimming in. It was a surfer’s paradise, not a swimmers one. A glance up at the flags on the beach verify’s what I already know: Red flags. I can’t even see any swimmers brave enough to swim in this but I can see plenty of surfers. The conditions are perfect for surfing here. I kind of already knew this but seeing it confirms it. The current is so strong that even standing in the surf could get you knocked over.
Intense it maybe but that doesn’t stop Josh from having a go though even he has to admit that it is not possible to swim in it – just dive and dunk. No thanks.
Aunty Jac takes us for lunch at a restaurant on the beach called La Laguna. South American in design, with eccentric, vintage, almost pirate like influences, it sounds weird but it was very original with bags of character. A sprawling restaurant overlooking a lagoon it has an impressive collection of artifacts and antiques, darkened areas, mis matched furniture and ambient lighting. The drinks seemed to be pretty good too.
Aunty Jac ordered a bright magenta coloured cocktail called Purple Night that had Dragonfruit in it that once they got right (i.e added more alcohol) was delicious, and I had a delicious tropical drink with rum that was served in a Coconut. The best thing about the drink apart from it being served in a Coconut with a Bamboo straw was the extremely generous amount of alcohol in it and the size – it was huge!
My lunch however was slightly disappointing. All I ordered was some sourdough bread with avocado, sundried tomatoes, poached egg and feta, which in theory should have tasted fresh and flavoursome, but these people went and put about a ton of salt in the avocado. If there is already feta in the recipe then the avocado hardly needs to be salted aswell. A rookie mistake. It was so salty that I actually couldn’t eat it and Aunty Jac reported the same issue with her meal too. Afterwards we went to Finn’s Beachclub, a popular beach club with a great view of the sea and the surfer’s that frequented it.
Lunch at La Laguna
Rather then burn the soles of our feet like last time, I put on the sand shoes that Aunty Jac had had the good sense to bring with her. We passed a few dogs on the way too – some came scarily close to me no doubt trying to whiff me out. It wasn’t clear at first whether these were strays or not but I didn’t want to wait around to find out – their fear sensors were up and a few more seconds with me would have told them without much prompting that I was indeed scared shitless. After some time sunbathing on the beach and then trying not to get knocked over in the surf we retreated to the safety and comfort of their hotel, where we went for a swim in their gigantic pool and I sampled one of their star drinks: Black Mango which was a non alcoholic smoothie, a mixture of Mango and Blackcurrant. Delicious!
But now it was time to leave as it was getting dark and we still had the long ride back to Ubud. My Aunt and Uncle were going to be leaving Bali the following day but they had liked it so much they said they were planning on coming back again next year!
These creatures are doing me in – in some ways I have become accustomed to their presence but in others, I really cannot stand it. I am being inundated with beasts left and right and it’s driving me crazy! It’s easy to say that I should just ignore them but it’s damn near impossible. This is the catch with living in a place such as this. It’s the creatures – there’s so many of them! I really do not think I can deal with it on a longterm basis. Just today I have killed about 15 flying ants that found their way into our room. And as for the caterpillars – well you know, they are numerous! And I have finally found out where else they are entering from – our sunken bath tubs plug hole! I saw two of them emerging from there with my very own eyes. So much for a luxury bath!
Josh and I on Canggu Beach
Dinner at Folk Pool & Gardens
We went out for the day and almost got caught in the rain. So far we have managed to avoid it and today was an exception, but it did mean that we had to stay in the restaurant we were working in for longer then usual whilst we waited for the rain to stop. Afterwards we decided to go and get something to eat for dinner since we didn’t want to go back to our villa only to have to come out again. We had had a big lunch so we weren’t feeling very hungry but we decided to go and eat anyway. I remembered seeing Bridges restaurant on a restaurant guide online and it came highly recommended for the food.
I hadn’t gone into too much detail when I had read about it so I had no idea what type of restaurant it was or what kind of food they served but the food was supposedly good so when I saw it on our travels I suggested we go there. At the time I was wearing a very short pair of shorts that was borderline batty rider so it was with great dismay when I realised that it was a fine dining establishment and it was too late to cancel so down we followed the elegantly dressed lady down a circular stairway into a beautifully lit room with formally dressed tables with white tablecloths placed strategically around a beautiful view of the jungle and “Bridge” like it’s namesake. I felt seriously underdressed. Here were people clearly out for their romantic meal and there I was with my bum cheeks hanging out of door sitting there with Josh wearing an Adidas vest and we’d been out allday so we hadn’t even had a shower. It wasn’t a good look alas the servers didn’t bat an eyelid at what we were wearing. Had we have been in London there was no way we would have even got in! The food, as expected was really good. Definitely somewhere I would be happy to go again.
It started raining heavily as soon as we got home so we took the advantage of going for a nighttime swim in or pool the rain. The water was warm and the rain just got heavier and heavier. It was utterly delightful!
Since we have been in such close proximity to Monkey Forest and have even seen a few monkeys spill out onto the road as we are driving by I don’t personally see the point in paying to go and see them in their habitat but Josh wanted to go and see them so once the weather is sufficiently cloudy enough we make the trip there to see them. We go inside and realise at once that for the monkeys this is monkey paradise – they are essentially free – not locked up in chains, or having to do stupid tricks for the pleasures of duncebreed humans. They have a vast forest of natural habitat that is perfect and safe for them to live and play and they have a continued stream of food. They are never going to go hungry here and the people that come to visit them are told to restrict their boundaries. They are safe here. At Monkey Forest they have approximately 678 macaque monkeys though from what I can tell there’s probably quite a few more then that. There are monkeys of all ages here – lots of cute babies ones too.
They are delightful to watch and the babies are completely adorable. There is one baby monkey in particular that I decide that i’m ready to take home – he’s a small brown one with a tuft of hair similar to a mohawk, and he’s currently trying to rip into the small green banana he has with his teeny little hands. He keeps looking around incase a bigger monkey appears and tries to steal his find, but he is determined to get the fleshy part of this banana and keeps going with intense concentration to break it open, until finally he gives up. It makes me happy, to see monkeys, one of my very favourite animals, along with elephants not just surviving but thriving in their own natural environment without human beings interferring with them or worse: trying to eat them! They look comfortable here, are clearly used to seeing humans, playful, well fed and healthy. Welldone Monkey Forest. As we walk on we see a monkey jump onto a girls backpack (one of them even done it to Josh no doubt looking for water bottles which they love), and as she set about trying to get this clever little monkey off her back he was concentrating on trying to remove the water bottle (which was far bigger then him in size and weight!) out of the pouch on the side of her rucksack. First, he tried to use his teeth to unscrew the lid on the water bottle, all the while a large crowd of people giggling their heads off is gathering. Then when he can’t quite manage to do that he proceeds to try and pull the bottle out of the pouch so that it will smash on the floor. Seconds later he has managed to do just that and drenches the poor woman with her own water in the process! These monkeys are utterly fascinating. Highly intelligent, determined, agile and gentle (you can see how gentle they are and how much they understand just by looking into their eyes), what a blessing it is to be related to such an incredible animal!
We haven’t managed to go to Yoga Barn yet, and another place that has been recommended to us: Komune, a beach club. I’m not sure whether we will get to do either of these things now as Komune in particular is weather dependant and both today and yesterday it has been raining. The weather forecast doesn’t look much better for the coming week either unfortunately and Komune is a long drive down to the coast. We have a Balinese Dinner Dance booked at Kepitu restaurant on Friday which I’m really excited about. Another thing we have been meaning to do is see some traditional Balinese dancers and this way we can combine the two.
They keep on playing the same tunes at breakfast – traditional Indonesian music that is repetitive and heavily features the xylophone. It’s not that I don’t want to hear their local music, I do but must they continue to rinse the same simpleton tunes time and again? – It is a struggle I tell you.
Apologies for this being so long – I had alot to get out!
Smell you later!