Week 2 in Koh Samui,Thailand

Week 2 in Koh Samui,Thailand

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There’s A DRAGON in our villa.

We were sitting in the kitchen in the main house around 7:30 pm one night, drinking and talking when suddenly I heard a loud scurrying sound go across the ceiling. My heart jumped into my throat.

At first my immediate thought was that there was either a mouse or rat in the house since what else would be scurrying about unseen, but when I listened again closely I quickly concluded that it sounded far too loud to be a mouse or a rat and the scurrying had a sharp, scratchy sound to it – it was as if the creature had CLAWS and A TAIL.

Only one type of creature exists here in South East Asia that loves to infiltrate people’s homes and set up residence there, and they have sharp claws and a long DRAGON LIKE TAIL – and that is a gecko, or more likely it’s larger, more vicious counterpart a tokay, who are essentially miniature lizards AKA A DRAGON!

Oh HELL NO. This beast needs to go!

As you know, I cannot deal with creatures of any kind, be they mouse, rat, creepy crawlie, gecko, or whatever else nature seems to produce with not a moments thought to my health and wellbeing.

So I sent Josh upstairs to investigate.

Josh the Tokay Hunter

By now the scratchy, clawing sound had increased in volume and it sounded utterly terrifying. Whatever it was that was in my house it had to go IMMEDIATELY. My sister was due to come in a couple of days time and she would not take kindly to living with any kind of lizard like creature and neither would I for that matter!

Josh was gone for around 15 minutes and in that time I was worrying about what he was encountering up there and wondering whether I should go upstairs to investigate.

I was far too scared to face the beast myself but what if he was in trouble, or whatever it was bit him? All these thoughts were running through my mind as I tried hard to listen to what was going on up there. One thing was for sure, whatever it was it clearly wasn’t easy to catch! – I couldn’t hear the scurrying noise anymore but I could hear the sound of Josh moving furniture and banging things so my imagination was going into overdrive as I imagined him caving in the head of a giant tokay!

Finally, he emerged from the battle ground looking defeated. He told me that he had some good news and some bad news. In these instances I always ask for the bad news first as if hoping the good news will override the bad news just given. He told me that as we thought, it was definitely a tokay, which is the larger cousin of a gecko, and when he went in there it was on the wall at first but as soon as it saw him it scurried into the crevices of the ceiling and disappeared.

The ceilings in our villa have an interesting coving pattern that though architecturally appealing, makes for the perfect hiding place for these kinds of animals. Also, because the ceilings are so high and the overhang of the coving so wide, it is impossible to see to the back of it and goes too deep to reach.  I asked what the good news was? And he told me that the good news was that he had seen the creature! Some kind of good news that is!

Alas, it is what it is. Josh had at least closed the door to the bedroom (which incidentally was the same room that my sister was going to be sleeping in!) so that the tokay would not be able to escape. If it had been a gecko trapped in there then it would be small enough to fit underneath the door frame but this tokay, Josh reliably informed me, was too big to fit underneath the door therefore it was definitely trapped in there.

Once we had managed to figure out a way to catch the bastard then Josh was going to go back in and try again.

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One of our ceiling coves

The weather here has been pretty shoddy in all honesty. When we came here 2 years ago it rained for the first couple of days but after that it was brilliant sunshine almost everyday for 2 weeks however the 2 weeks that we have been here already has seen torrential rains the likes of which we never experienced when we were here before. I’m talking rains that have literally gone on for the whole day which has meant that we didn’t bother to leave the house.  Because of this, it has meant that alot of the touristy things that we had planned to do in Samui, such as visiting the other islands or going to see some waterfalls had been put on the back burner. But luckily for us, we have another 2 weeks here to fully take advantage of what Samui has to offer and of course, many of it we have already experienced when we were last here, however when it does rain consistently in a place like this it’s just miserable. You don’t WANT to go and sightsee, and there’s certainly no point in going to the beach!

Dream Team

We have always worked well as a team. I guess part of being in a relationship is working as a team, alas not all relationships are equal but I like to think that ours is without too much hard work. Really from the start we’ve been good at treating each other as equals, recognising each others strengths and weaknesses and naturally splitting chores. We have also, in our almost 7 years of being together, worked well when seeking special priviledges, upgrades or making complaints, and this particular aspect of working well together is what has set us up to have some pretty unique and amusing experiences over the years.

When we came to Thailand 2 years ago, we called on our ability to strategise and we managed to get Booking.com to move us from the current property we were staying in to another, better suited property. And this as you know, we orchestrated twice whilst we were in Bali and though it wasn’t easy, it just showed us what we could do when we both put our minds to it!

When I took Josh to Anantara for his birthday we visited their Vacation Club front desk where we enquired about possibly signing up and we were then invited to attend one afternoon to see a presentation. Since we like the Anantara brand we were partly curious about what it was they had to say but what we really wanted was the free gift vouchers that they gave to everyone who attended this presentation whether they signed up for their timeshare or not.

We had previously attended another timeshare presentation last year in London and as a consequence, we are getting a free holiday to Turkey in June next year. I wouldn’t usually pick Turkey as a holiday destination but I don’t turn down free holidays! GET IN!

On the day of the presentation we were both as cool as a cucumber. We had already prepared our strategy, which basically consisted of us looking through their wonderful offerings and then telling them that we couldn’t afford it. We agreed that we were not going to be pulled into their dirty sales funnel unless they were offering us a REALLY good deal, and even then, they probably wanted more buckaronees then either of us were willing to give.

Unfortunately, Thailand had decided to open up the floodgates and it was raining heavily by the time we set out of the house and there was heavy traffic so we arrived around 10 minutes late. We went to reception and filled out a form which basically wanted to know a) whether we were married or in a serious long term relationship and b) whether we could afford it. They didn’t want any households who didn’t earn over £75,000 a year. They also wanted to know which hotel we were staying in as they wrongly assumed that we were staying in a hotel and not a villa. The last time we were there they had offered to pick us up but we declined on the basis that we had our own car so didn’t require a collection.

After we had filled out the form and returned it to reception a few seconds later a young woman approached us and introduced herself to us as the person who would be taking us through the presentation. I think she said her name was Ellie and she was from Malaysia. She took us through to a room that seemed to have a similar set up to the one we experienced in London though the room was much smaller then the other one, the furniture was of a higher quality and overall it was more discreet.

Ellie was very friendly, and offered us both drinks so I asked for a cup of tea and Josh got some coffee and soon a waitress appeared with our drinks.

Ellie began the presentation firstly by telling us all about the owner, who despite the name and distinctive branding of the hotel, wasn’t Asian at all, but American, though he had come over to Thailand when he was a teenager and started his first business in Thailand.

His name is William Heinecke and he owns multiple hotel and resort empires worldwide including the Marriott and Four Seasons brands so he wasn’t doing too badly!

She went onto tell us with extreme excitement (as if any of this information would make a jot of difference when it came to our final decision) how many businesses he had (including franchises of Burger King and Swensons which was not impressive to us at all), and how much money he was worth.

I assumed the purpose of this was to show us how stable and trustworthy the man was, how good he was at doing business and therefore we should trust him with our funds but from where we were sitting it was sounding like the man was a wee bit greedy.

The hotels they showed us, as we had anticipated were impressive. We loved the fact that the hotels were in mostly in exotic locales and had been designed by local designers in their host countries so that each one reflected the style and culture of the place they were in but with the Anantara luxury, mystery and exotism thrown in. This to me was what made the Anantara brand unique.

I particularly liked the look of the China, Abu Dhabi, Mozambique, and Zambia resorts. They were completely different from one another but they all held a certain amount of beauty and charm that completely fit in with their natural environments.

The hotel in Zambia had striking colonial architecture and was set in a safari with stunning natural landscapes and wild animals that you could be amongst.

The hotel in Mozambique was located on a private island that could only be accessed by airplane and it had to most bluest sea with the whitest sand I’d ever seen.

The hotel in China was against a backdrop of mountains and with its traditional Chinese architecture it looked like a fairytale.

The hotel in Abu Dhabi was located in the middle of the dessert and was opulent beyond belief, mimicking a typical Arabic palace. All 4 places I would happily go to but I did not like the price these people were quoting to be a member of their vacation club. At all!

Once we had done the calculations, and believe me they tried their very hardest to confuse us so that we didn’t, we worked out that if we joined their “exclusive programme” then we would get to spend 1 week A YEAR at one of their establishments (not including flights food or transfers I hasten to add) for the better part of £30,000 which we had to pay up front and which would allow us to have 1 week of holidays a year for the next 27 years. What a cheek! I don’t go anywhere for a mere week unless it’s local (i.e Europe) and they aren’t even offering breakfast! Oh hell no!

Anyway, I didn’t allow myself to get too het up as the point of us attending this presentation was not to sign up to their extortionately priced vacation club but to collect these free gift vouchers they were offering which very generously, would allow us to have a spa treatment or a fancy dinner in Koh Samui at their expense. Oh yes!

Despite our horror at the pricetag Ellie had quoted we had still enjoyed the presentation and it had given us some inspiration for other countries that we hadn’t thought about visiting before. She was really sweet when we told her that we wouldn’t be proceeding and essentially agreed with us when we pointed out that with their “points system” we would never be able to afford to go for longer then a week a year without “borrowing” points from the following year, that it basically wasn’t a good deal!

Afterwards she accompanied us back to reception to collect our gift vouchers that had a value of £120 that we could use in a few of our favourite restaurants around the island, tours or spa treatments. £120 is a very generous amount of money to give away and to get that for just sitting there listening to someone talk about luxury holidays (one of our favourite topics) for 90 minutes is even better!

We had already picked out the restaurant that we wanted to go to with our freebie vouchers. I hadn’t realised it before but it was actually an Anantara restaurant and it was considered (alongside the amazing Zazen) to be one of Thailand’s most romantic restaurants. It was called Tree Tops as it was located as you would imagine, high up in the tree tops. And we could now go there for free!

On our way home, happy with our gift vouchers, we began talking about this vacation club business that they were running. These people were milking it!

Essentially they were sitting there giving out vouchers to people left right and centre, £120 twice a day everyday, and who do you think is paying for that? – yes, you guessed it, the gullible people who have more money then sense and signed up for their extortionately priced scheme! I honestly don’t know why anyone would sign up! 2 grand for a weeks holiday not including flights, transfers or food, even breakfast? And the price could go up at any moment as it wasn’t a fixed fee? – I don’t think so love!

Yes it’s nice but it’s not that nice. We are currently staying in a beautiful, private 3 bed villa with an infinity pool and we haven’t even paid that for the month! Jokers.

Anyway when we arrived home it dawned on Josh when he realised that Anantara had another hotel in Chaweng and therefore would be running the same deal, that we could  get more vouchers if we posed as new customers again. He asked me what I thought about that and I said “Lets go for it!”

So we set out again, this time on a mission to get what we were due. Again. lol.

When we arrived at the Anantara in Chaweng I was nervous as essentially now I had to be the one to lead the enquiry. We had read the terms and conditions to be eligible for these vouchers and needless to say they did not allow people who had already seen the presentation less then 12 months to see it again so we were definitely taking liberties. And I had no idea what they would do to us if they found out that we had been lying and would probably die of embarrassment anyway! But we also understood that it could still be done. If we were smart. If we were ballsy and worked as a team.

We knew that in order to prevent people from just coming to collect the free vouchers they held a database with all of their customers details so we knew that we would have to have a new address for the accommodation we were staying in, and a new name (as they said they would require ID), so in order to pose as a completely new couple I gave my full name as the contact rather then Josh’s, put down my Mum’s home address instead of ours, and put Josh down under a different name (and we agreed that if they asked him for his ID then he would conveniently say that he had forgotten it so they would have to use mine instead), plus the new dates of us being in Thailand (just incase they matched us on that), and a new villa name.

When we walked into the other Anantara branch it was extremely busy and I was not keen on just walking up to the desk and enquiring about their vacation club so I used the premise of enquiring about their Tree Tops restaurant instead and then casually remarked about the vacation club afterwards.

Of course these people are keen to get anyone they can in for the presentation who they think might wish to be fleeced so they told us that they could book us in for a presentation on NYE. We said that would be okay. She also remarked that it was policy for them to collect us from our hotel but we weren’t staying in a hotel I insisted (panicking that she would demand the full address of this villa that I had made up) and thankfully in the end she relented and said that we could make our own way there.

Fast forward to the moment when she tells us that we would have to go to the SAME ANANTARA BRANCH THAT WE HAD JUST ATTENDED A PRESENTATION AT THAT VERY SAME DAY.

I was in horrified! This is going horribly horribly wrong I thought to myself. I thought we would attend a presentation here! She has just signed us up to attend a presentation that we have already seen at the same bloody hotel! And I know approximately how many desks there are in that presentation room so it’s an extremely high possibly that we will get the same agent that we had last time who will definitely blow our cover! Or even the receptionist. Infact, any number of people could bait us up.

We took her appointment card and got the hell out of there. I told Josh that there was no way we can go but he says that we will think about it over the next couple of days, weigh up the risks and then make a decision and by the time we had arrived home we have decided that we are going to go for it.

We have thought of a plan (which of course we are praying will work but have no guarantee of), and we have decided that for the sake of £120 that we can use in a restaurant or spa of our choice, it is worth the risk!

Unconventional.

We are unconventional. Sometimes we do some ridiculous things but this one really takes the biscuit!

On the morning of our appointment I am feeling under pressure. Being a black woman I cannot take the kinds of liberties that Josh can take and clearly I am far more recognisable then he is. Once they see him, there is a possibility that they may not remember him, but with me, they will know straight away, so we have to take the necessary precautions.

The plan is firstly that we will wear completely different clothing. Since he was wearing cargo pants the first time round, he puts on some jeans and I put on some trousers as I was wearing a dress before. My hair was down before so I put it up and with the addition of some dark lipstick (I don’t really wear lipstick usually), my outfit was complete. I even felt like a different person. Instead of going to the main reception first like we did the last time we went straight to the vacation club reception and we timed it to perfection. I had tried to look up Ellie’s working hours online to find out whether or not she would be working then to no avail so our next strategy was to arrive late again, in the hope that we would be the last to arrive and so everyone (including Ellie hopefully) would be otherwise occupied with other clients and so not notice us skulking in again, lol.

Next, once we arrived at reception I would fill out the form and then pretend that I needed to take an urgent phonecall and go outside leaving Josh to look through the glass doors to see whether Ellie emerged. If she did come out and he was too late or there was no glass partition to see her before she came through then he would pretend to enquire about a pair of lost sunglasses, but if he did see her coming through then he would just vacate the building where I was already ready and waiting to flee if needs be. But if she didn’t come out and another agent came out in her place then we were in business – he would simply come outside and get me and we would go in together! That was the plan.

We arrived late and as if it was fate we had Ellie in our clear line of sight. She had 2 clients with her and was deeply engrossed in chat with them so we knew that whoever was coming was not going to be her and she was unlikely to notice us walking past. I went outside anyway just incase and pretended to take a phonecall and then Josh collected me a few seconds later and we were introduced to another Malaysian guy who showed us to our booth. We had to walk right past Ellie in order to get there but thankfully she was too busy to see us.

This time around the presentation was really quite enjoyable. This was despite the fact that we had seen most of it before just the other day, and despite the fact that I had to remember to lie about a number of things without getting it all confused with what we had already told the other agent. The agent we had this time was very good at his job, and he showed us lots of things that Ellie hadn’t bothered to. We both found it interesting and found him to be a very relaxed and friendly guy. It didn’t bother me at all that we were basically making him go through this presentation knowing that we were only there for the vouchers as the deal itself was simply not good enough – even if we had the money we wouldn’t go for it as we get much better deals when we look ourselves and we don’t want to be tied into anything for 27 years.

Unfortunately for us though, this arriving late thing, which had been a genius idea at first was starting to work against us as everyone else finished up their presentations and we were now one of the last ones left. This left us in a very dangerous situation as now Josh could clearly see all of the staff members loitering at the back of the room instead of going about their business and Ellie was standing with them. It was at this point that I began to panic a litte as I realised that if she didn’t leave the room then we would have to walk right past her and it was almost impossible for her to not notice us when she had no other distractions.

Sure enough, our presentation came to an end and we could stall no longer – we had to walk past her. It was bloody TENSE. I didn’t look her in the face – I concentrated instead on looking out of the window but I could FEEL her eyes on me. Thankfully she didn’t say anything. We went through to reception where again my plan was to pretend that I needed to take an urgent call to avoid the receptionist recognising me as I picked up my second lot of gift vouchers in as many days.

But I am pleased to tell you that our utterly AUDACIOUS manoeuvre, in this luxury hotel, in broad daylight, in the exact same location as we’d been a mere few DAYS before WORKED WONDERS We got the vouchers!!! And now we have £240 to spend! Get in!!

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Our Anantara Gift Vouchers

We felt awesome. It took some big kahuna’s to do what we done especially with Ellie standing right there but we done it. Successfully. Afterwards we went to Fishermans Village for lunch where I passed by the toilets and I saw a pair of Vivienne Westwood sunglasses lying by the side of the sink and I was feeling particularly naughty so I took them! Normally I would have just left them there for the owner to find but I was feeling particularly badass in that moment and decided to swipe them! And now they’re mine. Moo ha ha ha ha! Moo ha ha ha ha!

As we were strolling through Fishermans Village, talking about our stroke of good luck, we passed RIGHT BY Ellie, who was with her colleague and was clearly cussing us, telling her how we brazenly came into her place of work and scammed more vouchers! lol!

It was a good day. A great day even, and now the sun had come out!

Not so Happy Elephant

Happy Elephant had advertisements all over Bophut, claiming to be one of the longest standing traditional Thai restaurants on the island. They were bigging themselves up no end and were also one of the featured restaurants that we could use our gift vouchers at so we decided that we would go there for dinner before we made our way to Nikki Beach, for the beach party to bring in the new year. It was a big restaurant and it seemed pretty busy when we arrived in the evening but we were taken to what seemed to be the best table in the house, a table right at the end with a view overlooking Bophut beach.

I think that perhaps this was because we had made the reservation in person earlier on that day but I couldn’t be sure. Either way, I certainly wasn’t complaining.

The menu they gave us was huge, both physically and materially, and despite their claim to be a traditional Thai restaurant I could hardly find any Thai dishes within it. It seemed to have every cuisine under the sun, including Thai, American (if you can even call their food a cuisine), Italian, Mexican, British and every other imaginable cuisine you can think of. Also, there was no dinner menu as such, the menu consisted of breakfast lunch and dinner all in the same menu and it was very confusing. I was concerned. Usually when a restaurant offers everything under the sun with no particular cuisine speciality it is a sure sign of a disaster.  And though it was advertising itself as being a Thai restaurant I could scarcely understand the Thai dishes that were within it.

In short: I was bloody confused. In addition, the table next to us, which was now full of a group of Chinese people was UNBELIEVABLY LOUD. One woman in particular was literally YELLING across the table to her dinner guests and it was becoming increasingly more and more unbearable.  Even the waiter came over to apologise to us because he knew it was too loud in there, alas what could he do? Indeed what could we do when these people seemed to have no spacial awareness whatsoever and no volume control?

The food when it arrived, much like the menu, was a confusion. I ordered as best I could but the food was decidedly average and I was VEX.

How dare these people trick me into eating in their shoddy establishment?!

After dinner we returned home so that I could get changed and then we made our way to Lipa Noi beach, where Nikki Beach’s annual NYE beach party was being held. I had never been to a Nikki Beach party before so I had no idea what it would be like but the other beach club we liked on the island Beach Republic wasn’t doing a beach party for NYE and we didn’t fancy just dinner so we decided to go there instead. The price for hiring a bed for the night and including their “buffet” (sorry love I don’t do buffet) was extortionate beyond belief and try as I might I simply did not see the value in it.

The only thing I cared about was whether or not the music was good, and no bed, and no buffet would save me if it were not and I’m not paying £5,000 in order to find out! We decided to arrive late, bring in the new year there and see what it was all about. I figured that since they were commanding such princely sums they must get some pretty dimwitted and pretentious people attending their parties and I’m sorry but I’m not one of them. I don’t like pretentious, materialistic people and I don’t enjoy fakery of any kind. I prepared myself to encounter many an American and Russian!

When we arrived, we walked through a long blue chiffon archway with fairy lights that looked dramatic and eye catching. It was pretty but when we got to the other side I straightaway started seeing the people that I imagined I would see: FAKERY EXTREME. The place was packed to the rafters with try hard blondes in various try hard outfits. And they all looked the same. The same!!!

Clones Galore

As I suspected, it was packed to the rafters with Russians and Americans with absolutely no taste whatsoever and it was tacky beyond belief. Fake boobs galore, makeup caked on faces like it was going out of business, high heels on the sand, bleached blonde and all manner of Botox and goodness knows what else. They looked either bored with life or drunk – there didn’t seem to be any middle ground. These were not our people.

And as for the music – it was HORRENDOUS. Surprisingly, even though they clearly had the money, after fleecing almost everyone in there for at least a grand each, they had no taste, as the decoration of the venue looked shit. I could have done a better job with a quarter of the budget they had. They seemed to have spent all of their budget on skinny girls who walked around half naked masquerading as “dancers” when they couldn’t dance for shit! What an absolute waste of time and money. There were roped up areas up the hooley too, which no doubt pleased the Russians and Americans who seem to need that kind of irrelevant shit to massage their ego’s. Thankfully for Josh and I we had already half prepared for this outcome and had purchased the cheapest ticket going so we were alright jack but it was bloody awful. They didn’t play one decent tune! Not one!

What an absolute sham. The fireworks were cool and it was memorable being together in Thailand again to bring in the New Year but I will never go to a Nikki Beach party ever again. Infact I don’t even want to hear the name Nikki Beach!

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  Nikki Beach Entrance

We finally visited our local beach Mae Nam Beach and it was nice, though very windy. The sand is not as white as in Chaweng and Bophut but the sand was finer and softer then on Bophut beach and it was most certainly much more quiet. It has a kind of rustic charm.

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Mae Nam Beach

Finding Afro Hair products in Asia is a non starter. They simply do not cater for the black demographic. This is naturally the same when trying to find makeup products for black skin but since I’m not a big makeup user this isn’t a problem for me. The main problem is of course, that Amazon do not have warehouses in Indonesia or Thailand and you can only get select products shipped to you from the UK/US to those countries with a very high mark up so I made sure I stocked up on my favourite products before I left which included my skincare regime, my haircare and contact lenses. The rest such as my toiletries I knew that I would find in abundance where I was going. But my haircare resources are running low and though I have partially supplemented them with natural Coconut Oil that they have here in the case load there are some things that I just NEED. So I have ordered them on Amazon and my sister, who is arriving in a few days time is going to bring them with her. Result!

Josh has come down with some kind of cold or virus – he has a sore throat, a runny nose and high temperature. We picked up some meds from Boots so hopefully in a couple of days with some rest he will be over the worst of it.

Bamboo Park

There is a place called Bamboo Park near us. It is supposed to be a collection of eateries but I really do not understand the concept at all. Firstly, there is hardly any customers in any of the eateries there. None of them look particularly appealing and it’s not very obvious what any of them even are. Secondly, when you go in there they give you one menu and it has all of the businesses that are within the complex within it so without realising it you can order from another restaurants menu which is just ridiculous. We got caught out one evening with nowhere to go for dinner so we went to this Bamboo place because it was close, and accidentally walked into the cleanest looking one – a German and Thai restaurant the owner reliably informs us.

I’m sorry but there is no such thing. Nobody eats German food asides from German people or tourists if they are in Germany and can’t find anything else to eat but everybody eats Thai food. I don’t know why they are trying to piggy bank on the Thai people’s delicious cuisine as if it is somehow related. It is completely unrelated. Nasty white German sausages are not related to Green Thai Curry I’m sorry. Anyway the owner(who was German) seemed nice enough but I was not happy that I was going to be presented with a white sausage menu. Thankfully, there were lots of Thai dishes on the menu and Thai women in the kitchen. Phew! I thought.

I ordered a vegetable stir fry, which I was quite convinced would be bad to average but it ended up being really tasty. All throughout the German man seemed vex that everybody in the restaurant wanted the Thai food and not his German food but surely he must know that nobody is interested in his curry sausages, white sausages, pickled sausages or whatever other style of sausage he is offering?!

I ordered a drink thinking that it would be coming from the restaurant I was in but then the German man tells me “Okay, I will just go and order it for you” and disappears into another restaurant! What kind of thing is this? – about I’m ordering from every restaurant in the complex! That is pure foolishness. So what, he has to go and walk over to each restaurant and order a drink from here, rice from there and meat from there? – what a ridiculous system. I did not like that Bamboo place at all. It’s backward.

It rained allday today and it was utterly miserable. I didn’t travel all of this way to get rained on and I’m not feeling it at all.

2 Fishes

We passed this new looking Italian restaurant and thought we would give it a try as the owner had come out and made the effort to talk to us. The menu at 2 Fishes was very small (take heed Happy Elephant!), and the owner very amiable, clearly passionate about the food and our enjoyment. Because of this I knew the food would live up to expectations and it did. It’s mainly a seafood restaurant and I haven’t been eating meat but he had Spaghetti Carbonara on the menu, which as you know has bacon lardons in it, and I have had a craving for that for awhile and knew he would do it justice so I ordered it. And it was delicious! Josh had Duck Ragot and it was also delicious. We will return!

We are now in stage 3 of tokay hunter mode. After Josh was unable to locate the thing we notified the cleaners who are locals and know how to deal with these kinds of things and after much laughing at us they promised to find and remove the tokay from the room we had trapped it in. I have heard it scurrying and scratching again so I know that it is still up there and it must be getting hungry by now as the windows are not open for any insects to make its way in there but I want it banished for good. When we returned home our cleaners were gone but the door to the bedroom was still closed so we didn’t know whether she had found it or not. The bed had been made up in there but I didn’t want to assume that it was gone and leave the door open incase it was still there and it escaped to another part of the house so we kept it closed. And here we are trying to catch it again!

We read online that Dettol kills gecko’s and tokay’s and Josh killed one with it yesterday. This is the last thing I wanted and I do feel bad but I cannot deal with the faeces all over the house, the sudden scurrying when you turn the lights on and the freaky chirping sounds above my head in the middle of the night and they just won’t leave!! They run, they hide, they shit and they won’t leave and if the cleaners can’t catch them then we sure as shit can’t, therefore I have given Josh the go ahead to spray Dettol around the perimeters of our house to prevent them from coming in and on them if they do come in.

We caught two yesterday and sadly one perished but the other managed to escape possibly to await his fate in the great outdoors. I’m really not playing with these beasts.

This tokay has infiltrated my house and is steadfastly refusing to get out and I will not be under siege in my own house!!

Josh is prepared and armed with a selfie-stick to see to the back of the coving, a chair to stand on, a stick to prod, a brush to swipe, and Dettol to kill.

Stay tuned to find out the outcome!

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NYE

 

The Island of the God’s – Week 3

The Island of the God’s – Week 3

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Karsa Spa

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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The entrance to Karsa Spa 

I survived an Earthquake

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

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

Hanging Gardens of Bali

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Hanging Gardens of Bali 

Canggu Adventures 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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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!

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Josh and I on Canggu Beach 

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Dinner at Folk Pool & Gardens 

Bridges

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

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

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

Monkey Forest

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

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

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

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

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

Smell you later!

STori X

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Karsa Spa 

Bali Diaries: Week 2

Bali Diaries: Week 2

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I seriously cannot believe that 2 weeks have gone already!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I want them GONE!!!!!!!

The Creepy’s Keep on Crawling

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Familial Joy

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Me and Aunty Jac outside Clear Cafe 

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

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Dinner at Cascades 

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Tonight Matthew, I’m Dining in the Sky

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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The Grounds of Karsa Spa

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

We can’t complain too much I guess!

Smell you later!

STori x

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Campuhan Ridge Walk