Week 1 in Koh Samui, Thailand

Week 1 in Koh Samui, Thailand

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Our 3 bedroom villa with seperate master suite and infinity pool 

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Double doors leading into our elegant bathroom

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The Master Suite

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An outdoor bathtub (yay!)

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

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Balcony view from our villa 

Skeeter Syndrome 

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

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

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

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

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

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

Bathtub Betty

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

*sigh* this wildness really is a challenge!

Fishermans Village

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

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

Josh’s Birthday 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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An abundance of nature and tranquility at Anantara Bophut

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The scene is set at Rocky’s Boutique Resort 

BAP HIM!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 The Weather in Samui

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

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

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

Christmas Day

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

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Chaweng Beach

Zazen

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Magical Zazen

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STori x

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

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

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Joy Berries Kombucha at La Brisa 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What a bloody cheek.

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

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

What on earth is going on?!

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

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

I’M NOT INTO IT I TELL YOU!!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Delicious, fresh coconut!

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Another magical sunset at Finns

A country of wonderful contradictions

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

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

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

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

Burns Victim

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

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

I let out a loud yelp!

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

METIS

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

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

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

La Brisa Rave Up!

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

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

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

The Motorcycle Accident 

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

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

 Unique Indonesia

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

VROOM VROOM

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

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

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This one will do!

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

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

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

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

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

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

Places of note:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Good

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

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

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

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

The Bad

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

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

The Ugly and The Downright Fugly

Tanah Lot was ugly, disappointing and pretty pointless.

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

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

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

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

In conclusion:

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

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

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

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

I will miss Bali but like Arnie said:

I’LL BE BACK!!!

(stay tuned for my upcoming Thai Adventures!)

STori x

 

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Josh and I with the dancers 

Jungle Fish

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

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

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

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Jungle Fish

The Sayan House 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Did she??

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

WHAT ON EARTH HAS GONE WRONG??

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

YES! WE ARE LEAVING!!!

I was bloody ecstatic I tell you.

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

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

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

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

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

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

 A Rude Awakening

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Know Thyself

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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The pool is just a step away…

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

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

P.S The Airbnb dispute is ongoing.

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Marbled Out! Our new bathroom accomodations