On the 2nd of April after very little sleep due to the sunrise tour of Mt. Ijen, I made my way over to Bali to meet back up with Fred and Con after being solo for a couple of weeks. The journey from Banyuwangi to Bali involved a short ferry crossing before around a 3 to 4-hour bus journey towards Denpasar at the south-eastern tip of Bali and its main hub. I attempted to get some sleep on the bus journey, but it was too bumped and not comfortable enough, so my effort ultimately failed. By around 5 pm I had reunited with the boys in a part of Bali called Canggu. The area is very quirky and hipster but has a nice vibe. There are lots of nice restaurants to eat in, loads of boutique shops, and many independent coffee houses. I feel like a lot of the main tourist areas in Bali are very much like this all the while being surrounded by rice terraces and fields. Once reunited with the boys we headed out for some dinner before meeting up with some people that Con and Fred had made friends with at their last hostel. We then headed out for a few beers to experience Canggu nightlife. We first stopped off in a little bar which offered 2 for 1 cocktails, but all opted for a beer due to being the cheapest option. This was actually my first beer in Indonesia as the whole time on Java I didn’t drink, so the refreshing Bintang (local beer) was very welcomed. After this, we then headed for the well-known establishment called Purple Poison. Which combines a bar, live music and a skateboarding bowl together in one place for a really unique atmosphere. People came here for a nice time listening to the live band, chatting with friends and watching the skateboarders perform tricks (although I must admit none of them were that good). By this point, I was ready for bed after being up for just under 24 hours, so I left the group and headed back to the hostel although they weren’t far behind me.
The following day the three of us headed out to explore a temple called Tanah Lot which is situated on a rock just off the beach but to be honest it was a little anti-climatic and there wasn’t really a great deal going on here. Plus it was full of other tourists, so we didn’t stay for very long. After the quick temple visit, we swapped culture for party and headed to a pool party at the hostel of people we had met up with the night before. I guess it was a day of anti-climax though due to the pool party also being rather disappointing and not really a party at all, more people just relaxing around the pool like any other time. Fred and I did manage to win and then lose a game of beer pong in the tournament though. After the pool party, we then got changed and headed out again for a night in Canggu. First, we headed to a bar called Old Mans which is also very well known hence why when we arrived it was packed with nowhere to sit. It was also some kind of religious holiday, so they had no live music that night. Hence we quickly moved onto another bar where there was a DJ spinning the tunes but also very little atmosphere. I stayed out again until around 11.30 but by this point, I was once again ready to hit the sack due to still catching up on sleep from my crazy week on Java. Fred and Connor both got back in around 2-3 am in the morning but said I hadn’t missed out on too much other than the lack of sleep and spending of money on booze.
When we woke up the next day Connor had decided to leave us, clearly wasn’t that excited to see me again, or had had enough of being with Fred, which is also understandable. He was off to travel a little bit with the friends we had been hanging around with that they met before I joined them. He, therefore, went off to Ubud the day before us and then left the day of our arrival to head to Gili T which is where we would be reunited with him in a few days. That, therefore, left me and Fred to explore Bali a bit more on our own for a few days. We had elected to give surfing a try in Canggu as it is meant to be a good place to learn and very popular for surfing in general as is most of Bali. We chose to skip a formal lesson, however, which probably wasn’t the smartest idea. Instead, we rented two boards and headed out to sea. After about 5 minutes and without even really trying though Fred was back on dry land and had given up already haha. He didn’t even make it past the initial swell, let alone attempt to surf before in his words “eating about 3 waves, getting smacked by the board and cutting his foot”. I don’t think it’s going to be your new hobby mate, but I would suggest giving it longer than 5 minutes if you do try again. With Fred back on the beach, I carried on alone for an hour or more. I was able to successfully stand up on the board a few times, but I think I was selecting the wrong waves or in the wrong place when doing so as by the time I got onto the board the wave was pretty much dead meaning I didn’t really go anywhere so was soon jumping off again. Overall though I don’t think I shall be hocked on surfing like I am now with scuba diving. It all just seems like too much effort for too little gain. Having to constantly battle the waves to get out to sea in the first places before then attempting to surf one for all of a few seconds. Just doesn’t seem that fun to me. Especially all the battling waves and failing it would take to be half decent as well. I think I will, therefore, stick to watching the surfers from the comfort of the beach with a cold Bintang and spend my time when in the sea, swimming peacefully below the waves as opposed to riding on them.
That evening Fred and I had a quiet night in and a nice lie in before making our way to Ubud which is an inland part of Bali. The journey from Canggu to Ubud only took around an hour so for the afternoon we had planned to go white water rafting. We, therefore, checked into our hostel and got ourselves prepared for this as we were being picked up at 13:30. As we were being collected the heavens opened. We arrived at the rafting shop, were given our, paddles, helmets and life vests and were then ferried in the back of a pickup truck to the top of the valley where the river lies, already soaking wet from the rain. On the way to the river, the guide received a phone call from his boss, saying that other tour operators had said the river was too high and violent for rafting, so we were to cancel and head back. The tour guides, however, left it up to us as to whether we wanted to continue or not. We elected to walk down to the river (more like hike 15 minutes) to inspect the conditions for ourselves. When we arrived at the river it did look very ferocious and there were other groups of people waiting around for a decision as well. After about 10 minutes the decision was taken by all the groups that the river was too dangerous, and the rafting was cancelled. Most probably the sensible decision. Fred and I weren’t too disheartened as we simply rebook to go the following morning. That evening then after eating in a local restaurant just outside the hostel (which we would eat at a lot while in Ubud due to the food being so good and cheap) we headed to the gym to have a little workout.
The following morning then we tried once again to go white water rafting. This time the weather was far better and when we reached the river we could see that compared to yesterday the condition was much calmer, maybe even too calm as the rapid weren’t so rapid in the end but it was still good fun paddling down the river enjoying the luscious green jungle and idyllic waterfalls that passed us as we successfully navigated the rapid without any incidents. Although at one point I was very close to falling in but was saved by the kind guy behind me. We also stopped at one of the waterfalls to take some photo and admire the sheer strength of the water cascading down the cliff face. Overall the rafting was a fun way to spend a few hours but I’m glad we didn’t pay much more than we did for it 300,000 IDR (£15) the retail price is supposedly 900,000 but clearly, it’s easy to haggle.
After the rafting and some lunch, we then rented a scooter to explore some of the surrounding sights of Ubud. First, we stopped off at Tegalalang rice terraces which were beautiful. We spent a good hour or so exploring and wandering deeper into the terraces away from the crowds and all the restaurants that overlook the rice paddies. We even when on one of the swings where you are harnessed in and then pushed out over the rice fields which offered a unique perspective of this landscape. After getting our fix or rice (be prepared to see plenty of rice fields in Bali) we then headed to Pura Tirta Empul which is a temple famous for its “holy water”. The temple was rather pretty but the main attraction is obviously the holy water which you can bath in. Fred and I decided while we are here we might as well so changed into our underwear and sarong and entered the water not really knowing what to do but just following everyone else. Basically, you work your way along the fountains splashing the water and I guess people say a prayer if they wish. Although it is important that you miss out two fountains toward the end as this is the water they use to wash dead people apparently. Fred and I missed these two out haha. Overall it was a different experience seeing as neither of us are religious, but it was quite unique and spiritual I guess.
For our final day in Ubud, we took the day chilling out around the hostel pool before making our way out along Campuhan ridge walk which overlooks yet more rice terraces for sunset. There was even a hot air balloon going up in the distance which added to the scene. The sunset over the terraces was nice, especially when aided by a nice cold Bintang. After watering the sunset and making our way back to the centre of Ubud for some dinner we headed to sleep ready to tackle our sunrise hike of Mt Batur the following morning.
Mt. Batur is in northern Bali itself so was a good 1 and a half drive from Ubud. We were therefore up at 1.40 am and getting picked up at 2 (although we weren’t picked up until 2.30, could have had another 30 minutes in bed). We started the 2 hours hike up to the top of Mt Batur around 4 am and arrived at the summit around 6 am just as the sun was rising offering up a stunning view of the lake below and the mountains out in the distance.
The hike up wasn’t too strenuous but wasn’t the easiest underfoot either with it being rather rocky and unstable. There were however many people attempting the hike and the track was pretty much single file, so the pace was rather slow and stop-start heading up the mountain. Fred and I could have easily raced up the mountain in probably half the time if it hadn’t been for everyone else on the trail. Once at the top and having witnessed the most amazing sunrise (it was also cool to see the sunrise the morning after we had watched it set) we then made it to the very top to investigate the crater of the mountain. As like many Mountains in Indonesia they are in fact active volcanoes. You could see steam emanating from a few cracks in various places around the crater itself. There was also a family of monkeys living at the summit, but we aren’t so keen on monkeys as they seem to be little shits more than cute friendly animals we want to get too close too. After exploring around the summit of Mt Batur for a little while we made the 2-hour journey back to our transport which was once again slow going due to the volume of people. On our way back from the volcanoes we stopped at a coffee plantation to sample some of the local teas and coffees, however, the plantation was famous for its poo coffee (Kopi Luwak), whereby an animal named civet cats eat the coffee berries and then poos them out before it gets turned into coffee. Obviously however if you wanted to try this coffee you had to pay but we weren’t that bothered and just sipped on the other free samples instead.
We arrived back at our hostel at 11 am and had to jump straight into a waiting minivan which was taking us to the port where we were catching a ferry to head over to Gili Trawangan (Gili T). Here we would be meeting up with Connor and the group he had been travelling with for a few days partying. Overall Bali was good, but very westernised due to being a huge holiday destination for Australians and other nationalities alike. It does have a unique feel though with all this western influence embedded in the stunning countryside, rice terrace landscape. There is certainly far more of Bali to explore then we did with each little hamlet offering something different. I have to say I did really enjoy the relaxed atmosphere of Ubud and it would be good to enjoy it one day in the future in a fancy resort as opposed to hostel dorm.