‘We are twins. We are traveling back to Perth, Australia after visiting family and traveling around Europe for the past three months.’ she said after I struck up a conversation with her and her twin brother, the two blondes that were to keep me company on the first leg of my journey over to Bali.
During the journey I learnt about how they had visited Amsterdam and enjoyed the architecture rather than getting stoned. How they had visited Moscow and spent hours within the walls of the Red Square. Iceland was one of their favourite places, as was France. They enjoyed glimpses of Big Ben and ‘the place where the queen lives’ whilst on a open top bus tour in London.
‘We had heaps of fun but I am looking forward to returning home to my own bed.’ the brother admitted. For most of the flight he sat reading Game of Thrones, another thing we were able to discuss.
I had definitely dropped lucky being put next to the twins and despite the hours spent on the plane my spirits were high by the time I landed in Doha; the destination of my change over flight.
‘Is this the first time you are visiting Bali?’ he asked as we began the decent into Ngurah Rai Internation Airport. These were the first words he had spoken to me during the 8 hour flight. It turns out that he was from Indonesia and had been visiting friends in Doha.
I found it strange that the first words he spoke to me were as we were about to touch down in Bali. I considered why and thought that it may have been because he was trying to stop me from jiggling about. The excitement was bubbling up as I saw the Balinese ground getting closer and closer. I was acting like an excited child on Christmas morning, when you see that santa has been but are not allowed to wake up your parents until 7am. I could not share my excitement with anyone so I was frantically jiggling in my seat. When he finally asked me a question, I almost burst with joy at being able to tell someone that I was finally going to be able to see my boyfriend after five months apart.
Qatar Airlines are wonderful.
My first glimpses of Bali were from the front seat of the hotels car. I saw hundreds of mopeds with families of four piled on. They whizzed in between cars and seemed to have no care for their own safety. I am pretty sure I saw a woman breastfeeding a baby whilst she sat on the back of a bike as her husband drove along. Mopeds definitely rule the roads in Bali!
At some traffic lights I realised that a group of Indonesian boys, who were sat in the back of a truck, were all staring at me and laughing whenever we made eye contact. I imagine it was because seeing a (very) white blonde girl was not the norm for them.
As we got closer to the hotel, I had those nervous, excited, butterflies in my stomach. When I finally arrived I was escorted to my room and presented to George with a ‘tadar’ effect as the gentleman who carried my bags gestured towards me with his hands. ‘Tadar’ – I had arrived.
For the first week of the holiday we stayed in the Astana Pengembak Apartments in Sanur. The Apartments were lovely and I would definitely recommend the place to anyone.
George had been very ill in the week leading up to my arrival so we spent the first few days relaxing by the pool, watching films and ordering room service. It was an ideal way to reconnect and relax.
Later in the week we hired a private driver to take us to see the sites of Ubud. We were firstly taken to watch a traditional Balinese dance that consisted of men, woman and dwarfs re-enacting a love story that involved mythical creatures that represented good and evil. That is what I had managed to gather from the acting…it was a bizarre experience.
Next on the tour was a stop at a wood carving shop. I found this very interesting. We were able to watch as a man sat on a mat and used his feet to hold the wood steady as he calved away using a metal tool. The final pieces were beautiful.
We visited the Batuan Temple and were made to wear matching long skirts.
After a long upwards climb in the car, through market towns were families sat in little huts, shading from the sun under tarpaulin, we finally arrived at the Kintamani Volcano and Lake. The views over the ledge were amazing. I had never seen a volcano before and it was interesting to learn how the people in the villages dealt with any volcanic eruptions.
On the drive back we stopped off at a coffee farm.
‘Mam, do you recognise any of these spices from when you do the cooking?’ a small, pregnant, Indonesian woman asked me as she took us on a tour of the coffee plantation. I immediately handed the reigns over to George stating that he was a chef. I think this was one of George’s highlights of the day, as he got to impress our tour guide by describing all the spices that were on display. From then on the guide directed all questions towards George and I became invisible. It was quite comical to watch and I enjoyed listening to George demonstrate his knowledge as we wondered round.
We also got to try some of the famous Luwak coffee. Or what it is more commonly known as poo coffee. I drank coffee that had been made from beans that had previously been digested by the Asian Palm Civet (an animal that looks a little bit like a rat). Despite the beans previously being covered in animal poo, it is considered to be the worlds best coffee. This is due to the selection and digestion of the beans by the Asian Palm Civet. The animal will only eat the best beans which is what makes the coffee number one. I personally don’t like coffee so it was hard for me to see what was so great about it.
Lastly on the tour we stopped at the Tegalalang Rice Terrace. I had my photography taken with a small Indonesian man and the only English word her knew was ‘money’. Wondering along the thin paths, making sure not to fall into the mud, was a great end to the day.
We spent one day lazing around on rubber rings on the lazy river at the Waterbom water park. Watching George try and get off a rubber ring at the edge of the river was a comical affair. Especially as there were kids shouting at him to move out of their way.
I also had kids shout at me for holding up the cue for one of the slides. The slide in question required you to stand on a platform, wait in anxious anticipation, until the platform fell away from under you allowing you to shoot down the slide. I specifically remember having one foot on the platform and one foot safely on the ground, before these children started to shout words of encouragement at me. I felt pressurised into committing with two feet but thankfully I survived and enjoyed the experience.
I hadn’t been to a water park in many years and it was nice to spend the day running round like a child again, eating ice creams with dripping wet hair.
During my time in Bali we also spent a week staying in Jimbaran, a place just south of Kuta. It used to be just a small fishing village until the 1980s, when things began to change, now it is known for its high-end hotels and posh holiday villas.
On our first evening we ventured to the seafront for dinner, where we were able to dine on the beach whilst watching the sunset and the waves crash against the shore. Unfortunately the sunset was not as impressive as I had hoped it would be, but the evening was still very memorable thanks to a group of singers who sang our favourite songs.
Finns Beach was another highlight of the holiday. We payed Rp. 250,000 for entry onto the private beach which included 150,000 food credit, towel, wifi, sunbeds and access to snorkels, kayaks and paddle boards. We were the first people to step onto the beach that day and one of the last to leave. I honestly felt as though I had been delivered, in a little cart down the cliff edge, into my own version of heaven. The turquoise water and white sand beach was beautiful and I was so happy to spend the day lying next to my boyfriend, both of us with Game of Thrones books in our hands, reading and watching people play in the sea. As the sunset we toasted marshmallows on the bonfire and sat in bean bags whilst we drank cocktails.
In Jimbaran we could not find many reasonably priced places to go to eat. We searched the internet, read countless tripadvisor reviews and still came up with nothing. Luckily George somehow managed to find a place called Balique. On the menu was steak in peppercorn sauce – I was sold. Jon Snow and Ygritte (a little private joke between George and I) ended up going back three nights in a row because we fell in love with the food and the ambiance. We even managed to get the recipe for their pumpkin cheesecake.
I was very sad to leave George and Bali but I am very thankful for this beautiful place, as it allowed us to reconnect and create unforgettable memories together.