A Tale or Two to Tell……

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Kid fun, Ubud Bali

These two little buddies caught my attention as they were cutely waking along the road holding hands and giggling.
The real laughter came when one pushed the other into a big puddle #kidfun

These two little buddies caught my attention as they were cutely waking along the road holding hands and giggling.  The real laughter came when one pushed the other into a big puddle #kidfun

These two little buddies caught my attention as they were cutely waking along the road holding hands and giggling.
The real laughter came when one pushed the other into a big puddle #kidfun


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South Bali’s best Warung, Kerobokan

Meal fit for a queen!

It took me a while to work out why this little suburban Keroboken Warung (my “round the corner” local) is always so busy. Some nights there is not a table to be found, and more and more people keep arriving.

A little research uncovered that this is one of the best Warungs in Bali, and definitely the best in this area.

Warung Sobat 2.

Best food, cheap prices, huge portions, free peanuts with your drink to start and free dessert to finish (I’ve nearly tasted them all I have eaten here so often) and no tax or service added to your bill.

I have been here every single night since I have arrived in Keroboken, and am pretty sure will eat there every day until I leave at this rate.

Tonight I had the Nasi campur Sobat but their Balinese spaghetti marinara is the best I have ever had.

The need to knows:

Warung Sobat 2 is located out of the really touristy areas on Jalan Pengubengan, a suburban street in Kerobokan near the prison. It is a five minute cab ride (in good traffic) from the main area of Seminyak or Batu Belig.

Meals are a mix of Indonesian and Western and prices are around 35,000 and 45,000 rupiah for anything from fresh fish to more traditional Indonesian foods.  My bill never surpassed 80,000 rupiah (around $7 AUS) for a meal of fresh fish and glass of wine. Servings are huge !

 

Warung Sobat Two

 


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Echo Beach (far away in time), Canngu, Bali

Ever since I learnt that there is an “Echo Beach” not too far away from where I am staying in Bali I have had the 80′s hit song playing on repeat in my head. ” Echo beach, far away in time”.
Was that song written about the Echo beach in Canggu Bali? No, no it wasn’t. In fact it wasn’t about a beach at all.
The Canadian band with the daggy 70′s/80′s name of “Martha and the Muffins” who sing the classic song wrote it about “a place I would rather be”, which in this instance was actually quite fitting.
Setting off just after midday I knew I had another big trek ahead of me. I figured if I walked straight down to the beach, turned right and followed the coast I would make it to Echo beach.
Well that plan failed.
I got to the beach part, turned right, and then the road turned back and started winding along almost directly north again. I find myself walking along the most un- pedestrian friendly road I’ve come across, dodging cars and bikes constantly and laughing at the ridiculousness of the dangerous situation. But there really is no choice about it. No one in South Bali walks, no one, and its obvious as on a lot of the roads there is no path or space for pedestrians. The only option is to take an enormous breath, and walk head on towards the traffic and hope that people dodge you. So far so good.

Something that I have learnt to do when travelling is asked locals for directions and often. I usually check in with someone every couple of hundred metres to ensure I am on the right track, I had a long enough walk ahead as it was without getting lost again.
After around an forty minutes I stop in for some directions at the first place. The man tells me:
“Echo beach far (…. away in time..?) and points in the direction I am walking. So I carry on.
Another 15 minutes later I turn down a road that many surfer looking guys carrying surfboards on their motorbikes are heading down. I stop in at a shop on the corner and ask for Echo Beach.
“Go 500 metres down this road, turn right. Go 300 metres down that road, turn left”.
Following his directions I go down the road and turn right wondering if that was 500 metres. I stop at another shop and ask the lady for Echo beach. She points down the road and makes a left hand turn gesture, not speaking much English.
I head off again, realising something wonderful, I am back in the “burbs’, it is quiet, people are friendly and wave and call out “hello”, and there is hardly any traffic on the roads! I knew if I walked far enough it had to happen!
I get to the end of the road and see a left entry area that looks to go into a private kind of neighbourhood. Must be time to get some more directions I think.
The next shopkeeper is having a snooze when I step inside, but wakes to point me in the right direction.
Now from all of the directions that everyone had given me so far, I expected to find Echo beach at the end of this “left hand turn”.
Wrong !
I get to the end of the neighbourhood and am suddenly in the most vibrant green terraced fields. A man and lady have pulled over on their scooter next to me and are asking if I would like a lift? I give a bemused and quizzical look wondering how the three of us would go on the bike together before the lady says, ” I will take you, just you and me”.
“Ok” I answer, why not.
I jump on the back, put on hubbys helmet and we take off as Jaya (her name) tells me she is a very safe driver.
Driving through the fields I realise I am still quite a distance away. It is a beautiful area this one, I am really surprised and also really happy to know that not all of South Bali has been over run by tourism (yet). Jaya is from Canggu, the area we are in now and works with her husband taking tours. She thanks me for coming to Bali, and then asks me what I think of Bali. We talk about how the South has been destroyed by too much development and is now over run with people. She tells me this is the “quiet time” here and I think how I would hate to see the busy time. She laughs and I guess from her point of view its a great thing for Bali as it means a better standard of living because of the money we bring into the country.

Arriving into small undeveloped Echo beach, Jaya hands me her business card and offers me an invitation to visit her family home to meet her two children if I come back to the area.
Echo beach is about how I expected it to be, a black sand beach with huge rough sea, waves crashing in right on the shore. Its not good surf today, but there are a lot of surfers around hanging out at the Warungs with the locals.
I join one of the cheaper looking places that tell me their “satay” is good, so I order some food, test out their pineapple juice, listen to a bit of Bob Marley ( where is the Echo beach love?) and hang around for a while.

I start the long walk back to Batu Belig and realise I hadn’t paid a lot of attention to the last part that I was driven along. And so began the quest for directions with the locals again.
Before long things start to look familiar and I come across all of my previous “direction stops”, mentally ticking them off as check points to make a turn at.
Along the way, and despite the quiet and beauty of this area, I do notice that the The South Bali “spread” is beginning here too. Signs point to really trendy cafes, coffee shops, deli’s, bakeries and fancy grocers lining streets in the serene and beautiful rice fields, just a stones throw from the beach.
It won’t be long before this whole coastline is engulfed by the looks of it.
On the road home, the rain arrives and I am lucky to grab a friendly taxi driver who doesn’t want to charge me a small fortune to get home.
Another hard earned glass of wine with dinner tonight!


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South Bali Beaches, on foot and six hours later!

Not since I shuffled through that evil Sydney half marathon in 2013 have I had to mentally talk my way across the “finish line” like I did today.

When I arrived yesterday in Keroboken I have to admit I wasn’t really overjoyed to be back in the “tourist triangle” that is South Bali (and maybe I looked it considering I was offered “Valium” by five different people in a hundred metre stretch in Seminyak today). It is really busy here, and I have not seen this many scooters on the roads since Saigon, one of the busiest bike cities in the world. But I decided I had to try and at least get involved in “Southern life”

So I headed out for a morning walk. I had mapped it all out and the plan was simple: – Find the local beach of Batu Belig, walk along it to Legion then head back through the streets of Seminyak.

Sounds easy right?

Well, six hours later I was still walking, I had not sat down and I was immensely lost somewhere back in Seminyak; “I’ll just go a bit further” I kept telling myself. I’d estimate I walked a half marathon today (22km), considering the return walk to Kuta from here alone is 19km. May explain the stagger home.

Stage one of the plan worked well, I really enjoyed the walk along the beach and chatting to the locals. Every few metres there is a “Learn to Surf school” or a bar (aka an esky on the beach with beers in it), most with amusing signs that say “Bloody cold beers here”, or “great piss here” clearly driven towards the large Aussie tourist market that frequents the beaches. But along the way I was suddenly faced with three rather odd things.
First was the “icecream man”. He was just mounting his bike and riding away when the music started playing. That same music that all but sent me round the twist crazy when I was in Sri Lanka ! “Noooooo …. it’s back”. I thought I would never hear that again (or hoped as such!).
Recovering from the fear of the ice cream man music, I turn back to carry on walking only to have to blink a few times to believe what I was seeing. A horse and carriage careering down the road amongst the traffic towards me (ummm what the?), then in the distance there it was, big, bold, shiny and unmistakable- those “Golden Arches” of McDonald’s !

I had arrived in Kuta!

A few years ago now I visited Cancun in Mexico. Cancun has this tourist entity that is called quite aptly “the hotel zone”. It is big, brassy and had some serious money put into it’s development. For us just going to see the 5km stretch of grandiose hotels that were so exclusive they gained their own peninsula was a tourist attraction in itself. Kuta in today’s day and age reminded me of the “hotel zone” of Cancun. There is a lot of money in these parts – from Keroboken to Kuta – it’s a flashy billionaires paradise!

“Well, now I’m here I might as well take a walk” I thought. I was curious to see if I would recognise anything!

It’s been around 18 years since I’ve been to Kuta. It was that experience that put me off Bali for life, or so I thought. The people back then were seriously aggressive and I was so harassed to buy things that I really did not want to leave the hotel. I had some frightening encounters. My only other memory (of sorts, it’s a bit blurry) was drinking “jungle juice” by the litre and dancing the night away at the bars that many years later were destroyed in in the Bali bombings.

It was not long before I came across the famous “Popies lane” and I took a walk down along the markets. I have to say it was surprisingly quiet around here especially in comparison to Legion, Kuta’s neighbouring suburb. I don’t recognise a thing from all those years ago – but that is something I am not surprised about.

Soon I stumble upon the Bounty Bar and realise I am at the strip of bars that were destroyed in the 2002 Bali bombings. The area is mostly rebuilt, aside from the Sari Club which many say will never be rebuilt out of respect for those that died. Paddy’s bar where the first bomb went off is now known as “ground zero” and is the location of an official large memorial which lists the names of the 202 people that died in Indonesia’s worst act of terrorism. It is a really sad reminder of something I remember so vividly hearing about and watching on the news.

I decide to start the journey back to Keroboken and maybe hail a bike cab along the way, but after many wrong directions from the locals I became rather lost.
It brought back memories of when I came to Bali a few years ago with a friend. She claimed to have a great sense of direction but much to my amusement (and her’s by the time we left), she would always head the wrong way sending me into fits of laughter. I have now joined the ranks of the confused and misled. Every cute and kitchy boutique begins to look the same there are so many.
I eventually came to a familiar sight, the quirky “goldfish bowl man” close by to my turnoff.
Relief, big relief.
I truly earnt my Bintang tonight that’s for sure !


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Padang Bay, Padang Bai, or is it just “the ferry gateway to the Gili Islands?”…

Well it can’t be all sunshine, pineapple juice and bare feet on the beach every day can it?

Since I arrived in the East coast town of Padang Bai yesterday it has rained. We are not talking a sprinkle here or there, we’re talking hard, constant enormities of rain. The roads are flooded, the sea is rough, the idyllic beaches are all but non existent, the ferries and boats to the islands list dangerously in the sea, and one has even sunk close to the shore today. Definitely not friendly sailing or snorkeling conditions around here at the moment.

For most part, Padangbai is a port town, even though all other information online tries to sell it to you otherwise.

Each morning bus loads of travelers arrive to take on the journey to the islands. I have seen hundreds of westerners heading over and coming back by the boat load, and that is no understatement. I am happy with my decision to avoid the Gili’s on this occasion, as beautiful as they look. Unfortunately due to the increased popularity of “the islands” they seem to be turning into the “new Kuta”, which is not somewhere I wish to be at the moment.

Despite the rain I have managed to get to the two main beaches on either side of the ferry bay. Blue Lagoon beach which I visited today, and White Sand Beach, which appears to have multiple names attached to it and which I visited late yesterday afternoon. Gee they make you work hard to get to the good beaches here in Padangbai. On both occasions I hiked up very large hills, one on the road and the other a large rubble track that leads to an old abandoned building site above White Sand beach. But the views from up high made it worth it. You could see the attraction of both beaches with the crystal clear waters on show.  I think under normal perfect sunshiny weather these beaches would be gorgeous. The sand is definitely “white”, and the water clear and perfect for snorkeling and diving. But at the moment, and due to the weather, both beaches are rough, choppy and extremely polluted. Actually this whole town is very dirty and there is a lot of rubbish around everywhere. Padangbai is a place that would certainly benefit from a town clean up, although I do recall seeing that there was a town clean up project that happened in the past.

I cannot say I am a big fan of the “bai”, although I am very aware of how different a ray of sunshine can affect my impression on a place, especially one that is a beach town.

Ahhh well, I am in another really cute guesthouse called Zen Inn, which for $25 a night is a bargain like no other. Each day I have eaten “the best fish I have ever tasted” (I think this nearly every meal) and basked in the enforced relaxation (I’m aware how silly that may sound to those who are aware I have been on “holidays” for close to three months  ) and planning the next adventure.

Tomorrow I make the trek to Keroboken for my final week in Bali !


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Amed, East Bali, I “heart” you!

Farewell dear “Amed” coastline!

When I was told by a fellow “wordpresser” that I should visit Amed in East Bali I immediately added it to my travel plans.
As the time got closer for my visit I started researching what goes on in this town, and I have to say that from what I read I did not expect too much, even shortening my stay by two days (and later regretting that decision) as I thought I may not find enough to do.

How mistaken I was.

Amed turned out to be the biggest and best surprise of the last 3 months of my traveling!

After driving through some of the most spectacular rice terraces and tropical plantations I have seen in Bali, arriving at Amed was a little confusing.
What I didn’t really realise is that Amed is actually five or six little villages spread along 15km (or so) of the North East coast. There is no “centre of town” and you get about from one village to the next on foot or by scooter.

This was once a remote and poor area, so much so that the first tar was laid down on the road in the year 2000 with telephone lines arriving just a few years later.
On my last night in Amed the power went out all along the coastline sending it into total darkness under the light of the full “super moon” (eeerrrrryyyy). There are no back up generators in these parts so all I could do was sit in the silence on my home-stay balcony listening to the waves crash on the shore.

Over the six days I spent along the coast of Amed I found myself saying “this place is amazing” repeatedly every single day. And it is true. It really is amazing.

The striking landscape is like nothing I could have ever imagined. The dramatic black stone beaches framed by bright green banana and coconut tree plantations, small Warungs offering “fresh off the boat” (FOB!?) seafood and delicious (not to mention addictive) pineapple juice right on the beach, all the while Mount Agung volcano looming ominously in the background.
Then there are the crystal clear waters containing an overwhelming abundance of tropical fish, so many fish that at times I truly felt like I was swimming around a tropical fish tank.

“This place is am-azing”.

The Amed-ian people have a lot of time for you. One of my new favourite things in the world is that, “having time”, and making time.
The people for most part are just happy for a chat and are known as some of the friendliest on the island.
“Sit down and talk and laugh a while” one guy offered me yesterday.
This is a place where everyone knows everyone and taking a walk through the villages of Amed is one of the best things you can do here. You will meet the locals, they will call out to you, say “hello” and sometimes offer you something; like the lady who’s road side shop I passed at the top of the big hill I needed to traverse each day on the way to and from the beach. “You need Bintang ?” she asked me laughing one day as I arrived sweaty and puffing at the top of the hill.

What I loved about Amed was that many of the locals do not speak English and most often it won’t stop a conversation from trying to take place.
On the first day I walked to the beach at Jemeluk I was waved over to a shop by a lady offering me water. My first encounter with her involved her proudly showing me what she had to sell that may be of interest to me. It consisted of three things:- large bottles of cold water (Aqua), cake and woman’s “hygiene” products.
What more could a woman want? really!
I enjoyed our “quizzical expression” chats so much that I went back to see her each day to buy water. Many of our “conversations” ended in puzzled laughter but it was fun and joyous!

It is hard not to slip into the laid back lifestyle of Amed. There are no hoards of tourists and no shops or people on the street trying to sell you something. In comparison to busy South Bali the streets are quiet and the style of life is “slow”.
Days consist of watching the fishing boats come and go, spending hours on the beach, jumping in and out of the water to go snorkeling, wandering into the beach “Warungs” for some lunch or dinner when the urge struck, cruising around the villages chatting to the locals, hitching a free ride on the back of a scooter when feeling lazy, then winding down (if it is possible to unwind further in Amed) with the epic daily sunset up on the headland is the way of life here.
Such a laid back place. “This place is amazing”.

Amed, I “heart” you !

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