Chillin in Canggu

It was hard to decide where to go from Ubud. This would be our last stop in Bali – Fred’s last stop of her trip – so it had to be a good one. We were in constant debate between Canggu and Nusa Lembongan. Canggu had the good vibes we were looking for, but Nusa promised pristine white beaches and crystal clear water that always attract us like moths to a flame.

After much deliberation, we settled on Canggu (pronounced Chan-goo). Less than two hours away and a haven for surfers (read: chillers), this was the perfect last stop. So what if the sand wasn’t fine and white, and the water wasn’t the perfect shade of blue? Tourists and locals alike were chilled out, the streets laden with rice fields and hipster restaurants/cafΓ©s reminiscent of my old neighborhood in the Plateau (or Brooklyn for you non-Montrealers).

Days were spent lazing by the beach and nights were spent drinking beer and socializing/partying with the others staying at our hostel.

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All in all, Canggu did not disappoint. In fact, it was the perfect ending to the perfect trip with my two best friends.

Next stop: Manila, Philippines!

MellowYellow rating: πŸ’›πŸ’›πŸ’›πŸ’›πŸ’›πŸ’›
6/5 (Canggu set new standards)

Travelers tips: We stayed at Surfers Hostel (The Village, but we heard The Temple is also really good). Crate has the B-E-S-T breakfast. Also, the best tip I can give you is go to Canggu. Just make sure you go at the end of your trip, otherwise you may never leave.

Amed and back to Ubud!

And so the three musketeers became two. And off to Amed they went. We had heard that this was a really beautiful and serene place with great snorkeling, so we figured we’d head back to Bali with Amed as our first stop. After a 2 hour boat ride where we got to sit on the roof and sunbathe (why waste any time?), we docked in Amed. It struck me that, although so close together, Bali and Lombok look so different. While both are lined with volcanoes peaking over the clouds, somehow Bali seemed more green and wild. image image image image image The snorkeling was every bit as beautiful as we had heard it would be. Amed, once a small fishing town, has now become one of the best diving spots in Bali due to 2 shipwrecks from WWII that have spawned beautiful corals. As the US Liberty was deeper and better suited for divers, we headed out to the Japanese shipwreck not too far away, where we were able to see a large part of the boat in shallow waters. image image image image image image image image image After 2 nights in Amed, we felt we had our dose of quiet and serene (read: we were bored) and found a shuttle going to Ubud, so off we went! image

Ubud was just as beautiful the second time around. We went back to the market (obviously), and checked out some spots that we didn’t have a chance to at the beginning of our trip. We rented a moped and went to Goa Gojah, also known as the Elephant Caves, which date back to the 9th century, and the entrance to which is an ornately carved demon’s mouth. We then went to Tirta Empul, one of the holiest temples in Bali dating back to the 10th century and built around hot springs. The Balinese come here to bathe and purify themselves physically and spiritually, as the water from the spring is clean and is believed to have magical powers. image image image image image image image image image image image image image image image image image The next day I stayed at the hostel and booked my accommodation in Philippines (yay!) while Fred went to go see elephants at the Elephant Safari Park. image image image image Next stop: Canggu!

MellowYellow rating (for Amed): πŸ’›πŸ’›

2/5 (Unless you’re a diver or a couple, then its more like a 4/5)

Travelers tips: We stayed at Sama Sama in Amed, really nice accommodations and very close to where the ferry drops you off. The Japanese shipwreck was 15 minutes away by moped, the US Liberty is further away. Also make sure to go to Oops on the main road in Ubud, they have a really amazing band that plays on Thursdays and Fridays.

Gili Islands: Welcome to my paradise

Our reward after the grueling hike up Mount Rinjani was the paradisal Gili Islands. We headed to Gili Trawangan, the most popular out of the 3 islands (Gili Trawangan, Gili Meno and Gili Air). After a wonderful night’s sleep we headed to the beach, ready to rest our minds, bodies and souls. Satisfied by a day lazing by the beach, but wanting to treat ourselves (again), we decided to get a massage before going for dinner. This was by far the most painful but necessary massage in my life – the Rinjani hike had left us unable to climb the dozen steps leading to our room. We headed to the night market for some de-lish local food (it was so tasty that I felt the need to accentuate the deliciousness) and then ended the night at the reggae bar (that’s not a typo – there’s only one reggae bar). image image The next day we headed to a beach close by that had some really great snorkeling (we saw a turtle!). image image image image After another trip to the night market for dinner (seriously, it’s that good), we had an obligatory party night at THE place to be (the island is so small that only one place stays open past 11pm). To get away from the hustle and bustle of the main village, the next day we rented bikes and rode out to the southeastern tip of the island, where we heard the sunsets were the most beautiful. After a bout of rain (and many rounds of bananagrams), we did in fact witness one of the most breathtaking sunsets. Then for dinner – you guessed it – we returned to the night market for yet another delicious meal, and ended the night at a shisha bar. image image image image image For our last day all together we did a boat tour that would take us to the two other Gili islands for some snorkeling. We had an exquisite banquet dinner (we felt the need to explore beyond the night market) and sent off Gabrielle back to London the next day. image image image image

Next stop (for Fred and I): Amed, Bali

MellowYellow rating: πŸ’›πŸ’›πŸ’›πŸ’› 4/5

Travelers tips: We stayed at La Boheme hostel (we avoided Gili Hostel because we heard they had bed bugs). Nice hostel that’s about a 5 minute walk from the main street. We went snorkeling at Coral Beach II on the northeast coast, you can rent equipment there. Ombak Resort has the best view of the sunset and has swings in the water. We booked the snorkel boat tour from our hostel.

From Kuta Bali to Kuta Lombok (and the challenge of Mount Rinjani)

Kuta Lombok is the antithesis of Kuta Bali; quiet, remote and virtually untouched. On our way we stopped at a traditional Sasak hand weaving village, where we were able to see women weaving different patterns that were taught to them by their mothers, as each family has their own patterns that are passed down from generation to generation. We also got to try our hands at some hand weaving (pun intended) and don the traditional Sasak marriage outfit.

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After an incident involving a giant spider in the shared bathroom on our first night at the hostel, we decided to treat ourselves and book a hotel for the next two nights (a room AND a bathroom all to ourselves! And a hot shower too!) 

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We rented mopeds and discovered the many exquisite beaches Kuta Lombok has to offer. But the real hidden gem here was the people – unfazed by tourists and genuinely good. There are also swarms of kids selling bracelets everywhere, mastering the art of negotiation and improving their English at the same time. Gabrielle must have bought at least 15 of them (bracelets not kids) and was identified the weakest link.

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Once well rested and relaxed, it came time to hike Mount Rinjani – the second highest volcano in Indonesia at 3,726 meters high. We were a little hesitant at first; we had found the collective 4 hour hike up and down Mount Batur to be challenging, so naturally we were wondering whether we were physically and mentally capable of doing a 3 day hike. We ended up booking with an agency and hoped for the best. In the end, in my opinion, the trek was challenging but totally worth it (Fred might say differently). We trekked a total of 25 kilometers over the three days (split out 10/4/11) and camped in tents both nights at approximately 10 degrees Celsius (the temperature at the base must have been above 35 degrees). We were rewarded with breathtaking views that seemed almost unreal, along with an extreme sense of accomplishment – and maybe invincibility – at the end of the three day trek.

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Next stop: Gili Islands!

Mellow Yellow rating: πŸ’›πŸ’›πŸ’›πŸ’›πŸ’›

5/5

Travelers tips: Our first night in Kuta we stayed at Full Moon – OK rooms but very “rugged” bathrooms. We stayed at Kuta Cove for two nights – highly recommended. You can rent mopeds almost anywhere. Sonya’s restaurant is delicious – local food at local prices. Every weekend there is a beach party with a 50/50 ratio of locals and tourists – good live music, fire shows and cold beers.  

As for Rinjani, you can book with an agency for ~$130 or book a porter for cheaper but have to take care of supplies yourself. Ask yourself the following questions before booking: 

  1. Do I like trekking and/or rock climbing?
  2. Do I like nature?
  3. Do I like camping?
  4. Am I physically fit?
  5. Can I handle 10 hours per day of walking/climbing/being constantly on the verge of death, not showering, and going to the bathroom in the wild for three days straight? 

If you answered yes to at least one of these questions, then Rinjani might be for you. Good luck and godspeed.

Krazed in Kuta

Getting to Kuta from Ubud made me feel a little bit like Dorothy in The Wizard of Oz – gone were the chilled out vibes and local culture of Ubud, replaced instead by the sensory overload and domination of Western culture in Kuta. We knew what we were getting ourselves into. A few people had already told us to skip Kuta altogether, but we had also heard there were some nice beaches (which we are big fans of).

So off to the beach we went, very crowded but also very beautiful. After experiencing our first breathtaking Kuta sunset we hit the town with two girls we met in Ubud (Katie from New Zealand and Fauve from Belgium). We danced and drank away until the wee hours of the night.

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The next day we made our way to Seminyak – the older, more refined sister of Kuta. This took quite a while as we were paying the price for the fun we had the previous night. We ended the day with dinner on the beach, listening to live music.

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For our final day in Kuta we went to Uluwatu. Here we saw the breathtaking cliff side Uluwatu Temple as well as some gorgeous beaches (Balangan and Suluban/Blue Point).

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Next stop: Lombok!

Mellow Yellow rating: πŸ’›πŸ’›πŸ’›πŸ’›
4/5 (only if you have time to spare)

Travelers tips: If you are going from Ubud to Kuta (or vice versa) it is worth stopping at the rice terraces (Tegalalang)on the way. In Ubud a taxi to the terraces and back will cost you 200,000 and Ubud-Kuta will cost 300,000. We got the cab to take us to Kuta with a 1 hour stop at the terraces for 330,000. We stayed at Kayun Downtown Hostel and would highly recommend it. If you’re not into the club scene go to AlleyCats. If you’re not into the party scene, do yourself a favor and go to Seminyak instead.

Some eating, less praying and lots of love for Ubud

Our first stop in Bali was in Ubud, a small and quiet(ish) town amidst the mountains north of the hustle and bustle of the city center. It is rich in Balinese history and culture – it is hard to walk a couple blocks without seeing a temple, palace, art gallery or traditional Balinese dance performance.

This was a wonderful place to start out our trip and wean off our jet lag, since there is plenty to do during the day and not much to do at night. We started by visiting the market and loading up on breezy dresses, turquoise jewelry and harem pants – a backpackers wet dream. The next day we visited the Sacred Monkey Forest Sanctuary, where we got to see voracious monkeys that inhabit this nature reserve and Hindu temple complex. I personally didn’t get too close to the monkeys in fear of getting rabies, but a lot of people bought bananas to get the monkeys to climb up to their heads (which makes for a great photo op).

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The next day we did a cooking class, which I would definitely recommend doing! We started by going to the market around 8:30am and were explained what kinds of food and spices we would be using during the class. We were then taken to a small plantation where they were growing ginger, turmeric, vanilla, chillies and coffee beans. We had a tea and coffee tasting, with 6-8 samples of each and different natural flavors like coconut coffee/tea, saffron tea, ginseng tea and spiced chocolate coffee. Our third stop was a beautiful village with a huge rice field that’s divided between the different families in the village. We did all the actual cooking and eating out in the open with a breathtaking view on the field and village.Β After a food coma afternoon we found a free yoga class in the evening (this was unrelated to our morning’s indulgences during the cooking class) and ended the night at a quasi-karaoke reggae bar.

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On our third day we walked around Ubud (along the Ridge Walk) to see some rice fields. We walked along the electrifying green fields and stopped at a cafe to admire the view.

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Our last day was an adventurous one – we climbed to the summit of Mount Batur at 1,700 meters! The day started at 2am where we got picked up from our hostel and brought to the base of the volcano. After a surprisingly delicious banana crepe and coffee we started our ascend in the pitch dark. We must have been at least 100 people climbing, although the group from our hostel was around 12-15 people. The first hour wasn’t too difficult and it was really spectacular to see the stars glowing against the dark sheet of the sky in the middle of the night. The second part of the hike was steeper and more difficult, especially the parts that were very sandy and slippery. Once we got to the very top, the difficult climb was the last thing on my mind and we watched the village below disappear as fog and clouds rose with the sun. As we climbed down we saw the tomatoes and chillies growing by the path in the light of day, and I felt a real sense of accomplishment that was soon taken over by a wave of utter exhaustion.

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The next day we were off to Kuta and looking forward to some beach and party times to counter Ubud’s chill and laid back vibes. We found a taxi that would take us to the beautiful rice terraces of Tegalalang on our way to Kuta, and thus ended our first atop in Bali.

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Next stop, Kuta!

Mellow Yellow rating: πŸ’›πŸ’›πŸ’›πŸ’›πŸ’›
5/5

 

Travelers tips: Ubud is the perfect place to go to if you want to get away from the swarms of tourists that come to Bali just to see the beaches of Kuta. Our cab from Denpasar airport to the hostel cost 300,000 IDR (when you leave the airport cross the street and get a Bluebird taxi and ask for the metered fare). We stayed at In Da Lodge Hostel, stupid name but really good hostel with good tours (essentially same prices you would pay in town). The free yoga class is at Yoga Barn every Friday at 6pm. Also, try Dadar Gulung. Your taste buds will thank you.