Skimming Deep

Searching, traveling, talking, reflecting, and exploring. Read along with me as I continue on my journey through life.

Category: Bali

Reflections on 3 Months of Travel

I’ve been back in the U.S. for a little over a week now (it feels so much longer already!  My travels seem like a dream!), and I thought it would be good for myself to do a post on my overall reflections from my travel.  At the halfway point, I wrote a reflection post; and just for the sake of closure, and for my own processing, I’d like to use the same format to look at the 2nd half of my trip (quickly) and also my overall trip.

SECOND HALF OF MY TRIP: (Nelson, New Zealand to Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia)

LOWLIGHTS

  • My first few days in Bali.  I was overwhelmed by the heat and humidity and the touristy facade to EVERYTHING; and it being Thanksgiving, I was a little homesick, too.  Once I hit Amed for the scuba course, though, everything turned around.
  • The heat, humidity, pollution, dust in the big cities in both Bali and Malaysia.  I missed the fresh, cool air of New Zealand.
  • Getting tons of mosquito bites and even some allergic reactions to tiger balm (that’s my diagnosis, at least) on my left leg in Malaysia.  I was so itchy for days it wasn’t even funny.  The Malaysian mosquitoes were quite vicious (and that was confirmed by another traveler I met).
  • Saying goodbye to New Zealand.  I was so sad to leave that beautiful country.

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HIGHLIGHTS

  • The biggest highlight (not only for the 2nd half of my trip but overall, I’d have to say) was getting my Open Water Diving scuba license.  It was such an amazing experience from start to finish, not only because it was so fear-inducing and fear-conquering but because I was able to see beautiful aquatic life 15-20 meters underwater.
  • The markets in Malaysia.  Sights, sounds, smells, tastes (the ones I ate at)… all amazing.
  • Cooking meals for my host family in Kerikeri in New Zealand.  We ate so well together, and they were so appreciative.  It was great fun.
  • The food in Melaka, Malaysia.  So mouthwateringly good.  And like nothing I had ever eaten before.  I wish I could have some now.
  • Riding a scooter around Pulau Pangkor.  It was so liberating and fun.  I wasn’t even going that fast, but it was so nice to be going faster than walking speed and not be in a car.

LESSONS LEARNED

  • Traveling in Southeast Asia as a single, young-looking (because I look a lot younger than I actually am) woman raises lots of people’s curiosity and admiration.  I was surprised by this because in New Zealand, it was quite common to find other single female travelers. In Asia, though, that was something that was not common, and I always had to figure out what kind of answer to give and was even wondering why they were asking.
  • I am not a great tropical-region traveler.  I always knew that I’m not good with heat and humidity, but being in Bali and Malaysia during their rainy season where I think the humidity was even higher than other times of year was quite a challenge.  I kept hoping it would cool off in the evenings but it didn’t.  And my spirits were definitely a little lower as a baseline because of the humid weather.  If I could travel in a tropical area and always have a pool or ocean to jump into to cool off, I think I’d be much better off.
  • Bringing some laundry detergent with me was a good idea.  I was washing some of my clothes almost every other day in Southeast Asia because 1) I didn’t have a lot of clothes and 2) I was sweating profusely each day and didn’t want to be a smelly person.

OVERALL 3 MONTH TRIP

LOWLIGHTS

Overall it was an amazing trip, and I didn’t experience ANY mishaps, accidents, dangerous moments.  I was pretty good about staying alert and not doing anything too risky (except for diving, but that was with an instructor, and it didn’t seem dangerous to me), so I was OK.  So the only lowlights I can really think of that stand out were

  • mosquito bites
  • the over-tourism of Bali
  • some of the traveler’s guilt I felt in Bali and Malaysia, especially the poorer areas

HIGHLIGHTS

  • As stated before, I think the scuba diving course, staying in Amed at the Geri Geria Shanti Bungalows, and meeting the amazing people there was a highlight.  I will never forget those first days diving in the amazing reefs and the shipwreck.  It was truly amazing and life changing.
  • All my WWOOFing placements were great, and I am still in touch with most of the people and hope to go back someday.  I learned a ton, got to really get my hands dirty (literally), and got more in touch with nature than I ever have.
  • Seeing lots of sunrises and sunsets in all three countries was wonderful.  I was basically awaking with the sun and sleeping when it got dark, rarely using an alarm clock at all, even when I had things I had to do.  I was outdoors most of the time, and I really enjoyed that– the hiking, the walking, the exploring, getting to know new flora and fauna.
  • FOOD!  Both in New Zealand and Malaysia.  In New Zealand because so often it was organic, fresh from a garden or a farm and often homemade.  In Malaysia because it was just soooo good.  I wasn’t crazy about the food in Bali.

LESSONS LEARNED

  • I really, really enjoyed traveling on my own, and I don’t think there were any moments that I felt like I couldn’t do something because I was by myself.  However, I think it would have been enjoyable to have a companion at various points to celebrate the high points together (or even to have some company when I was homesick over Thanksgiving.).  On the one hand, I’ve really gotten to enjoy and value solo travel, but I don’t think I’ve been put off from traveling with someone(s) for ever.  It’s nice to have someone to reflect with at the end of the day, to talk through decisions with, and to enjoy the good times with.  I think that’s why I really enjoyed the places where I met great people with whom I could talk and connect with.
  • Keeping an open mind- being ready to meet new people, try new foods, go down new paths- is important to me for travel.  I could have planned everything before I left, down to the hour, but I didn’t have the time nor the energy to do that kind of preparation.  So I ended up figuring out my general itinerary a few weeks in advance and then went day by day.
  • Tripadvisor is a great resource for accommodations.  The reviews that I read were accurate for the most part.
  • Having a Schwab account with ATM card was a HUGE asset.  No ATM fees anywhere, and I could withdraw any amount of money from any ATM machine.
  • I went the cheap route for as much as I could but splurged here and there– last dinner in a town, the scuba course, last hotel for all my travels.  Those splurges were nice treats to myself, especially when I had gone budget for everything else, including walking that extra mile with all my baggage instead of getting a taxi.

FOR THE FUTURE

I know travel is always going to be a part of my life, as it always has been.  I’d love to go back to New Zealand and explore more of the North Island and the southern part of the South Island.  I’d also like to try WWOOFing again at some point if I can, maybe somewhere else in the world– Italy, France, Japan…

So to wrap things up, here’s my itinerary:

  1. Landed in Auckland from Los Angeles.  1 night.
  2. First WWOOF home outside of New Plymouth.  10 nights.
  3. Wellington with a family friend.  2 nights.
  4. Seresin Estate in Renwick.  15 nights.
  5. WWOOF home outside of Christchurch.  9 nights.
  6. Wanaka.  3 nights.
  7. Franz Josef.  3 nights.
  8. Punakaiki.  2 nights.
  9. Nelson.  4 nights.
  10. Wellington.  1 night.
  11. Intercity overnight bus.  1 night.
  12. WWOOF home outside of Kerikeri.  8 nights.
  13. Auckland airport.  1 night.
  14. Ubud, Bali.  4 nights.
  15. Amed, Bali.  5 nights.
  16. Sanur, Bali.  2 nights.
  17. Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.  2 nights.
  18. Pulau Pangkor, Malaysia.  2 nights.
  19. Melaka, Malaysia.  2 nights.
  20. KL, Malaysia.  3 nights.

TOTAL: 86 days

  • 3 countries
  • 16 towns/ villages/ cities
  • airplanes, trains, boats, scooter, taxi, buses, cars, bicycles
  • almost 2000 photos and short videos
  • three pairs of pants, two pairs of shorts, some t-shirts and tanktops, my Keen shoes, a pair of Tevas, and other clothing

I’m happy to share more detailed tips and information for anyone that’s looking to travel to these places.  Ask while I still remember!  Leave me a comment!

Passing on Experience to Other Bali Travelers

I have arrived in Kuala Lumpur, but before I forget, I wanted to pass on some travel tips with specifics that can help another future traveler-to-Bali (if they find my blog with these tips!). In no particular order but categorized by my own Virgo mind:

An art shop in a small village on my Campuan ridge walk, before the owner was even up!

TRANSPORT AROUND BALI

  • Getting a taxi from the airport to Ubud should cost about 195.000 IDR. You can catch taxis waiting outside the airport at the departure waiting area. Make sure to set a price before hopping in the taxi. Move on to the next taxi if you the driver won't go down.
  • A taxi from Sanur to the airport should cost anywhere between 80.000 to 100.000 IDR. I asked an honest guy the cost, and he said drivers shouldn't charge more than 80K. And when I talked to a driver, he first said 150.000, but I said 80.000, and he was surprised, and then we settled at 100.000. I talked to him the day before I was to go to the airport, and he came and picked me up at my guesthouse the next day, as arranged!
  • In the guidebooks, they talk about “bemos” which are these vans that just drive around for way cheaper than taxis or shuttle buses. I never took one because I wasn't totally sure how it worked. I think if I had a travel partner, I might have tried…
  • When getting from one town to another, there are usually many options, it's all about how much you want to spend and how “in style” you want to travel. This is what I have ascertained are the options:
    • Bemo— mentioned above. The cheapest of the options– it's what the locals might use if they don't have their own motorbike. In busy areas, there are lots of guys yelling out, “bemo? bemo!”
    • Shuttle bus— organized by private tour companies; and in Ubud, so I'm assuming probably in some other towns as well, also organized by the town's official Tourist Information Center. Lots of private tour companies also use the name “tourist information center,” so you have to be sure to find the official one. In Ubud, the UTI (as they call it. hee hee.) is right near the Ubud market. It looks all official with staff that work in official uniforms. Shuttle buses are a bus or van that goes to different towns, and the price is often based on a minimum of two people going. So if you're a single traveler, you're kind of stuck. Though at the UTI, I was able to book a bus to Amed, and didn't need a minimum of two people. It's way cheaper than a private driver. From Ubud to Amed, the shuttle bus through the UTI was 130.000 IDR. Do some “shopping around.” Tour companies often have boards listing their going rates for buses. When I was walking around Ubud, I saw that some companies did 150.000, 180.000, etc. to Amed.
    • Official taxi— there's a difference, I think, between guys who have a car and are just yelling, “taxi, taxi,” everywhere and actual taxis. I'm not 100% sure about this, but official taxis have a little sign on their roof that makes them look like a taxi. The cars might be different styles and different colors, but they're official. Apparently at the taxi company base, there's a listing of the rates and town-to-town costs. I only used an official taxi once– going from Sanur to the airport.
    • Private driver— guys who have a car or van and either work for themselves or a tour company and drive tourists around, either to a location or just on a sightseeing trip. The guy I hired to drive me from Ubud to other sights was a driver for a small company. Bargaining is always possible. My guesthouse owner Liselotte helped me get a driver for my ride from Amed to Sanur (there's no shuttle bus or official taxis there), a two and a half hour drive, for 375.000 IDR. I thought it was a bit pricey, and I think I could have just gotten a driver to a nearby town like Amlapura or Candidasa and then tried to pick up a shuttle bus that already had people in it if I was lucky. But as a single traveler, I was sure if they'd have a two person minimum requirement. So I had to deal with it.

    Motorbikes lined up, early morning in Ubud.

  • Renting motorbikes is another way to get around, and I met some tourists from France who didn't have their international license but rented one anyway. They said it was great– “freedom!” They didn't do it in a big city but in Amed, they said it was great. And super cheap. Something like 50.000 IDR to rent, and the petrol is heavily subsidized here, so it's super cheap. Again, if I had had a travel companion, I think I would have done this. And if I had stayed in Amed one or two more days, I might have rented just for a day to do it. But it's a little scary to drive among the Balinese drivers. They have a certain code of rules that are a bit hard to navigate.

ACCOMMODATIONS

My best guide was TripAdvisor. I have never used it so earnestly and trustingly before. But I must say that all the places I stayed really lived up to their high ratings. I've already mentioned the places I've stayed in recent posts, but just to recap with prices:

  • Ubud for four nights: Jangkrik Homestay. 150.000 IDR each night (on a special rate through TripAdvisor). Best breakfast I had in Bali– banana pancakes or toast and fruit plate. With a Balinese family. Nice balcony seating area outside my room. Good clean facilities. Ceiling fan, no a-c. Right in the middle of Ubud. Free, reliable wi-fi. Family members also participate in a Kecak dance performance– fun to go watch.
  • Amed for five nights: Geria Giri Shanti Bungalows. 180.000 IDR each night (low season price). Best hosts. Instant cappuccino along with the coffee and tea that most places have. Beautiful room and bathroom– super clean and spacious. Floor fan, no a-c. Free wi-fi but a bit spotty– I think Amed in general has slower wi-fi than a bigger town. Dive shop, Adventure Divers Bali, is part of the facility.
  • Sanur for two nights: Flashbacks. 250.000 IDR (includes tip and tax) each night. Great breakfast of homemade toast, coffee, and fruit (with a mangosteen, which I have come to adore.). Small saltwater pool in the facility. Clean, spacious and beautiful room and really nice bathroom. Good location. Nice restaurant/ cafe attached, Porch Cafe.

Cozy setting a tiny saltwater pool at Flashbacks in Sanur.

These are all places I would definitely go back to. Great reviews on TripAdvisor for a reason!

FOOD

Now in case you haven't noticed on my blog, I LOOOOVVVE food. Really. I love trying new food, cooking and baking my own food, eating others' homemade food… And I haven't been so impressed with Balinese and Indonesian food. I'm going to chalk it up to the fact that I”m in tourist areas and eating food catered toward tourists, not toward the locals. I would have loved to have eaten with a Balinese family at their own home table.

Decent meal I had at a warung in Ubud. I think it was chicken.

The main things you can find at a warung (small eatery) are mee goreng (fried noodles) or nasi goreng (fried rice) and chicken, beef, and sometimes fish (at least in Amed and Sanur) prepared in various ways.

The tropical fruit is good, too. Not amazing, but good. I especially fell in love with passion fruit…

Mango, mangosteen, and passion fruit. Now you see it, now you don't!

One place where I went twice because the food was SO good was Pregina Warung in Sanur, a few doors down from Flashbacks. I was surprised how tasty and fresh the food was. For my lunch, I had a grilled chicken with some kind of coconut sauce. Delicious. The flavorings were perfect. I think that's what I've been missing– hoping for something more flavorful and rich and unique, but I haven't found that at other places.

My dinner (that same day), I splurged because it was my last dinner in Bali, and I ordered the bebek goreng at 80.000 IDR (most of my meals previously cost around 2-40.000 per plate). Crispy duck. Oh my gosh, it was delicious, and not just “good for Bali,” but one of the best dishes I've had in a long time. The duck skin was super crispy and well flavored. The meat was juicy and tender. And there were a few condiments to go along with it. I was sad when it was done. I could have eaten two or three times more than the portion size! You must check out that place. I recommended it to a Canadian couple I met at the guesthouse, and they said it was also delicious.

Bebek goreng from Pregina Warung in Sanur, Bali.

Other than that, not much to say for the food in Bali. They don't have a lot of outdoor stalls like Malaysia and Singapore.

SIGHTSEEING

Ulun Danu Bratan temple in Bedugul, Bali. On Lake Bratan.

You'll get lots of tips on this elsewhere. Honestly, I don't remember too much of my sightseeing because it was all done in such a haphazard way with the driver (not necessarily in a bad way). I'm used to sightseeing with my own map, laying out my walk or public transportation route and aiming to see certain things. But I didn't do a ton of research on what to see in Bali because I knew I'd have a driver. So I didn't know where were the “good” places until toward the end of my trip.

If you don't rent your own car to drive around (which I think I would actually prefer, to go at my own pace, but as I said before, driving in Bali is a bit tricky. They have their own rules.), I would recommend hiring a driver for at least one day. And it's good to do a bit of research to see what places you want to see. There's definitely a lot to see– temples, rice paddies (agro-tourism, a new term I learned here, is a big thing in Bali), coffee plantations, natural beauties like waterfalls and volcanoes.

Rice paddies en route, shuttle bus, to Amed.

It's good to see at least one Balinese traditional dance performance as well. I really liked the Kecak dance. I think the Barong and Kris dance is also supposed to be good and interesting, but I didn't see that.

Be prepared to pay for everything– entry fees. It's not a lot, but it starts to add up.

Some of my favorite sightseeing was just walking around streets, observing and taking in all the sights that way. I could see how people (both locals and tourists) worked. I saw what buildings looked like, even how many of them were being built. I saw the daily offerings that were made to the gods for good luck and karma. I was bombarded with the calls of “miss, taxi?” or “miss, massage?” but I think that's part of the tourist experience in Bali. At first I was annoyed, but it started to become like the other sounds of Bali.

OVERALL

i'd say overall this isn't one of my favorite places that I've traveled to. I think it was partly the weather and partly the fact that I didn't do enough research to find out what I really wanted to do and see here. I think it's also a very poor country and because the tourist industry has shot up so quickly, I think the disparity between the poverty of the locals and the wealth of travelers makes for a weird vibe here. I can't quite explain it, but being in KL for a day which is much more developed, I know that I don't have that same feeling here…

However, the diving course and meeting folks in Amed was my favorite part and definitely made this a memorable trip. I would come back to Amed, for sure. Maybe not the other parts of Bali. It's a popular honeymoon and wedding destination, but I wouldn't do either here, unless to go diving for a week or more!! 🙂

Part of the crew at Adventure Divers Bali and Geria Giri Shanti Bungalows in Amed, Bali.

 

Swallowing Gallons of Sea Water = Conquering Fears

When I left the U.S., I had considered trying to get my scuba diver license somewhere in my travels. But I wasn't totally sure. And then I made the decision to splurge and just do it somewhere between the end of my New Zealand trip and Ubud.

I found Adventure Divers Bali on TripAdvisor with great reviews, so I thought I'd give it a try. I emailed them, and they emailed right away, answering all my questions (including a slightly silly one I sent asking about my terrible eyesight and whether I could see underwater– they responded that they had some prescription masks, which ended up not being strong enough but still helped a lot).

I got into Amed Friday afternoon and got started with some instructional DVDs to learn some of the theory of diving. The heat was so oppressive, so where I originally thought I could do 6 units (short videos) in a few hours, I only got through two units. Got some dinner at a nearby warung recommended by the guesthouse owner, and then came back to my room and konked out at something like 8pm!

The next morning, I was up early (5am) and had some breakfast and then got started right away with my first two dives. What?! I had no idea how the course goes, so when David, the instructor, said we were going to go out diving, I was a little, no, more like, A LOT, nervous and freaked. But what I'm learning is that scuba diving courses are practical– just that many schools start in a pool, whereas in places where there are nice diving sites, they use the ocean as the training ground.

It's all a blur now, but these are some of the skills I learned in the three day course (each day involves two dives):

  • How to put together the equipment— buoyancy control jacket, tank, regulators
  • How to put on the equipment— all of the above which is one unit plus mask, fins, weight belt
  • How to do a shore entry— walk in with all that equipment on (except the fins) into the water, then put the fins on once you're in, trying not to get knocked over by any waves (but the water is pretty calm where we dive, usually).
  • How to breathe through the regulator. What a strange feeling breathing underwater. It sounded like Darth Vader. And it definitely took getting used to. It's so not normal to be swimming deep and breathing at the same time!
  • And a bunch of emergency-related skills, which were absolutely terrifying! Recovering your regulator if it gets knocked out (meaning you have to hold your breathe, exhale a tiny bit at a time, and do this search for the regulator hose). Blowing water out of your mask if it gets filled (hard and weird to do). Breathe normally with the regulator with no mask on (which involves taking off your own mask first, breathing, and then putting the mask back on)– this was the hardest skill for me because I think I tended to breathe a tad with my nose when using the regulator, so when I did the skill, I totally sucked in tons of water through my nose, swallowed tons of water, was panicking underwater, and thought I was going to die. I had to do that several times until my instructor was satisfied that I was doing it calmly. And I finally got the hang of proper only-mouth breathing. Taking off the whole scuba unit underwater and putting it back on. Pretending that you're out of air and go to use your buddy's alternate regulator. The list goes on for a couple more skills. Oh, and by the way, these were all skills that I learned over the course of three days.
  • Dive shop at Adventure Divers Bali, where we get our gear and also hang out, in the shade.

    On the first day, the first dive, especially, I was ready to just throw in the towel and walk out of the water; and if the instructor had let me do that, I would have. It was so scary to be doing these skills. I wasn't really enjoying myself. After the first mask removal skill try, I was pretty much sobbing underwater (I could feel my chest heaving uncontrollably) after I gulped down and breathed in a bunch of water. But it was almost like giving up wasn't an option with him. Not that he was militant, but he was just patient and kept having me go at it until I was relaxed and comfortable. He was the perfect combination of gentle, encouraging, persistent, and relaxed. He kept “telling” me underwater to breathe slow and relaxed, and he wouldn't let me move on to the next thing until I was all calmed down.

    Having one on one instruction by an English speaker who really cared about my technique and getting it all just so was excellent. I can't imagine if I had ended up at a dive shop where the instructor was Balinese or somewhere where they cared less about technique and more about just getting you certified so you could dive, but do so sloppily. He was the perfect teacher for me and for what I needed– someone who knew what he was doing, explained the theory and technique in ways I could understand, and kept reminding me underwater to “stay level,” “don't kick too much,” “breathe normally…” (all with hand signals and gentle taps with a metal pointer against his aluminum scuba cylinder).

    The first day is a far bygone memory at this point. I don't even remember what fish I saw or what the coral looked like or anything. I was just happy that by the end I was able to breathe through the regulator and get into and out of the water decently.

    Jukung- fishing boat used by Indonesian fishermen. Also can be used to take divers out.

    The second day, we did more skills (some of what was mentioned above). We took a little jukung (Balinese fishing boat) out to our dive site, and one of the young guys at the dive shop who's training to become a Divemaster came out with us. The current was pretty strong (I didn't realize how strong), so much so that they were both pretty much pulling me along at parts because otherwise I would be going backward or just staying in place. Because there was a strong current on both dives (less on the second), we ended up just diving with only a few skills. And the instructor just pointed a lot of ocean life. I couldn't see so well, but the most memorable were a slew of garden eels sticking their bodies out of the sand, waving in the ocean “breeze;” hawksbill sea turtles, which were big and gentle, like the funny Aussie turtles in Finding Nemo; some scorpion fish, trigger fish, and other funky things that I wrote in my divelog book.

    Photo of hawksbill sea turtle, from google images.

    I was more comfortable on my second day so I was able to notice more around me other than just focusing on my breathing. But since everything was new, I had no idea what was “special” and what is always just there (fish and plant life).

    I was so proud of myself for doing this– taking a course on my own, conquering fears, overcoming challenges. I really haven't pushed myself (or been pushed) to such limits as I was these past few days with the course and diving. I think this is the kind of challenge I've been looking for for the last several years, which is why I left my job and Boston– because things were just getting too comfortable, and I felt I wasn't pushing myself nor being pushed.

    Everything about my course was amazing– the instructor, the dive sites we went to, the ridiculously steep learning curve (you have no choice but to learn fast because otherwise you'll keep drinking water, or worse yet, drown!), the support from all the dive shop staff (whenever I'd come from a dive, everyone that worked at the dive shop would ask how my dive was and give me a smile and encouragement). It couldn't have been a better experience, really.

    In all, the course was three days, a total of five/six dives (not sure which dives counted as “fun,” which I have to pay for, and which were part of the course), a few hours of DVDs, a study guide worksheet, and a 50 question test, which I passed. And as I said, because it's low season, and because they just do it, I got one on one instruction. i talked to other people who mostly were part of larger groups (4-6) in their courses.

    If you love water, love fish and underwater creatures, and are ready for a challenge, I highly recommend scuba diving! And if you can, come to Amed, Bali and look for David at Diving Adventures Bali!

    I have photos from one of my dives, but they're on a flash drive, so I won't be able to post them until I return it the U.S. I'll have to do a retrospective post at that point!

     

    Amed, Bali

    Amed, Bali: definition #1: a place to which I hope to return

    Amed, Bali: definition #2: a definite must-visit for any Bali-bound traveler (if you like the beach and would like to snorkel, dive, or learn to dive)

    Amed is a set of tiny villages on the east coast of Bali. For the local Balinese, there is fishing, agriculture (I saw corn, various green veggies, fruit trees), salt collected from the ocean, and water sports, namely diving and snorkeling. It's a polar opposite from Ubud in some ways– hardly crowded at all, small, and all about the shoreline. But there is still the tourist industry which seems to be everywhere, not to the same degree as in Ubud.

    I came here because I had done some research on TripAdvisor for good places to do a scuba course. It also shows up in the Lonely Planet guide as a nice getaway place to visit. And I have been rewarded many-many-fold.

    First, I have to highlight the amazing place where I stayed and learned to dive: Adventure Divers Bali (the dive shop) and Geria Giri Shanti Bungalows (the attached guesthouses), currently owned by David (an Englishman, but totally seems like a So-cal diver dude with a proper English accent) and Liselotte (a Belgian, a beautiful tall, tanned blonde who's completely loving and charming).

    If you come to Bali, you must come to Amed, and if you come to Amed, you MUST come to this place. They are amazing hosts, and the accommodations are perfect.

    • I paid 180.000 rupiah ($18USD) each night. That's their low season rate.
    • I had a beautifully clean and spacious room with two twin beds (nice, firm mattresses, sparkling clean sheets) each with their own option-to-use mosquito netting.
    • And the rooms all have open air showers, which are wonderful in this really hot, humid area.
    • Breakfast (with some options of banana pancakes, toast, and /or eggs any style), tea/coffee/instant cappucino are all included.
    • It's a hop, skip, and a jump away from the beach, which was nice, so I just took a towel down to the beach and swam for awhile and then hopped, skipped, and jumped back to my room for an open air shower.

    I can't say enough good things about this place. It's not a super luxury resort with a-c and swimming pool, jacuzzi, etc. But if you have a budget and want somewhere really nice and clean to stay where the owners are super helpful and not just out to get your money, then this is your place. They have glowing reviews on TripAdvisor. It really doesn't feel like a budget place…

    The only downside was that it's really hot in Amed. I mean oven-roasting hot. And it doesn't rain here, even during rainy season, which helps to cool things off (like in Ubud where it rained every evening). So you kind of sit in your sweat, even with a fan on you. Sleeping isn't the most comfortable. If it were just a touch cooler, I think I could stay here for the rest of my vacation!

    • I had good meals here, better than in Ubud. Not amazing, but more tasty. I'm just realizing I'm not crazy about Indonesian food, I guess.
    • I saw a sunset and a sunrise. With views of Mt. Agung, an active volcano that last erupted in 1963.
    • I swam in the sea on an empty beach with occasionally a few other swimmers, but mostly by myself. Peace and quiet.
    • I sweated buckets.
    • I met a bunch of local Balinese who work at the dive shop and guesthouse. Everyone was so kind and helpful.
    • I met a few other travelers and commiserated about diving and travel.
    • I got my scuba diving Open Water Diver license. But more on that later.

    My faith in Bali as a tourist destination was restored by Amed. If only it weren't sooo hot.

     

    Finding the Silver Lining

    The last few days in Ubud have brought me mixed emotions: awe, frustration, guilt, anticipation, disappointment, surprise…

    – awe at the natural beauty that still exists outside of tourist zones; awe at how hard people work here in whatever thing they're doing– entertaining tourists, digging up dirt, building houses and luxury hotels, trying to make a living; awe at how hot it is and yet people can still wear sweatshirts and jeans (!); awe at the gorgeous array of tropical flowers that line the streets, growing wildly.

    – frustration at how everything is about money here, especially when it comes to the interface of Balinese and tourist; frustration that I can't seem to get a really good meal that seems totally freshly cooked; frustration that I'm feeling frustrated!

    – guilt about these conflicting feelings, about being a millionaire American… this list goes on, but I think I covered some of that ground in my previous post.

    – anticipation for seeing new and interesting things; anticipation for a really good meal when I sit down in a restaurant; anticipation for my feelings about Bali to improve.
    disappointment in the food (I think it's mainly because I've been eating at places that cater to tourists. I really hope that homecooking is better than this. I don't understand why tourist-friendly food is dumbed down– I for sure would much rather have an “authentic” and tasty native meal than a burger and fries…); disappointment in myself that I am not enjoying Bali more…

    – surprise in the kindness of people (once I get beyond the money stuff, which is really hard, I've seen glimpses of kind and caring people; surprise at so many other things….

    I have seen some really beautiful sights, no doubt, both touristy spots and, even more so, non-tourist sights (small villages, fields and fields of all kinds of fruits and vegetables and rice). Here are some of my favorites (I'll try to do a separate travel tips blog post if I'm feeling motivated!):

    Kecak dance performance– a traditional type of Kecak performance which involves 100 men singing/ making sounds acappella and other young women and men dancing a story.

    Terraced rice paddies which are really farmed by Balinese people, but they have also made them tourist spots– my guess is that someone(s) saw that travelers (mostly Westerners, since we don't have rice paddies in the U.S. or Europe!) were admiring and stopping to see rice paddies, and then they started creating tourist shops and sites.

    The Ubud market– partly it was really cool because there was such a hustle and bustle of mostly women selling and buying their fruits, veggies, and flowers; and partly it was cool because I just stumbled upon it early in the morning. If I had planned to come, I would probably have come later on during the day when all the produce vendors clear out. So being out at 6am and finding this gem was a treat!

    The amazing flowers you see everywhere– temples, roadside, homes. Fragrant, brilliant, gorgeous.

    Tanah Lot– a temple built on big rocks right off the shore of the west coast of Bali. When the tide is high, I think you can get to the temple, but it's only available for viewing by Balinese, not tourists. And when the tide is low, you can just view it from the shore. It's famous for sunset viewing, which I didn't want to do with hordes of tourists.

    A note that not all of these sights are in Ubud. My driver drove me all around the north and south of Bali during our two days. So these (other than the Ubud market) would be hard to see if you're just staying in Ubud with no transport.

    (pics to come. Having trouble with blogging apps!)

     

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