Wednesday, 27 February 2013

Indonesia - Bali & the Gilis


Can I first just say that there is no way that my words or my pictures will ever be able to explain the experiences I have had on this trip, or any other trip for that matter, but I promise to try my best. I would much rather sit down over a coffee and explain every little detail of this trip to any of you that read this, but unfortunately… that is not possible, so here I am… trying my best to explain this to you!
Can I also say that the more I travel the more I realize how small this world really is, and how we are all just molding into one big pile of similarities. The more I travel, the more Starbucks I see on each corner, and the more Burger Kings and McDonalds I see on each street. I am not a complainer, and there will never be a time in my life that I complain about the experiences I have had and I truly am grateful for them, but I am ready to go on adventure where I am not a rich tourist, and I am not being waited on hand and foot. One of the best things about Bali was that even though I did travel like a rich tourist, I still got to see a lot of the culture and get a feel for what it’s all about there. I felt this the most at the first of our trip.

We (as in myself, Kate Hooper - from Hampton, and Patricia Read - from Halifax) left China as soon as we could (school ended at 3, we were out of here by 3:15).
  We took a taxi to the Hong Kong airport and flew out at 9pm that night. We landed in Singapore around 1am and spent the night on the floor in the airport. I didn’t do much sleeping though, and decided instead to find myself a 60 year old hippie who was born in England but grew up in Australia to entertain me.  Although at first I didn’t really know what to take away from him, our conversation went a little like this:

60 Year old hippie: “You know what I think?”

Me: “No, no I don’t…what is it?”
60-Year-old hippie: “Well… like I think as humans we should be allowed to be like 7-Elevens, or Starbucks”.
Me: “umm… excuse me? I’m not quite sure I understand…”
60-Year-Old-Hippie: “like… man… they just get to pop up in whatever country they want, whenever they want, and here we are constrained by visas and passports, like why can’t we just pop up in whatever country we want whenever we want?”
Me: “hmmm…well… yes… ummm…totally” (I actually didn’t know what to say)
60-Year-Old-Hippie: “ya… like I’m glad you understand”
Me: “Yeah… I definitely see your point”

Our conversation continued throughout the wee hours of the night about how life is too regulated and we also talked about other things such as Facebook and how its so “hilarious” that he can stay in contact with the people he meets. It was actually one of the most entertaining/riveting conversations I have ever had at 4am in the morning.

A picture of our first room in Ubud
After a long night of sleeping/rolling around aimlessly on the floor, we got up and grabbed some breakfast, and flew out of Singapore around noon.

We landed in Bali around 3 that afternoon and were starving so some of us picked up some Burger King (first place we saw out of the airport) and I decided to choose some Haagen Daz ice cream instead! …. A big chocolate waffle cone bowl filled with M & M’s and vanilla ice cream? Yes please!

We grabbed a cab from the airport and headed towards our first stop – Ubud! If you have ever watched the movie Eat, Love, Pray with Julia Roberts…she is in Ubud in the “Pray” part of the movie!
I seriously cannot explain how much I loved Ubud.
We stayed at a place called Nani House, which was this beautiful spot right on the main street of Ubud. We woke up to an amazing breakfast every morning, and were on the top floor, so we got to sit out on the roof often! 
quite a view for breakfast!
hasn't been active since 1995 (I think) but you can see the black where the lava burnt everything!

The first full day in Ubud we woke up early and got together with Gina, Jasen, Krista and Josh and set out on a bike tour. We all piled into a van and drove about an hour north of Ubud to a volcano where we sat and ate breakfast. We had Balinese coffee (DELICIOUS) and banana pancakes (I think I ate banana pancakes everyday on our trip). We then drove about 20 more minutes to a place which was full of local plants which they make their coffee/teas out of! We learned about many new plants and watched the process of how they make coffee. It was a lot of effort for only a little amount of coffee! We then sat over looking a valley while we tried all the different kinds of coffees and teas. We got to meet the animal which eats the coffee beans and poops them out, and then they clean off the poop and make coffee out of it! It's the most expensive coffee in the world, and me and Patricia decided to try some!  After we tried the coffees and teas we hopped on the bikes and biked to a purification temple. We had to cover our legs up with a wrap before we went in! It was a really cool experience, and was packed full of people. Each fountain represented something different. We each put three hand fulls of water over our heads that was from the fountain representing good karma after saying a prayer. After we left the temple, we continued to bike south back towards Ubud. This was my favourite part of the bike trip because we biked through local villages. It's really cool in Bali, because each family has their own temple right outside their house, and each village has their own temple as well. Only your family can enter your temple, and no one else. They believe the souls of their relatives live within the temples. We also biked through rice fields. They are so beautiful and SO green. At one point during our bike trip through the fields, we were on a really rough little path and biking along a little ditch full of water. After hearing Patricia let out a little scream, I looked up to see her falling off her bike into the ditch. Right behind her was Kate, who also decided to fall into the ditch! My immediate reaction was obviously to laugh and grab my camera, but after realizing how gross the water was they had fallen into, I felt bad (but still laughed inside) haha! They were scratched up a bit, but were fine, and we all laughed it off!
We ended our bike tour by visiting another temple and eating in a little hut beside a rice field! It was beautiful and so delicious! We were told that Bali might make us sick and to stay away from ice and sketchy food, but after living in China for 6 months, I'm pretty sure all of stomachs are immune to anything we put in our bodies! Ha! It was an incredible day. Oh yes, I forgot to mention - I ended up not wearing my helmet for the last half of the tour because I set it down on the ground and left it in an ant hill (oooops). I am so happy I noticed the ants just before I put it on my head. That would have been a trip ruiner.
DAY 2 - Ubud
We woke up early, enjoyed our free breakfast again out on the roof then headed for Monkey Forest. We paid $2 Canadian to get in. Basically, it's just a natural reserve where monkeys roam around freely. I have always wanted to be up and close with monkeys, and would love to be again, but I have to say it was a little nerve wrecking. They would literally climb up your purse and sit on your shoulder. Although none of us got THAT close to the monkeys, it was still a great experience to be around that many. They are so human like, it's weird. The babies were my favourite. I want to go back and be braver, and actually let them climb up on my shoulder. It's one of the moments you look back on and think, "why didn't I seize the moment and let the friggin monkey climb all over me?" Okay, maybe that's not a common thought, but that's what I am thinking now.
After the Monkey Forest we hit the pool for the day because it was SO friggin hot out we couldn't bare to do anything but get in the water. We laid by the pool throughout the afternoon not realizing at the time how burnt we were getting. I swear I wore sunscreen, but next time, I will be buying SPF 120 to put on. That burned made me stay out of the sun for at least the next three days (boooooo). That evening we went to eat at a place called Laughing Budda which was a great restaurant and would recommend anyone who goes to Ubud to go there! We headed back to our room early and went to sleep because we knew we were waking up the next day to go to Kuta. 

DAY 3 - Kuta Beach, Bali
We drove to Kuta that morning and got our cab driver to put on the English channel on the radio. We sang along to Taylor Swift and any other popular artist at the time with the cab driver. He had a swastika hanging from his rear-view mirror, so of course curious me asked him what it meant. He explained that in Bali, a swastika is a Hindu symbol for Balance. He explained how you need balance in each 4 parts of your life and that they all meet in the middle. Such a great way to look at things. If the swastika didn't represent something else in human history that we all know it does, I would get it tattooed on me, but if I was to do that now, I think I would live a long lonely life.
Kuta Beach right before sunset

The best thing about Bali is how happy everyone is. Everyone seems so content with their lives and I get a feeling from the locals that they couldn't ask for anything more than to be happy and feel as they do. They were ALWAYS smiling, singing, dancing or laughing. I think they really know what life is about, and how it's suppose to be lived. I never once felt tensed or stressed or worried throughout my whole trip. So chill!
Once we arrived in Kuta, we couldn't check in yet so we walked around (trying to stay in the shade and away from the sun as much as possible). We did find ourselves on the beach though, but bought an umbrella to sit under! Kuta is the complete opposite of Bali. It is full of tourists (mostly Australians) who want to shop and party. I felt like I was in the middle of Orange Country, California (although I have never been there, I think I know what it's like - I was a HUGE fan of the O.C.) ha! Kuta is also a huge place for surfing, so there is Roxy, Billabong, Quicksilver, Volcom, etc shops on every corner.
Once we left the beach, we went back to the hotel
Room in Kuta
and sat by the pool and ordered some beer and banana pancakes (yes, I wasn't lying. I did eat them everyday, and right now I miss them). After a nice meal, we hit the streets and met up with Andrew Holmes (from Hampton, played basketball for STU). We went to the top floor of a bar and danced the night away on the roof. It over looked Kuta, and was so beautiful up there! Once we left the bar, I bought a local an ice cream bar. Just giving back to them one ice cream bar at a time! "Do you want an ice cream bar sir?"... "umm yes, I do!" "Well, we're going to get you an ice cream bar!" Oh Emma.
DAY 4 - Kuta Beach
We literally laid on the beach alllll day. Can you blame us? No, no you can't.

DAY 5 - Gili Islands, Lombok, Indonesia
We woke up early and travelled from Kuta to the Gili Islands. It was about an hour drive to the other side of Bali, where we got on a fast boat that took us on a 1 1/2 hour boat ride to the Gili Islands. That boat ride was seriously one of the best moments of my life. I don't know what it is about sitting on top of a boat while it crosses the ocean, and the sun is beating down on me. Oh did I mention that we also saw dolphins in the water. Ahhhh complete bliss for Emma Russell.

Once we landed on Gili Trawangan (there are three islands that make up the Gili's - Gili Air, Gili Meno and Gili Trawangan) we walked for a bit and found our Villa.
Our room in Gili T
Some facts about Gili T - 1. It is only 3km long and 2km wide 2. There are no cars 3. There are no Starbucks, McDonalds or any other chain restaurant you could think of 4. You can bike/walk around the outside of the island (although I would not recommend walking around barefoot and in your bikini like I did. I seriously blistered my feet. 5. The snorkelling around this island was UNBELIEVABLE. The first day we were there we rented bikes and snorkel gear for $2.50 Canadian for the whole day. We biked around the island which took maybe 40 minutes and then stopped and snorkelled at a few places.
Bikes, baskets and snorkels.

The place we stayed was AMAZING. We were suppose to only be there for 3 nights, but once we checked into our new place, we checked out of it about 3 hours later and back to our original place. If you are ever travelling to Gili T, stay at a place called Exotic Villas (I know, it sounds a little kinky) but it is seriously an amazing spot in an amazing location on the island.
Our usual lunch spot. Terrible view!
Eating at the Nigh Market - my favourite!

Ahhh - perfection

New friends - boy is from San Fran, and the girls are from Norway!

I honestly don't even know where to begin about our time on Gili T. We got there on a Tuesday and left the next Tuesday. Many people we talked to asked us how we were going to spend a whole week on an island that is 3Km long and 2Km wide, my answer - by doing nothing but everything at the same time. Our week was spent laying on the beach, snorkelling, eating amazing food, hitting up the local Night Market every night for amazing local food that cost us about $3 Canadian, dancing the nights away, meeting some amazing people from England, Australia and Norway, laying on the beach under the stars and looking at the new constellations and realizing how many stars there are in the sky when you are away from the rush of the city life, swimming everyday, walking the beach everyday, and realizing how many different shades of blue the ocean really can be.
The morning after we met our new Norwegian friends, we met up with them and went on a snorkelling tour that took us throughout the three islands. We landed on Gili Meno and had dinner. I honestly feel so grateful to have met the girls from Norway. They are so amazing, and I know for a fact that I will see them again in my life! The last few days of our trip we also met a girl from England who was also amazing! I will be seeing her again soon as well!
We ended our time on Gili T by celebrating Kate's birthday and going Paddle Boarding. It was definitely harder than it looks, but I didn't fall off once! You basically have to stand on a board and paddle yourself around, it takes a lot of balance and I can see how it could be a great workout! I am just going to thank my brother in advance for purchasing me a paddle board for the summer on Grand Manan - Thanks Rob! Ha!

I am seriously sitting here, reading my travel journal, and trying to decide what to write about Gili T. It may sound boring to do the same thing everyday - wake up, eat an amazing breakfast, hit the beach till your stomach tells you to eat again, go eat an amazing lunch, get on your bicycle and bike around/snorkel at random locations you find, go back and shower at your beautiful villa, get dressed up and head to the Night Market for some delicious and cheap local food, and then finish your night off with new friends from around the world by dancing... oh wait.. now that I have it all written out like that.. it doesn't really sound that boring. haha! That list of things is seriously what we did each and everyday on Gili T. Leaving that island was a very depressing moment. I would go back there in a heartbeat.
Henriette, Kate, Oda and myself on our last night together. So sad!
Our last day of the whole trip we headed back to Kuta and spent the night there since we flew out early on Wednesday morning. When we got back to Kuta, we went out to a fancy restaurant to celebrate Kate's 24! Me and her ordered a dessert to celebrate, and she ended up getting a free piece of chocolate cake as well, so there we were, with two apple crumbles and one large piece of chocolate cake. No complaints, and yes, it was all gone! ha! After dinner, we met up with the Norwegian girls again for our last night together! We danced the night away at the rooftop bar again, bought Kate some hilarious drinks for her birthday, and then headed back to the hotel around 3:30am as we had to wake up at 6 to catch our flight! oops! Ha!
The little girl we bought bracelets from on our last night. So sweet!

I feel like there is SO much more I could write or say, but some of the trip is honestly unexplainable. Indonesia is an amazing place. I have only had the opportunity to explore Bali and the Gili's so far, but I would go back to that country in a second! The people are amazing, the food is amazing, the weather is amazing, but what I liked about it the most was the feeling that Bali gave me. I usually do see myself as a spiritual person, but there has never been a time in my life that I have been so at peace and felt so connected to my surroundings as I have during that trip.

To finish off I will leave you with a quote that I found during my time in Indonesia

"You cannot know the world by peeping through a keyhole".

So true!

I hope this entry has given you a little insight on my adventures in Bali and Gili T!

Love, Emma