Christmas Break 2014 Part 2 – Kuta, Bali, Indonesia

We were home for one day before leaving again.  On Christmas Eve Autum and I left for Bali.  We arrived in Bali Christmas night around 7 p.m. Getting to Bali was three flights, which two of them were delayed.  To catch our third plane we had to rush off our second flight and push through people because we only had ten minutes before our flight left.  It sucked but we made it. 

We stayed in a hostel in Kuta. Kuta is the most popular and most touristy place on the main island of Bali.  We stayed here until Jan 1st.  I’ve never stayed in a hostel before but on Autum’s recommendation it sounded like a good idea.  The price was amazing for seven nights so I thought I should try it out.  I reserved a room right next to the pool that had our own bathroom.  The room was very comparable if not the same as what I’m use to when I stay in Dahab, Egypt.  The hostel also just put in a new pool, which was very nice, and they also had their own kitchen, which made getting lunch and dinner very easy.  Breakfast was included in our package so we got to choose from pancakes (or crepes as we like to call them), omelets or Indonesian noodles (Mei Goreng) for breakfast. 

View of our hostel pool.

The pool at our hostel.  Our room is in the background. 

The night we arrived we were super tired so we ate and went straight to bed.  The Indonesian noodles and ham sandwiches were amazing at our hostel and that is all Autum and I ate for the week.  Now don’t forget I live in Egypt so ham is not easily available and sandwiches are my favorite so it was win-win.  Yes, I had at least one ham sandwich almost everyday – it was amazing!

On our first day we woke up, ate breakfast and went exploring.  The description of the hostel said the beach was a ten-minute walk.  They lied; it was more like 20 minutes.  We got the directions to the beach and headed there on foot.  We were staying in a more of a local part of Kuta so we passed local shops such as food, laundry, and motorbike repair but once we got closer to the beach we started passing tourist shops too.  There were plenty of tourist shops to buy shirts, beach towels, places to get tattoos and tons of massage places.  Once we got to the beach I was very surprised and disappointed by the amount of garbage and debris on and in the beach.  The debris, which included large pieces of bark, sticks and bamboo, were washed up on shore.  There was a large amount of garbage on the shore and was coming in with the tide.  We asked why there was so much debris and garbage and they said it was because it’s rainy season.  The rain floods everything and it all runs into the ocean.  This only lasts for a few months and then the beaches return to normal.  I was pretty bummed by this sight, especially since one of the reasons I came to Bali was for the beaches.  After the beach we decided to get our first massage.  We choose to get a foot massage and I also got a pedicure.  The foot massages were amazing; this was our first of many since they rang in at less than $4.  We were a little jet lagged so we headed back to the hostel, ate lunch, went for a swim then took our daily afternoon nap.  This was pretty much our schedule for the next week. 

Cool things we did while in Bali:

Learned to surf.  The day we had our surfing lesson it rained the whole time and the garbage was really disgusting to surf in.  I would jump off my board right into a bunch of garbage that would get wrapped around my leg – it was gross.  Surfing was super fun, I got up on my board on the first try and then maybe four more times after that.  We were out there practicing with our instructor for about two hours and I can say I successfully got up on my board and rode a wave about five times. 

Learning to surf.

Learning to surf.

Before our lesson...

Before our lesson…

After our lesson.

After our lesson

Went to Ubud to see: Gallalong Rice Terraces, Sacred Monkey Forest Sanctuary, Bali Pulina Coffee Plantation, Gunung Kawi (Temple Carvings in Stone), and Goa Gajah Bedulu (Elephant Caves).  Ubud was about two hours away to Kuta.  To get there we utilized a new form of public transportation in Kuta that was basically a public bus with various stops along the way where you could get on and off.  The Rice Terraces were amazing to look at.  They use step farming to maximize their space.  Because of the climate they are able to harvest rice about four times a year.  The Monkey Forest was crazy – it’s just that a forest with monkeys running around.  Once we walked in there was a lady selling bananas to give to the monkeys so I thought sure we should get some of those so we bought a bunch.  As soon as we walked a little further you started to see the monkeys walking and running all over.  They were walking right in front of you, jumping from the side and sitting on the sides.  There was a family in front of us and the mom said watch out the monkeys just took all of the bananas from their daughter.  We tried to give her two more bananas but she had enough of the monkeys already.  We were told to watch out because the monkeys try to take your phone, camera or anything you might be holding.  Once we walked a little further it happened the monkeys bombarded Autum because she was holding the bananas.  If she was handing one banana to a monkey on the ground then another one would jump on her back and then when she would be giving a banana to that monkey one would climb up her leg.  It was the craziest thing I’ve ever seen.  I couldn’t even get a good picture because they monkeys were jumping around so quickly.  I’m not going to lie, the monkeys also freaked me out a little bit. They had really big teeth and I’ve seen The Wizard Oz as well as Planet of the Apes and I wasn’t taking my chances. The Bali Pulina Coffee Plantation was very interesting.  They gave us a tour of how the coffee is planted, harvested and made into coffee.  They also grow a variety of other spices that are used in coffee and teas.  The guide also explained to us the process of making Kopi Luwak coffee or poop coffee as we called it.  There is an animal called a Civet that is in the cat family that eats the coffee beans.  Once they eat the coffee beans their body processes them in a way that enhance the coffee flavor.  Once the coffee beans comes out of Civet’s body they go through an entire process of soaking, boiling, smashing, and grinding to make the Kopi Luwak coffee.  At the end of the tour we got to sample all of the coffee and teas that the plantation offers for free except the Luwak coffee which cost 50,000 rph (approximately $4).  We of course tried the Kopi Luwak coffee and it didn’t taste bad, a little strong for me but not horrible.  Now the Bali coffee on the other hand was horrible, way to strong for me and thick like sludge. The teas they had were really good just as most of their coffees were too.  I really liked the fact that we got to taste test so many different flavors.  I’m glad that I got to try the Luwak coffee there because many other places were selling it for 2-3 times the price as they were.  The Temple Carvings in Stone were absolutely amazing.  Getting to this temple and seeing these carvings was not so amazing.  There were approximately 300+ steps that you had to take to get there.  So naturally going down was a heck of a lot easier than coming up.  It was worth it though.  You are just going down these stairs for what feels like forever and then all of a sudden it just opens up into this enormous carving inside the side of this huge hill and there is another temple right across this little bridge.  The Elephant Caves didn’t require as many steps and were very cool to see too.  You go down a few flights of stairs and then once again it opens up into this huge temple area.  Since we were there for the New Year there were a lot of celebrations going on namely a Hindu holiday that falls on two days prior to the New Year and most of the temples had yellow decorations on them, which was cool to see.

Rice Terraces

Rice Terraces

Coffee Plantation

Coffee Plantation

Civet

Civet

Our samples from the coffee plantation.

Our samples from the coffee plantation.

Autum trying the Kopi Luwak coffee. (Poop coffee)

Autum trying the Kopi Luwak coffee. (Poop coffee)

Getting covered to enter the temple.

Getting covered to enter the temple.

300+ stairs to the temple.

300+ stairs to the temple.

Gunung Kawi - Temple Carvings in stone.

Gunung Kawi – Temple Carvings in stone.

Elephant Caves Temple - Goa Gajah Bedulu

Elephant Caves Temple – Goa Gajah Bedulu

IMG_0811

Autum feeding the monkey at the Sacred Monkey Forest. 

 

Got 6 massages.  The prices for massages equaled $2-$4 USD so it was only right that we kept the Indonesian economy going and frequently got massages, like one a day and maybe one day, we got two.  Autum and I both got a full body massage one day and then the others were foot massages and one head massage usually an hour sometimes half an hour.  I had to tell them soft because a Balinese massage is pretty rough and I’m a baby apparently.  They were amazing and I loved every minute of them.

Massages!

Massages!

Ate street food.  This was all Autum and it was amazing.  I had no idea what she ordering but it ended up being noodles with chicken and it was really good.  Autum also stopped a street vendor one night and we got some sort of bread with cheese in it.  The looked like almost uncooked balls of dough but they were hot and fresh and had cheese in them – amazing! Another great find by Autum.  If you didn’t know Ramen noodles are one of my favorite foods.  I know they are horrible for you, tons of sodium and are a pre-packaged product but nonetheless I love them.  With that being said most of the noodles in Bali are similar to that so I have been eating them frequently.

Drank iced coffees.  I know this isn’t really a Bali thing, it’s totally an American/Western thing to bring to Bali but they did have a Gloria Jean’s which is my favorite and we do not have that in Egypt so it was justified going there maybe 4/5 times.  They also give you a freezing hand towel when you walk in which was nice since the humidity here is crazy hot.  Another great reason for visiting so frequently was their internet was pretty good.  I still had grad school assignments that I had to post and Facebook statuses to update so I was in need of good internet so it was a match made in heaven. 

New Year’s Eve on the beach.  We set out to find dinner around 6/7 and we stopped at a restaurant solely based on the fact that they had eggs benedict.  Eggs benedict is another one of my favorites, remember no ham in Egypt, so we decided that would be perfect for my birthday dinner.  After dinner we walked along a street that was closed to traffic and people watched for a while.  The amount of people that were out that night was crazy, as you can imagine.  Once we got to the beach is stopped raining, which was nice so we grabbed some beers.  Bintang is the local Indonesian beer.  It wasn’t bad I put it above Sakara which is the beer in Egypt, somewhere around Coors Light at home but under Augustiner which is still the best beer I’ve ever had at Oktoberfest in Germany.  Bintang did have a Radler, which is a lemon beer that was pretty good too.  So we found a spot on the beach and even before midnight there are fireworks in all directions going off so that was cool to see from where we were sitting.  I look to see what time it is and it was only 9 pm! I told Autum there is no way I’m going to make it until midnight.  I decided though to hang out for a little bit longer but then decided it was a good time to head back when some guy in front of me lit off a firework and the wind blew the ash back right into my eye.  I’m not blind and it only hurt for a little bit.  So we headed back to the hostel and watched the rest of the fireworks from the comfort of our own room.  This made me old but I really didn’t care. 

Birthday dinner.

Birthday dinner.

Bintang Radler.

Bintang Radler.

Ate seafood.  We went out for seafood dinners two nights and both were delicious.  I’m used to Red Lobster and eating the baby shrimp they bring to you and just the crab legs.  In Bali you picked out your own seafood and yes it was still alive.  The prawns that I ate were huge and came to my plate with there eyes still looking at me.  Crab wasn’t a plentiful choice and I probably wouldn’t have gotten it anyway since they bring you the entire crab and I don’t want to deal with all that.  One night we ate dinner at a restaurant that was over looking the beach.  The restaurant also had dancers who were in costume and had a ton of makeup on.  They did a lot of the dance with their hands and eyes.  It was a little weird but cool at the same time. Another night we ate at a restaurant that had fire dancers and surf/turf.  Autum wanted to eat there for the fire dancers and I wanted the surf and turf.  I had prawns with my steak and again they were huge and very good.  The fire dancers were amazing.  At first a lady came out with chains that were lit on the end and she was swinging and dancing with the fire. Then a guy came out and was dancing similar while swinging around chains that were lit on fire.  Then the lady came back out with basically a hula-hoop that had straight pieces coming our from it that were lit on fire.  She twirled that around her arm, her neck and herself.  They both were very impressive especially with the fire.

Fire dancers at dinner.

Fire dancers at dinner.

Went to a nice beach in Nusa Dua.  We had a driver take us to a beach nearby so we could do some snorkeling.  When we got there we discovered that you had to take a boat out to snorkel.  We decided just to stay at the beach and relax.  There were quite a few fancy resorts on this beach so we ate lunch at one of the resorts and used their chairs.  There was a nice beach area that was not polluted so it was nice for the day. 

Celebrated My Birthday in Bali. Being in Bali for my birthday was pretty amazing. On my birthday we went and got iced coffees and I had some homework I had to finish up.  While Autum was waiting for me to finish homework she wrote me a birthday checklist.  It listed 35 things that I had to do on my birthday.  Now at first I was like no way, then once we started it wasn’t that bad.  We didn’t get to finish the list but it was fun.  Some of things listed were: get a foot and head massage, buy something with my name on it, buy an outfit to go out on New Year’s Eve in, sit by the pool, take a nap, eat gelato, take a picture with 35 random people, and have a birthday lunch – you get the idea.  I did most of my list but not all.  Autum did a great job of making my birthday extra cool.  We were out the night before getting drinks and she had the bar bring me a banana split with candles in it at 12:01 a.m.  It totally surprised me and of course it was delicious.

Birthday beer and ice cream.

Birthday beer and ice cream.

Not so great things about Bali:

The rain. I knew it was rainy season coming here but the only time I really didn’t like it was when we were going somewhere because I didn’t want to sit in wet clothes, other than that, whatever, rain all you want.

The scooters.  Yes scooters or mopeds are a great way to get around Bali especially with all the small side and back streets but EVERYONE had one.  Some drivers were a little dangerous on them and they were always trying to find a way around like driving on the sidewalk.  Sidewalks are for walking not driving your scooter.

Humidity.  I’m used the dry Middle East climate I guess.  It was very damp here.  I’m also used to anything drying in about ten to thirty minutes so when I put something on the drying and I didn’t think it would take three days to dry. 

Garbage.  Now I’m used to garbage being everywhere, I live in Egypt.  But the garbage in the ocean was horrible.  Like I said before it was the worse when I jumped off my surfboard and was wrapped in it.  I know it’s only certain parts of the year but still it was gross.

I really loved Bali even with the few points that I did not like. The food was amazing and the sights were unbelievable to see.  The weather was humid and rainy.  It rained everyday.  Some days it would be quick and then sunny afterwards, other days it would rain for much longer and stay overcast.  It was very humid.  The temperature felt hot because of the humidity but it really wasn’t that hot.  It was nice though to be in this tropical climate in December and January. 

Our last day we checked out early, headed to a Starbucks to get an ice coffee, use the internet, post some homework and wait for our plane.  Our next adventure was four days on Gili Meno, which is one of three small islands off the coast of Lombok, Indonesia.  At the last minute we booked flights from Bali to Lombok for $40. Next up, a taxi to a boat then the boat to the island. 

Until then….

Later skaters

-B

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