Friday, May 31, 2013

Spring Breakin' all the rules (Part 2)

Here is Spring Breakin' all the rules part 2! Click here for part 1~

I last left us off with me leaving the wondrous and ancient kingdom of Angkor in Cambodia bound for the 'Island of the Gods' as lauded by some, Bali.

I went via Malaysian Airlines where my dashing, but very tall companion had enough leg room to completely stretch out. He was quite excited about it for an 8 hour flight. We arrived at the airport at night and like in many Southeast Asian countries, the hotel pickup service was late and needed to be reminded to come get us as they had offered online. We arrived at the hostel and got the grand tour.

It. Was. Gorgeous!

Very lush, giant pool, open air bar and patio for morning breakfast and cathedral ceilings in our huge room that had a view of the pool from the balcony. It was also just down the road from the main road in Kuta. The only downside to this place was the spotty wifi, but not the worst thing when you're suppose to be disconnecting for a while, right?

Unlike Cambodia, we had whole of Bali to see and just 3 days to do it in. My friend had his must-sees and I had mine. Luckily, we had discussed beforehand what kind of travelers we are to see how compatible we'd be, so a lot of the same things were on both our lists.

Day 1: Tourists in the extreme!

I was told that Bali is the Australians what the Bahamas is to Miamians - a paradise next-door. Aussies go Bali for weekend trips and want nothing but the beach, pool, trendy shops, and restaurants. So that's what we did and it was glorious. That part of Bali felt very much like places we were used to back in our own respective countries, especially me as I thought of Miami Beach. Also keep in mind that back in Japan it was still cold even in March so a day at the beach was just what we needed. I took it up a notch and wanted a surf lesson. I'd never had one before and am always up for new experiences so I was really excited when I read about easy it was to book one. Different guys would have their surf boards set up on the beach and would kind of follow you for 10 feet while you passed them trying to convince you to have a lesson with them. The usual advertising was for a two-hour lesson for the equivalent of 30-50 USD. They know many people are tourists, so are willing and even expecting to pay this price no questions asked. I'd read online though how to handle the ones that we being too pushy or bargain them down if a two of you wanted a lesson for example. In principle, I hate being swindled, but when traveling in poorer countries, I try to consider that this is these peoples livelihood and if I'm blessed enough to be on vacation in their country, I'll pay their prices. BUT I refuse to be harassed or forced into any purchase so the winner of my surfing affection was this cool dude who, from a distance, called out and asked if I wanted a lesson and when said, 'maybe in a little bit,' he just gave me a thumbs up.

I walked up and said, 'how much for two hours?' He asked if my friend wanted one as well (probably already savvy to the split cost technique), but my friend wasn't interested. I ended up only paying the equivalent of 30 USD for 2 1/2 hours. I put on a skin guard and we practiced how it is you swim, stand, and steer all on the sand before heading out into the waves. The waves were rolling in gentle that day, but still high. My first problem was not standing up fast enough. If you don't do it in time, the momentum of the wave will prevent you from ever getting your balance once you're up. My second problem was overcompensating my balance to one end and virtually launching myself from the board. The last problem I had was trying to master this new technique while taking selfies with my underwater camera - haha! My friend was taking photos for me from the beach, but nothing like that first person point-of-view, right?  Once I started paying attention more, I picked it up quickly and was riding the waves all the way to shore. No fancy tricks or anything, but I was able to switch directions and do a cool pose for the beach paparazzi. I knew that dragging the surfboard from shore back out to open water over and over again was going to leave me aching so afterwards I decided to take advantage of one of the many spas~~~

My hubby walked with me till I found one that I liked and then he went off to do some tourist shopping while I had a two hour package deal. Massage, rose-petal milk bath, and hydration wrap, aaaahhhhhh. It's a little known fact about me that I love a spa day. You could gift me a spa day for any occasion and I'd love you forever. But this, this was the mother of spa days! Of course a spa day in Bali, paradise on earth, was going to include lush garden as your surroundings, the actual ocean sounds not far, and the sky changing colors like a kaleidoscope overhead. Surreal.

After the spa experience, we met back up and had a romantic dinner on the beach complete with a Balinese troupe of people playing traditional music as they walked up and down the beach as the sun was finally setting in to the sea. It's the most striking sunset on the ocean you'll ever see.

Day 2: Temples, temples, temples

Remember how I said Bali is the Island of the Gods? Well then naturally, there would temples everywhere to celebrate them. Like the Japanese, the Balinese didn't separate their religion from their lives; They blend seamlessly in everyday practices, architecture, and speech, so already we had been exposed to some of the religious paraphernalia. There are many famous temples, so with our limited time we chose they most famous and most varied of the options. We rented a taxi through our hostel (about 45 USD for 8 hours) which was the best thing we could have done. It was perfect to have a personal chauffeur, GPS, and tour guide all in one. This seems like an obvious perk to renting a taxi but I've actually known people who rented their own cars or mopeds because it's cheaper. Bali can have scattered showers and winding, dirt roads can be dangerous to navigate so I don't recommend doing so. Moving on, although the hostel told us how much it cost, it was important to also confirm this with the taxi driver at the onset. If you don't, they might say there were surplus fuel charges or some other bogus charge that surprises you at the end. Just like with the temples of Angkor, I'll list which ones we saw and my brief impressions:

Pura Taman Ayun

The most typical Balineses temple. It was interesting because we could see what the typical layout of these temples are with this one, but overall not too interesting. I think more interesting was how a group of ladies were falling over themselves to take a picture with me and boyfriend - two light haired, light-eyed foreigners. Oh, dear.

Pura Ulun Danu

This is the temple that you see whenever you google Bali. Picturesque, packed, and full of interesting facets to look at. Unfortunately, some of the infamous scattered showers was happening while we were there, so people were packing in all the crevices, limiting our leisurely strolling. There was a great market outside of it for souvenirs as well.

Tanah Lot

The must-see out of any temple on Bali, and at sunset for sure!! You can walk out the famous rocks, sit and watch the waves, wander around the typical pagodas, see the gates up close, get a snack nearby or visit the little shops on the grounds. I bought my favorite necklace there for 2USD and will forever regret not buying about 18 more.

These temples weren't close to each other, and of course we spent time at each one, so unlike at Angkor, we only saw these three. Also, we squeezed in time to go to a coffe plantation where I bought THE BEST dark vanilla chocolate I've ever had in my life, a short hike up to Git Git Waterfall which was definitely worth it, saw the famous stacked rice paddies, and went all the way up to the north to go to best Black Sand Beach in Lovina. 8 hours was all most not enough time, but we managed it!

Day 3: Just being a local

Due to different school schedules, I was leaving my boyfriend to go back to Japan while he continued on to one of the most famous diving spots in Indonesia, but on our last day together in Bali we walked around and saw some smaller local temples, found a mall in the touristy area where I did some shopping (and found some of my favorite shirts till this day) and enjoyed a last lunch eating traditional Balinese food we found in a hole in a wall. It was basically a no-fuss, let things play out kind of day taking in Bali as a local instead of a tourist. I then made my way to the airport via taxi and left this island in the sun.

Ever since that trip, when I tell people about my travel around Asia, the mention of Bali always seems to make their eyes widen just a little bit more. It's one of those places everyone says they'd love to go or imagine they would, but scarce few do. And I do consider myself extremely fortunate to have made it down there. It's not an easily accessible place of the world and I still pinch myself that I was able to go. I say 'able', but I know I moved heaven and earth to make to heaven on earth. Best decision ever.

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