From now it can only be better

It feels like it was ages since last since pandemics and who know what but I am finally on my way again. Left my home with my backpack and this time I aim to escape Swedens darkness and winter cold for blue skies and a warming sun at Bali Now, since I fly with Emirates the trip goes via Dubai, of course.

Bali is far away from Sweden and the flight is really brutal, therefore I was really happy when I found this flight with a short stop in Dubai, roughly three hours before next flight to Denpasar, Bali. Unfortunately for me, Emirates did now followed their own plan and suddenly my flight was rescheduled to a 8 hours break in Dubai. If this wasn’t enough the plane was completely fully booked and my chair neighbour smelled like she hadn’t discovered showers yet, multiple people were coffin and if thats not bad enough, a lot of screaming kids…this is not good for my mental health.

Once arrived at Dubai airport I went over to Premium lounge, maybe not that premium but still. Comfy chairs, food, drinks and a lot calmer made it possible to survive the long, to long stop at Dubai airport. Once time for boarding it was time for next surprise.

In front of me, besides me, everywhere…the whole plane was filled with tiny, tiny people who screamed so high that it hurts and give me cold sweats by just thinking about it. But to be fair, once the plane started to prepare for take off they all calmed down and with the exception of one or two cry-attacks the whole 9 hour flight was rather cool.

Now I have arrived to my hotel in Kuta beach, the clock is close to midnight and the temperature outside i 28 degrees, this will be lovely.

Kuta, Indonesia

Woke up really, really tired but cannot feel any jetlag or pain in my throat. Hopefully no one on the plane was contagious. A quick shower later I had breakfast at the hotels roof, which besides of being restaurant/bar also had a nice sun terrace together with a large pool. Indonesia still has some covid restrictions in place so there was no breakfast buffet, instead you ordered one of the following alternatives: English, American or Indonesian. Since I am taught to have an open mind I went for the Indonesian which was a huge plate of fried noodles, deep fried chicken and a plate of fresh fruits. Not a normal start of the day for a swede but don’t misunderstand me, it was really tasty!

Took a really relaxed day, walking along the beach and looked at the surfers catching wave after wave. Fishermen was sitting on the beach and tried to catch what I assume will be todays dinner and there were a lot of sales people trying to sell you everything from sunglasses to seashells.

I left the beach walk and decided to head up, into the city. Crossed a few streets with dense traffic and yes, I had forgot how intense the traffic is in these countries with all the mopeds and mc everywhere. Once I crossed the bigger streets I entered a labyrinth of small alleys, streets and corners where I would not even attempt to walk if I didn’t saw the local drive there with their mopeds. Even here I was attacked by people trying to sell me stuff but at least here they were selling something useful, like different tours or renting out motor bikes.

Back to the hotel and up on the roof, the sky is blue and its close 30 degrees hot. I am tired from flight and so this sunbed and this pool will be perfect as todays adventure.

Ubud, Indonesia

Right after breakfast it was time to get on the bus to move over to Ubud, by distance not more than around 30km but after just a few minutes in the bus I realised that I took the right decision to take the bus instead of renting a scooter which was my original plan. My first issue which I to be honest didn’t thought of first, they are driving on the left side here but it that is not the major issue. The major issue is that I do not get the rules, the traffic signs are obvious ignored but still, in some way which I do not understand they know when to drive, or to stop. Once driving the number of lanes doesn’t really matter, you simply drive where it is room for you.

Ubud has a bit of a hippie aura with a lot of artist, yoga and alternative people and trust me, you will notice it as soon you arrive. It didn’t take long before the first old lady with full yoga outfit walked pass me and it never stopped, they were everywhere! But its not the yoga which had my attention, instead it was Sacred monkey forest. A nice protected area with a large temple which is populated by monkeys, I mean to the honest…you can’t get closer to the “Jungle book” than this?!?
The monkeys are semi-free which means that they are free to roam as they want however while they are here, they are monitored, gets feeded and if they get sick they get help. This together with its a huge tourist attraction is what you say, a win win situation.

I also had time for a quick walk through the city, city center is pretty small but its very cosy with a lot of restaurant’s, cafe’s and shops. Its really touristic here but still, the hippie vibe makes it feel really nice anyway but lets see if I still think this tomorrow.

Campuhan ridge walk together with Ubud Palace/Market

I am still in Ubud and the day started with a rather short but spectacular hike up and along a ridge. The start was a bit creepy but once you where on the ridge you walked along small rice fields and a fabulous surrounding which I unsuccessfully tried to capture with my camera. The weather is a bit cloudy and during my breakfast it was actually raining (yes, its rain season now). The cloud made the hike more comfortable though, the hike is really exposed to the sun and it gets really hot once the sun is shining on you. At the end of the hike we had blue sky again and by the look of my t-shirt, it looked like I hade been swimming in the ocean.

I spent the afternoon at Ubud Palace and to be fair, I think I should hired a guide because I did not understand anything but yea, I guess it some ruins, some statues and the scent of incense was heavy, but thats not just for Ubud Palace, the scent is all over Ubud. Since I didn’t understood anything I decided to skip being cultural and headed to the market instead. Not that easy to find since they had moved the market because renovation but I found it and it was street after street with all you can think off. Shawls and t-shirts to ashtrays, masks or knifes and even swords. Everything is mixed with tiny tiny restaurants and everybody, from shops to restaurants and even the taxi drivers has people trying to catch your interest but kudos to them, they accept a no thank you without any hassle.

I also noticed that we share room, it is Oggy the cockroach who lives in our bathroom together with this friend Thox, the lizard. They respect us and are staying at their side so I respect them however my anonymous travel company is not that happy about it. Nothing has been stated yet but I believe I am suppose to evict them at any time.

Towards Munduk but first some dance

Finished the nigh in Ubud with revisiting the Ubud Palace for a dance show in traditional Balinese dance, Leogong. To be fair, I am just as confused now as during my first visit, i did not understand the story and I am just as impressed as I am scared of the dancers. They do have a different style with an extraordinary body control which made it all creepy to look at when they waved their armes, waggled their heads and suddenly stared at you. I tried to record some of it but doubt that you get the same feeling through the screen but in either way, I strongly recommend a visit if you ever visit Ubud,

Today I spent most of the time riding the bus to Munduk. The trip went through small villages, across rice fields, over high mountains and through deep valleys. The road reminded me a lot of the so called death road in Bolivia except this one has tarmac, has something which looks like two lanes and in most cases, have crash barriers. The road is still winding along high cliffs where you hardly see the bottom though. Our driver did handle the bus to perfection and we arrived both healthy and without any motion sickness which is rather unbelievable.
Once on site we did notice though that you can travel by bus to Munduk, it is much harder to travel from Munduk, actually we cannot find any bus away from here. I guess you need to be Balinese to understand that logic but the problem got solved over a good cup of coffee, which you had to filter between your teeth because of all coffee grounds by founding a possibility to rent a guide, with car including pickup at any place at Bali. Suddenly it become rather more expensive than expected but hey, shit happens and with a exit plan I can now focus on the lovely nature and hopefully spot some waterfalls.

Munduk – Jungle hike to waterfalls

Todays goal was to visit waterfalls. Munduk is kind a famous for their multiple waterfalls and to not have to walk along the larger roads where an guide was hired who could take us through the rice fields and forest to a few different falls and what a hit it was.

First of all, he spoke really good english so he could both explain things for us but also, we could ask questions. This might be common sense for you guys but I had for example no idea that you may harvest rice two times per year, each rice field/terrace has its own owner and they use palm trees to mark the borders and the most dangerous animal on Bali is dogs.

Once we left the rice fields and entered the forest it was for sure that we would have been lost without our guide but not only that. Our guide had a background as biologist and could and did explain a lot about the eco system right here and while walking along a tiny path he pointed out both fruits, nuts, spices and large crickets. I have probably missed something but we saw and tasted/smelled at wild ginger, turmeric, nutmeg, papaya, pepper, avocados, bananas and something I never seen or heard about before, snake fruit (salak). It is called snake fruit because if its skin but it tastes a bit like mango.

But what about the waterfalls? Yes we did find three of four in Munduk Valley. Red Coral Waterfall which was the first we visited was elegant, almost as controlled water flow lite from a shower. Labuan, our second was much smaller in height but still more brutal since it was wider and the last, Melanting water was the biggest, 75m high and when you are standing there, at the bottom and doesnt here anything else than the wild roar and feel the wind from the water, then you really feel small.

Banjar Hot springs, Brahmavihara-AramaBanjar and Lovina

Not long after yesterdays middag I started to feel a bit, not right and I don’t think I need to say anything more. Perfect timing since today our private guide will pick us up for a visit to Banja Hot Spring. Well not much you can do about except eat a lot of Imodium and pray.

Banja Hot Spring is as you can hear on the name hot springs where you can go for a swim. The water did not really looked inviting to be honest and the smell, if you ever been around a hot spring before you know and if not, just trust me. It smells like rotten egg. Once in the water though it was really, really nice. They had three different pools in some sort of terrace structure where it was hottest water in the pool on top and then colder and colder for each level Colder does not mean cold though, even if it was around 25 degrees in the air it was warm to jump into the water in all pools. All the fools also had dragon heads above the pool, just lika shower. Cant really describe how good it was to just stand/sit under one of those and just relax.

After spent a few hours in the hot spring it was time to become serious and visit a buddhistic temple. Shorts are not welcome so I had to dress in a sarong (they lend it out for free) and once I got into the temple area I was struck of the silence. It was so calm, silent and beautiful. There were multiple different classes in meditation and even if I really enjoyed the area, the calmness and silence I don’t think meditation classes is something for me.

After a long day we arrived to Lovina, a touristic beach town at northern Bali. This is the first stay that I have not booked myself (it’s included in the tour) and it also the first stay then I ever had where they drove me to my room in a golf car after check in. As you can hear the living is a couple of levels higher than what I normally booked but even so, I just noticed a lizard in the bathroom.

But what about the stomach? Well so far 24 hours without any need to visit the restroom, Imodium is good shit!

Hunting dolphins

Today I was up early in the morning. The plan was to go out on dolphin safari in the sunrise, even if this is one of those activity that you should avoid according to the news papers. I saw a article just about this safari just a few days ago which stated that it was stressful and harassment of the animals and well, I do not disagree.
We were close to 50 different boats who went out in the sunrise and as soon as a poor dolphin came up to the surface, all fifty boats went full speed ahead to get as close as possible so the tourists should be able to get as good pictures as possible. Ethical correct? No way but at the same time I cant help that I kind a enjoyed to see the dolphins and to be fair, if they now are so harassed, how come they stick around the boats and come back day after day?

Next stop for the day was to visit another waterfall, I am a bit feed up of waterfalls so I saw this as more something just to put a check in front of but wow, I was so wrong. The waterfall Banyumala is not the biggest nor the most violent that I’ve seen under this trip but it is stil my favourite. It may be that you can actually go in and swim under it or that we were all alone when we saw it but either way, it was something that attracted me for sure.

The last stop of the day was “Tanah Lot”, a temple built on a lonely rock in the ocean. At low tide it is possible to wade through the water to it but only the monks are welcome. We tourist have to agree to halt on the beach and look at temple, dream away about how it may look on the actually rock. All around this area it is full commercial, it sells everything from sarongs to water bottles, pet some holy snakes and/or wash your face in holy water and no, I did not do any of it.

Now, back in Ubud it is easy to see how touristic this is, especially compared to Munduk and it has its negative sides of course but at the same time, it has some positive sides too.

Chillin in Ubud

Internet is not always stable here but you haven’t really missed much. I am back in Ubud and have the last two days spent the days, just relaxing. Started the day to live at Threewin Homestay. I have stayed at many homestays under with trip, in shifting quality and price class but to be honest, this is outstanding. It started that they have decorated our room and flowers just to make it extra cosy to arrive, they offered a welcome drink like any hotel with some class and the whole family was super nice and did everything they could to make sure that I felt myself welcome. At the morning they offered a breakfast with the most tasy omelette I ever eaten (friendly reminder, fry the tomatoes in garlic next time you cook a omelette) and there, during I am in heaving eating my omelette the friendly neighbour rabbit came and visited, just as cute as surprising.

Unfortunately I only got one night at Threewin so I had to change to a new hotel, this time to one who has a restaurant and bar in the lobby. I am stil in Ubud and this new hotel is a bit more lively, you may roll of the bed into the pool and the room service is both fast and accurate so I will not complain.

The days has was spent in a calm pace but we took a short hike along the rice fields, the goal was a small Warung. The juice may look poisonous but it tasted magical and made me googling if I can grow dragon fruit in Sweden. It has also been some shopping here, if you go to the market you can find everything and anything super cheap but myself went to the more, real shops. It was a bit more expensive of course but hopefully the shirts hold a bit better quality but either way, it is still less than half price of what they would cost back home.

Climbing a volcano

Bali has a few active volcanos where Mt Agung is probably the most famous (and active). It reaches a top over 3000m and while you may climb it, I felt it was a little bit to much for a day tour in 30 degrees. Instead I aimed for Mt Batur. This only reach 17000m and hasn’t had any eruption since 2000 compared to Agungs kind a large one 2017-2018

A tour was booked and in the middle of the night we left my hotel in one of the shittiest minibuses I even seen and trust me, I have seen many during my trips around the globe. The tour was supposed to include transport to/from Mt Batur, 2x breakfast, one simplir before the hike and one at the actual top and of course, a local English speaking guide, that was not quite what I got…

I have already described the transport above and breakfast number one was one slice of fried banana and a cup of coffee. Now, don’t believe we are talking about a luxurious version honey or any kind of berries. Nope it was just a single banana which was sliced into three or four slices, fried and we were offered one slice per person, served on a napkin together with your cup of coffee. Here they also handed our some styrofoam boxes which was the breakfast number 2, supposed to be eaten on the top of the volcano in the sun rise.

At the foot of the volcano we met our guide. He was a happy camper for sure and were nice however his English had some, improvement potential. I roughly understood 30% of what he said and my fellow group member, who many came from Ireland and England looked just as confused as me. Anyway, we understood the most important things and with the goal to be on the top at sun rise we had to close run the mountain, the sweat was dripping and it was really, really steep.

This hike is not really hard but it is a steep one, according to my watch it was roughly 600 altitude meters, the first on steep tarmac road but the second part really narrow and steep path where you have to climb large rocks. Another ting that adds to the difficulties and actually removes a lot of the fun is that this is a popular tour, such popular that it is more or less a queue all the way up to the top and there is a lot of places where you have to take a break and just for the queue to start moving again.

Once on the top you will get a beautiful view though and we were more or less exactly on time for the first rays of daylight. It felt really magical, at least until I open my box for second breakfast and realised that it contained: two slices of dry, white bread, one rotten banana and one egg. Nothing to add on the bread, nothing more, nothing less. I gave my box away and hiked down the volcano on an empty stomach.

By the way, our current hotels do new figures everyday of the our towels, you just have to love it!

Arrived at Sanur

For the second time on this trip and for the second time in my life I am staying at a large, all inclusive type of resort. Ubud may be central and works just perfect as a hub for different activities but we felt that we were done with that city and took the bus down to Sanur, close to the ocean.New years eve is coming up and tourists seems to love to stay close to the sea made us realise that many of the hotels and homestays were sold out but we did find a room, we upgraded a little bit and now we are probably living at something which quiet luxury.

I am not convinced though, the room is really nice and we do have our own pool, perfect if we shouldn’t have energy to walk those 50 meters to the ocean but still, it feel really impersonal and boring. At the beach restaurant we heard people speaking Swedish and suddenly I am not the palest guy on the beach anymore. It is however nice to get something beside rice of fried noodles to breakfast and so far, even if this is far away from how we travel up to now during this trip it feels pretty good to just disconnect the brain and follow mainstream.

For dinner we did however left the area and went to a small, cosy restaurant called “Lilla Pantai”, that is Swedish and they served an amazing fish but they had of course Swedish meatballs and other Swedish dishes on the menu, we left those untouched,

I cant stand it

It took less than 24 hours before I got tired of this big, totally uninspired concrete block to restort. Yes it is nice pool and even since we upgraded our selves, with a private pool and staying in an area with kids not allowed but is it worth it? No! It is literally people everywhere and it feels like everything here is built to fit as many people as possible, which makes it in reality fit absolutely no-one instead. The staff is really nice but after the pandemic it feels like everybody who had experience has moved on and all the staff now is young, unexperienced without a clear leadership. Everything takes forever and they just run around with no plan and what it feels like, no idea what they are doing. The record is 30 minutes wait for the bill and that is after we asked for it. Me and myself said that we had given them the chance and if they don’t give us the bill that must mean its on the house but my company did not agree.

Everything is not bad though, they do have a SPA here and according to my travel companion is was really, really good. You can also borrow kayak for free, that is really nice and after today I can mention that paddling along the current was pretty nice, turning back home, against the tide and current was not as fun.

Well, nothing forces us to stay here on the complex and today we left the area and found Jalepeno, a tiny Mexican restaurant which was really popular. We got a place at the bar, overlooking the creation of Margaretas while we ate a lot of enchiladas, burritor, corn and jalapenos and immediately the mood changed back to happy again.