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Bali (Ubud)


At last Bali, a place that I have had on my list for as long as I can remember! I stayed at the Alila Ubud, trust me this hotel did not disappoint in fact I would go as far as to say, one of the nicest hotels I have every stayed. There attention to detail is 2nd to none, they think of every little detail to ensure you have the best time on your stay.

My room over looked the most amazing forest, which was just stunning. When I arrived at the entrance, nothing had prepared me for what I was about to see. I checked in at reception which I can only describe as a floating reception in the middle of the most beautiful scenery you have every seen. I was lead down some stairs, by a gentleman who carried my bags, I cannot believe that they do not have any trolleys, but given it is up in the mountains, I guess they don't really work, as it is very hilly, the hotel was just stunning set on may different levels.

When we finally reached my room, I was shocked by the amount of space, a far cry from the usual cramped hotel rooms back in the UK. On par to that I was staying in a suite, where I had my own gardens to enjoy back and front. Well the back garden also doubled up to an outside bathroom, which was just stunning and totally amazing (of course no one could see into that part of the garden, it was beautifully shielded with lovely trees and shrubs). This is a classy unique, boutique I have you know :)

Right back to reception to find out what is available to do in this tranquil and stunning place. All of this after a tour around the grounds and back to my room for my complimentary bottle of champagne, which I thought was delivered to the wrong room, this was a gift from the hotel manager, whom I was very lucky to bump into on my walk. (Did anyone else receive this, I do not know as I am not the sort of person to go around shouting that sort of thing). It was addressed to me, with a lovely note, so lets just leave it at that! Ok ok yes he was rather cute :)

Right where was we, things to do in Ubud:-

  • Ubud Monkey Forest - One of many forest in Bali but the most populated
  • Eco Bike Tour - All down hill form Mt Batur
  • Sobek White Water Rafting - on the Ayung River
  • Ubud Rice Field Walk

One of the first things I decide to do book is a private cycle tour around the area. So my guide who was a very strong and handsome, guy looked like a fitness instructor so truth be known I knew I was in trouble before we had even started, our half day, yes I did say half day tour of the lovely Ubud. To make life easy I booked this tour through the hotel. I was kitted out with a mountain bike, that looked like new and a safety helmet. Right camera, water check, we are off. Leaving the hotel grounds was a mission in itself as I had to cycle through a field with long grass, and told to watch out for the snakes, errrrrrrrrrrr OMG was my first thought what have I left myself in for. Clearly my facial expression was one of discomfort where I am told, this is the worse bit the rest of it is fine. With this in mind, I thought if this is the worse it get's then I can do this.

The tour was amazing the views just stunning, from seeing the school children, all in uniform, waving and calling me over. I was invited into class which was a huge honour, as I was told this was not the norm, and it must have been my large camera, that got us this privilege pass. After everyone wanting to look at my camera, nothing special just a 400D, not a Cannon MK III or anything....I was invited over to this hut, which I can only describe as a little tuck shop, which the children worked in to make money, it was open before school and at lunchtime only, where travellers like myself could pick up an ice drink, ice lolly or crisps :) Of course along with the local favorites fresh coconut water. After losing what felt like 5lbs, in 2 hours, what with the heat and all this tough cycling up hill, it was harder than any spinning class I have done in London. When we did finally come to a downward hill, I could not even manage that, whereby I flew down the hill and over the handle bars, and into the back of a truck on the side of the road. Other than a little bruised I am fine, more worried about my expensive Cannon Camera ok expensive to me, now you all know it is a Cannon 400D, which has been my travel partner on this amazing journey of my life.

Seeing little piglets, seeing huge spiders just hanging on the electric cables, which makes the UK house spiders look the size of an ant. Yes they really do, if I was to see one of the huge Bali spiders in my room or gardens, it would be an instant heart attack for sure.

The 'Ubud Rice Field Walk' might not appeal to many of you, but I promise you along with being great exercise it was well worth it. A little sign on Jalan Raya Ubud at Jalan Kajeng says "rice field walk" - a look from the south to the north through the rice fields and waterway. A single line path between rice fields, where locals will climb a coconut tree and serve you fresh young coconut juice, the path narrow to ravines and water falls created by the waterways and a bit of a climb up to an expansive view of more colours of green and oxygen fresh air. Turn left, as there is no sign, I take a loop around to a stop at Sari Organic for a cool drink or lunch on fresh from the garden vegetables. One it is delicious and two you will need it for the rest of the walk in the sweltering heat. The trail leaves you off in the north part of Ubud near the Blanco Museumon Jalan Raya Ubud. Take a rice field walk, whether this one or another.

Western prices treat

......MAKE SURE YOU HAVE YOUR CREDIT CARD, otherwise don't bother....Splurge Day at Como Shambhala Estate Spa - Want a massage? not just any massage, but one in the Kedara Room. Room does not describe the structure. It's 500 steps down toward the Ayung River, the spa room is tucked into the side of the Ayung river cliff, and is made of natural dark wood and stone. Sound track not required, as this is provided by the birds and rushing river a soothing, calming atmosphere. To name but a few massages on offer, Thai, Indian Head, Deep Tissue, Sports, the list goes on....recommended is a pre-massage dip in the near by cliff pool or before going down the path take a trip up top where facials and other treatments take place. The jungle gym and full workroom, all with yoga, chi gong, pilates and aqua therapy are available for the day, as I would say paradise. End the day with a meal in the RAW food restaurant, living food with a Balinese and Indonesian influence.

For you bargain hunters like myself, just wonder around town and you'll find a cream hair bath, reflexology say for $5 or massage.

A few days in and I am swimming in the pool, when this guy starts talking to me, as he hears my english accent, when I thank the waiter for my drink. He then asks where I am from, at the time I was living in South London, where he tells me that he has a friend that lives in South London, his best friend in fact, we then got talking about work and it turned out not only did his best mate, work at the same place as me, he also sat behind me. What a small world, how funny, thousands of miles from home and I meet a colleagues best mate, we both start texting our mutual friend that we have just met each other.

To sum up my stay at Alila, fantastic hotel, wonderful people, staff and guests, equalled a brilliant stay, with some new friends, whom I hope to stay in contact with, once back home.

Posted by djAsia2010 07:46 Archived in Indonesia Tagged bali Comments (0)


Lombok & The Gili Islands

all seasons in one day

Lombok another amazing place, which I finally get to cross off my list. To all of you out there reading my blog, I know that I am truly blessed to having such an amazing trip, thanks to family and friends, who encouraged me to follow my dreams and travel like I have wanted to for so many years. At this point I want to say a huge thanks to my boss, who let me take a sabbatical from the London grind stone of working 12hr minimum days in the heart of the City. No that seriously is no joke. Trust me at the end of this journey.....those hours will hopefully be a thing of the past, that I can promise you!!!

So I arrive on a little small aircraft, so tiny it has me a little worried as we touch down in what appears to be a huge storm, well by my standards anyway. Of course I am not dressed for the weather, as I have minimum warm clothes, yes you guessed it, shorts, hiking boots (due to being very heavy and too bulky for luggage allowance) and of course a t-shirt, under my rain coat, I was not that silly. Although that said, the walk from the plane to the terminal building, leaves me soaked to the skin, and looking like I have been in a wet t-shirt competition. It's a nighttime, stormy weather pitch black and not how I wanted my first impressions of Lombok to be. Fingers crossed in the morning, I will open my eyes to paradise.

I really did wake up in paradise!!

Happy is not even close to describe how I feel today!! I feel like pinching myself I feel so lucky to be in yet another fantastic place, stunning hotel I am so happy I can hardly stop smiling. Will have jaw ache this evening if this keeps up. Hmmmmmmmmm I can see why Lombok is a favourite amongst the romantic, guess that is probably why I feel so at home as I am truly with them. Such a shame I am not with that special someone to share this experience, but hey I am going to make the most of it, that I can promise you. As I really do believe that one door closes and another one opens. The other plus is no one is going to be able to tarnish or take away any memories from me, which I will treasure for the rest of my life.

I rush out of my hotel room, which is really nice with a large room and balcony with sea views just stunning. I know I have been spoilt with all the hotel villas I have been staying in...anyway I could not get down stairs quick enough to watch the sunrise in this amazing romantic place, it was just awesome, thank heavens for my camera, that I am now referring to as my boyfriend, due to so many people, asking me how comes I am travelling on my own, well I certainly don't feel alone that's for sure, thanks to all the amazing people I have met along this epic journey.

Great day, chilling out by the pool, strolling along the beach and chatting and laughing with the locals. I know I am a female travelling on my own, but I promise I never felt so comfortable anywhere. Whilst strolling along I stumble across a group of boats with lots of men playing cards and the like, of course you get the hellooooooooooo you English or American, I say nothing at first, but then see this older man, who I grow to call captain. Captain was mature and had a sweet nature about him, so I went over and started talking to him, asking him about the Gili Islands which of course was a must given I was so close to them. He had a younger friend and I asked them how much they would charge to take me to all three of the Gili Islands, as there was no way I travelled all this way just to visit one of them. After negotiating a price, I told them that I would have to think about it and the very latest let them know tomorrow. Made it very clear though, that I wanted to leave early, as I presumed it would be very busy with lots of other tourists and I for one wanted to be the first to get to everything, so I did not miss anything, plus could take amazing photos, without lots of people in them.

At the hotel reception I was on my IPad using the free hotel wi-fi, when one of the hotel employees came up and started asking me lots of questions, where are you from, what's your job, why are you in Lombok, the usual stuff. Anyway we got talking about my travels, and where I had been and where I still had to go, with this the Gili Islands cropped up, I asked him if he knew any of the guys on the beach, and how I met this lovely guy who I have nicknamed captain, he knew the guy I met and told me that they are the ones, they use if anyone books for a Gili trip at the hotel. I was so thrilled, so of course before heading back to my room later that afternoon, I swung by Captain and his friend, and booked them for the next day, Gili Islands here I come, with a 07.00am start. I know I must be crazy, but so want to see the amazing sea life as well, and I know if too many people are around, I may not get the chance.

So excited I can hardly sleep...yes I am awake by 05.00am local time

We all set off on our travels first thing in the morning, Captain and his skipper were both on time. Hmmmmmmm the boat was a little smaller than I was expecting it to be, but hey no one can't say that I never got up close and personal to nature, the boat was so small, that jaws, just kidding or a huge sea animal of some sort could give us a little trouble, and leave me with no options, other than to lay still in the water and hope for the best.

The water was a lovely green blue colour, it looked amazing as it rippled along, and when the sun shone bright, it sparkled. Captain did not speak very good english, but skipper was ok, and pointed out all the places of interest, monkey island which we passed along the way, given I had paid for a private trip, we were able to get close and see the monkey's playing. Skipper told me that it was very dangerous for humans to enter the island at this point, as there have been issues in the past where people have been injured by the violent cute little things. No they are not pets and although they look cute, that was a warning I was not going to push. So much so I told them I could see fine, without getting any closer, call me a chicken, I really do not care, have lasted this far, without any incidents and I like it that way.

The Gili Islands

  • Gili Trawangan
  • Gili Meno
  • Gili Air

These islands are a popular destination for Western tourists, looking for a remote island experience. That said each island has several very small resorts, mostly consisting of a small collection of huts and one restaurant. Not for me this kind of experience, as like a choice of food, plus prefer to walk and experience the real culture in a larger place like Lombok.

Most inhabitants live on Trawangan in township stretching along its east side just inland (which is where a lot of development is taking place). Cars and motorized traffic are prohibited on the islands by local ordinance, so the preferred method of transportation is bicycle or the horse-drawn carriage called a cidomo. Some call this divers paradise due to the abundance of fish life and attractive coral formations, which I was lucky to experience, just before we reach Gili Trawangan.

I could not believe when skipper told captain to stop and float in our current area, I was like hellooooooooooooo the island is so close, why are we stopping here, when I was told I will see...... for the first time, I thought what the hell are they going to do to me, I have come this far, and they have been perfect gentlmen, well I only had that thought for a split second, as we were so close to the island, people could see our boat from the beach, all be it, probably looking like a little dot to them. Skipper, then told me to put on the flippers, that he had brought on the boat for me to borrow, and get ready to jump in at the end of the boat, thank god for my scuba diving training, so with my flippers, life jacket and own snorkel and googles in I went. It took a while for the bubbles to clear and where I was greeted by the most amazing colourful fish. They were all really close, some too close for comfort. At the surface of the ocean, skipper told me they are very tame, as so many people feed them by hand, he said even the large ones, who I should not be scared of.

The sea life was strange, from behind my goggles it felt like I was watching them all on a tv screen, all swimming towards my hand as I held out the bottle which I had stuffed with bread and water, I would give it a gentle squeeze to release the food to them. They were very gentle, so much so that when I saw skipper feeding them by I hand, I wanted to experience this...... yes even to the big ones. At which point skipper was pointing, I turned around to see a huge turtle, some thing I was not expecting, skipper, signalled me to stay still, I did as I was told, and he came swimming over to me, and took the turtle by his huge front feet, and swam a little with him. I have never felt so small/short in all my life, this thing was huge, the little nemo fish... smashing against my goggles 10 mins earlier was nothing. As apparently I swam over there home, which is a big no no, as they all come out guns blazing to protect the little ones. Lets call them the rottweilers of the sea. This is an experience I will never forget, I truly struck gold, meeting and selecting captain and skipper.

After leaving Gili Trawangan, I thought we are never going to get that lucky again. We went to Gili Meno, where we stopped even further away from the island this time, the coral was just amazing. Skipper took me out again, this time, telling that me we would have to swim a little but it would be worth it, how true was that. We were swimming then all of a sudden it was getting shallow, there was a huge piece of coral in the middle of no where, it is a shame that I did not have anyone with me, as it would have made a great picture, it would have looked like we were taking on water in the middle of no where. Such a great treat and experience. If only the capital knew how to use my camera, and spoke better English. Oh well a good excuse to visit the place again one day.... never say never.

When we went back in the water, skippper was pointing out things which of course I would never have seen otherwise, errrrrrrrrrrrrr a sea snake, yeap next, not for me. We then came across a couple of turtles this time. They were just awesome, curious and wanted to get up close to us, if I thought I was dreaming before, this confirmed I was not, and this time we also had an underwater disposable camera (brought on Gili Trawangan) of course it cost me a fortune, but was well worth it, so skipper took my photo with huge Mr Turtle, who seemed more interested in my bikini bottom ties :( I am sure you can guess what happened, let's just say sh*t happens, which left me in fits of laughter, believe you me it was the only option for me, otherwise i would have been in floods of tears, it took me hours to stop blushing, of course skipper had no complaints. Thank heavens the turtles did not leave me completely naked. Lol

The last island Gili Air, I was shattered, so we made this a short visit. Captain and skipper, saw some friends who had a group of Americans on there boat, they all did not look happy at all. Whereby the American's were complaining about not seeing any large sea life, like turtles, sting rays etc etc. I felt dreadful, as I had and much more than I ever dreamt I would be lucky enough to see, or experience up close. Skipper did say I was very lucky and he said that my plan to leave very early clearly paid off, as they did not usually leave until well after breakfast around 10.00/10.30 way too late for me. Plus he said it was always very busy, with people splashing and shouting, so that is probably the reason why they did not to see much, as like anything, they hide if they are scared or feel threatened.

Gili Islands done, last few days in Lombok, where spent being pampered of course, feel sad that my adventure is drawing to an end. As soon as I get back to the UK, I need to book a holiday.

My travelling adventures are far from over. Thanks to those of you, that took the time to join me along the way. I will be back, that I can promise you..........

Posted by djAsia2010 13:22 Archived in Indonesia Comments (0)

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