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Entering the ring of fire

Bali, Indonesia
Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Singapore - Bali

We had some reservations about the weather in Singapore because of the haze stories but as it turned out we had some fantastic weather during our stay, however on the final day we awoke to a thunderstorm. As we walked to the MRT bound for the airport we managed to dodge the rain but the weather didn't improve, and just after we boarded the plane the heavens opened and we departed Singapore in heavy rain. Unfortunately with the heavy cloud cover we didn't get to see the skyline one last time but nevertheless we had a fantastic few days which we won't forget anytime soon.

We have now crossed the equator and are finally in the southern hemisphere, another milestone on our big trip. Unfortunately that means Ross failed one of his pre-trip objectives which was to run a 10km in both the northern and southern hemispheres. D'oh! We have been better at achieving some of our other pre-trip objectives and although it's been a long time coming, we will finally get round to finishing the 'objectives update' blog soon.

Day 1

Horse ride

With Ross's ambition to ride in every country he could feasibly do so, he booked himself on a 2 hour beach ride.

Unfortunately the car journey to the stables was one of the best bits of the excursion. The winding country roads were lined with rice paddy fields and at various points it was possible to see some of Bali's volcanoes in the distance.

Unfortunately the ride wasn't as good. Even though Ross declared he was an experienced rider he still got a plodder. He only managed to find 3rd gear a few times so the chance of finding top gear was looking pretty slim and Ross wasn't even sure the horse knew what a gallop was. To rub it in when signing his life away before the ride commenced there was a strict warning 'galloping is not permitted and anybody found doing so will be asked to return to the stables'

This was like those infuriating signs you see in roadwork's saying max speed 50mph, as you crawl past at less than 5mph, without the remote possibility of going any faster as you follow the endless red lights in front of you. This horse was never going to gallop, not today, not tomorrow, never!

The majority of the ride was on the beach and although impressive it was not the picturesque golden sands Ross was expecting. Instead it was covered in dark black silt from Bali's volcanos. It was just plain strange, a beautiful beach should have white sand, not black sand!

The other main gripe about the riding tour was that the guides were not on horseback and instead followed on foot, which slowed everything down. Completely stupid! In the few places you were allowed to trot and canter the guides were left behind so after a short distance you had to stop and wait for them to catch up. Let's just say it's safe to say that none of them were budding athletes and won't be competing at Rio!

Also the horse ride was on 'Bali time' which seemed to be shorter than European time! (Maybe it is something to do with being close to the equator?) The 2 hour ride only lasted 1 hour 40 and worse still there was a 20 minute break at the end of the beach before we headed back. The 'rest' that was meant for the horses was more like a convenient time for the guides to sit around and have a fag whilst the paying riders had to kill some time. The only consolation was that there were some interesting things to see during the break including a bat cave containing hundreds of sleeping bats. It's incredible how active and loud bats can be when they are supposedly sleeping.

Having said all of that, the ride wasn't bad value for money as it included return hotel transfers which were a good 40 minutes in both directions. However it didn't come close to the sunset beach ride back in Phuket which was the best ride on the trip so far.

Power Cut!

It's been a few weeks since the last power cut so it wasn't a big surprise when everything suddenly went off at midday. So with little to see and do in Kuta that didn't revolve around the use of electricity it was time to check out the beach to relax and soak up some rays.

Legian Beach

Legian is one of the main beaches in Bali and fronts Kuta which is one of the main tourist areas on the island. The beach didn't have the nicest sand and the sea wasn't crystal clear, hey it wasn't even warm, but it did have one massive thing that no other beach so far has had.... fantastic surf. Yeah baby the surf was well and truly up! (For Ross anyway, Sonya was too chicken)

There was wave after wave of endless rippers and with numerous surfers to be seen in all directions he couldn't wait to get in on the action. Although Ross has never surfed properly he hired a body board and jumped in with the big boys and girls. 2 hours later, Ross very bedraggled had to hand the board back. :-(

Hard Rock Café

With café's coming thick and fast at the moment we ended the evening at number 49! We had a fantastic evening which ended with us both celebrating our birthdays a little bit early! Basically Ross got an email to say that we could receive a free dessert in the month of our birthdays, so we decided to show the email to our server to see if it would be accepted and it was : The only problem was the waiter assumed that it was Ross's birthday so he went off and started one very big ball rolling.... It wasn't until the waiter came back and wished Ross a happy birthday that we realised this and when Ross tried to explain that it wasn't till later in the month this seemed to confuse him. Sonya tried to help by explaining that the voucher could be used for the whole month of our birthdays and that it was her birthday on the 10th and Ross's on the 13th. This confused him even more because he thought we meant it was both our birthdays! We gave up at this point and forgot about it until after we had finished our main course when there was an almighty racket heading in our direction! Our server turned up with about ten members of staff who were all banging different instruments loudly and to make things even more embarrassing we had to go into the middle of the room where we ended up celebrating our 'birthdays' with the staff playing music, with full on singing and dancing before the whole restaurant joined in for a rendition of Happy Birthday! A slightly strange but very memorable night!

As we mentioned in our last blog this was the last HRC on our planned route that we haven't already visited. D'oh! Unless they open another café quickly in Australia or New Zealand, surely Perth and/or Auckland are big enough to have one? Or we tweak our plans post New Zealand the magic number 50 will remain elusive.

Day 2

As we have limited time in Bali we decided to cram as much in as possible by going on one of the many island tours on offer. We chose the Golden 5 tour run by Go Holiday Bali. Our action packed day included:

  • Snorkeling
  • Turtle Beach with glass bottom boat
  • 2 hour spa
  • Garuda Whisnu Kencana statue
  • Pedang Pedang Beach
  • Uluwatc Cliff Temple
  • Seafood sunset dinner
  • All with private transport

The day started with snorkelling. Unfortunately it was the worst snorkelling tour we have ever been on and we hoped the rest of the day wouldn't be the same.... luckily it wasn't!

We dropped anchor in a ripping tide more suited to surfing than snorkelling. Ross jumped in and within a few seconds he was an uncomfortable distance from the boat as the current was way too strong. As he made the long journey back to the boat he didn't see a single fish or any signs of a reef in the murky waters so we decided to cut our losses and head to turtle beach earlier than planned.

Turtle beach was amazing. A dream come true being so close to such a beautiful, graceful animal. Although we didn't see any in the so called 'wild' it was the next best thing as the conservation centre was on the beach. Next time we hope to actually swim with these absolutely beautiful creatures in the sea.

Next stop was the spa for 2 hours of pure heaven. A full body massage with scented oil followed by a body scrub and a bath with scented rose petals. It never ceases to amaze us how cheap spa sessions are in Asia, a similar session in the UK would have cost more for 1 person than the whole day tour did for both of us. Ross enjoyed it so much at one point Sonya thought that he had fallen asleep as it sounded very much like he was snoring. Apparently he wasn't sleeping he was just breathing deeply. Yeah right!

We ended the tour at a seafood restaurant right on the beach. Our table must have only been about 15 metres from the water. Although the beach was crammed full of restaurants and people enjoying their evening meals it was incredibly peaceful and a great way to end a fantastic day.

A great tour that was incredible value for money at just US$60 per person.

Day 3

After some last minute planning for Australia we headed to the beach so Ross could catch some more waves. If we had more time Ross would have loved to learn to surf properly, but when we get back to the UK we are hardly best placed to keep the hobby up!

Departing Bali Airport

When you depart from Bali airport you must pay a departure tax, currently this is 150,000IDR per person. This is not clearly advertised at the airport and we only found out after we had gone through security and dropped our bags. Annoyingly you can only pay the departure tax in cash and even more annoyingly the only ATM's machines are before security! A total palaver which could easily be avoided if the departure tax was taken at the time of booking the flight, failing this put some ATM's after security!

Crazy currency

Another country, another ridiculous currency. We are back in monopoly land and with 15,000IDR to the £ we're millionaires again. Like Cambodia the more expensive touristy things are quoted in &, US$ that is, which is even more confusing than before as we just left Singapore where we were using the Singapore &! However what is even more ridiculous is they don't seem to have a coin with a lower domination than 500, but shops sell stuff that isn't a multiple of 500! We visited a supermarket and our bill came to x thousand and 800, our change should have been 200 which is approximately 2p.... some would even say it was peanuts but what we actually received for our change was 2 sweets! Totally bizzare.

Toilet Habits

As we finally depart Asia we can return to the Western practice of flushing toilet paper in the toilet and not putting it in the bin! As disgusting as it sounds, since way back in UB, Mongolia with the exception of Singapore we have been putting toilet paper in the bin. Before you ask no it doesn't smell, we feared it would too but strangely even in the extreme heat of Thailand and Cambodia it never smelt once. It took a bit of getting used to but as the drains can't handle it we willingly obliged. We really don't realise how lucky we are in the UK and what the Victorians did for us. We can't remember the last time we smelt drains in the UK but unfortunately the smell in Asia at times can be overwhelming. It has to be said it's definitely worse in touristy areas and around quality hotels where they can't possibly ask guests to succumb to the Asian way.

So, next stop Australia!

Hotel Review

We stayed at the Aroma's of Bali in a double private suite. Unfortunately first impressions count so when they forgot to collect us from our flight, even though we only reconfirmed it a week ago things did not get off to the best of starts. We finally arrived 2 hours after landing; our flight was less than 3 hours! The room did not look or resemble anything like the pictures we had seen on Hostelbookers. The finish was poor and the balcony doors were broken. We changed rooms to more of the same. It appears that there is a design fault with the doors as we have seen many people struggling to open and close their doors. As we were on the 3rd floor not being able to close the doors was only an inconvenience but gave us no sound proofing from the noisy pool area below. However if we were on the ground floor it would be a potential security issue as they pushed open at the bottom. Generally the room wasn't well finished and the kitchenette area had virtually no utensils, so if we wanted to use the facilities we couldn't. The hotel staff were incredibly unhelpful and offered little assistance whenever we asked them anything. On a positive note all rooms have a pool view and the pool is gigantic and well maintained. Also the breakfast was extremely good and was the best free breakie we have had on our trip. We nearly walked out on day 1 but on reflection and compared to other places we have stayed, it was reasonable value for money. However there is so much choice in and around Kuta we recommend you compare a few other hotels before deciding on the Aroma's.


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