Our Asian adventure has taken us to Indonesia, the 4th most populous country in the world spread across 17,508 islands and also the world’s largest Muslim majority country. We chose Indonesia because it’s massive with so much to see and do and because June / July is a great time to see it unlike most of South East Asia where it’s the rainy season.
Our first stop was Bali. Bali was okay. It wasn’t the best experience we’ve had so far but it wasn’t necessarily bad. Bali has the reputation of being the paradise island and the notoriety of being overly developed for tourism. We struggled a bit to find our groove there but enjoyed adapting to the new location anyway.
We arrived pretty unprepared and didn’t explore too much. We spent most of our time in Ubud and Tampaksiring in the centre of the island.
Ubud is the spiritual centre of Bali with temples everywhere. (As well as a massive Starbucks). It has the reputation of being less mobbed than Kuta in the south. We stayed in a new hostel outside the city and rented a stylish scooter. That way we avoided the crowds and traffic of the centre but we were five minutes away from the action when we needed it. After a few days we moved further north to the village of Tampaksiring in a homestay with a retired Balinese couple to escape the crowds.
We stayed with Agi and Ibu, a couple in their 60s who live in a traditional Balinese house (With their own family temple). When Agi retired from being a school principal his son suggested they start welcoming tourists into their home to keep them busy and meet new people. He’s since welcomed people from all over the world and enjoys telling stories about his past guests. We spent three nights relaxing in their home. Agi was always eager to chat and answer our questions on Balinese culture and history. Frankly we were just happy to be away from the crowds in Ubud and get an experience of a local family.
While in Tampaksiring we did a tour of the three big Hindu temples in the area. You pay a couple of euro, put on your rental sarong and you’re laughing. The best was Tirta Empul, a temple built on a natural spring with bathing pools and fountains. Each fountain cleanses the person of a specific ailment such as bad dreams. We jumped in the water and stared copying what the locals were doing. The cold water, the insense and the people make a great atmosphere. The Hindus were so welcoming. They explained to us everything with big smiles as we queued up for each fountain.
Ubud has a monkey forest with hundreds of wild Monkeys. They are sneaky bastards, if you have any food even in your backpack they’ll rob you quicker than a Barcelona pick pocket. We spent a couple of hours in the park watching them mess around and got a couple of good shots.
The first thing to note about Indonesian food is that the portion size can be a little small. The second thing to note is that the food is so cheap, you just buy a second dish and you’re sorted. If you pay more than 2€ for a plate of food then you’re in an expensive place.
The cuisine itself is pretty basic but the flavours are great. Nasi Goreing (Fried rice), Mie Goreing (Fried noodles) and Curry are your bread and butter here and we’ve been happily munching on that plus buckets of peanut sauce as well. The spices have burnt the mouthes off of us a few times but we keep asking for more.
Mid way through the week we booked a flight to the island of Flores to see something different, quieter and less touristic. Before flying out we spent a night by the beach in the hipster surf town of Canggu for a quick dip. Flores looks a lot more like our style, tune in next time to find out how get on.
- Avocado juice is a thing here, and its great.
- Indonesian drivers take some very “creative” decisions on the road.
- Kiting seems to be the local past time. The skies are filled with kites in the shape of birds.
- Indonesian men smoke all the time. Especially a kind of clovey cigarette with a very distinct smell.
- We tried Lewak Coffee, the most expensive coffee in the world. Basically a cat like animal called a. Lewak, eats coffee beans, and they ferment in it’s stomach. The beans are then harvested from the animal’s poo, cleaned and roasted to make a coffee with a distinct flavour. Tastes surprisingly good.
- They sell Tim Tams in Bali!
- Women on their periods are not allowed in the family temple in the homestay or the water at Titra Empul.
- A traditional Balinese massage is the best 10 euro you’ll ever spend.