Return to the island of the Gods
Who should have thought in 1987, the first time I visited Bali that 15 years later I would visit it again for the seventh time! Not a normal visit though, since this time it was the honeymoon from Paul and me. For Paul it was the first time to the islands of the Gods and on departure I had plans to show him all the places on the islands I had been before.
Of course we stayed again with my friends Ulli and Nyoman at Guci Guesthouses in Ubud. When we finally arrived over there after almost 30 hours of traveling a warm welcome awaited us. It was as if we just saw each other the week before and the five years since my last visit did not seem to count at all.
On the first day we explored Ubud, did some shopping and enjoyed the surroundings. Our first stop was monkey forest and Paul made some really good friends over there.
Ubud really had changed since my last visit and a lot of new shops were built. Shops which had real nice things that would for sure end up in our luggage… I guess our favorite was Ubud music shop where we bought DVD’s like wholesalers. In the afternoon we made a wonderful hike through the rice fields. It took us a couple of hours and we ended up in Sampuan, north of Ubud.
We decided to rent a jeep to explore the island. The exploration did not go very well on the first day, I had to get used to the car and driving on the left. The fact that road signs were not well known at Bali did not make things easier. Because of all this we ended up where we did not want to go… Kuta. Well, at least I could show Paul why there was no reason to go there besides the fact that there were more shops with DVD’s.
The next day things worked out much better. Without a lot of problems we ended up at Padang Bay where we found a wonderful beach to spend the rest of the day. Both of us felt very lazy and though we did not do much more than sunbathing and enjoying the extremely strong waves time passed by quickly.
On the way back to Ubud we visited Gowah Lawah, the bat cave which was an interesting but very smelly experience. Hundreds of bats were hanging on the roof of a small cave. There is a legend that from the cave there goes a path all the way up to the Besakih temple but neither of us was interested to check that legend.
We were just at the beginning of our holiday but we already realized this was going to be a lazy one and my plans to show Paul all the places I had visited before did not seem to be very realistic. It made me a bit restless in the beginning but after a couple of days also I had the feeling it was just right for us. After a very busy period preparing for the wedding it was good to chill out, enjoy a low pace of living and each others presence. So that was what it was going to be, a nice sleep-in in the morning, shower, breakfast and then just see whatever we felt like. What a wonderful way of spending our honeymoon.
One of the places that I certainly wanted to show Paul was the Besakih, The mother temple of Bali. The ride over there was absolutely stunning, especially when we hit the mountains. After every corner we were treated with beautiful views over rice fields and wonderful panorama’s. It almost made us forget that visiting the Besakih temple was the actual reason for the tour. Once we arrived we saw lots of people on their way to the temple with offerings. I cannot remember a single visit to the temple without any ceremonies going on. What made it special however was that the sky was almost cloudless. It was the first time for me I had a clear view over the Gunung Agung, the volcano which was now dominantly seen behind the Besakih. Needless to say I was absolutely thrilled.
I already mentioned that Bali is a shopping paradise. Well, we did not go far from Guci Guesthouse for that… Less than 50 meters away we found Saroeng Bantal, a beautiful shop with furniture and home decorations. We already passed the shop several times and every time we were attracted by a stunningly beautiful Javanese sideboard in the window. It was made from Sonokeling, a tropical hardwood. Both Paul and myself really liked it but we realized it’s 200 kilo’s were a bit over the top for checking in as hand luggage, even for Garuda Indonesia standards… On our wedding day we were extremely spoiled and the contents of all the envelopes we received matched exactly the price of the sideboard. We agreed it would be the ultimate wedding present and a good memory of our honeymoon. To make a long story short, yes we bought it! We found a company who could take care of the shipping home which made our decision a bit easier. Immediately after we bought the sideboard it was picked up by ASI Cargo, the shipping company. It took no less then 6 people to carry it into a truck and unload it again at ASI Cargo. There it was carefully wrapped and prepared for shipping. We just received a letter it will arrive on the 7th of October in Germany and are already looking forward to putting it in our dining area (Are there any volunteers around who can help us carrying it up?).
Another day trip we made was to Tampakskiring, the holy springs. They were set in a beautiful environment and we spent quite some time over there. The temple was built in a lush garden and we really enjoyed hanging around over there.
After leaving Tampaksiring we decided to just go on a scenic tour without any fixed plan. We passed several small villages where we could admire the handicrafts (and believe it or not we ended up without buying any of it) but one of the most impressive sights was without doubt a fantastic valley with rice terraces.
In the evening we were invited for having dinner with Ulli and Nyoman. Nyoman remembered I really love Padang food, which comes from central Sumatra, and so he decided to pick up a meal at a Padang restaurant in the area and give us a real treat. The table was full with various dishes, one even more delicious than the other. Food was excellent but the company was even better and we had a wonderful evening together.
While we were in Thailand we did a splendid cooking course in Chiang Mai and therefore we decided to repeat the experience with a Balinese cooking course at Casa Luna. Like in Thailand the course was held in a garden and we learned to prepare several Balinese dishes. We enjoyed it a lot though we had hoped the course would be more hands on like in Thailand. This course was more like a cooking demonstration but still we got some very good ideas for cooking at home. Of course we had to go to the market afterwards to buy a vessel and mortar so it would be easier to freshly prepare the spice mixes ourselves.
It was time to say goodbye to Ulli and Nyoman for a couple of days as we had booked a couple of days at Alam Anda for diving and relaxing. Alam Anda is a small but extremely pleasant resort at the north coast of Bali, far away from the major tourist spots. First we drove to Kintamani to enjoy the view of Gunung Batur and it’s majestic crater lake. We followed the rim of the crater for a couple of kilometers after which we started a steep but breathtaking decent through rice fields, passing small villages. Once at sea level again it was not far to go until Alam Anda where we were warmly welcomed. Our bungalow looked nice and was very comfortable, it had sea view and included a nice cuddle corner for the more romantic moments.
The next days we spend diving, lazing at the pool and enjoying the splendid food at Alam Anda. It turned out to be a highly enjoyable stay. The diving was excellent and Paul really enjoyed to finally dive in warm waters where he could see where he was going. The absolute highlight was a dive at the Tulamben wreck which was at a 30 minute drive from Alam Anda. We entered the water from the beach and could immediately see the wreck, although it was sometimes hard to see since we were surrounded by so many fish.
We spent most of the time between and after dives at the pool, swimming, relaxing and… doing nothing at all. One afternoon I had a synchronic Ayurveda massage with hot cocos oil. It was so relaxing that the girls had to wake me up when it was time to turn around. During the evenings we had a wonderful time with Susanne, a German girl who was managing the place, and a Swiss couple who also just got married. Two newly wed couples on one table was just a good excuse to explore the list of available cocktails.
Time flew by so quickly we could not believe we already had to check out and start our trip back to Ubud. This time we decided to follow the coast line and drive past Amed and Candi Dasa. It was a beautiful ride which we only interrupted to have lunch at the seaside in Candi Dasa. We arrived at Guci Guesthouse just after dawn.
The next days were already the last days of our stay in Bali. We enjoyed our laziness and excursions limited themselves to discover local restaurants and terraces. The big question we asked ourselves on those last couple of days was whether 2 pm was to early for a cocktail or not. It was really amazing to us that we found ourselves visiting Goa Gajah, the elephant cave which was not far from Ubud.
Not much further was Jeh Puluh, a big carved rock in the middle of rice fields. It was not that easy to find but it was nice driving through the small village and the final walk through the rice fields.
All good things come to an end and so did our stay at Bali. According to good tradition we took Ulli, Nyoman and Daniel out for dinner on our last evening. This time we went to Dirty Duck restaurant. We had a splendid evening in a beautiful surrounding, rice fields and a lotus pond. Cocktails, wine and good food created a nice atmosphere but more important was we were able to spend some time together as this would be the last time for who knows how long.
The last day we spend around Ubud. Some shopping, a nice lunch, a chat with Ulli and Nyoman. Before we realized it the taxi driver showed up to bring Paul and myself to the airport. A warm goodbye, one last glimpse and we were on the road again. It was the beginning of a 28 hour long trip home. Neither of us were looking forward to this but the last two weeks had been absolutely worth it. Sempai jumpa. Until next time!