February 10th to 19th: We met up with Pi (of Athens Christmas fame) in Ubud and spent our days walking between ice cream shops and Padang restaurants. Ubud has a reputation as a laid-back, yoga-heavy, vegan-eating, artistic town. We had been warned about the “vortex of Ubud”: you go for 4 days and stay for 4 months. We didn’t see the attraction. It is a built up tourism-driven town with jewelry shops, raw food cafes, and even a Starbucks. It seems like a resort town for the yogi with too much money wanting to feel something. To be fair, we did not go to a single yoga class (they were $12!!!) so maybe that’s how we escaped.
On our first day in Ubud we went to the Sacred Monkey Forest Sanctuary! These monkeys are little rascals; they steal sunglasses, open up backpacks, and climb on people. One tried to snatch Les’s water bottles. Another swatted at his calf while he walked. Yet another leapt on to his back! Meanwhile I got no attention. I think it’s from all my intimidating smiles 🙂
Despite not falling in love with the place, we did enjoy our time. Pi introduced us to Padang food – a spicy buffet of chicken, beef, tofu, fish, veggies, and perkadel (fried potato or corn patties). Padang is cheap and delicious! This is what I will remember about our stay in Ubud 🙂
February 20th to 21st: At 10am, we were picked up by Agung, a driver we hired to take us to Mount Ijen on Java.
We arrived at our hotel at 5pm and spent the evening resting and relaxing before we were picked up at 1am to head up Mount Ijen. We stopped for tea before starting up the trail at 2am. It was an easy hour/hour and a half hike up to the crater, easy but steadily upill. From there, we hiked down to the acidic lake and sulphur dioxide spewing fumaroles.
Sulphur is mined by hand and carried in 50-90kg baskets by miners with very little or no PPE (think flip-flops and no gas mask). The gas was bad to us, although apparently not bad for Ijen.
After the hike, we went back to the hotel for breakfast and then hit the road back to Bali. Agung dropped us off Canggu on the west coast of Bali.
February 22nd to 23rd: Canggu is a beach-side city dominated by tourism and surfers. There is a restaurant for any diet here. There are also tattoo parlours galore and a cross-fit gym! It isn’t great to walk around due to narrow sidewalks (or no sidewalks) and the crowds of people. It wasn’t really a good fit for us but it was still super cool to watch people surf!
February 24th to February 27th: We decided to walk from Canggu to Kuta. Traveling around Bali has limited options: rent a scooter, hire a scooter, hire a taxi. There is extremely limited public transport and none from Canggu to Kuta.
Ride hailing apps are a hot topic in Bali because they severely under cut the over priced taxis. For example, a Grab Taxi from Canggu to Kuta costs $6-$8 CAD while a taxi costs a hard $20 (no bargaining, it’s take it or leave it). All the tourist hubs we visited had signs posted by the local taxis that apps like Grab or Gojek are banned. The government allows them but the local taxi cartels/clubs do not. The reasoning is that if you can afford to vacation in Bali, you can afford the inflated prices. I understand that rationale but it does not apply to any other part of traveling in Bali (like food or accommodation). Everywhere we have been in the world has been a little more expensive for tourists and that’s to be expected. It was hard not to see the taxi drivers as greedy.
So with this in mind, we opted to get up early and walk along the beach from Canggu to Kuta. It was really pleasant and took us about 2 hours. The heat became a thing around 8am but by then we were within half an hour of the hotel.
On one of our last nights on Bali, we hired a driver to take us to see the Kecak dance at the Uluwatu Temple. The Kecak dance was created by a German (Walter Spies) living in Bali in the 1930s. He was inspired by the trance ritual (kecak) and created the dance for Western tourists. It takes place at a cliff-top outdoor theatre beside the Uluwatu Temple. The scenery was beautiful and the dance was like nothing I’ve seen or heard. Unfortunately one of the most memorable things will be the total disregard for the performers. The audience was horrible. When the sun started to set, MANY people got up to go take pictures. That meant exiting via the narrow gate that the dancers entered from. It was shocking.
Next, we fly to Bangkok!