November 14, 2014

Stray puppies, brown water and a deluxe sunset - Bali Day 6

Remember how I said we wanted to go snorkeling? Well, we did on day 6 and it was fun but mostly scary and super underwhelming. I snorkeled through parts of the Great Barrier Reef before and quite frankly, underwater Bali looked like a wasteland in comparison.

We went to Nusa Dua and bought a tour off yet another business our trusty taksi driver Ketut had some sort of an affiliate deal with. We then got shoved on a boat with a guy that spoke no English whatsoever and since none of us spoke Indonesian, we barely made do with sign language.

The surf was insane, there were waves breaking around us like it was dooms day and we were passing boats so closely I could have reached out to them with my hand. Surely we weren't going to jump into the water with the waves this high, surrounded by commercial and tourist boats, speed boats and other potentially dangerous crap? I was used to an idyllic, calm and clear sea in proximity to an island in the Whitsundays as a snorkeling background, not pure chaos. Well, I was wrong.

We stopped amidst an array of tourist boats and were told to get started, when we could barely stand on the boat. Ah well...what am I supposed to say, it's Asia, safety standards are different. So we put on our gear and jumped into possibly one of the dirtiest parts of the Bali sea to feed the few fish that were cruising below the surface. No three eyed mutations or sharks were spotted, but a shitload of plastic bags to make up for the lack of marine life. The waves carried us away from the boat so fast we had to peek out every 30 seconds and swallowed a shit ton of the brown brew that was the ocean water. Needless to say we all felt a bit sad after that experience.

The "tour" included a glass bottom boat ride and here is some well meant advice - if you have to pay a surcharge for the glass bottom boat, don't worry about it. All you see is water splashing against the bottom of your boat. Also if you go with a dodgy tour the glass bottom might be just as sloppy a DIY job as the one in our boat. There was black silicone poorly applied around the edges of the glass plate and water slowly filtered through into our boat. So bad. So bad. But it still makes for good stories to tell.
We did get to steer the boat though which was fun.

Now there is a turtle conservatory called "Turtle Island" and if sadness needed a place to stay, this is where it would go. To be clearer: Don't go there! If it is anything it is a tourist trap and nothing like a conservatory. We didn't even sign up to go there upon booking our tour, we explicitly said we didn't want to go there as we read about the mistreatment of animals in advance but language barriers (and likely the intention to scam us) lead us to this place anyway.

You are asked to give a donation that supposedly goes towards conservation efforts. Then you are shown dozens of turtles all crammed into tiled pools (!) and they are being picked up and shoved in your hands. We all repeatedly told our obnoxious guide to leave the animals be and refused to hold them. A little further in there is a tiny rock pool with no shade that harbors at least fifty large turtles. The water stinks, it's luke's simply a horrible, horrible place. Our guide then showed us other animals such as toucans and eagles, all clipped and chained to poles and constantly being handled. One toucan was locked away in a cage completely full with dirt and our guide told us he had not been taken out once for the past seven years, as he started attacking tourists and zoo keepers. That's when we lost our shit and started interrogating the crap out of this guy. There was a python with its mouth sticky taped shut, for crying out loud. The guide assured us there were six other pythons and they would only showcase each snake once per week. When we requested to see the other six snakes, he said they were sleeping in wooden boxes in the closed off part. He then pointed towards the public toilets, which ultimately gave away that there is no closed off area and only one abused python. Then they had baby monkeys inside a cage in bright sunlight and when we asked where the parents were, he said they don't take the large monkeys because tourists only want to see the babies. When they get too big they supposedly put them back into the jungle and take new babies.
We got the hell out of there as soon as possible and I still hate myself for going in instead of simply refusing to enter this place.
One super awesome lady on Turtle Island looked after these stray puppies. She was a ray of light in this bleak place. When she fed the puppies they all started attacking and intimidating each other like tiny wolves. Then, after finishing lunch, they snuggled up again.
We went back to our hotel and got into a mini argument with Ketut as he refused to understand that we didn't need him to take us anywhere else that afternoon. He threw all these names of tourist attractions at us and repeatedly yelled "temple, I take you to temple!!!!" but he finally caved after the two-hundredth "no thank you" and took off into afternoon traffic. Haha, ah man. Culture shock for sure.

For the rest of the day we worked on our tans, philosophized about life and tried not to laugh at all the Scouse people with their hilarious accents at our hostel. (ahh I am just kidding, I love all my Scousers)

And then we went to Kuta beach to watch the sunset and it was incredible:


November 09, 2014


November 08, 2014

Spectacular Ubud - Bali Day 5

I have had a travel bucket list since being a little girl in my tiny Austrian country side village. My dream destinations were mostly Canadian and US American cities at the time (and Paris, of course), but as I am growing older, I seem to prefer nature over people and the manufactured. Aside from choosing quieter destinations, I also keep my bucket list a lot shorter these days, knowing that fostering a career doesn't always go hand in hand with constant travel and hence allowing me to tackle my wanderlust in a much more manageable fashion. After my gap year I struggled going back to 9 - 5 and realising that travel is going to be a privilege from now on, when I still felt it was my dear right to see the world whenever I felt like hopping on a plane. I have since made peace with traveling twice a year, one trip leading me to a new destination, while the other reunites me with my family.

Ubud has been on this very bucket list since I properly integrated into Australian culture and heard about it from every second Aussie who has ever made it to Bali and wasn't completely drunk for the entirety of their stay. :-)

Our trusty taxi driver Ketut picked us up nice and early and from the moment we hopped in the cab we completely lost track of where he was taking us. We asked him to take us to the rice fields, but little did we know he was going to show us a bit more culture along the way. This was such a "what the fuck" experience that still makes me shrug and laugh to this day. He dropped us off at location after location and we just rolled with it.

We started our day with a traditional dance performance called "Barong" in a small temple building.

After that we drove through tiny windy gravel roads, past gigantic commercial rice fields and through tropical forests. We finally got to another place we didn't expect to see that day - a massive stream with a bonus waterfall! There was a tiny shop with a  baby monkey chained to a pole (uurrrghhh the amount of animal abuse we saw on our trip was heart breaking), a million gigantic stone stairs leading down to the waterfall  and a million and one perfect photo locations!

After the amazing high intensity training of climbing back up those stairs in forty degree heat and almost 90 % humidity, we finally headed to our first proper rice field location:

This is what an excited lady looks like when she ticks an amazing thing off her bucket list!

After this hidden and quiet spot, we moved on to the super touristy Tegalalang rice terraces.They were equally as beautiful and the views were worth listening to Ketut's road rage and body slamming our way through the crowds.

Ok, can you see now why this was so highly rated on my bucket list? Will it excite you if I tell you you can climb all these rice fields without a tour guide? How much more excited can you get? What about if I tell you a rather old toothless man sits hidden amongst the terraces and scares then offers tourists who stroll past the opportunity to take a photo with him? Of course he wants money but he will put a funny hat on for you! It's truly a magical place people!

An attempt to put into writing how I felt after being at Tegalalang would ultimately sound cheesy but I'll give it a shot anyway. I was brimming with excitement but also humbled and at a whole nother level of content. Travel is the ultimate remedy for a battered soul. It's one of the few experiences that will challenge you to get back in touch with who you are, away from your daily routine, your stress factors, your usual surroundings.
Being at a place I have anticipated to see for such a long time had the emotional resemblance of one of those magical childhood moments you never fully forget. You know, the ones you promise yourself you will always remember in detail and that you look back at with painful nostalgia. The memories start to blur a bit but are still clear enough to allow for a bite of that original excitement to move you.


The feeling of an infinite number of nerve receptors simultaneously going mental in my body while I tried to soak up every single image, smell, noise, taste of this special moment were eventually trumped by my growling stomach  (hunger you fool, cheers for always ruining the good moments), so we ended up leaving Tegalalang and headed for Ubud's markets.

You will find identical items for sale at all of Bali's markets, but Ubud's are HUGE, cheaper than most others and, for all the adventurers amongst you, the potential to get lost or die of incense poisoning is pretty high. I know that because I got lost. It's not something I think back of with joy - in fact, there is a part of the markets up a staircase that looks just like a labyrinth with vendor's faces poking out behind ceiling high walls of sarongs, coasters and penis shaped souvenirs. I bought wooden carved cats in the shape of superheros (no penises, sad face) and fiberglass pineapples and beaded coin purses and I blame it all on the distress this place caused. I feel as though my emotional state could be best described as follows: I walked into the markets well groomed and came out looking like two monkeys had sex on my head. I mean, there are piles of flammable shit EVERYWHERE and in close proximity to burning incense and cigarettes. One bad move and WHOOOMPH I imagine the place would burn down in 30 seconds. I still wasn't anxious enough to forget about my empty stomach though, so I did what my parents would do in this situation and bought all the weirdest looking food. And then some (tiny bananas)
A taste of the outdoor area.
Teeny tiny bananas.
So that's it for Ubud. Fondness of fondue memories. Ubud 4-eva!