Monday, February 6, 2012

Ballers in Bali

It is now January 7th, we are on Koh Phi Phi island in Thailand and kind of hating it. We followed different recommendations to come here, so we did, but it's been a bit disappointing. After we had a moonlit dinner last night on a remote island and swam at night with plankton, tonight we're in trashy frat boy party hell. We can hear the shitty house music from inside our bungalow, where we're hiding. And so I finally get a chance to write this long due blog post about Bali.

We arrived in Bali after 4 long and exhausting flights: from Rio de Janeiro to Sao Paulo to Doha (Qatar) to Singapore to Denpasar (Bali). We left Rio on a Sunday and arrived in Bali on a Tuesday night. We flew over the Atlantic ocean, then over Africa, on to the Middle East and then on to South East Asia. It was the longest travel time during our 6 month trip - from now on we only have short flights or buses.

It was the first time in my life flying a Middle Eastern airline and Qatar Airlines proved to be one of the best, most comfortable and luxurious airlines. We had two flights with them: a 15 hour flight from Sao Paulo to Doha and another one from Doha to Bali (via Singapore), both of them in Triple 7 airplanes with individual screens and a huge selection of movies. I think Anne and I watched about 8 movies during these two flights... The airport in Doha was weird... it tried hard to imitate the luxury of a western airport, but ultimately it was lacking elegance and was a bit tacky. There was one duty free shop in the entire airport and it only sold booze, chocolate and cigarettes. And people were shopping carts full of bottles of whiskey and vodka. I still don't know why exactly, but I suspect in Muslim countries booze is very expensive if you want to buy it at a store, so people were stocking up.

During our last few days in Rio Anne was very sick, to the point that we were considering taking her to a hospital and changing our flights. On the last day, she started feeling better and thought she could make the flights, but she was still very weak. In the airport in Sao Paulo we had to wait for many hours until our 4am connecting flight. The Sao Paulo airport is the ugliest and least friendly airport I've ever been to and it was very uncomfortable to sleep in those chairs. Anne was really weak and tired, so she passed out right away, while I stayed awake, reading a book and making sure we make our flight.

 After all this traveling hassle, we arrived in paradise. Bali has been our favorite part of the trip so far. It is the perfect combination of cheap tourism and high quality for the services you receive in exchange. Thailand may be cheap (still expensive, if you compare it to Bali), but the quality of the things you get for your buck is not as high as in Bali. Which makes Bali a place where you can really feel like a BALLER, thus my title.

 A long and enjoyable walk through rice paddies to Sari Organik, an amazing restaurant that stole our hearts. You can read more about it in the other blog post about eating in Bali.

 With Jesse and Sara, our wonderful hosts in Bali. Seriously, we wouldn't have had as much fun and seen as many off-the-beaten-path places if it wasn't for these two. They took us under their wing, showed us around, gave us a myriad of tips, directions, instructions, rented cars and went on weekend getaway trips with us, took us to their favorite restaurants and swimming holes, welcomed us into their home. If you read this, Jesse and Sara, we had a really great time! Thank you!

 I have tons of photos from Bali that I may upload later on Flickr, which do not necessarily suit the scope of a blog post. Such as this one. I loved the ingenuity in building things in Bali, such as this plant pot made of little river rocks.

One of the villas located close to the beach in Changgu had painted some of the bushes outside with red paint, so they can't grow anymore.

On the beach in Changgu. Our stay in Bali was during the rainy season, we we had overcast skies and showers almost the entire time we stayed there, but it wasn't so bad. We actually loved not being in the sun, for a change.

 In the afternoon the beach in Changgu gets full with surfers. There is a street that ends right at the ocean and it's all packed with motorbikes that come with a special surf rack.

 Chilling at a hotel pool in Changgu. For $5 most hotels in Bali will let you use their pools. The fee comes with a towel and a beach chair. So you don't have to sneak into the hotel pool, you can walk right in and feel like a real baller.

We rented a motorbike and zipped around the island. Here's a cute self-portrait of us while riding the bike. On that note, I have to say Bali is like a mega moped rally. Hundreds of bikes everywhere all the time, splitting lanes, passing each other, passing cars, flying by, riding doubles, triples, quadruples. Considering how crazy the traffic is, I think everyone in Bali is a skilled rider who could ride in any other conditions.

 View of a rice field from one of our motorbike rides.

 The view at Sari Organik restaurant.

 Resting on pillows under the table after a full, delicious and organic meal.

 Typical Balinese bamboo roof.

We went to see a temple (one of the many that we saw) and it was quite disappointing, like most of the ones we saw. The main religion in Bali is Hunduism, and in fact Bali is the only Hindu island in Indonesia, while the majority are Muslim. I really appreciated how important of a role religion plays in people's lives here. They give daily offerings to their gods and perform ceremonies at temples and almost everywhere else. In fact, a large portion of people's incomes is spent on buying offerings or making elaborate decorations for ceremonies. There are temples everywhere, in every village, and they are all small and visually unimpressive. They are a core part of the locals' daily life, which in itself makes them impressive.

 Our favorite store in Ubud. This store had amazing fabric, jewelry and home decoration items. It was extremely expensive, but worth it if you have the money to buy such things. We only looked, and Anne went back a few days later and got a really cool necklace made by an American designer.

Bali is also pretty much a shopper's paradise. You can buy lots of cool things here for next to nothing: hammocks, clothes, home decorations, bamboo objects, wood sculptures, fabric, sarongs, etc. One day I will come back and shop till I drop... but for now, our backpacks and budget restricted us only to a few small items, souvenirs and presents.

 We also tried on a lot of clothes at a french boutique called Karma Koma. It really felt like the French equivalent of American Apparel, with really simple cuts and plain jersey fabric, but much more elegant than AA.
 A purse made of cow teeth.
 Straw home decoration at our favorite store in Ubud. 

 Huge dream-catcher hanging from the roof of the Art Cafe in Ubud.

 At the Tanah Lot temple in the south of Ubud.

 At the Monkey Forest in Ubud.

Tanah Lot Temple, catching our breath, hiding from the intense sun, gazing out at the ocean, and not at the temple behind us.

 Monkey Forest, Ubud.

 Monkey Forest, Ubud.

 Tanah Lot temple. 

Cemetery inside the Monkey Forest in Ubud. The graves are actually not that old. They look older than they are because the heavy rain and moisture in the air makes all rock become black and get covered up with moss or vegetation.

A baby monkey jumped on Anne's back, right as we were taking this photo. The monkeys there are not shy at all, they come to you and steal your water bottle or any other food you might have. It's always better not to bring any food, but if you do, most likely you will have to surrender it to the monkeys.

A monkey eating rambutans.He is basically peeling them really fast and storing them in his mouth. Once he's done peeling, he takes them one by one out of his mouth and starts eating them. I figured this was a way to make sure other monkeys are not stealing his rambutans. Clever!

A sculpted cow skull. Looks like embroidery. We think our friend Sean Newport would have loved to have this.

Sunrise view over rice paddies from our hotel room in Ubud.

Our ocean front bungalows in Chandidasa. One bungalow costs $25/night and it was quite luxurious.

 Hindu Temple

Maximum chilling in Chandidasa. We got massages for $5 for an hour, and chilled with our books. The entire month of January I read Middlesex, which completely captivated me. I was so into this book, that I became antisocial at times, preferring to read than to engage in conversation. 

 Offerings people brought to a temple during a ceremony.

 The chocolate and soap factory.

Sara on the giant swing at the chocolate factory. That was an amazing day at an amazing place! Just the sheer thought that someone would think of building such a contraption!

 In order to get on this giant swing, you have to get up on a platform. Check out the look on Anne's face!

 Building a wall and door frame out of bamboo.

 Bulding a roof out of bamboo.

 The road to some hot springs and temples that we rode on with our rented motorbike.

Chilling at the hot springs with 3 boys from Jakarta. They looked like they were 16 year old, but told us they were in college. You never know someone's real age with those good Asian genes.

 Giant swimming pool by the hot springs in Kintamani.

 All of Bali is covered with terraced rice paddies, like the ones above.

 More rice fields.

 On the way back from the hot springs the winds were so strong that entire trees fell off on the road.

 We made a quick stop to buy some fruit from one of the many stands on the side of the road.

 At the water palace with Sara and Jesse.

Anne swimming in a 500 year old water palace pool we had just to ourselves. That day was pretty much one of those perfect days.

 Another water temple that we visited.

 View from the Neka art museum in Ubud.

 I took some photos of the Balinese paintings on display at the Neka art museum in Bali.

 Giant painting at Neka musuem, Ubud.

Bali sexy times on a hand-painted cloth, Neka Museum, Ubud.

 Painting at Neka museum. These paintings were all huge, covering up almost an entire wall.

 Neka museum, Ubud

 Look where his hands are!

 Pool at a nice hotel in Ubud.

Hotel pool scouting on our motorbike. 

The incredible funnel-shaped Four Seasons hotel in Ubud, featuring a giant round pond at the top of the funnel, with a wooden deck in the middle for those romantic candle-lit dinners.

Chilling at the Four Seasons hotel in Ubud.

 Majorly pretending to be a baller.

Infinity pool at the Four Seasons in Ubud. On the far end there's actually a steep ravine with a furious river at the bottom. You can watch the river as you're chilling in the pool.

Babi Guling - a traditional Balinese dish.

 Driving with almost no visibility.

 Rope swing by the Git Git waterfalls.

 This is why many ships have sailed from Europe to the "Far Indies" and also how Magellan accidentally discovered Patagonia. All that for some spices.

 A little pond we walked by on the streets of Ubud.

 Last night of chilling in Bali.