Beautiful Bali: Day 1

Walking off the plane, it felt so good to be back in Asia! Memories of Thailand came flooding back and I couldn’t stop grinning to myself! As I walked out of the airport, I tried to think of the place or places Bali reminded me of – did it remind me of anywhere I’d been before?

I realised, stepping out of the airport, I felt like I was back in Costa Rica. I think the layout for arrivals must be pretty similar, along with the humidity. 

The hour and a half drive from the airport to Ubud gave me lots of opportunities to see Bali and I had so many thoughts along the way; ‘wow, there really are a lot of dogs here, oh that one is so cute! Note to self: cases of rabies have gone up, do NOT touch the dogs’.

And I was surprised by how rural it felt, driving along. It felt like everywhere was under construction, like Christchurch but I couldn’t think of why this might be. And it looked a little abandoned in parts, a little dull. Which made me realise that, whilst I loved the weather on the North Island of New Zealand, I think populated cities have that ‘grey’ effect. Where the pollution and traffic has made things fade. Which is not the case on the South Island. Everything feels untouched and luscious there.

I digress. I was surprised by how much rubbish and plastic was floating in the river or at the side of the road. I mean I’ve been to South East Asia before, it’s not new, but I guess I’ve only really seen the pristine photos of the countryside, not the built up areas. I even saw a pile of shredded paper dumped at the side of the road.

This surprised me because someone obviously cared enough about whatever is on the paper to shred it, but not enough to destroy. And I saw a man scooping up handfuls of this shredded paper and putting it into his bag.

As we got closer to Ubud, things got more built up or well kept (in appearance). I soon saw western women in bright coloured clothing, some with yoga mats strapped to their backs, and mopeds with shaky looking Brits and Aussies scooting about through the traffic. I sadly new I was close to my destination when I saw signs for ‘pizza’ and an Italian restaurant. 

Right, let’s be honest here. Last time I was in Asia, I didn’t try a great deal of the local foods on offer. I wouldn’t describe myself as a fussy eater, but I am very untrusting and worry about getting ill. I think this stems from getting food poisoning at a young age and periodically poisoning myself (unintentionally of course).

I’m also very wary when it comes to meat, and I think I can clearly site two reasons for this; 1. My grandad is a butcher 2. I actually don’t eat much meat – mainly chicken – so I’m not too open to trying random meat products.

Alas, I resolved while on the drive that I will not eat a single pizza or western meal while in Bali (clever wording, because the occasional snack may be required). I want to eat as the locals eat, to explore the culture through food, and to make the most of this opportunity. So, it’s decided. You know what they say (and I’m not even religious): God loves a trier.

My first impressions of Ubud was of total sensory overload. There were shops everywhere, people everywhere, mopeds, cars, children, dogs and little narrow streets that seemingly twist and turn into gardens with home stays somewhere at the end of the path. I feel like where I’m staying is part Alice in Wonderland, part The Secret Garden.

It’s magical however you look at it.

As I’ve mentioned in previous posts, I want to travel, but not always alone. So once again, I have opted to take a group tour. Yesterday, I realised that this will be my 8th tour in six years (if you include two conservation projects but exclude the kiwi experience). This time, I’ve opted to travel with Intrepid. A company I have visited online my times over the years, wishfully daydreaming about their tours.

This trip was on sale at Christmas time, I did the sums (it was even cheaper in New Zealand $’s compared to the £) so I booked it! The first guy I met yesterday, an Aussie said he was 32. He was worried that he was the oldest here. Well, it turns out that I am the youngest here! Which put to rest my fears about being on a trip with loads of 18 year olds. 

Okay first of all, there is nothing wrong with being on a trip with a load of 18 year olds, to clarify: this is my last break before I go home and hit the job search (hard!), and this is a place I have desperately wanted to visit, even before reading Eat, Pray, Love (but of course, especially afterwards). I’ve come here to rest, to meditate, try out some yoga classes, to eat good food and to get more active. 

I know the latter is a TOTAL contradiction, but sitting on the kiwi bus for long days, eating snacks and not exercising has taken its toll. So I want to go swimming, to walk, to do hikes (we’re hiking up mount Batur to watch the sunrise!) and do yoga. And to return home renewed. I think Bali is a great place for this.

Bali is also incredible because… I love animals and wildlife. Especially frogs. Within my first 12 hours here, I’ve seen pigeons that are actually beautiful, a huge lizard scaling the roof of the restaurant we met in, bats – like big bats! And frogs! Lots of charming frogs hopping around! Oh and geckos! I LOVE gecko spotting! The way they move like they’re on fast forward – it makes me chuckle so much.


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