After the transfer from Gili Air we had another small car trip with our Indonesian friend Made from Kuta. So Bali again, Uluwatu this time.
From the car Kuta is crazy crowed and super touristic. We took a lot to drive out of the city because of traffic, I'm pretty glad that we didn't stopped there.
As soon as we arrived, thinking to our previous experiences, all my Airbnb expectations collapsed. This time definetely, accommodation, no. Papers with many rules about how to behave. Useless direction on a useless handmade map. Wifi password with recommendation to use it in moderation. The promise of a person (with his phone number) to contact in case of need since the place was in the middle of nowhere, that never answered. No towels, no soap, stinky blankets, at least one roll of toilet paper and comfortable beds.
Anyway in the morning we had a long walk and we met an old english man. He was living in Bali since '84. He showed us a nice restaurant and a place to rent scooters (50/60k rp per day all around the island). In this case safety was definitely not first. Also here forget Uber.
Around Uluwatu there are so many beaches, all amazing and with a scooter is pretty easy (with google maps) to reach them. It's also very nice because of the hills, many hairpin turns and amazing landscapes. Obviously a lot of attention is needed because driving is on the left and basically there're no rules on the road!
January is not the perfect month in Bali, storms and a lot of rain in the night destroyed roads and raise the tides a lot in the morning. Anyway we found some nice places to relax under the savage Indonesian sun. Always remember protection 50+, that sun is savage.
Every beach has a ridiculous price to pay (2/3k rp = 0,12€) to park the scooter. Obviously nobody tells you before about the high tide. Always check the tides before! In fact we haven't been able to reach Uluwatu beach that was suppose to be pretty amazing. Same for Padang Padang (the one of the movie Eat Pray Love), incredible high tide so we stopped there just to watch a super funny monkey for a while.
Finally we arrived in Balangan, nice beach and good weaves so I had the chance to surf. Remember that here almost all surf boards for rent are cover with a strange rough rubber, so don't do like me, remember tu put a t-shirt on!
After that nothin's better than a Bintang on the beach looking at the ocean and listening to the waves.
Before to leave a must do was the view from the hill over Balangan Beach for a stunning view. Apparently a lot of married couples had the same thought about it for their wedding photo shooting.
Melasti is another great beach but to surf Pandawa is better, the scenery are both stunning though. Clearly, even with a t-shirt my abdomen got way worse.
Finally another must do was the Pura Luhur Ulu Watu, the Uluwatu Temple, with the temple accessible just by hindu observants. Less monkeys than Ubud but way more intrusive. Anyway mystical view from the cliff.
The best moment is toward the sunset when there's also the chance to watch the Kecak (Monkeys Dance) in the theater on the ocean.
Time to go to the north, Canggu's waiting
From the Hanging Gardens the trip (400rp) was pretty fun. First part (my favorite) on a small van, with a funny nice driver who really liked Blink 182 and a crazy chinese/american girl from NY on his side. 1,5hr with Blink obviously, Robbie Williams, Guns and Roses, Aerosmith and other hits from the 90' for a great soundtrack.
Then after a long wait and a quick trip with a crazy fast boat we arrived in Gili Air. The smaller of three small islands, Trawangan, Meno, Air. In front of a bigger one, Lombok, to which they belong.
In this period Air is really quiet, the atmosphere is nice, no cars or motor vehicles, just bikes. Just electric scooters and funny coaches pulled by small horses. Also here, like around all Indonesia, kindness seems to be the rule.
There's not much to do during the off season but along its 4km outer limit it's possible to join many bars and restaurants on the beach with amazing vibes and and sunsets.
Everyone here is more happy and chilled than the usual. I realized that is was probably because of magic mushrooms that you can find in every bar included in the happy hour package. They sell them also in cones (like fried fish in Venice) made with palm leaves. They are allowed just in Gili, anyway I preferred to not try them.
Also inside the island there's no shortage of surprises. Walking around we found this pizza place called "Classico Italiano" where I ate a delicious pizza, totally unexpected.
The owner is Andrea, a super nice lady from Venice that with her husband from Rome decided to live in Gili Air and open two restaurants. The second one is called "Perla Nera"; another amazing surprise, this time with hamburgers. I know that it's uncommon and not preferable to eat Italian food abroad, but we reached the limit with nasi goreng and rice, and most of all they were excellent!
The plan was also to do an excursion to snorkel and swim with turtles. Unfortunately the weather have been good just the first day. It rained a lot and this offer the chance to relax more and enjoy our amazing house. One thing that surprised me a lot, in Ubud first and then in Gili Air, is the fact that Indonesia redefines the concept of Airbnb with an incredible hospitality and kindness. Apparently there're no airbnb without a swimming pool, breakfast service and room cleaning service all inclusive for a super cheap price.
So if you are coming here with a group of friends go definitely for an airbnb. If you are traveling solo there're many alternatives in several clean and nice home stays ridiculously cheap.
To conclude, Gilis are a particularly good idea from march, especially if you are looking for amazing weather, no rain and a lot of people to party with (Trawangan is the craziest one in this case). Anyway also in January it seems to be a good idea if you are looking for some extra relax.
Now back to Bali in Uluwatu and Canggu.
Finally in Bali, Ubud and the impact with this town has been amazing, spirituality is the main character of this great place. Ubud is a beautiful place in the middle of green and if you are looking for culture, wonderful temples, relax, good restaurants and food, nice shops, spas for massages, this is the place.
Even if it's not chaotic like Jakarta the situation on the road is pretty much the same but everyone is more peaceful and relaxed.
The island is an hinduism fortress and everyday people prepare devotional items for the gods. Small buckets made with weaved palm leaves called canang sari. They are characterized by many different scented flowers, representing different divinities. Furthermore there are sigarettes, coins, cracker Ritz, wrapped candies, everything completed by incenses with a strong fragrance.
Here, as I disclosed, there are many temples and they are all fascinating with an incredible atmosphere and steep ways to reach them.
Speaking about sacred spiritual places, the Monkey Forest in Ubud is the main one. Here the aim is to spread peace and harmony among visitors through the Tri Hita Karana (three ways to achieve physical and spiritual wellness). This sacred place is also a venue to preserve particular plants and to study monkeys' social interaction.
Three temples, the main one is consecrated to the cult of Shiva "The Transformer", and more than 700 monkeys divided in 5 groups.
The experience is amazing. Monkeys are incredibly funny but you can't smile otherwise they get angry, they are friendly in the beginning. When they become familiar with the situation they let you know that they are the ones ruling the place. They jump on you trying to steal things but also just to be friendly and because they are curious. The important thing is to not overreact otherwise they become aggressive and the bite you.
Between temples, in Ubud it's possibile to find many incredibly nice restaurants, bars and bistros along the main streets like Jl. Monkey Forest and Jl. Hanoman. Many options that meet everyone's taste, vegans, vegetarians, celiacs.
In three days I tried just few but delicious places like The Good Food Brotherhooh and Atman Nourish Cafe. But in every neighborhood it's possible to find tasty typical food. Basically you won't never wrong because the atmosphere will be always amazing. Finally Bali, Ubud and its amazing food!
The only kind of whim that I allowed myself in this trip and probably during all my life was a night at the Hanging Gardens. An amazing resort in the middle of the jungle. I read about it a lot and I've been always curious and the typical thing that you can do once in your life time. Definitely makes more sense than go to drink at the Harry's bar or in St. Mark's square in Venice. I'm not use to this kind of situations, so I won't probably be able to describe it so..picture.
Finally, an aspect that surprised me a lot is about transportation. The public one is rare but taxi (the safe taxi service on line is offered by Blue Bird) and Uber in particular work pretty well and here comes the curiosity. Walking in Ubud the most frequently pronounced word is "taxi?". Many many locals sitting on the sidewalks asking to tourists for a ride. They are all abusive and as far as it seems they are a real threat for Uber drivers. It has never been so difficult to book Uber rides. As soon as you find your driver he immediately starts to call you to ask you where you are because in the center of Ubud allegedly there's a lot of "taxi mafia" and they are scared to pick you up there. Otherwise they start texting you to raise the price of the app because "it's to far" "I need to come back from there" ecc. By the way when you find the good one, the ride it's crazy cheap. So "Go-Jek" should be the solution offering a wider choice of transportation options.
Now it's time to leave this magic place for other few chill days in Gili Air (Gili Water).
Keep you updated
Jakarta wasn't so crazy after all, landed in Sorong I found a nuthouse! Hundreds small guys screaming and asking for a ride to the harbor with their rattletrap. Our driver turned on the car with wires. I thought that I would have never arrived but even here..no crashes at all.
My first truly unforgettable Paradise, Raja Ampat. Here we made four different stops with the same kind of accommodations. Stilt houses on the water, bathroom consisted in a wc inside a shed, flush was a big ladle. Shower was a big tub with another ladle. Pretty savage but certainly authentic.
Food was good in the beginning, but repetitive, rice, fish, vegetables, bananas, in different modes. They were used to fish for us, it was all-inclusive for 350.000 rp (21€) so no complains at all!
Every place was perfect for snorkeling and enjoying the most amazing reef ever and its fishes, turtles, mantas, a real divers' paradise.
First home stay was in Arborek (cover picture), really small island in the middle of nowhere. Peaceful and relaxing with many nice and friendly hosts that took care of us.
They also brought us for an excursion to visit the amazing Pyanemo. We snorkeled around there, had lunch on an amazing beach were we socialized with few iguanas.
Next stop Mansuar incredibly quiet place with just two stilt houses in front of the jungle. We escaped the day after because we slept with huge spiders and other big bugs, fortunately we had a mosquito net.
We moved to Kri for a couple of nights, the place was quite relaxing but not as good as the others, we decided to explore more so we spent the last three days on another island.
Gam was amazing, we have been welcomed by the kindest people since we arrived (and everyone has been pretty nice with us)! Amazing place, great view, good food, big and comfortable accommodations. The best way to complete our stay in the unforgettable paradise, Raja Ampat.
Now it's time to fly to Bali with the right energy and sensations, hoping that Garuda (the fifth most dangerous air company in the world) will allow us to do it!
Hope to write you soon
p.s. yes I know, I love clouds, I'm crazy
On our way to Raja Ampat islands internet connection disappeared and it was kinda nice to live
without for about 4 days, but I'll tell you something a about this in the next post.
I landed in Jakarta, my first stop, it's something crazy, more than 10 millions inhabitants, at least 5 millions motor-scooters. At every traffic light it seems that there's a moto gp race starting, lines on the roads are pure decorations, thousand car drivers honking randomly, hypotheticals crashes everywhere but zero accidents.
Probably it's not a new feeling for many people that travelled a lot but to me has been pretty uncomfortable noticing how many luxury and modern places are mixed with shacks. At the same time it's fascinating to see all these poor people selling food along the road, facing life with great smiles and happiness, something unthinkable in our culture.
Anyway there're no homeless here, everybody has a place to stay and try to find something to do, able to be kind with everyone, also with foreigners, exactly like it happens in a city that I know very well in Italy, northern Italy, nort-east...
The city is huge and I tried to visit something in about 20hrs..so...big malls, crazy traffic jam, al adhan (the call for prayers), national monument and by the of the day we collected a lot of pictures with local, they are interested about us like we could be attracted by famous actors and singer, pretty funny.
Anyway this one was just the first micro quick taste of Indonesia.
See you later
It's been a while, but now it's my turn to relax. Last year has been though, full of big changes, I became a freelance, I finally realized my project Venice Photo Tours , I met new friends and finally I became an official tour guide.
It's off season now, or it's suppose to be, so what's better then leave to discover a new place?!
I'm going to be in Indonesia for the next month, to relax, to surf, to take pictures, to explore and to spend good time with my friends, hopefully with a lot of nature and not much wifi or technology, but my camera.
It will be anyhow a significant experience and if you like the idea, I'd like to share it with out pressure and hurry when I'll have the chance to do it. So if you already follow me somewhere on fb or instagram you know that from now on you can find me also here!