In my opinion, the traveling part of traveling is not the most enjoyable thing in the world, but Garuda Airlines got 8 of us to Bali by 6:00 pm on Saturday. The plane ride was pretty chill, with some good food and nice views. Eva and I sat by an older Aussie man that was very intent on getting drunk on the plane – pretty sure he had at least 10 whiskey and cokes. While drinking, he also insisted on making fun of me for studying on the plane. A girl’s gotta do what a girl’s gotta do.
Flying in over the ocean, I wasn’t really too excited. I was ready for a good week, but nervous about figuring out the money conversions, taxi service, visa payments, and hotel reservations. I had done a lot of planning for the trip, so I felt like I still had to take care of everyone and lead the group. After going through customs, getting our luggage, and paying our arrival fees, we walked outside to find a taxi. This is when we saw someone looking very familiar holding a sign that said “Six white girls from Murdoch plus AJ.” PAOLO HAD COME TO BALI AND SURPRISED US! Paolo lived in Indonesia for most of his life, and had wanted to come with us on this trip, but “couldn’t afford it.” He tricked us all. I immediately relaxed, and before worrying about a taxi, we got a few Bintangs. It was starting to fill more like a vacation.
Paolo set us up with a driver that he knew, and we rode the long trip to Kuta. Kuta is where we were staying, and is known as the top tourist and party destination. Riding through Bali, I was reminded a lot of Belize. It’s a third world country full of people on scooters. The roads also don’t have any rules. The only rule I could come up with was: “try to stay on the left side of the road, but don’t worry about how close you come to other people, other cars, or other scooters when they’re in your way because you always have the right-of-way…no matter what.” I don’t know how there aren’t injured people scattered around from the crazy drivers, but somehow they survive without getting hit on a daily basis. We finally made it to our hotel, the Troppo Zone. It was very close to the main strip of shopping, restaurants, and night clubs. We got our 3 rooms, which we were only paying about $20 a night for. Julianne, Annie, and I claimed our room with three single beds and a shower without a curtain – hey, at least there was a shower at all.
After showers, we went out for dinner, and then checked out Kuta. People here are pretty crazy, and drinks here are pretty cheap: makes for an interesting night, every night. We woke up Sunday ready to relax on the beach. We got our free breakfast at the hotel, which consisted of choices of eggs or omelets, with delicious banana waffles. Another option was the jaffle. Of course, I was the first person to try this, and I was happy I did. It was a sandwich that had the crusts cooked together so that you could fill it with eggs, cheese, ham, tomatoes, or whatever you wanted! So good. We then finally got the group together, and walked to the beach. After a short dip in the warm water, Annie and I rented two surfboards and started riding some waves. I’d never surfed before, but it wasn’t too hard. After about 30 minutes I figured out what I needed to do to make it to the shore, and really enjoyed myself. The hardest part was fighting the current and the waves to get back out into the deep water. We were pretty proud of our new surfer girl status.
After the beach, we had lunch, and went out to shop it up. Nothing here is priced, so you just barter for what price you want. I definitely never paid what they initially asked, but probably could have been better at enforcing my lower prices. My favorite purchase was this one piece jumper type outfit with “genie pants,” as I’ve come to call them. It’s an awesome green and yellow pattern – hard to describe but definitely a wonderful purchase. The next step of our night was dinner, and then we met up with the European boys from our school. Had a fun night, but didn’t get nearly enough rest for the adventures that awaited for the next day.
Monday morning we got a wake up call from the hotel, and went to get some more awesome breakfast before heading inland to the mountains to go rafting. I had a bit of “bali belly” that morning, so the bus ride was absolutely miserable, but we stopped along the way at a cacao and coffee farm , where they gave us free samples of teas and coffees that started my healing process. I also took some charcoal, which I’ve only ever seen used on dogs in veterinary clinics, but it seemed to help. I didn’t feel completely better until we started heading down the river. I love rivers! This one was pretty awesome: fast moving water and rapids the entire 18 km. It was a bit shallow, and our guide had to get out a few times to push us over some rocks. I was digging the views of the lush, green mountains and the waterfalls spraying down on us. One of the best parts was when three little naked Indonesian boys came running out to us in a calm section and splashed us – too cute. Another highlight was the four-meter drop over a dam. I sat in the front of the raft, and got a little butt-bruisage, but it was thrilling nonetheless. We also stopped to swim, where one of the guides helped me climb up a cliff to jump off! Our guides were awesome. The one on my raft was younger and seemed to be a little flirty, but all in good nature. I enjoyed learning a little about his life, and how he wants to visit America. However, his English was limited, so many conversations were cut short.
Monday night we got to hang out with the other girls from Murdoch for the first time, along with the European boys, so it was nice to have such a big group. Tuesday morning was a struggle to get everyone together, but we met up to go to the beach. I ran barefoot down the beach for a bit with Sam, but then just lay on the beach. I know that that sounds relaxing, but in Bali you constantly have people trying to sell you different items, and ladies would constantly come over with their goods. Many of them offered foot massages as well, but I declined all offers. For lunch a few of us decided to treat ourselves to some American cuisine, and went to Johnny Rockets. This chain of restaurants is in the U.S., and is like an old-timey diner. The servers and kitchen staff dance and sing while you shove your face full of burgers and fries. I then went shopping with Juli until we met up with some of the guys. Then, we all headed to the spa to get hour long full-body massages (for only $4.50!). This was my first ever massage, but I really enjoyed it even though it is kind of an awkward process to have some lady you don’t know touching each and every part of your body. The woman with Zach was across the hallway, and we kept hearing her flirt with him, complimenting his bum and comparing him to George Clooney – pretty hilarious.
Tuesday night we went out to an awesome restaurant called Potato Head for Eva’s birthday. The building was awesome – made completely out of old colorful window shutters in the shape of a big semicircle. In the middle of the circle is a huge grass area, and then closer to the ocean are a few pools and places to lie out. Juli and I went all out and shared some fried banana and ice cream on a pastry for dessert – just another way of living up the vacation, and forgetting about the consequences.
Wednesday was our scheduled volcano tour that came with our hotel package. We woke up early, and started on the ride. We stopped at silver and botik making stores, and did some shopping. Our next stop was the monkey forest: one of the highlights of Bali that I had been looking forward to the most. To sum it up, it’s just a big temple in the forest where hundreds of monkeys live and continuously get fed by tourists. The first thing I did when I arrived was give my hand to a monkey, who quickly grabbed and bit it. It didn’t hurt too bad, and was a good warning that I needed to be a bit more careful around these creatures. They are also pretty skilled at stealing your items, so I took off all of my jewelry, and held on tight to my camera. Others weren’t as lucky, and I saw a few earrings and water bottles stolen. We bought some corn to attract the monkeys. This is done by holding the corn up above your head, and letting the monkey climb you to get to it. Many of them will then stay put on your shoulder while eating their treat. Most of us were successful, but others, like AJ, who kept getting bit, and Lindsay, who kept getting chased by the bigger monkeys, weren’t as lucky.
Our last stop was the volcano. It was already around 2:00, so we were starving. Thankfully, there was a huge buffet of delicious Indonesian food that overlooked the volcano. We gorged ourselves while taking in the mountain and getting lots of pictures. Getting back at Kuta around dinnertime, we grabbed some pizza and got ready for a night full of dancing.
Thursday morning we decided to go spend some time at the Potato Head restaurant, and soaked up the sun on big couches overlooking the ocean. There was a huge stage set up over one of the pools, because Foster the People is playing the day that we leave! What an experience that would be to jam out to “Pumped up Kicks” in Bali in a pool with all of your best friends. We left when we were a few shades darker, and then spent another afternoon in Kuta. I picked up some last gifts for friends and family, and then got some much needed sleep while the others got the pedicures where the little fish eat all of your dead skin. Yum. Annie and I then picked up some dinner from the pizza place, and ordered some fresh pure sugar cane juice. It wasn’t the most appetizing drink, but the sign promised that it would increase our energy levels along with the quality of our semen – what great benefits. We then went out with the same group of people, minus a few. I ended up back at the hotel pretty early, as Courtney and I looked for her iPhone that went missing for most of the night. We unfortunately didn’t find it, and she and I both were pretty bummed by the end of the search.
Sam, Eva, and I were the only ones up for another tour on our last day in Bali. So on Friday morning, we got in the van with the same driver we’d been using. Our first stop was over a valley filled with little huts and rice fields, then we moved on to a LAKE! Well, really it was probably more like an extremely large pond in the mountains, but it was beautiful. We got on a little speedboat with an energetic tour guide. He drove us around, and then let me drive us around! It felt so nice to be back on the water, with my hands on the wheel.
Our favorite stop was farther north at some hiking trails to two waterfalls. We picked up our tour guide, and followed him down through rice fields, over bamboo bridges, and to our first waterfall. There, we swam around and climbed up into a little cavern on the side of the rockface. From there we each jumped down into the water. All the while, our guide took millions of pictures on Eva’s camera, while we splashed and yelled and felt as free as ever! We were already having the time of our lives, but then we got to go to another waterfall in a different location. This one was much shallower, but still very tall and powerful! The spray was chilly but invigorating.
Our guide was a big jokester, trying to point out the irrigation system along the way and claiming it was our scenic waterfall. He bought us some jackfruit, which a delicious cross between mango and passion fruit, and also a mango each! He showed us how to mush the mango up by squeezing it all over. Then, we bit off the tops and squeezed all the goodness out. Sam had a wonderful time getting it all over her face when hers busted open, and all of the shop owners nearby sat around and watched her splatter herself with orange.
After grabbing some snacks to get us through the day (we realized we didn’t bring enough money for lunch!), we headed to a temple that was not too far from Kuta to watch the sunset. Sam’s initial reaction was that “this was the most touristy place that she had ever been,” but after we overlooked all of the international people surrounding us with cameras and fanny packs, we started to enjoy the place. The temple was right next to the ocean. We walked around taking pictures next to the ocean on some rocks, and the next thing you know, just as I’m snapping a picture of Eva and Sam, a huge wave came over the three of us! Thankfully, her camera wasn’t ruined, but we were soaked with icky, salty water. We then underwent a little ceremony where a priest (or maybe pretend-priest) splashed us with water, mashed some rice on out foreheads, and put a flower behind our ear. After this, we asked a couple to take a picture of us, and then were bombarded with Asians who seemed to think we were famous. We were not by any means the only white people there, but we had three families, one after the other, come up to snap pictures with the Americans. The Americans who were soaked with seawater, gross from hiking, and not looking too hot – not sure what their obsession was.
Our last night back at the hotel was spent relaxing in our room, talking and reminiscing about our week. We might should have lived it up, but I think we were all just a little tired of Kuta by that point. Perth was calling us back home, and we were ready to get away from the hustle and bustle of that busy little town. The next day on the plane, we were counting down the hours until we were back in the land down under.