Ubud, Seminyak & Lovina

Our drive to Ubud, a small village about 1.5 hours from Denpasar had many stops along the way as we were very keen to look at the local handicrafts which are located around this region. Woodworkers, stonemasons and metal workers who make carvings, furniture, statues, wall murals, lights, massive timber slab tables etc……we had particular interest in the creative reuse of timber from old fishing boats and buildings turned into furniture.   Ubud is very much the cultural centre of Bali and has expanded heaps since we were last here (2009), more of everything that makes it a great place to visit. There are endless galleries, a gorgeous Lotus garden, many boutiques stocking some great finds from Balinese designers and every second shopfront is a spa! We stayed in a resort hotel about 10 minutes out of Ubud, surrounded by rainforest and rice paddies which made it a peaceful escape at the end of the day.  On our return trip to Seminyak we stopped at a coffee plantation and had the chance to sample Luwak coffee, famous for its uniqueness which makes it the most expensive coffee in the world. The high price is driven by the uncommon method of producing the coffee as it has been made from the coffee beans digested by a civet, (looks like a cross between a cat and a ferret!), yes the droppings (coffee beans) are collected and processed to make the coffee…..An interesting stop and really great coffee. The smallest bag available for purchase cost around $35 for 100g.

We found another lovely retreat in Seminyak, staying at the beautiful Villa Blubambu, quiet boutique accommodation just back from the beach and five minutes walk from the busy shopping and eating strips.

Our Friday flight was cancelled and with no indication on when we would be able to leave here, we decided to cancel our Myanmar trip 😩 and continue to make the most of our time in Bali until we were able to get a flight home….and promise ourselves to travel to Myanmar sometime soon. So ….. more time to explore Bali whilst we wait for our flight home 🙂

Our evenings in Seminyak began with a walk on the beach, people watching and playing the usual games with the street ‘beach’ vendors. Local bars along the beachfront set up beach bags and umbrellas to entice to tourists to sit and enjoy the sunset. Bintang is the best choice here as the cocktails tend to be weak and expensive. It doesn’t take long to find something to observe….selfie sticks abound with tourists, instead of enjoying the scenery and the awesome sunsets selfie bandits look at themselves in a little screen snapping away to find that perfect shot …. 

Looking for new places to explore during the next few days we decided to go to Lovina, a small seaside village on the north side of Bali. A great scenic drive across a very high mountain or two and down to a beautiful beachside village barely touched by the mainstream tourist route. Along the way our driver, who spoke great english, explained Bali customs, religion and lifestyle to us and we really enjoyed the insights to local life. Our stops along the way included temples, gardens, lakes, local markets and amazing waterfalls. [Transport here is either via a metered taxi or a negotiated price with a private driver. The drive from the south to the north coast takes around 3 hours, we agreed a price with our driver = to 60 AUD, he also offered to stop for us so we could see the local sights along the way, the trip there took us 6 hours, our driver then turned around and drove 3 hours to get home! He also asked us to call him when we were ready to return south. We called him the day before and he came to collect us the next morning and then drove the 3 hours back again, all for another $60!] 

Once in Lovina we enjoyed peaceful days by the pool and the black sand beach, early morning dolphin watching in the bay (which sounds serene, but we just felt sorry for the dolphins watching the local fishing boats chase them!), walks along the beach to the village, and chatting to beautiful local kids playing on the beach all keen to practice their English and make friends. We read a review on a restaurant here called ‘The Secret Garden’, this restaurant was set up by a local couple in their backyard, she cooks, he serves and they only have 4 x tables! The food and service were outstanding and we ate there 2 of our 3 nights in Lovina. The restaurant only opened in April and is located in a residential area, so not one you would find by strolling and looking for somewhere to eat. Just over 3 months ago they listed it on Trip Advisor and it is now rated as number 1 in Lovina – such a great success story!


   Our last 3 x nights in Seminyak were spent in the beautiful Uma Sapna villas, we were upgraded to a private pool villa and we seriously didn’t have a lot of motivation to go too far, especially as the awesome onsite spa was right next to our room! Great breakfasts here also, cooked to order from the fabulous Kilo restaurant next door.

  We caught up with Wendy and Alan for lunch on the beach in Sanur on our last day, so great to see them again and share more of what’s going on in their world, we shall return to visit them again soon!  By this time you may understand that we are and have been totally relaxed and have enjoyed our unplanned time here. We have an overnight flight departing this evening and will be back in our Eudlo paradise for a morning coffee on Sunday. Already planning on rebooking our trip to Myanmar :).

Nusa Lembongan

Lembongan is accessed via a fast boat from Sanur, the trip takes only 30mins and loading on and off is on the beach both ends. The main drawcard for tourists to the island is the diving and surfing, the island is very mellow, more a ‘village lifesyle’ and lacks the commercialisation that is seen Bali. Transport is by scooter and small trucks with seating in the back for passengers. Roads are typically narrow, some are sealed others not and shared with pedestrians, scooters, cyclists, small trucks and chickens. Scooters of course are not just transport for one but often whole family’s and also used to cart an assortment of many things, most of which don’t look like they belong on a scooter!

 

 
Our stay on Lembongan was at Wendy and Alan’s beautiful Tropica Tranquility villas, which is a lovely sanctuary, built in traditional Balinese style. Their villa’s are located on the beach at the northern end of the island where a local seaweed industry is still operating, but it is dying out as younger generations have no interest and can earn more money in tourist driven industry.


 We really enjoyed our time with Wendy and Alan, simply chatting and catching up and they took lots of time to show us around their lovely island which helped us learn more about their life here and meeting lots of their friends along the way.  We spent our days meandering around the island, it is quite small and would only take an hour so to go around by scooter. Local eateries or ‘Warung’ were our favourite places to get a meal, the cost for this is around $20 for a local dish and a couple of Bintang’s each. The most expensive meal we had here was in a lovely resort and cost was $40 per head for starters, cocktails, main and dessert and the food was fabulous.     

 

A local fishing boat with Mount Warung in the background  An active volcanoe that last erupted in 1964,

 

We did a couple of snorkelling trips, the first on a big Catamaran, there were only 9 of us on board and 7 were in our group. We snorkelled over a reef at Crystal Bay, not something that either of us have done before and the colours of the coral and the beautiful fish blew us a way. The second trip was on a local boat, to 2 different spots, the first Wall Reef, which describes perfectly how the reef is formed, we were able to swim very close to the wall and see the coral up really close. Our second stop that day was in front of some Mangroves and here we floated around in the water and fed the fish bread which led to a feeding frenzy and we found ourselves in the middle of schools of the most brightly coloured beautiful fish – a really amazing experience.           

In the village close to where we stayed there was a mass cremation, with many ceremonies held around this event. Our understanding of this is as part of the Hindu culture the deceased need to be cremated to be reincarnated. The cost of this for a local family is too great as the cremation needs to done with with so much ceremony which is of course very expensive. So…..bodies are buried in a local cemetery and then every few years the village will host a mass cremation. The family then remove the bodies from the grave and the bones are washed and cleaned. On the day of the cremation, the bones are wrapped and placed in an elaborately decorated cremation tower, this is then taken to the cremation site in a procession, which isn’t walked in a straight line, often spinning in circles along the way; this is done to confuse evil spirits and keep them away from the deceased. The bones are then placed inside a sarcophagus resembling an animal which has been placed on an elevated bamboo platform for the cremation.

The climax of the ceremony is the burning of the sarcophagus containing the bones, the fire is viewed as necessary to free the spirit from the body and enable reincarnation. The ceremony we attended had 53 ‘bodies’ that were from 9 families, each family was represented by a sarcophagus of a different animal. There is no grief associated with this as the belief is that the deceased is sleeping and are only temporarily absent until they are reincarnated, each newborn child is believed to be a reincarnated soul. We found the ceremony really fascinating and felt really privileged to have the opportunity to view first hand.       

We have returned to Bali to wait out our flights to Singapore & Myanmar, (disrupted by the volcano).  Our flight has been rescheduled to Friday 13th so we took the opportunity to head up to Ubud for the remainder of the week.

Family, wineries, breweries, chocolate….

Our week in the west was just fantastic. A day trip down to Fremantle is highly recommended, an eclectic blend of art, architecture, bars, cafes and breweries ..recently voted number 7 in lonely planets top 10 cities to visit… Not sure if they include the Ferris wheel on the to do list, but Indi and Scarlett would recommend it 😀
As for Little Creatures brewery..we certainly recommend it.

We spent 5 days touring the Margaret River wine region, it is quite a compact region that packs a lot in. We based ourselves in Margaret River township and did day trips to wineries, breweries (boutiqueeeee) a chocolate factory and a really amazing coast. We climbed to the top of Cape Leeuwin lighthouse, Australia’s tallest mainland lighthouse which is situated at the most south westerly tip of Australia, where the Indian and Southern Oceans meet.

The beaches are really beautiful, call in to any parking spot along the coast and you will be delighted by what you see. From white, white sand being washed with the clearest aqua coloured water, rolling surf that attracts surfers from all over the world and sit long enough and you will spot whales breaching as they head south.

Back in Perth at the end of the week we enjoyed a picnic day in Kings park a glorious mix of gardens, grass and playgrounds with plenty of space to play cricket and chase (follow) the kids around on their scooters. It was lovely to spend time with Sam, Taya and the kids in their home and wandering around their part of the world.



Adelaide

5 days in Adelaide passes pretty quickly. Our initial plan was to not spend all of our time catching up with family and to spend some quality time exploring the some of the wine regions, in reality, that didn’t quite work out as planned, which is all good :).
We took the scenic route wherever we were going, passing through many beautiful small towns, full of historic sandstone buildings and lovely gardens, grain growing areas, market gardens and of course lots of healthy grape vines along the way.

We made a fleeting visit to Langhorne Creek and the Barossa, which both deserve much more time. Lunch in a winery one day and at Henley Beach the next, an insiders tour of the new Adelaide oval and dinners in some nice local hotels  with family and friends and before you know it our time is done and we were on our fight to Perth.


  
  

Heading West

Today we are heading off on a trip that will take us to Adelaide, Perth, Bali and Myanmar.  The first 3 stops to spend some special time with our families and then two weeks discovering Myanmar.  We will do our best to keep this blog up to date as we go and look forward to sharing our journey with you.