Tuesday, 30 July 2013

Journey from Amed to Padang Bai


We hired a driver for 150,000IR to take us to Padang Bai. There are shuttle busses but these were more expensive than the price that we had haggled with a local driver, so do ask some of the locals before booking a bus with a tour operator. 

Sunday, 28 July 2013

The Liberty Wreck, Tulamben

Whilst staying in Amed we rode a moped to Tulamben and checked out some prices for diving the Liberty Wreck. We looked at quite a few dive places and had intended on staying here for a few days after Amed, but the rooms on offer were terrible value for money and ironically more expensive than the apartment we had in Amed, yet only worth the price of the 100,000IR rooms we were would usually stay in. Instead we booked x2 dives with ‘Pearl Beach geresrg’ and decided to drive from Amed to Tulamben, as it only took us 20 minutes to get there.

Before the dive we hired a waterproof camera for 200,000IR and got some really great shots. I highly recommend hiring one for this dive if you do not already own one.

We met with our dive guide and got kitted up. I was nervous about doing this dive because compared to Big Fish Diving it didn’t seem as organised and I had expected to have had a western guide and not a local. There is absolutely nothing wrong with local dive guides but for some reason I was concerned for our safety and worried about the equipment, even though Ian kept telling me there was nothing wrong with it and that I couldn’t expect to have a western dive guide in Asia! Obviously I knew that he was right but in Bali the locals let their 7yr old children ride around on motorbikes and I couldn’t help but think that health & safety is usually the least of their concerns.

I decided I just had get on with it and so once we were all set to go we walked to the shoreline opposite the wreck and began our dive. 




The visibility was not as good as it had been in Nusa Lembongan and the Gili Islands, roughly about 12m and this surprised me as I had thought that it would have been the same. Still you can't complain at 12m vis.




We descended towards the wreck and my nerves got the better of me and I felt worried. I carried on regardless and tried to enjoy myself but then at 15m a little bit of water got in through my regulator. Immediate panic struck me and I breathed out and in but there was still some water stuck inside there. I forgot about purging the water away and by now I felt as though I couldn’t even breathe. My heart was racing and I desperately tried to get Ian’s attention to tell him something was wrong and that we had to return to the surface.

I grabbed him and signalled that I wanted to go up and he could see that I was distressed and motioned for me to breathe slowly. The guide saw this and immediately came to my aid, gently holding my arms and motioning me to stay calm and breathe slowly. I still felt as though I wasn’t getting enough air and signalled that I wanted to go up. The guide signalled for me to stay calm and agreed that we could ascend. I slowly started getting my breathing back to normal but was shaking all over. The guide signalled if I was ok and although I wasn’t feeling confident and still felt very panicky I agreed to carry on with the dive.










Towards the end of the dive I started to enjoy myself and really appreciated the beauty of this fantastic wreck that was alive with sea life. It truly was a once in a lifetime experience and I was annoyed at myself for ruining the beginning of the dive for both Ian and I. Once we were back to the surface I told Ian to do the second dive without me as I didn’t want to be a burden and I still felt shaky. Also the feeling of not being able to breathe and having the water in my regulator played over and over in my mind and it made me panic.
















The dive guide could not have been more helpful and understanding. He was amazing and I am so grateful that he took the time to calm me down so that I was able to continue with the dive. He never left my side the entire time, always checking up on me and ensured i was safe and well.

Wednesday, 24 July 2013

Amed

The taxi driver dropped us off in an area with the cheapest accommodation and from here I went looking for somewhere to stay whilst Ian waited with the bags. There is a lot of accommodation in Amed and the town was practically deserted giving me leeway to haggle on the prices.
 
After looking at a few rooms (all started from 100,000IR) I came to a place called ‘Villa Mimpi’ which from the outside looked like all the other places I had seen. I was met by one of the workers and asked them if i could view a room. I was then led directly into a spacious living room with a large sofa, flat screen TV and a pool table. Immediately I knew this was going to be way out of our usual budget but as I was already there I decided to view the room anyway. 

Leading off from the living room there were four separate double rooms, all with en-suites, hot shower and AC. The room I viewed was huge, it was triple the size of my room back home and had a four post bed with crisp white sheets and big fluffy pillows. The decor was simple with beautifully carved furniture made from limed wood, a walk in wardrobe and a lovely bathroom that had potted plants surrounding the shower area. Thinking I could not be wowed anymore, I was then taken to the garden area that had a bar with a 12 seated dining table and an enclosed private pool that overlooked the beach.







I then asked the question i had been dreading to ask, the cost. I already felt obliged to after this friendly balinese man had taken his time to show me around. He quoted me a price of 350,000IR per night. Usually its £85 per night but as its low season and hardly anyone was here I guess they had to dramatically slash their prices. I then found myself haggling with him and he came down to 300,000 per night, including breakfast. I told him I would think about and then went and found Ian to tell him our options. 

Usually I would have declined the expensive room straight away, in fact this is why I always go in search of accommodation because if I left it to Ian he would only source out these kind of expensive places and tell me he couldn’t find anything cheaper! Ian was eager to see this ‘absolutely amazing’ place that i had told him all about and whilst walking there when he turned to me and asked, ‘has it really got a pool table?’ I knew there was no way he was going to stay in our usual £5 room now.





During our stay here the weather had been really overcast and rainy, so our beach days went out the window and most of the time we spent riding around on the moped. We would dash out in between times when the rain had stopped. At one point we ended up driving for a couple of hours towards what we thought was the volcano, ‘Gunung Agung’. We soon realised we were mistaken and it was an entirely different mountain altogether. All along our journey we were waved at enthusiastically by all the friendly, local school children. We also noticed that the air was a lot cooler once we had reached the peak of the mountain and had the weather been clearer then the views from the there would have been exceptional.




Tip:
Another nice drive is right along the coast of Amed. Not only is it nice to drive through the little villages but the dramatic mountain and coastal views are incredible.

Tuesday, 30 April 2013

Journey from Ubud to Amed

One of the surprising factors about Bali is the lack of public transport. This makes travelling around quite expensive, as you either have to pay for a taxi or shuttle busses and these are not as cheap compared with public buses/trains in other countries we had visited.
 
We checked out a few tour operators and were quoted 185,000IR each for a bus and 370,000IR for the both of us in a taxi. Thinking we could get a better deal elsewhere, we asked a few of the taxi drivers on the street and bartered one down to 300,000IR.

We were picked up at 11am from our home stay and arrived in Amed at 1:30pm.

Thursday, 7 February 2013

Ubud

We walked around getting quotes for accommodation, many were charging 150,000IR per night with others charging up to 300,000IR per night. We came to a road called ‘Dewi Sita’ and found an alleyway just off from there offering a few home stays. By now we had been walking around for an hour or so and were both hungry, hot and a little fed up. That was until we found a room for 150,000IR per night (it wasn’t worth that much) so we bartered this down to 100,000IR per night, including breakfast.

Our home stay was called ‘Anugrah’ and the family running it were really friendly and kind. The room we stayed in was clean(ish) but looked as though it hadn’t been used for a while. This didn’t really surprise us, as during our 4 night stay we were the only guests there.

We headed out for some food and found a cheap place that served tasty local dishes, called ‘Warung Lokal’. It ended up becoming our favourite place to eat.

Tip:
The Warungs in Ubud are the best value for money and this one even had free wi-fi


















































It would probably take me 6 months to visit every restaurant/cafĂ© in Ubud as there are so many. Most were sadly way out of our price range, with some topping Western prices. If you’re into your Vegan/Vegetarian/Raw foods then Ubud is the place for you, as almost every restaurant will cater towards these food diets.





Hilarious readers letter that we spotted in a local newspaper






As well as restaurants there are also hundreds of little art, craft, clothes and jewellery shops. I ended up leaving empty handed as many items were, in my opinion, too expensive. An example of this is as follows: A white cotton dress, with a simple embroided pattern, that was practically see-through, was retailing for £55! Another example was a small, silver, pendant necklace, priced at £35. 




I had a look around the local market but wasn’t overly impressed with the items on sale there, as it was mostly tourist tat. There is some nice jewelry around here but be a bit wary when buying silver items as some are not 100% silver as some of the sellers would have you believe.

























As well as the usual touristy things to do here there are also some fantastic live bands worth watching. We looked at quite a few bars offering live music nights but were put off by the high beer prices (40,000IR for a large Bintang plus 15% tax on top of this, compared with the usual 25,000IR price). Eventually we caved in on the last night and ended up spending too much money in a reggae bar that had a very entertaining blues band playing.

When we weren’t eating and drinking tea (yes we did a lot of that here!), in quirky cafes, overlooking luscious, green rice fields, we were riding around on a moped exploring them, as well as the local villages. We would ride around for hours, turning off on various roads and not knowing where we would end up, but strangely enough we never got lost.














We visited the well talked about ‘Monkey Forest’ which is exactly as it sounds. I’m not sure I would describe it as a ‘forest’ because that to me makes it sound huge and it was actually quite small but fun to walk around.
 
Tip:
Watch out for the cheeky/scary monkeys, given the opportunity and they will grab anything from you!








You must also visit the Tegallalang rice terrace paddies. It’s only a few miles away from Ubud on the moped and well sign posted so quite easy to locate. We had the whole place to ourselves and spent an hour or so wandering around the rice paddies before drinking coffee in one of the warungs overlooking the fields.









Another day we decided to go on a downhill bicycle day trip. We booked a company called Bali Eco Cycling through our homestay, but there are various agents throughout Ubud and other areas of Bali offering the same service, prices are negotiable.
We were picked up in the early morning and driven to the top of a mountain that should have given us breath taking views of Mount Batur. Sadly for us the low cloud meant we couldn’t see anything but we enjoyed a large breakfast of local food in the restaurant. 
We were then driven to a Balinese Plantation where we were shown the medicinal and culturally uses of local plants, the process of making coffee as well as coffee tasting and ate tropical fruits that I’ve since forgotten the names of. 






Afterwards we picked up our bikes and began an incredible journey cycling downhill through the local Balinese villages. We had various stop off points along the way, one of which we were invited into a Balinese home and learned about their way of living. Another showed us how the rice is planted and then harvested. 










Once our trip drew to an end we were taken to have some lunch. I can honestly say it was some of the nicest food that has ever passed my lips. The duck was beautifully marinated and fell apart in my mouth. We were driven back to our homestay and arrived home by around 2-3pm. I certainly learned a great deal in the few hours of this trip and recommend it as a ‘must do’ in Bali.
 

I really enjoyed my time in Ubud although Ian did not share my enthusiasm quite as much, probably because there wasn’t an awful lot for him to do here. I can quite easily waste hours of my time, walking around aimlessly, looking at art/crafts/jewellery and clothes, stopping off at cafes and watching the world go by. Ian, on the other hand needs to be doing stuff. By this I mean surfing, swimming or pretending that he’s Rambo, so as you can imagine, Ubud did not quite meet his standards, except for cruising around on the moped and the downhill biking.
 
Weather wise, we did encounter a lot of rain here, which we were both expecting but this interrupted our plans at times. Hopefully you can still appreciate the beauty of Ubud from these photos as much as I did