Making the Most of the Island – Second Week in Bali

        Next stop after the Gili’s was Ubud. Ubud is Bali’s cultural and spiritual capital. Ubud is more resedential and crowded than Canggu. We stayed at the Sayan Romantis, about 15 min away from the town center on a moped. It was a stylish little separated room tucked into a lush yard and garden. It had a semi-outdoor shower and a filling free breakfast for $28 a night. Ants in the bathroom and geckos on the walls, but nothing that was much of a bother for us.

        There lived mostly locals on our street. They seemed to all have chickens in their backyards, which left no early mornings quiet. Beware.

        Cafe Lotus had a true Balinese atmosphere. Cross-legged seating while you eat. You will immediately notice if you have bad posture. Do some yoga.

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        Walk across the coy pond to see the temple that this restaurant is attached to. We arrived in the middle of a children’s performance.

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        Hinduism in the dominant religion in Bali, and reincarnation is one of the core beliefs. Petulu is an example of the sacred and holy nature of Ubud. There is an area in the village where hundreds of Kokokan (Heron) birds flock to nearby trees at every sunset. The story goes that these birds are the reincarnated souls of thousands of Balinese that were killed in the anticommunist massacre in 1965. 80,000 people were killed within two weeks in Bali alone.

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Rice fields as far as the eye can perceive.

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Pura Tirta Empul (Holy Water Temple) in Tampaksiring.

We took many accidental alternative routes to find destinations, and not once were we regretful.

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Nungnung Waterfall was the most astounding portrayal of nature I have ever witnessed.

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        Immensely powerful, the falls were too instense to fully stand under. It was humbling to try and even get close. The water was freezing cold and very refreshing.

The walk down and back up is thoroughly engaging for the legs.

        Some local teenage kids were doing some sort of school project while we were there. One of them asked to have a photo taken with me. They probably haven’t seen many folks with my appearance before. Throughout our trip, I was pointed out as a few different lookalikes, including: Obama, Wiz Khalifa, and John Legend. I got a crack out of it because I don’t think I look like any of these people.

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Some local children, they looked 4-8 years old, were selling handmade items along the waterfall entrance. They surely start ’em young here.

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We moped’d everywhere. It’s such an enjoyable way to get around, if you’re careful.

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        Ubud just about tied with Canggu in the food quality category in my opinion. Just like Canggu, there were way too many places to try. More to explore for next time. Here’s a yummy meal from the Watercress Cafe.

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        Jayce pointed out some cool areas in northern Bali to explore, so that was our next stop. The place we stayed was magnificent, the Shri Ganesh Bungalows. This place takes the win as far as architecture design and landscaping. The place looked like an art project. You really start to notice how lame all the buildings in America look in comparison. Architecture here includes so much more love and culture in it. See those pebble sidewalks? We saw an old man carefully laying a new one, pebble by pebble by hand. Some more Bali work ethic for ya.

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        Our main motivation for staying in north Bali was that all the waterfalls are up there. Every time we would look up a waterfall on google maps from central our southern Bali, it would point us right up there, which always seemed like too far of a mission. We found out that this side of the island is indeed the wet side. Even at the beginning of the dry season, it rains every other day. Up in the mountain villages where the cool waterfalls are, it rains almost every day starting in the early afternoon. So we missed a couple chances to see them through learning about that. Gotta go early if you wanna go. We did manage to see the Gitgit waterfalls. There are three of them, and we went to two of them. The first one had a small, deep, enjoyable swimming hole underneath.

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The second one was so big, people weren’t allowed to swim underneath it because of the strength of the current.

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My girlfriend, Jayce, is vegan. It has sometimes made finding a common delightful meal difficult, however, it has affected my perspective for the better. I had lots of vegan food that I liked. I guess it isn’t necessary to kill animals in order to feed yourself.

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        One restaurant.. cafe.. eatery.. I really don’t know what to call it, that blew our minds in several aspects was called Kedai Vegan Ajianom. First off, to clear any confusion up, not everything they serve is vegan, but everything can be served vegan, and 90% of it is. We weren’t sure what we were walking into at first, it didn’t seem open because nobody was in the front room. Confused, we walked through and hollered, and a woman ushered us into the outside area out back. This area was made up of recycled objects as furniture, like car tires and big wooden spools. The kitchen was right in front of where we sat, which had less than most home kitchens contained. Everything was cooked on a portable two-burner stove.

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        The prices were dirt cheap and the food was amazing. So amazing, that we went there three times in two days. The juices were $.60 USD and the entrees were about $1.50 USD. The frozen juices were heavenly. They gave us a welcome drink called “pom juice” which simple, yet perfectly portioned. The same was with the strawberry juice. They were simply the most perfect frozen blended drinks that I couldn’t imagine anyone not enjoying.

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        The entree’s they had were mostly meat substitutes, which usually suck. But they weren’t actually meat substitutes. Their burger and steak were actually delicious sauteed mushrooms. The burger was scrumptious and the carbonara pasta I had there was not vegan, but it was the best I have ever had. Although a small tip is included with the meal in Bali (%10), we felt overly obligated to give more to these people. It was so little to us and so much to them, how could we not? There was a strong family vibe there, overwhelmingly kind and relaxed folks just hanging out, listening to music, and cooking food. Constantly smiling.

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        We were convinced by some beachside salesmen to give scuba diving a try on Menjangan Island (Deer Island). The morning of our diving trip, we started off by dolphin watching at 6:30am out on a boat in the water. That gave us a unique view of the sunrise.

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        After we returned to shore, ate breakfast, and drove 2 hours to the northeast tip of Bali. We hopped on another boat with our diving gear and also virgin dive-mates. This boat took us to the island where we jumped in the water. This boat also hosted our diving lesson by an instructor with a heavy Indonesian accent that was further distorted by the loud boat engine. All six or seven of us got a vague grasp on what we were supposed to do. We got the basics and more, but the anxious faces on the other divers made me laugh. I was feeling a little anxious as well.

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        We got to the coral reef diving area, and the water so clear that you could see all the fish from the surface. The candy blue water and pure green of the island painted a satisfying background. We got all our heavy-ass gear on and got in the water. Eventually, we got comfortable breathing through a tube underwater and swam under the sea with the fish for hours. It was the most shocking, exciting, and unusual experience of the whole trip.

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