Monday, 22 September 2014

Today's find: HeForShe

Here's what I saw, and loved today.

"If not me, who? If not now, when?"

I've long loved Emma Watson and this poised, thoughful delivery for the HeForShe campaign for gender inequality has made me love her more. The message isn't new but the packaging works for me.

Friday, 12 September 2014

Adventures in Bali: Gili Trawangan

The three tiny islands which form the Gili's are actually off the coast of Lombok, not Bali. There are horses and bicycles instead of cars, there is lots of sand, there are turtles in their waters, and cocktails are served in coconuts. This all made for a very promising start for our seven night stay on Gili Trawangan, the larger and 'wilder' of the three islands. Actually, not very wild at all.

We watched the sun rise...

And set...

 We ate fish (some good, some not so good...!) 

We scuba dived and snorkelled...

We read books, lazed in hammocks, watched the stars, scoffed amazing pizza at Il Pirata, got sunburned, drank Bintangs and mojitos, cycled around the island, stretched and meditated at Gili Yoga, ate too much ice cream, showered with spiders, watched a movie on the beach (Wolf of Wall Street!), got food poisoning, bought cheap souvenirs, ate sweet treats at the food market. Basically, we got very used to island life.

I loved Gili T. It was a lot calmer than I'd expected. This was probably, in part, because it was Ramadan and also because our accommodation was further up from the main 'strip'. We'd decided to stay on one island and get day boats across to the others. We didn't end up getting to either of them. Gili T's a little island paradise. Just don't eat at an empty restaurant where the 'really fresh' fish may have sat out for a lot longer than it should have (ah, hindsight). Oh, and cats definitely rule this island. Yay for well fed cats!

From Gili T, only the most frightening boat ride of my life stood between us and Nusa Lembongan.

Friday, 5 September 2014

Adventures in Bali: Ubud

We spent three nights in Ubud, Bali's cultural centre (of Eat, Pray, Love fame). It wasn't nearly enough time to fully explore it. We stayed at Alaya, which was stylish and peaceful, though a little bit of a walk into central Ubud. All of the rooms overlooked rice terraces. The view from our room is my go to mental image for moments of calm!

We travelled with a driver from Seminyak, stopping at Tanah Lot and Taman Ayun (and a pretty terrible coffee plantation) on the way. Bali is a very spiritual and predominantly Hindu island. Balinese temples are built from volcanic stone or red brick and feature split-stone gateways and intricate carvings. They're quite different from the ornate gilded temples we'd become used last Summer in Thailand, Malaysia and Singapore but every bit as beautiful.

We spent our first night in Ubud wandering nearby side streets, eating too much fried rice and watching a local dance performance in the grounds of a temple. We were awake early the next morning and decided to head straight to Monkey Forest. There's a small entry fee to pay but you could wander around this sacred forest for hours. There are lots of stories about these pesky macaque monkeys stealing food and jewellery, scratching people and getting up to general mischief. We left food at home and kept our bodies to ourselves. We didn't have any problems. Look at that stylish do!

After a scrumptious lunch at Art Kafe (Jalan Monkey Forest), we headed off towards the rice terraces and spent the rest of the afternoon wandering through fields. I think we passed fewer than ten people as we walked. It was blissful. It's quite exposed though so wear a hat, take suncream and drink water. We also had a massage at a little spa we found down a side street. If you find yourself in Ubud, I'd definitely recommend wandering away from the main road, which welcomes coachloads of day trippers from Kuta. You're more likely to find traditional Balinese walled communities, unusual handicrafts and local warungs down these little side streets. I wish we'd had more time to do this.

It was should have been early to bed that night (thanks for blocking our card and making us spend hours on the phone, Halifax), ready for a 2am pick up and hike up Mount Batur, one of Bali's breathtaking volcanos. We climbed by flashlight with a local guide and arrived to the summit with time to spare before watching the most spectacular sunrise I think I'll ever see, high above the clouds with a view of Mount Agung. It was one of my favourite moments of our trip. If you get the chance, do it! Be careful on the descent. We saw one tourist being carried on a stretcher after presumably losing her footing around a raggedy rock. "Careful. It dangerous", became a favourite phrase for our guide. 

We were back to central Ubud in time to re-fuel with Alaya's amazing breakfast. We flopped by the hotel's pool for an hour or so to rest. Next, we explored some of Ubud's quiet side streets, drank a coconut or two, and headed out to the Campauhan ridge for another walk through the lush countryside. The walk itself will take around two hours but plan in a stop at Karsa Kafe for a coconut and roasted sweetcorn cob with stunning views out onto the rice terraces. 

We were keen to try Nuri's warung, recommended in countless tourist guides (and in the New York Times, apparently). Their barbecued ribs did not disappoint. It was a bit of an uphill trek from central Ubud (around 45 minutes) but there is a stunning temple and pretty handicraft shops along the way. Walking back down towards our hotel, we saw a temple ceremony procession. That was something! We spent the rest of our last night sipping a few cocktails and admiring carved entrances to the local walled communities. 

The next morning, it was time to leave Ubud and catch a ferry to the Gili islands.
Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...