I'm a big believer in making snap decisions. Everything from moving to London to moving to Australia have been the result of little or no thought and it's gone pretty well so far.
So when I called my best friend in the whole wide world Dot (who was living in Melbourne and planning her trip to SE Asia in a few weeks time) and realised that she was flying to Bali when my mum would be there... During a time when I'd already got time off work booked... it seemed like perfectly rational plan that I'd go with her and surprise Mummy Beckett who was living in Sanur and studying to become a dive instructor!!!
Choosing not to tell Mum I was coming (and really hoping that she had no underlying heart conditions that could be triggered by the shock) I flew to Melbourne to meet Dot and her girlfriend Nicole and then, armed with duty free gin, we flew to Bali...
Mum and Dot get on like a house on fire so it was only natural that she would go to the airport in Denpasar to meet her and Nicole.
She even made a sign!
|Beautifully coloured sign|
Convinced that she suspected I was with them they strolled out to the arrivals lounge ahead of me where a very excited Jill Beckett was waiting, camera in hand, chilled....
...until I ran out a few minutes later shouting "you forgot something you forgot something!!!"
|2 out of 3 ain't bad...WAIT A SECOND|
Well, if I thought before that she suspected an ambush, the scream that she let out when she saw me put paid to that. It was almost blood curdling and everyone in the terminal looked around to see who'd been stabbed.
In fairness I'd had 5 weeks to get used to the idea of seeing her after 18 months apart! She even confessed that while she'd been really excited to see Dot, while she was waiting she'd been thinking how much she wished she was coming to pick one of her kids up (and then the best one arrived too!).
After a lot of tears and hugs she was able to explain to our rather bemused (but lovely) bus driver Manny who I was and why she was quite so emotional!
|The faces says it all!|
After a short and interesting drive to where my Mum was living (Welcome to Bali: no seatbelts? No problem!) we managed to grab a beer each and settle in for a quick chat before, exhausted from our long journey, we fell in to a deep and peaceful sleep.
Mum had some dive master-ing to do the next day and was up and out at the crack of dawn. I awoke at a rather leisurely 8am and set about exploring. Mum is living at an adorable homestay and her little balcony overlooks the garden and the house temple.
|This picture is part of my 'microsoft screensaver' series|
It's gorgeous and so ornate, full of flowers and plants. Bali is a Hindu country and everyone here makes 'offerings' to the Gods several times a day (there are rather a lot of Gods). I watched a lady doing her morning rituals before, deciding I was being a little intrusive, I decided to take a walk and buy some new sunglasses.
Forgetting that here you are expected to barter and not understanding the money yet ($10 is about 10,000Rp, the zeros get confusing) I managed to accidentally knock down the price by simply holding out the wrong note. It wasn't until I walked off, genuine fake raybans on head, that I realised what I'd done and thought proudly to myself, "I did it! I did a barter!"
|The house temple at Enny's Homestay|
Knowing that Dot and Nicole wouldn't stir without some sort of persuasion I walked along Sanur's main road until I found a shop and purchased 3 bottles of Bintang for the simply ludicrous price of $4. After having our liquid breakfast we decided some actual breakfast was in order and went off in search of sustenance and WiFi.
|Beer is acceptable for breakfast on holiday. It has grains!|
After taking many, many pictures of the food we went for an explore and a shop. I even managed to do some actual bartering on purpose this time!
|The lovely Manik organic cafe|
Feeling very stressed out after our hard day of eating food we treated ourselves to a massage ($4, one hour, total scam) before showering for dinner and meeting Mum, deciding we needed another massage (foot this time) eating ourselves in to a coma and retiring to Mum's balcony where we improvised cups from water bottles and almost managed to be proper ladies with gin and tonics.
The next day we dragged ourselves out of bed for a coffee in the sun and made our plans for the next 9 days with only dodgy WiFi and my tiny lonely travel guide for help. Feeling suitably organised we then headed inland on a tour, driven by our driver on the first night Manny who is the husband of the lady who runs my Mum's homestay (are you paying attention at the back?). He is a lovely, lovely man and a very careful driver which in Bali is an extreme rarity!
He wanted to take us to a traditional dance performance but because we were, naturally, late to meet him he had to take us to an alternative show.
This fellow is a Barong or spirit and he opened the show by simply standing in that one exact spot for about 5 minutes making tiny, tiny movements with his head.
|What a moving performance...or not. Geddit?|
It was terribly authentic though, the musician even managed to check his facebook during the performance!
|Traditional Balinese mobile phone checking|
I would love to tell you the story but, even with a synopsis on an A4 sheet of paper in English, we still weren't quite sure what was going on.
|What we did know however was that this lady shouldn't be able to bend her fingers that much|
Highlights included (but weren't limited to): two men who we decided were Balinese chuckle brothers, a man dressed as a monkey who's 'tail' (penis...that turned out to actually be a tail and...oh God, you see?) everyone kept grabbing, and the overly enthusiastic chorus who had to pretend to kill themselves.
|Balinese Chuckle brothers|
It was worth every cent, though not perhaps for the reasons we were expecting!
The next part of our adventure was a beautiful temple, though we weren't sure how anything else could possibly top the incredible performance we had just witnessed.
|The temples are breathtaking|
We found an unsupervised instrument and immediately set about bashing it with absolutely no idea what we were doing. Maybe I was doing it wrong - of course, I should have been checking my phone at the same time!
|Making sweet, sweet music|
I wandered the temple quite happily, using my new camera and generally being a massive tourist.
|You are required to cover your legs and so we were given these lovely sarongs!|
We found these lovely old ladies at the back of the temple making the offerings and they, very kindly, gave us two of our own. They didn't speak English but like all Balinese people communicated through enormous smiles.
|They didn't speak a word of English, but we got the gist|
|ARTISTIC FOCUS PHOTOGRAPH|
|MORE ARTISTIC PICTURES|
|EVEN MORE ARTISTIC-NESS|
After exploring every inch of the temple it was time to follow our stomachs towards wherever lunch may be...
|Balinese Lollipop Man|
As we continued to drive inland, narrowly missing scooters and stray dogs, we all fells silent and simply enjoyed looking at the changing sights from the window. The roads are lined with shops selling everything from tourist tat to ornately carved wood.
|A common sight on Bali's roads|
|And another...boxes of baby chicks on a scooter|
Acutely aware of our rumbling tummies Manny suggested we go to an all-you-can-eat Balinese buffet with 'nice views'.
Yep, 'nice'. An understatement if I'd ever heard one!
We'd come all the way up north to a Mt. Batur, considered absolutely scared in Bali. The houses and compounds here are even built according to where it is in relation to the property.
Enchanted though I was by both the view and the apparent lackluster adherence to any sort of safety issues when building a huge concrete structure on the edge of a volcanic crater, I postponed everything until I'd had my fill of food.
It was delicious, and I soon saw why my flatmate Beck's reaction to hearing I was going to Bali was simply, "Oh my God SATAY CHICKEN."
|Food with a view|
After ensuring we wouldn't go hungry for the rest of our holiday and taking many, many precarious snaps it was time to visit a plantation for a post-lunch coffee.
|Disability access in Bali|
Our guide around the plantation was a lovely lad called 'Adi' and we very much enjoyed seeing how all the coffee beans are hand roasted. It smelled a-maaaa-zing.
They also produce lots of different teas here along with various types of coffee and we were given a big tray to taste, along with explanations of the process of making each one and the health benefits that could be got from drinking them.
Mum was especially taken with the ginseng tea which apparently is a powerful aphrodisiac and we enjoyed teasing a rather bemused Adi each time we took a sip.
(Adi told us that he very much enjoyed taking us n the tour as many people are grumpy and want to rush through the tasting as fast as they can...honestly, what is wrong with people? We were sat drinking delicious drinks int the late afternoon sun surrounded by bright green fields. Yeah, horrid of course you'd want to get away as fast as possible...Rant over.)
We were also 'lucky' enough to taste one of the worlds most expensive coffees. There is an animal called a Luwak which eats the coffee beans but, unable to digest them, poops them out. The undigested beans are then washed (one hopes) and ground up for coffee to be sold in a Harrods for £50 a cup. I kid you not.
|Luwak poop and the washed beans|
|Poor Luwak has possibly the worlds worst job, right?|
Of course given that we could try this interesting thing for only $5 a cup we naturally ordered one each. And honestly, I wouldn't pay through the nose for it but it did actually taste delicious. A bit nutty but...
|The finished product|
Feeling energised by the poo coffee we were rather disappointed when Maddy said because we'd lingered at the plantation we would only have time to visit a small waterfall.
|A rather nice road|
If this is the small one I'd love to know how big the big one is!
|Pah, tiny! Practically a water feature!|
Manny also taught us about Balinese time. When we asked when we'd be back in Sanur he replied: "not yet".
|Just concrete about the crumble, nbd.|
Nicole and I (sensibly) decided to avoid another prime example of Balinese safety architecture while Dot and Mum silently contemplated the scene without once worrying about how a massive piece of concrete was clearly about to give way.
The amount I'd eaten at lunch didn't help the paranoia.
The amount I'd eaten at lunch didn't help the paranoia.
Tired and content we spent the drive back to Sanur laughing at all the strange things we saw loaded on to scooters and cars. At one point we saw a tiny scooter loaded up with about 10 enormous bags of rice.
Even though Manny is an excellent driver, it's often very hard to avoid the numerous street dogs that run wild in Bali. Unfortunately one made a rather too darling leap across the road...and we ploughed right in to it. I'll leave out the graphic description, but when Manny assured us that the dog was fine and he had seen it walk away we were not convinced...
Especially when we got out of the car back in Sanur and saw (I kid you not) a doggy shaped dust mark on the from of the van....
|Just a casual massive bit of bamboo that's double the length of the vehicle carrying it, nothing to see here.|
Cock fighting is huge in Bali and we were rather amused when Manny told us that many of the rice workers relax after a hard day in the fields by 'massaging their cocks'. Well, of course, we thought he was simply making a silly pun... But no, on the way home we really did see a group of men giving their cockerels a pre-game sports massage! Sadly we were not able to get pictorial evidence though...
After the success of 'gin in a plastic cup' from the previous night we decided the only thing to do would be a repeat. Making sure we had supplies and tickets for our island adventure the next morning we made the most of our duty free purchases until it was time for beauty sleep.