Our blog which is now focusing on our travels in Europe during the Winters and working across the UK in the Summers.
It also has all our adventures from travelling India and South East Asia in 2018, the Philippines in 2020 and Sri Lanka in 2021/22
It’s only an hour from Sanur to Ubud by car, so we got a
taxi to take us up there the following day. Our hotel for the next few days was
Nyoman Karsa Bungalows; It only has a handful of rooms set in a beautiful landscaped
garden with swimming pool and it’s pretty much opposite monkey forest at the
south end of the town. This means you do
get monkeys stealing objects left out on your balcony.
The main town hub is set out on a rectangle with a steady
flow of one-way traffic – this doesn’t apply to scooters obviously as they can
go where they like! Ubud has quite a backpacker / hippy rep so I was surprised
to see so many shops selling various beige and white clothes that would have
been at home in any M&S/ John Lewis, amazing statement jewellery pieces,
hipster funky light bulbs and arty sculptures. I guess these would have been on
sale for a fraction of the cost of back home but as I wasn’t buying I didn’t
check. The market at the north of town is a rabbit warren of stalls and it’s
mainly here you will find the tie dye tops, fishermans trousers and local
The next day we explored the little inner car free streets
and found a little quiet haven of shops, yoga and spa resorts, cafes, small
warung restaurants and pricey cocktail bars. You can find some very reasonably
priced places around these inner streets and we found a good measuring
reference was the Nasi Gorang and a large bottle of Bintang beer – in general the
rice will be around 35-50k rph (£2-£3) and the beer 35-40k rph. Smaller places are
unlikely to add on service or tax but the big fancy places can add on an
additional 21%, although 15.5% is more common. Worth noting that Nasi Gorang
away from the tourist towns can be as low as 15k rph!
Aside from relaxing by the pool, reading, writing in my
journal and eating amazing food we also visited the Royal palace and Saraswati
temple. The temple was actually closed whilst we were there, which was a shame but
the lotus flower pond in front of it was beautiful and the stone carvings at
both locations were stunning. I’ve nick-named Bali the island of a thousand
doors, as loads of doorways are decorated in the most exquisite engraved and
etched wood and stonework, no matter if it’s just your house front door, a
guesthouse or temple. I have so many pictures of doorways!
We took a sunset walk along the ridgeway to the north of
town, which compared to other sunsets we have seen was disappointing but still
very pretty to see the forests and fields around the town. We didn’t go to
monkey forest, although this is one of the top draws in Ubud. We felt we saw enough
of the cheeky buggers around town and the resort without subjecting ourselves
to getting items stolen or bitten in the forest. Although I’m pretty sure if
you just use some common sense they would leave you alone. The hotel staff are
all armed with catapults to discourage them from hanging about the gardens and
rooms for very long.
The local taxi firms run all trips out of Ubud and there
are signs everywhere saying no pickups from other taxi firms allowed. This
means they can charge the earth for small trips and looking around the various
taxi price lists the short trip to our next port of call, Sideman, was going to
cost 350k (£20). We knew from our day out in Sanur that a driver for the day
was 600k and as there were a few things we wanted to see further afield, we decided
to combine the two and save money. This also meant we had more time to kill
just pottering around town, which I was enjoying.
The morning of our departure arrived and we were packed
and ready by 8:30am. We had a very chatty young driver this time as our other
one was busy and he babbled away asking questions and telling us all about his
life and Bali. I learnt more from him about normal Bali life than anyone else
I’ve chatted to and it was nice; although a bit sad when he told us about his
family selling everything to pay off cock fighting debts. This tradition seems
to be the norm on Bali with cock fights even happening at temples before ceremonies.
Our first stop on the tour was at the Tegallalang rice
terraces, which is exactly what it says on the tin. Beautifully green curved
rice paddies sculpted into the hillside, with little huts and pathways dotted
around. We clambered around the giant steps they had cut into the hill, which
was quite a morning workout and took hundreds of photos.
Next stop was a Hindu water temple - Pura Tirta Empul. The
correct way for everyone to dress when visiting a temple is to wear a sarong
and sash, fortunately they provide this and it’s included in the price, so you
don’t need to buy one from the aggressive stalls lining the walkways in. This water
temple is used for Hindus to complete a bathing ritual to cleanse away bad luck
or ill fortune. Anyone could take part providing you were wearing the correct
attire but having stood and watched all the tourists taking selfies and
generally getting in the way of the Hindus trying to do a serious ritual, I was
glad we didn’t. The grounds are full of intricate carvings and statues and a
spring fed ‘Holy Pond’ that was crystal clear and no-one could enter.
Site 3 was another temple, but this time cut into the
side of the hills – Pura Gunung Kawi. A long path of steps led down into the
valley lined with more stalls selling crafts and sarongs, which eventually
leads through a stone archway and into a courtyard with carvings hewn into the
mountainside. They have some ‘holy’ springs and pools dotted around the complex
but signs asking you not to collect / drink it and no-one was bathing.
A brief stop for lunch at a massively overpriced
restaurant (60k for Nasi Goreng + 21%) and we set off in search of waterfalls.
Our driver knew of 2 close to each other that were also on the way to Sideman,
so we stopped at both. Both waterfalls require you to pay at the top by the
carpark before you walk down hundreds of steps to the waterfall at the bottom -
I think the price was about 15k each for each waterfall. The waterfalls were
stunning and although you could bath in both we didn’t fancy getting changed
and being damp for the rest of the day so just went to look. By the time we’d
done the two waterfalls and the accompanying steps our knees were complaining
so asked to be taken to our guesthouse.
Sideman is a small village up in the mountains near the
volcano Mt Agung. We’d heard that the volcano had erupted a small amount of ash
and smoke only a few days before but it was back sleeping by the time we got
there. Our lodging was the small but cosy Maha Neka Villas. They only have 2
villas, set in the garden and farm land of Ari and his family but have a prime
view of Mt Agung – if she decides to peak out from the clouds.
From the moment we arrived in the cool mountain
temperatures we were warmly received by Ari and he showed us to our standalone
bungalow with traditional carved doors and windows, a huge bed with mosquito
net and outside seating area. Can’t believe this was £19 a night inc breakfast.
Ari also runs a restaurant which we ate at most nights as
the food was great. That night we drifted off to sleep with nothing but the
sound of Gecko’s, Chickens and Crickets – Bliss.
We woke up for sunrise every morning to see if the
elusive Agung would show herself but it rained pretty much nonstop from that
first day til the last. It didn’t ruin the views as the mountains still looked
stunning in the torrential rain but it did spoil our planned 3 days of hiring
scooters which Ari can get for only 50k rph for the day, which is a really good
The weather wasn’t too bad on the first day so after
heavy rain all morning we went out in the afternoon, stupidly not taking any
waterproofs with us as we didn’t plan on going far. The roads and bikes were
easy though and with the sun out the views drew you on just round the next
corner. We were over half way to Pura Besakih, a temple on the lower slopes of
Agung, when the heavens opened and after 5 mins we looked like we’d been
swimming in our clothes. We took shelter in a small hut at the side of the road
and wrung our clothes out as best we could and when it eased up we continued up
the mountain, although we knew the views were going to be non-existent.
The road does go all the way up to the temple but the
carpark and ticket office are quite a way down the hill – only scooters are
allowed to drive up and obviously they offer to give you a lift for a cost if
you don’t want to walk. As we had our own bikes we got our tickets, sarongs and
our guide - which is included in the price and drove up past the stalls. It was
busier than expected and lots of others were braving the rain to visit and our
guide cheekily told us we must be unlucky as it had been sunny every other day.
The temple complex is beautiful and the guide explained
all about the different number of tiers on the spires, the different colours
and directions they all faced. It all was very confusing but was quite
interesting, although sadly I can’t remember any of it now.
The sun came out briefly on the way home but by this time
we were cold and wanted to get back so saved anymore sightseeing for another
Day 2 was nonstop torrential rain and as our clothes from
the previous outing were struggling to dry without the sun and we couldn’t afford
to get any more wet, we called an admin stay in-day. Ari and family were around
so we got free coffee and ginger tea when required and the porch was a great
place to hole up watching the rain sweep by. We also discovered a huge Tokay
Gecko in the roof with her smaller mate, which was great until you realised
that when they go to the toilet it just comes straight down! The mosquito net over
the bed makes more sense now because we hadn’t seen many mosquitos about.
The following morning, we got a tiny glimpse of the top
of Mt Agung and it looked like it was going to stay dry so we hired the bikes
again and went off on a circular route that Paul had planned. First stop was the
town of Semarapura, which is south from Sidemen. It’s a fairly large town and
isn’t that pretty but we stopped to see the Klungkung Palace. We didn’t end up
going in as the only ticket option was a combined city tour and we didn’t fancy
that, so we got back on the bikes and headed east.
Pura Goa Lawah, or the Bat Cave temple as it’s often
referred to, is set on the coast road opposite a black sand beach. As we
approached the traffic slowed to a crawl and hundreds of people seemed to be
milling about carrying baskets of offerings all heading for the temple. We guessed that there must be a special
ceremony but hoped we’d still be allowed to enter. Sadly, we weren’t as it was
closed for the day but they said we could go and watch the music and dancing in
the first courtyard so provided us with Sarongs and sash and ‘special gift’
necklaces. The music started just as we got through the first garden and we
watched as about 30 ladies in identical white tops and yellow skirts danced a
slow but and beautiful synchronised dance, accompanied by the temple percussion
instruments. It was so beautiful, I’ll not forget that temple experience in a
hurry even though we didn’t get to go in.
After watching the dancing, we decided to check out the
black beach. You must walk through the stalls and general waste of the market
to get to it, but once there it’s a long pretty stretch of matt grey sand and
as the weather was cloudy it lent a slightly dark moody vibe to the visit.
Getting around on the bikes was perfect and meant we
could stop whenever we saw a great view or wanted a picture, which was quite often
as the farmlands and forests were gorgeous. Next on the list was Taman Ujung
water palace, which was further up the coast line and is a beautifully
maintained complex of gardens, water features and buildings. We also stopped
for an overpriced soft drink and sandwich here, which was very tasty just
expensive because it overlooked the gardens.
Finally, the last place on the list was another water
palace called Tirta Gangga. This is the sister water palace of the previous one
and equally if not more beautiful. Most of the ponds in these gardens have huge
carp that come gasping for food at the surface and one pond has small stepping
stones all though it, so you can surround yourself with fish for that perfect
photo shot. I think that has to be the most annoying thing we have come across
on our travels, couples or groups that take FOREVER to stage and get that
As the sky was beginning to look threateningly dark we
decided to head back home before we got soaked. We didn’t quite make it all the
way home but we sheltered for the worst of it and got away with only being a
bit damp this time.
Another gorgeous meal at Ari’s and then it was time to
pack and say goodbye to my mountain retreat.
To start our final day, we had asked Ari for the Balinese
breakfast, which was black rice pudding in coconut milk, fresh fruit and little
rice cakes. The rice cakes are similar to Japanese Mochi and made with pounded
/ ground rice and came with various toppings/ fillings - one of which we were
sure was Durian as it tasted revolting! The star of this breakfast was the
black rice pudding, which was really tasty.
As we had an early flight to Flores booked for the following
day we were going to stay in Denpassar for one night next to the airport so got
Ari’s friend to drop us down for 350k rph. Denpassar is also relatively close
to the busy Kuta district that we thought we should experience for 1 night before
The hotel was quite old and half of it seemed to be closed for
maintenance but it would do for one cheap night although it wouldn’t be on our 'to
stay at again' list.
We did make it out to Legian, which is one district up
from Kuta but still crazy busy with bars and restaurants and tourists. It seemed to have a more of a party vibe about it with clubs blasting out music and lots of happy hours. We stayed for a few beers and some German meat
products but then walked back to the hotel. A vast contrast to the quietness
we’d left in the mountains.
Yet another short monthly update, it's now 5 months (22 weeks) since being back in the UK so here is what's happened since last the last blog. We splashed out and got some new crockery and new saucepans, frying pan etc as we were fed up using the ones we had since getting Daisy which actually came with her! Daisy got a few more bits of work done for the MOT, including front brake pipes & hoses, caliper and the previously mentioned power steering issue was just a pipe which saved us a lot of money. Anyway she passed her MOT first time, with only a couple of advisories which will be sorted soon, so that's a relief and now means her MOT is a July date which suits us better as we will be in the UK around that time each year. So with the MOT done and the leak fixed, we took off up to the Peak District for an overnight stay at a pub campsite, just to get out of the city for a bit and also I had a couple of DIY jobs needing doing which required hook up. First up was a small
To get to Ipoh we had decided to do the 3hr bus journey. My sickness bands seemed to have worked quite well so far on other transport, and when you book online you can choose your seat allocation, so we got the front seats with a view to the front. Ipoh isn’t a huge fancy town but we had heard good things about it and it was on the way to the Cameron Highlands, so we decided to stop for a few nights. We were staying at the Ritz Garden hotel, which is a bit rough round the edges but was quite cheap and included a breakfast. It also had the most enthusiastic doorman ever, that dragged me off to show me maps and point out the directions you need to walk in for any of the sights. The hotel does boast of a pool, 3 bars, a library, a cinema and a gym but most of these rooms were locked and empty when we went for an explore, so not sure if they are really used facilities. After a settle in we headed out to figure out the town and to grab some food. The town is quite run down
So, we had arrived at Coron Port, but the island we were on is actually called Busuanga Island, the actual Coron Island is where most of the tours go to, more on that later. Coron is part of the Calamian Islands, of which form part of the Palawan area of the Philippines, where we will be visiting the popular areas of Coron, El Nido and then leaving via the capital city Puerto Princesa. This area is known for its huge expanse of islands, mostly formed with limestone and very similar to Halong Bay in Vietnam. Our first stop here was in the middle of the town, so it was a short tricycle ride at 120 pesos to our hotel, Balaibinda Lodge and we got checked in to our room. It was decent enough, with a little garden area outside and was clean and well looked after. Although one of the reception staff was a miserable sod, we had a pleasant time here for the 3 nights we had booked. We had arrived around 5pm, so we got freshened up and went for a walk around the town. To be ho