A Bali C

I managed to make it to Saigon, despite having problems with entry both in Singapore and in Ho Chi Minh; I was ready to buy a ticket back to Bali and skip Vietnam altogether! Some reminiscing of the Island of Gods follows (pictures still lacking due to probably the worst internet connection so far!)

Atmosphere: Smiles, flowers and offerings for Gods, everything is in harmony, even the chaotic traffic. No matter where you are, the Balinese are going about their daily rituals with a smile on their face.

Bikinis: No need to explain. You could probably survive only with bikinis, shorts and flip-flops. Yeah okay Buddhism too.

Canggu: Not a surprise, this one. I spent over a month in this upcoming hipster village, where life seems to stand still and days float by even if you just lied by the pool and listened to music in between surfs.

Diving: I overcome my doubts regarding breathing underwater. Bali hosts some amazing diving spots, and I will definitely return for more!

Environment: aka nature. Various yet always beautiful.

Fruits: Fruits are aplenty in Bali. Now in season are bananas, papaya, different sorts of mangos, mangosteen, snakefruit and jackfruit, just to name a few. You can also find guava, oranges and imported apples at the supermarket. My favorites are definitely papaya and mango, but I also like mangosteen and jackfruit a lot. I did have durian once, but I was a bit disappointed with the small amount I got for my money.

Gado Gado: Both hot and cold, sweet and savory, gado gado is one of my favorite Indonesian dishes. “Mix Mix” is often variable, but includes different steamed or blanched veggies like spinach, cabbage, carrots and beans. The mix also always has fried tempeh and/or fried tofu, and sometimes a boiled egg. It is served with rice and krupuk crackers if you’re lucky. What makes gado gado special is the peanut sauce that identifies the dish. I found instructions to make the sauce, maybe I’ll give it a go at home, since it is just so fulfilling with the light veggies.

Gado gado sauce, easy to make raw version too! 1 cup of peanut butter (or crushed peanuts), 1 tbsp grated ginger, 1 tbsp minced garlic, 1/4 cup apple cider vinegar, 3 tbsp soy sauce. Add crushed red pepper and salt to taste. Mix with 1 1/2 cups hot water and devour!

Heat: Yep, it is hot. I notice it the most when going into a shop/car that has AC and then coming out. Phew! Some days the heat really hits, but when combined with a mild breeze, it is lovely. I have not needed my long sleeved shirts at all. It most definitely doesn’t feel like Christmas is coming.

Islands: Bali is the island of gods, and it is surrounded by lots of other islands. The most popular tourist destinations are Nusa Lembongan, Lombok and the Gili’s that belong to Lombok: Meno, Trawangan and Air.

Jalan: Street. Most of them not pedestrian-friendly, and are definitely not designed for handicapped. Watch where you step and you’ll be fine.

Kuta: Party hell. You can find most tourist stuff here, and some enjoy it. I preferred a quick visit once or twice just to realize how well off I was at the tranquil hoods.

Light: The sun comes up around 5.30 and and goes down around 6.30. Solid amount of sunlight every day works like magic for me. Even if I haven’t had enough sleep, I wake up with more energy.

Massages: Everywhere. Cheap. I wanted to get pampered at least once a week, but ended up getting only like 4 massages in 2 months. I’ll regret that later! From foot reflexology to Balinese and Tai massage, you can easily get your stress washed away or just get a deep relax for 1.5 hrs.

Names: I recently discovered why everyone is called Wayan, Nyoman, Ketut or Made. People are named by their order of birth, so kid #1 is Wayan, kid #2 Nyoman etc. Kid #5 id again Wayan. There are some extra names too, and the 1st girl is called “Ilo”, coincidentally “joy” in Finnish!

Other travellers: Though I did meet some lovely local people, I spent most of my time with fellow backpackers. And what a wonderful group of people did I meet and share experiences with! Mostly from Australia, but other countries too, some surfers, some not. Great talks, great trips, great surfs and lots of good new music for me.

Paradise: May it be a beach, a mountaintop, the rice fields, a jungle or a village, unless your idea of paradise includes snow, changes are Bali has it.

Quality of life: Simple things matter. People wake up at 5 am to cook, make offerings, and to go about their day. No one complains, they enjoy the simple things and take the day as it comes.

Raw food: The raw food/organic restaurants put emphasis on local, organic ingredients that have grown in rich soil. Of course in this climate and environment it is easier to grow produce than, say, in Finland, but I wish we had more of this kinds of places back home! Week or a month is nearly not enough to taste all that just Ubud has to offer.

Sun, sea, surf: All of it. Loving it.

Traffic/taxi: Crazy. Both of em. There is a logic of driving the left side of the road, but then again you can do whatever maneuvers you want as long as you don’t hit anybody. Not nearly all death-defying scooter drivers wear helmets, and some scooters have as many as 4 or 5 people on them. Insane.

The “taxi” refers to the lack of public transportation. If you’re brave enough to drive a scooter, you’re fine. If not, you’ll hear “taxi, taxi” yells at least every 2 minutes in Ubud. I do prefer walking, but sometimes the distances are just too long. Then it’s the matter or bartering the right price. Oh, my.

Ubud: Inland village/town in the center of Bali, Ubud has become the hotspot for tourists looking for the ‘Eat, Pray, Love’ experience. Surrounded by rice fields, filled with raw foods cafes and yoga centers, Ubud is truly to place to seek for enlightenment and to relax. The town is very western, so don’t expect to see the “real Bali” here. Lots of massages and other pampering  available besides superb food.

Warung: Local food, cheap. Pick and mix your favorites. Delightful amount of veggies.

Yoga: Pretty much Finland-prices, I was a bit shocked how big thing yoga is. I went to a few classes, but could’v done way more if it had been more reasonably priced. Yoga retreats are aplenty with wealthy wallets.

Missing a few but that’s life.

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Before and after Christmas

Bad internet connection equals no computer time, which is mostly a good thing on paradise island. Little recap on the past few weeks:

I stayed in Canggu for a bit over a month in total, only to find myself in the middle of nowhere (aka Negara, west Bali) one night, looking to the blue sea. No wifi, no book, no nothing. For one night, that was enough. But boy was I glad to get 2 more great surf sessions in Canggu after that, before heading off to new adventures.

This view is not from a brochure or image bank.
This view is not from a brochure or image bank.

We had a nice villa for a weekend in Legian, which was great! The villa had a kitchen, so after a scooter ride to Carrefour in a thunderstorm we were pretty much all set for the weekend in our patio, just eating and enjoying each others’ company. We got two huge blocks of coconut sugar from a local farmer, so we whipped up an upgraded version of toffee caramel – I was supposed to post that for Christmas, but I got occupied and no internet. Maybe in time for New Year’s?

Insert a picture of paradise and munchies here, but this connection would take 30 extra mins to upload it.

After Legian, there was 6 warm days in the infamous party island of Gili Trawangan. I was wondering what the fuss was about, until I realized that I am probably missing on all the crazy action by going to bed at 10pm every night. I had my reasons for not partying hard: I decided to overcome yet another fear of mine, and to do Open Water Diver course. It was such an experience that it is definitely worth of a post of its’ own. Long story short: back in Bali, back in Ubud. Same bungalow where I started my trip, now starting to plan the next steps.

Canggu sunsets.
Canggu sunsets. #neverforget

 

No waves

What do people do in surfers’ paradise when there is no swell, and the very few waves that break are so weak they won’t take you anywhere? Things (read: the sea) has been looking rather gloomy for the past few days here in Canggu, and the atmosphere is a bit anxious (yet still way more relaxed than anywhere else I’ve been).

High tide.
High tide.

 

What do you do when you can’t surf? Funny question in a way, since I hardly go surfing once a day if even that, this is not a problem to me. My fellow travelers and flatmates have harder time to fill their time.

1. Drive around from one beach to another, just to check ifThe beaches are different, so there might be a chance of white water, even though you can’t see it from where you stand.

2. Watch surf movies, preferably in the pool. This includes loud sound effects, re-plays and Bintang. Also surf clips on different media devices, and some Black Friday mayhem clips.

3. General day drinking. Might just as well.

4. Talk about surfing (They do that nevertheless, so this doesn’t really count). Take the surf board for a swim. It needs water!

5. Go bowling. This night time activity is technically not surfing-time, but still something special. And fun! Not in flip-flops, I wore socks for the 1st time in a month.

Tuesday should be lucky day with proper swell. Then it’s just a question of who gets the waves.

 

Canggu

I have now stayed and kept on extending my accommodation day after day in one of Bali’s most potential surfers’ paradise and upcoming cool hipster mecca, Canggu. Canggu is located a bit north from the infamous party beach of Kuta, followed by Legian and Seminyak, after which comes Kerobokan area where in my best understanding also Canggu is located. I have enjoyed my time here without doing much anything, which is very rare, odd and even scary for me. Why have I stayed so long? I am not even a surfer, though I am doing my best to learn and not to mind the visual damages than follow when getting hit by the board or rolling in the “washing machine” (No picture of my fin hit purple thigh, sorry).

Compared to other places (for example Ubud and Kuta, where I visited for 1 hour the other day and was extremely glad to get away), you are not constantly hassled by people who want to sell you tourist stuff or offer you a taxi/tour/rafting/mushrooms.

Doesn't get more chill than this
Doesn’t get more chill than this

Canggu is laid-back. No one is in a hurry to go anywhere, the biggest topic of the day is the swell and tide, and where to have dinner. And oh boy, there are options. Naturally I want to tell you more about food rather than my experiences of getting my face rubbed against the sand in the sea, or seeing a car (or better yet, two cars) fallen into the rice field.

Best picks for Canggu, if you ever happen to be around:

Inventive and inexpensive menu: just the way I like it!
Inventive and inexpensive menu: just the way I like it! Moshpit is The One, for now.

Crate. Awesome breakfast, quality coffee and good lunch options too for ridiculously cheap prices compared to some other places. You can swap to out-of-this-world-delicious gluten free bread without extra cost, and man that stuff is yum! This place is very laid back and rustic, almost like you’re in an open space loft in San Francisco (though the weather was 38C today)! No extra taxes added, which is always a plus!

 

Raw gado gado aka eat the rainbow. Yes please.
Raw gado gado aka eat the rainbow. Yes please.

Betelnut. Next to Crate, this lovely joint is also open for dinner, but offers also breakfast, smoothies, desserts and whatnot. I have tried their raw gado gado several times, and the other guys usually go for a burger or wraps. Mixture of comforting Western and Asian grub, this place is cosy and also cheap, no added tax.

 

Happy hour at Old Man's.
Happy hour at Old Man’s.

Old Man’s. Bar by the beach with happy hour every weekday – what more can you ask for? Live music at nighttime. Even after rather heavy drinking people drive home on their scooter through the rice paddies.

 

Indo food for like less than 2 euros.
Indo food for like less than 2 euros.

Warung Heebo. Indonesian food that is so cheap it is odd. No idea how they price their food: basically you pick the stuff you want and they give you a price tag which you hand over at the cashier. Convenient.

Deus (ex Machina). Apparently sells motorcycles, cool gear, surfboards and such, but is also a restaurant and “the place to be” on a Sunday night.

Some more? Sprout. Disappointment price-wise, but has AC. Canteen. Another brekkie option, but since I’m so deeply in love with Crate, I haven’t tried it out. Avocado. Sounds tempting, but I have not yet made it there. Maybe tomorrow. Or the day after.

Beach babe at Berawa.
Beach babe at Berawa.

Beaches. Berawa, Batubolong, Old Man’s, Echo. All the same sea and you can walk the shore, but somehow different. As a beginner surfer I’d go for Batubolong. Oh yeah, I am a surfer. One day, maybe.

When in Canggu, you really need a motorcycle to get around. I had never in my life driven one, but what’s a better place to learn than one where there’s almost no rules, and everyone just seems to drive like a maniac? In the smaller roads I feel quite okay, but I would not go to the bigger ones. And I still prefer to be on the back of a bike than to be the one driving.

Chill mate, we're surfing.
Chill mate, we’re surfing.

Days just seem to float on by, and even though I have plans on moving somewhere else, there is a vibe here that I enjoy. Even besides the food.