Bali – Part One

Bali! We landed in Bali, time for a healthy balance of gorgeous white sand beaches and monkeys. When planning this trip back in September I really didn’t have any intentions to go to Bali. Haley has work connections here and knows a few people who’ve lived and vacationed here extensively, so she planned Bali to be her last stop before heading home. In my uneducated, New Zealand driven mind, I looked it over and said nahhh, I’m just gonna go straight to New Zealand. A month later, not sure why, my mind opened up and slapped me across the face. Why wouldn’t I go to BALI? It’s right THERE, it’s FAMOUS, it’s MAGICAL, WHAT ARE YOU THINKING?!?

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So here I am, sitting in a cafe in Bali escaping the tenacious sunny rays. I have 10 days here, the first 5 with Halez, the last 5 on my own. Our first 2 nights were spent on the coast of Canggu (Shang-Goo). Canguu is 10km north of the partying tourist city of Kuta. Canggu is a laid back and peaceful surfers paradise (which I found out, is everywhere in Bali, except for Kuta.) We stayed at Andy’s Surfing Villa which had 3 bungalows surrounding a tiny pool shaped like a gourd. “Uncle Andy” was great, we didn’t exchange money at the airport so he lended us a bunch to go to dinner with. We headed down to the beach (3 minute walk) and found ourselves in seafood paradise. We chose the BBQ option which (depending on what kebab you got) was roughly 4 dollars for 2 seafood skewers, all-you-can-eat organic salad, and yellow rice. It was so filling and delicious. Midway through it started to DOWNPOUR. Turns out, it’s the rainy season, and we again, HAD NO IDEA. When it rains in Bali, it REALLY rains. No worries for us though, we tucked away our iPhones and ran across the beach in laughter all the way to our bungalow. Hopped in the pool fully dressed and hit the hay. Bali, is gonna be good.

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After the most humid run of my life, I hit the beach and got the worst burn of my life. Those darn clouds, they fool me every time. Ate some more great food and took it easy for the night. On our last morning at Andy’s we were out by the pool where we met a fascinating lady named Barbara, or as everyone calls her, “B.” B is from Northern Ireland and in her late 40’s. She is not married and has no kids. She lived the corporate life for awhile and during the past several years has worked overseas for 9-12 month contracts in countries she has chosen. Very well-traveled, friendly, and an inspiring bungalow mate. She quit her job because she wants to write. She has a 24-day stay at Andy’s and is hunkering down and writing most of the day. I was very inspired by that idea and loved hearing about her travels and how she got to where she is now. She told me I have until at LEAST my 40’s to figure out what I want to do, and not to worry about figuring it out in my twenties. She said a lot of people waste their 20’s on, “figuring it all out” when your 20’s are meant to be enjoyed, and for having fun. She just told me that if I wanted kids to start get going on that by 32, hah!

Best attempt at self-timer jumping pic

Best attempt at self-timer jumping pic

It was a moment of realization that I needed. When describing this trip to people I found myself describing it as a journey to hopefully figure out what I really want to do with my life. I mean, HOW ABSURD is THAT. I’m 26! The moment I stop looking so hard for my passion is the moment it’ll hit me like a ton of bricks. I have worked hard to enjoy this trip, so that is exactly what I am going to do. No more over-thinking, just gonna let it rideeee. (sorry mom, no 9-5 for me anytime soon!)

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Canggu was a really cool place to check out, but less beauty and more rough n’ tough surfer waves. Next stop is inland to Ubud (ew-bood). Ubud is said to the be the artsy and cultural center of Bali. We were expecting a tiny little town with local art shops, temples, and of course, the monkey forest. What we got was a congested, medium to large size town with a ton of yogis. There was so much going on we couldn’t believe it. We were so overwhelmed (by Bali standards) that we almost extended our stay by 2 nights. We stayed at the Jaya Jungle Bungalow which was rather glamorous at first. The room was big, the bathroom bigger, and a pool surrounded by the greenest of greens. We were in the jungle, and we were really excited about it. What we didn’t realize is how many ants and bugs we would be sleeping with at night, and how non-existent the air circulation would be. It was hot, really hot.

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Bug net essential.

Bug net essential.

After eating raw pizza and sucking down superfood smoothies at Clear Cafe, we stopped in a tour office. Not knowing what to expect, we ended up customizing our own private tour for the next morning. It was pretty funny, we told him what we were interested in, negotiated a price, and he said he’ll pick us up at 8:30 the following morning. Done.

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While out on our veranda (i hate to love that word) enjoying a nice bottle of red from the Balinese Vineyards, one of the guys came over and told us about breakfast. He was basically like yeah, once we see you come outside we will start cooking for you. So in the morning, I walked outside (onto the veranda) and there he was watering the flowers down below and goes “Ready for pancake?!” and I was like “Ready for pancake!” haha, and 10 minutes later, he brought it up to our (here we go again) Veranda and we were ready to go.

Banana Crepe!

Banana Crepe!

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Our tour guide, Ade (Ah-Dee) was a really cool 31-year-old dude from Bali. He went to college in Jakarta for Tourism and he drove us around and told us all about the sights and culture of Bali. We went to the Rice Terraces first, then up to Mt. Batur (Volcano), and back down to the Coffee Plantation. We got a 16 (or around that many) tasting platter of coffee and teas for free! I couldn’t believe it, nothing has been complimentary on this trip so far, and we got free peanuts! So we bought stuff at the gift shop to feel deserving. The big thing about Bali is the Luwak Coffee. They cage up this weird looking cat animal and feed it until it poops. They use it’s poop (washed multiple times) and grind it up with the coffee beans. The end result is a very expensive coffee that I don’t think tastes very good, but then again, I’m new to this coffee game. They call it “Cat Poop Roast” or the kicker, a “Catpoopcino.” Ended the day at the Monkey Forest where all these funny monkeys have gray mustaches and look like old men.

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Cat POOP

Cat POOP

The last morning in Ubud we are UP and READY for the SUPERBOWL. Gametime: 7:30AM. Emailed the bar a few days beforehand to confirm they would be playing it. We walked in at 7:29 and plopped ourselves on a bench in the back. They had it on a big projector screen, the picture was very fuzzy and it kept freezing and cutting in and out. I was really nervous. The audio worked great thank goodness, but not until midway through the 2nd quarter did the picture run smoothly. The bar was filled with white people, mostly Americans, but a few Europeans did show up for the early morning booze. I think they were disappointed when none of the players were using their feet. But they stayed till the end anyways. When Butler intercepted the ball for the win I just let it loose. I erupted from that bench and couldn’t control myself. There was a guy from Boston right behind me who was way more obnoxious than me, so it was a fun celebration. If I wasn’t so consumed with the victory and had time to look over at Haley, I’m sure her head was down with embarrassment of knowing me. She was a good sport, she came and went throughout the game but whenever she came back she brought me snacks. She cheered for the Patriots, even though she hates both teams. It was an appreciated effort. The rest of the day just kept getting better and better. It was such a memorable experience celebrating the Patriots win at a jungle bar in Bali. Couldn’t beat it.

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Central Vietnam

We made it to the coast! Beach time! Well, that was the plan anyways. I read a lot of good things about Da Nang, an up and coming beach town in central Vietnam. Heard even more great things about a beach there called My Khe, or China Beach. After 15 hours on a nasty train we were excited to lounge on the sand, then we looked out the window. Rain day! Hahah…our first beach day came on our first rainy day, it was perfect really.

A very nice old lady gave me her rain poncho

A very nice old lady gave me her rain poncho

We walked along the beach, grabbed some fresh seafood, and decided to bar hop the day away. We got caught in the rain several times in between drinks, but we just laughed about it. It gave us time to plan the rest of Vietnam and out of pure curiousity I logged on to my trusty kayak.com app. We had planned to do one more 15 hour train ride to Ho Chi Minh, but I thought maybeeeee we could avoid that. Found a flight for 37 dollars each! Didn’t take much consultation, we booked it, right there at the bar. 1.5 flight, saves us an entire day!

I assume it was the weather, and that it’s winter, why Da Nang seemed deserted. We decided to cut it a night short and head to a place we’ve both been really looking forward to, Hoi An, just a 25 minute drive south.

Rice Paddy Fields

Rice Paddy Fields

We booked a Homestay in Hoi An because we heard that’s a really good town to do it in. We stayed at Mr. Tuans house in a very nice room upstairs. He cooked us breakfast each morning and recommended all his favorite things. His Homestay is only 2 years old, before he ran it he worked at a boating booking office and made $200 a month. Now he has his Homestay with his family but has to work everyday all day because he is the only one who can speak any English. It makes me sad he doesn’t have any free time for his hobbies (volleyball) or to travel outside his town. It also makes me realize how soft Americans can be, how many times have you complained about having to stay at the office an extra hour? Not getting enough vacation days? Not getting paid ENOUGH? Too many times. He and his family also all sleep in the same room downstairs while he rents out the nice big ones to guests upstairs. The work ethic is instilled early, and they do whatever they can to make money, money to be used in the ways it was intended to be used, for food, water, and clothes.

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Hoi An is often described as a town so charming it belongs in only a postcard. It proved to be true, it was beautiful. We got free bikes from Mr. Tuan and rode them all day, everyday. Most everything is walkable, but the beach is a 20 minute ride outside of town Finally got a sunny beach day! The weather said it was to be cloudy all week, but boy did I get burned up! It came out of nowhere, and was sunny both days we were there. An Bang beach was the perfect spot to swim and lay out for the morning. Mostly peaceful but still had locals approaching you to buy things (fruit, beer, sunglasses) even as you lay there eyes shut, they just don’t seem to understand the preciousness of personal space.

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Every night the locals light up those bright paper box things (are you following?) that you can buy and release on the river. Between all the floating lights, lamps, lit up arched walking bridges, and a community of peacefulness, it has been my favorite town of this trip. A lot of great restaurants, bakeries, and even a local, organic, superfood juicery right in town (spent A LOT of time there). It was really nice to slow down and have a complete free day to go to the cafes, beach, walk about, and mingle at the markets. Hoi An you are wonderful, and I will miss your charm. Time for the hustle and bustle of HO CHI MINH

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Cacao, Goji Berries, Banana, Coconut Milk, and Mint

Cacao, Goji Berries, Banana, Coconut Milk, and Mint