A 6 hour flight from our home to Bali landed us at Denpasar Airport at around 9.20pm local time. We were greeted by our driver, “Grumpy” who awaited us with the iconic “Bintang” beer, which we politely declined being non drinkers. It was around midnight when the car slowly rolled into the dimly lit driveway to our Rama Shinta Hotel. The car was suddenly illuminated with an exotic glow of the front entrance where we were greeted by the friendly security guard who gifted us fresh watermelon juices! The glasses very quickly diminished as the juice replenished our body after the taxing flight. We had no idea of the endless and luxurious beauty our hotel offered at this dark hour. It was an easy decision to hit the shower and pass out on the bed.
Morning came and greeted us by the side window as our eyes slowly lifted revealing more magic as we gazed outside at our new environment. It didn’t take us long to jump into our clothes and explore around. Our first stop was the pool area which was neighbouring the small restaurant. A provocative tummy rumble set us in motion toward an empty two chair table by the pool. Breakfast each morning was free with a drink and meal off the menu though the vegan options were limited to “nasi goreng” and fruit juice. Thankfully there are lots of restaurants around which provide more vegan friendly options and as you would guess, incredibly affordable. Usually I ordered the dragonfruit juice which felt so energising and cleansing every mouthful. Dragonfruit grows like a weed here so the staff just pack it in like an end of financial year sale!
A friendly woman at the front countered asked us if we would like to take the complimentary tour of Candidasa today. Our teeth were cleaned and bags unpacked. The rooms had a safe for us to keep our valuables too which was a very nice touch. I didn’t fancy carrying around all of our cash all the time. It was 10am when our driver “Nyoman” arrived to be our tour guide for a good part of the day as we made our way up to Amlapura.
The first stop on the way was the local village where there is a small community living independently. Their focus is on hand crafts and food. If you make a small donation, one of the villagers will show you around. We were taken through the narrow roads and looped around the village, occasionally stopping at some of the houses to see their hand crafting specialties. We also tried a delicious local dessert/snack called Dodol. The sun was staring us down so we made our way back to the lovely air conditioning and set off to the Tirta Gangga Royal Water Garden.
A small entrance fee got us into the vast garden full of ponds and water features. The temperature had dropped a lot as we walked around the beautiful layout. A lot of the pools were home to large golden carp. The water is considered holy by the locals and is used during religious ceremonies, as well as a source of potable water. The closest pond to the entrance contains rows of guardian like figures and stepping stones to walk among them. It was easy to spend a bit of time here. The gentle breeze, the sound of flowing water and vibe of the place had an effect on our walking pace. After looping around the garden, we made our way up the steps to greet Nyoman again and continue on our way.
Our car weaved through jungle, rice paddies and vast open landscapes before arriving at our final destination of Taman Ujung Water Palace. By now we had built up quite an appetite and decided it was time to head back and try out our first lunch! There was a short stop which our stomachs had not intended. A dramatic display of monkeys lazing around a small temple on the side of the road. It was the first time I had ever seen a monkey outside of a screen. There must have been about 50 of them wandering around, sleeping, and play fighting. It was easy to see who the alpha was. A much larger monkey made his way down a wall and all of a sudden it was as if a fire alarm had gone off and all the other smaller monkeys scrambled away. The larger monkey took his throne on the top of a small structure and sat there staring at at us inside the car. I had been told not to make eye contact but I couldn’t help but stare back for a couple of seconds into the fierce eyes of this ancient and worshipped beast. I could feel the threat being made almost telepathically during these short bursts of exchanging eye contact. I must say, even if I had been in a suit of armour, these intense stares would have still intimidated me. Anyway, yes time for some lunch.
We arrived at the hotel and suddenly our bodies felt like going into hibernation! We decided to cave in and have a much needed Nana nap. Who knows how long we were unconscious for. I think that monkey had drained half my life with his deathly gazes. I am surprised I woke up at all! At last our eyes seemed to open at the same time as each other and that wasn’t the only thing in synchronicity either! Our stomachs were playing what seemed like Beethoven’s 9th Symphony! It would have only been 10 seconds before we found ourselves sitting at the familiar table by the pool again and greeted with the menu. Gado Gado seemed like a good choice. We nourished ourselves with this delicious meal and relaxed into this tranquility by the pool. Alright time for a dip!
The pool was incredible. It had a water feature at the deepest end and a polished ceramic table nested gently at the surface of the water on the shallow side. It was fun to explore each corner of this pool as it was surrounded by different features and luscious looking exotic plants and trees. My favourite corner had a sort of El Dorado feel to it. I enjoyed swimming slowly to it, thinking to myself that I was calmly swimming through the fresh blue mysterious waters while entering an Aztec ruin full of ancient treasures. I couldn’t get enough of it! We watched the sun slowly dropping down to the horizon and decided to walk along the beach to see the sunset before having some dinner. Our hotel had a back entrance that left us right at the shoreline. What a great little exit this will be for the rest of our stay here! The plan did have one slightly minor inconvenience and it had to do with tide times. What seemed like a possible walk along the beach found us in need of a raft! The water had crept up too far to be able to walk along it so we took the road way instead.
The amount of times were were asked if we needed a taxi was comical! It wasn’t long before I had been fully immersed in the culture with the repetitive offers for snorkelling trips and taxi services. We found our way to a restaurant named “Refresh Vegetarian” which wasn’t actually vegetarian at all haha, though it had veg options.
The food and drink there was super tasty. I had ordered this power sandwich I think it was called, which contained tofu, tempeh and other vegetables. Katie says my taste in food that night was just too simple yet I felt that this was the perfect meal along with another dragonfruit juice to fuel my internals!
Friday crept around and once again our stomachs were still in a Beethoven phase. It was an easy decision to make as we got our clothes on and made our way to the restaurant and our trusty little poolside table. Oh look! A small black cat was wandering around the restaurant. His name we found out was “Blacky” and is one of many. The owner of the hotel looks after these cats and Blacky had educated himself with the location of the best food.
The pool called to us again and within a few minutes we found ourselves sitting by the table in the water with a full coconut housing two straws and a dragonfruit juice. The coconut juice was never ending! It must have contained about 2.5 litres! We relaxed on the long pool chairs under large umbrellas while reading the books we gifted each other for Valentine’s day this year. Even though the books were hard to put down, we found ourselves looking up a lot and appreciating the magnificence of this place. It really felt like all the most beautiful day dreams I had ever thought mixed into one. Sometimes I even questioned myself if I was still among the living! Oops, stomach says to move on now.
Katie had discovered a cafe named “Loaf” through google maps so we headed out to check it out! It was about 10-12 minutes walk away from our our hotel. In the heat of the day this meant only one thing. My skin was beaded with drops of sweat. Going through the doorway to the restaurant was a welcomed relief as a beautiful cold air combed through my body. Looking around, a table near the window caught our attention so we set up base camp. We ordered a chickpea vege burger and a salad bowl. While waiting something caught Katie’s eye. A few little piglets had made their way down, carefully crafting their way through little obstacles beside the cafe. It seemed like something out of a children’s story as they wandered around a sleeping old man being careful not to wake him while scavenging for food.
The sun was falling quickly so off we went to find an entrance to the shoreline. It wasn’t long until we came upon this very narrow alley way that took us right down to the pebbled beach. It was an incredible viewing location to see the sun dropping over the distant hills. We spent quite a while watching the waves and sky take on the fiery red and pink colours. This was easily the best part of our day.
It wasn’t too long until our stomachs reminded us about dinner time. There were no plans on which restaurant so we wandered around for a while until we got a good vibe about one of the menus. The decision was made to try out Warung Nyoman – Traditional Food. We sat down and Nyoman told us she had fresh mushrooms so we had a dish with those. The food was incredible and again, ridiculously cheap. We noticed on the menu a section to do with a cooking class! We didn’t have enough time to do it though we plan to do this next time we are here in Candidasa. The food took a little while to arrive but it was an easy trade off for it being fresh ingredients. It tasted delicious!
Some things we noticed about Bali so far are the horns are used more than words! The horn on a bike or car is used as an indicator to overtake, turn, say hello, whatever you can image, the horn was used for it! Probably 95% of the traffic consists of scooters/mopeds and the other 4.9999% belongs to the car taxi services. Road rules are definitely out the window in this country though it seems the roads are safer with less accidents than back home in Australia. I think it has a lot to do with the conditioning and slower speeds the locals have while getting around. Everyone seems to act like a flock of birds just knowing what is going on around them at all times. It really works well. Almost every local we encounter is very friendly even if their English is little to none, they still are able to give off a smile or greeting. The main words used on the street are marketing words like “taxi?” and “for tomorrow?”. The butterflies in Bali are huge! They would have to be about double the average size of the butterflies in Australia. At night time you can see the fireflies caressing the rice paddies and giving off a very magical feel. There are about 7 names in Bali which everyone falls under like Nyoman, Wayan, Made and Ketut.