Today was another big travel day, making our way across the top of Bali to the east coast where we were catching a ferry to the island Gili Trawangan. The Gili Islands are comprised of 3 islands: Gili T, Gili Meno, and Gili Air. We were told Gili T is the busiest, Air second busiest, and Meno the quietest. We got the ferry at a place called Padang Bai, which was really busy. The boat we boarded was full to the brim, half of us ended up on the top deck because inside was too stuffy and hot. The ride was about an hour and a half, and about 30 minutes in most top-deckers had either a Bintang or Bintang Radler in their hands.
When we finally arrived to Gili T, we all jumped off the boat, grabbed our backpacks and had to walk about 10 minutes down the road to our hotel called Tir Nanog. It was a pretty cool place, with a nice restaurant and bar as well as an outdoor pool. Most of the places we passed along the main strip on Gili T looked super cool as well. A bunch of people in our tour group, including us, jumped straight into the pool as soon as we arrived, it felt soo good after the ferry ride and walk in the heat.
Our first morning in Gili T we were given the option to go scuba diving at two dive sites, so Sophie and I jumped at the chance as we had just recently achieved our PADI Open Water certification. A bunch of others from the group who had never dived before were able to join in but the first dive for them was confined to the dive center pool. The first dive we did was at a place called Shark Pointe, but we only managed to see a few white-tip sharks in a dark underwater cave. We saw lots of other sea life including turtles and reef fish, however, and the coral was really nice too. Our next dive was together with everyone else at a site called Sunset Reef, which was another good site where we saw more turtles, an octopus, and more reef fish.
After the fun of the morning, which would have been enough excitement for one day, we had even more planned. Bikes were rented for everyone and we rode to the other side of the island to a placed called The Exile, which was a bar, coffee house, and bungalows. It was right on the beach and out in the water were a couple of wooden swings, which I believe has become one of the iconic photos for people to snap and share from the Gili Islands. We were there until sunset and then we cycled back to our hotel to get ready for dinner and a night out of fun.
This evening we had a big night out and Sophie and I became 2-time beer pong champions at a place called Evolution Bar. Afterwards we continued the party with everyone at a couple of other bars called Sama Sama Raggae Bar and another one I can’t remember unfortunately (blame it on the booze!).
Today we got started pretty early and did more snorkeling at a few different sites around the Gili Islands. We saw lots of turtles and even some underwater sculptures.
We had lunch on Gili Air at a quaint little place on the beach where we ate on the second level constructed completely out of bamboo. It looked tricky for the staff to bring all the food up ladders to us, but it looked like they had done it hundreds of times already, which they probably had!
In the afternoon we had some free time before dinner, so Sophie and I found a small quiet place to get some massages for only 130,000 IDR (around $10 USD) each for a whole hour! These turned out to be the best massages we had had in Indonesia up to this point.
We had dinner at a seafood restaurant called Egoiste, where we sat right on the beach. We are vegan now, so weren’t excited about the seafood itself, but some people in our tour who had ordered the signature platters which were loaded with lobster, fish, prawns, and calamari looked pretty amazed when it was placed on the table. Vegan moment warning: It does make me wonder about the sustainability and appropriateness of islands that attract people for the great diving and snorkeling, and at the same time eat as much seafood as is demanded. It would be great to see more dive shops advocating the avoidance of eating seafood, especially since they are taking people out diving to see underwater wildlife that depends on it.
Today we headed back to the mainland of Bali via Padang Bai again and then proceeded on to Ubud, which we were told is the cultural center of the island. Our hotel, the Ubud Inn and Cottages, was practically in the Monkey Forest, which was cool because whenever we went for a walk could see the pesky wild primates running around the streets and roof tops wreaking havoc on trash bins and unsuspecting Minimart workers. They would grab the food right out of your hand if you had something like a banana, and it was best to let them take it our risk getting bitten. Otherwise, they were really cute and you could get quite close to them and they wouldn’t be aggressive towards you.
As soon as we checked in to our room, the tour leader invited whoever wanted to go to a yoga class at the Yoga Barn. A handful of us said sure and we walked about 10 minutes to a place that seemed to exude calm and peacefulness. The yoga studio was situated around a courtyard that was surrounded by trees and plants. The courtyard also contained a cafe that sold healthy juices and smoothies.
The yoga class itself was packed with people, maybe as many as 50, in a large room with huge windows along 2 of the walls that looked into the forest. It was Level 1 Vinyasa Flow and it was pretty intense, at about the 45 minute mark I was dripping sweat. Most people in the class looked in great shape and weren’t new to Yoga, so it was easy to look around to see how poses were supposed to be held if you couldn’t see the instructor at the front of the class. I thought it was only going to be about an hour long, but 100 minutes later I was so happy for it to be over.
This morning I was able to go out and find a proper gym while Sophie and a few of the other girls from the tour group went back to the Yoga Barn to do a Meditation class. The gym I found was called Massa’s Gym and it had all the basics you would expect from a gym, free weights, some machines, and some muscly dudes. Drop in rate was a nice affordable price of 25,000 IDR (about $2 USD), which was the best I’ve ever seen. Even in the Philippines we had to pay about $10 USD per person for a decent gym.
After getting back we had to head straight out again as we were scheduled to go to the Monkey Forest at 11 am. It certainly lived up to its name as there were monkeys everywhere! The group got some good photos of monkeys sitting on our shoulders by holding a banana or some corn in our hands above our heads. There was a guide that helped us out by keeping away the large aggressive monkeys and making sure only the smaller nicer ones ended up climbing or jumping on us.
We had a free afternoon so we took it easy in preparation for the early start the next day hiking up Mount Batur. For lunch we were recommended by our tour guide to go to Paradiso, an all-Vegan restaurant and cinema. When we found it a little walk away, we were amazed by the food selection. We went a little bit crazy and ordered starters, mains, and even dessert. We rarely get dessert these days as it is really hard to find Vegan desserts at regular restaurants. We both agreed that if we lived in Ubud we would probably eat there every time we ate out, because there were so many things on the menu I would have liked to have tried everything.
We woke up super early at 1:15 am to be ready to go at 1:45 am to the base of Mount Batur. We hiked for a couple of hours in the dark, and by the time we reached the top it was light enough to see without a flashlight. It was too cloudy to see an amazing sunrise but at around 6:30 am the mist cleared and we were able to see Mount Agung in the distance still spewing ash into the sky. The whole way up and down the mountain I started to feel a rumbling in my belly, hoping it was just nothing. Unfortunately, the next several days Sophie and I suffered with what is un-affectionately named Bali Belly.
When we got back from Mount Batur we were treated to an hour massage at noon, which was pretty good. However, we were yet to experience a truly amazing Balinese Massage. We were starting to think it was a bit overrated, but more likely is that we were turning into massage snobs.
Day 12 – Nov. 30th, 2017
Sadly this was our last day of the tour, but we were excited to be continuing on with our own travels. We had organized a transfer through Intro Travel from Ubud to Sanur where we would be catching a ferry to an island called Nusa Lembongan. We were headed there for the opportunity to do some dives at a couple of sites around another nearby island called Nusa Penida, which was famous for its diving. The travel went pretty smoothly and we were in our new accommodation, Jiva Bungalows, by early afternoon.
After checking in we walked out of our room and headed for the beach. There were some nice restaurants along the beach, even one that served vegan food called Ginger and Jamu, which became one of our favourites on the island.
Along our walk we made it down to the dive shop we were planning to use for our dives around Penida, Dive Concepts Lembongan. With my belly still rumbling we scheduled our dives for the morning of Dec. 2nd in order to give me and extra day to get better.
We rented a scooter at a place right next door to our bungalow for 120,000 IDR (around $10 USD) for the rest of they day and tomorrow, as the walk up and down the street proved to be too taxing and slow to do on a regular basis. There was also the rest of island to explore as well as yet another island called Nusa Ceningan that was actually connected to Lembongan with a yellow suspension bridge that was just big enough for scooters and pedestrians.
Stay tuned for more from Nusa Lembongan, Ceningan, and Penida in our next post aptly titled: Nusa Lembongan, Ceningan, and Penida!