Archives for posts with tag: Ubud

Sorry for the brief sabbatical in blog entrying. I promise I’ll be better. Since arriving back to Bali from Thailand a month ago, David and I have been incredibly busy playing host and tour guide to friends who arrived from other parts of Southeast Asia as well as friends who flew all the way from the States to visit little ol’ Dav and Taz.

David and Eliza in Nusa Lembogan

Our first arrival was my best bud and home girl Eliza O. who flew from NYC and met David and I at our trusty home at Susie’s Beach Inn in Bingin Beach. I had been looking forward to her arrival for months, and was ecstatic that this lady friend had decided to stay for a month – long enough for us to show her around most of Bali, as well as do a side trip to Gili T. and Kuta, Lombok.

The first day Eliza arrived we met up with two friends that David had met while traveling down the Vietnam coast, Dain and Tesha from San Francisco. We spent the days between swimming at the pool at their Westin Resort in Nusa Dua, and swimming in the ocean at Uluwatu and pooling it on our turf of Bingin. Dain and Tesha left a few days after and flew to Australia and are currently spending the year living out of a van and working down the coast of Aussie.

After a few days in Bingin and getting sunned out on the Bukit peninsula, we three headed up north to Ubud where we spent a few days getting us$5 massages and facials, buying monkey masks, loving a little dog we named Boners, and making a second trip to the delicious Naughty Nuri’s for some more bacon cheeseburgers and the subsequently unavoidable food comas.

Shane, Jenna, and Eliza at Espresso Bar. Kuta, Bali.

We then made a stop in Kuta where David and I planned to extend our visas as well as show Eliza the not-so-great part of tourism in Bali. Surprisingly however, we spent two nights here discovering the most-delicious-and-best-for-your-money-restaurant I have been to in Bali, the Smiling Frog, and our late-night-live-music-bar, Espresso Bar. The Smiling Frog on Jl. Benesari is an unexpected breath of fresh air in the noisy and sense-assaulting streets of Kuta. Owned by the generous and personable Alex of Italy and his wife, David, Eliza, and I stumbled upon this restaurant one evening and never looked back – frequenting at least 5 more times and raving about it to our friends. The ingredients and preparation of the food make this restaurant stand out from what would appear to be similar establishments throughout Kuta. Everything from the welcome drink to the fettucine al funghi to the chicken curry hits the palate just right, and Alex hands-down has the best arak madus I’ve tried throughout my travels. Finished by a cup of Italian coffee and the best (and also complimentary) desert of a rich, fudgy, thinly sliced chocolate cake make the whole experience a decidedly good one.

Our favorite late-night hang out spot is the Espresso Bar, a hole-in-the-wall dive that has the best (Indonesian) cover band singing renditions of everything from Lady Gaga to Rage Against the Machine, always with their own hardcore rock twist. They are a blast to watch, and the whole vibe of the place is far cooler than the nearby clubs that make you want to Purell your body. Literally, 40 year-old prostitutes in police outfits and young Australian guys in tiki skirts and Mr. Miyagi headbands. Literally.

(Left to Right) Eliza, David, Arlene, Shane, and Aram. Breakfast at Villa Kresna, Seminyak.

After Kuta we took the boat to Nusa Lembogan to chill out in the cleaner sun and sand for a few days before my good friend Aram and his friends Shane and Arlene flew from L.A. to meet us for a fun-filled 5 days in Bali. Aram helped treat David, Eliza, and I to a 2-bedroom villa with a private pool at Villa Kresna, the most beautiful hotel I have ever stayed at (and also the best breakfast). David’s friend whom he had met traveling in Vietnam – Jenna from San Francisco – also joined us for some time while we were in the Seminyak area. I had some of the best days of my trip hanging out and going on adventures throughout southern Bali with our gang. Thank you guys so much.

Aram and David walking on Uluwatu beach, Bali.

And now it’s back to David, Eliza, and I. Tomorrow we head to the Gili Islands and then to Kuta, Lombok to relax for a bit and show Eliza my favorite spots of Indonesia (so far). It has been a great experience and a fun time being the tour guide to both friends and acquaintances for the past month. Some people have already been traveling for months in Asia and are just on a stop in Indonesia; some are on a short work vacation from the States; some people have traveled a lot in their lives, and others not at all. Regardless, sharing my knowledge about traveling (especially if it is my favorite place in the world) – whether it is about the people, the food, the language, the environment, the religion – gives me a rush. Perhaps it’s an adequate reason for not noticing that I hadn’t posted a blog entry in a while. Too busy doing what I love.

Today David and I made a realization. We only have 3 weeks left of this epic adventure of ours. I don’t think either of us are ready to say good-bye quite yet.

….And my birthday is in 5 days!

Advertisements

David and I are in the Bukit peninsula of Bali – generally called Uluwatu, but more specifically staying at Bingin. The beaches and surf breaks here are legendary – Uluwatu and the fabled Padang Padang, along with Impossibles, Bingin, and Dreamland.

A view down the cliff to the surf break at Uluwatu (on a bad day)

We arrived here via Ubud after a terrifying ferry ride back to Bali from Lombok, the enormous boat violently swaying in the tremendous swells. We had left our new friends – the Webster brothers of Long Beach, CA – in Kuta, Lombok, with plans to meet up again in the next few days in Uluwatu. We had already formed ourselves into what we dubbed “Team America” with our adventures and antics beginning on Lombok and hopefully continuing in the southern surf haven of Bali.

David and I arrived to Uluwatu and set up camp at Susie’s Bungalows, a simple and friendly homestay run by a bunch of giggling women set on top of the cliffs above Bingin beach. We spent the days descending and climbing the impossibly steep and painful steps (work those buns!) that led down to the beach, visiting the shantytown woven into the cliffs of Uluwatu proper, and getting the lay of the land via our rickety red motorbike (which we eventually traded in for a newer, hot pink one). A couple of days later we met up again with our good friends from the West Coast and we all settled in at Susie’s along with our new acquaintances: Jay and Linda from an island off of southern France, Anya from mainland France, and Nikki from Brussels.

The boys and I became a pretty solid unit, searching for surf during the day or belly flopping into the nearby infinity pool or settling down for banana milkshake time and an endless series of jokes and stories.

The boys lounging by the pool. Bingin beach.

We spent one day outrunning the corrupt police on our motorbikes on the way to give a farewell to my mom in Nusa Dua. David and I barely escaped while the Webster brothers – having been pulled over for some made-up reason – ingeniously adopted the Spanish language and annoyed the frustrated policeman out of his monetary bribe.

Another day was spent at the surf spot Greenbol, where we all witnessed a Planet Earth– style moment of a large snake using its muscular body to climb the precipitous wall of a cave to strangle an unfortunate bat for its lunch, while waves crashed violently and a storm brewed around us.

A storm brews at Greenbol

Adventures and escapades during the day gave way to often boisterous and deboucherous nights. Whether we were out and about or lounging with our books or a stack of cards, David and I could hardly have been in better company and feel fortunate to have met these new friends on our trip. Often, a downside of traveling is that you lose the emotional connections you have with people, save for a traveling companion if you have one. People float in your lives, but the nature of traveling necessitates for them to quickly float out. However, we were lucky to have these guys in our current traveling lives for two weeks and we had a great time. Alas, they left to go back to real life and David and I are once again stuck with each other (love you buddy!).

A heartfelt “Namaste” and “claro que sí” go out to the brothers.

And thus, a chapter ends in the epic saga of Dav and Taz.

After nearly three weeks in Ubud, Dav and I have freed ourselves from Ubud’s strong grasp. Our last night in Ubud started with Dav, mom, and I attending a happy hour of Mojitos, and then going to Dewa, our local cheap warung for a dinner of soto ayam (a spicy chicken soup with noodles), nasi campur (a dish of vegetables, chicken, tempe, and rice), and tamie goreng (crispy fried noodles with vegetables). Sitting back with a couple Bintangs at Dewa, we started up conversations with a French couple who had bought a one-way ticket to Bali and whom we plan on meeting up with again in Lombok or Bali, and Roberto and Filipe, two Brazilians who have been living and working in Bali for the past few years. Our table got pretty wild thanks in a large part to Roberto who was on a liquid diet of Bintangs that day and making jokes about his scruffy Taliban appearance. (It’s funny that the best and easiest way to meet other travelers is in restaurants and bars, where everyone seems to congregate.) Initially not too keen on us Americans, Roberto definitely warmed up to us, at the end of the night giving Dav hugs and saying “You, I like you. (Then looking at me, jokingly) But you, I kick your ass.” After departing from Dewa and the French couple, Dav and I caught a ride with the Brazilians to a nearby locals-only bar where Dav and I (the only girl in the establishment…) sat with a large group of Indonesian guys and shared their pitcher of “blue eyes” – an arak concoction that certainly did the trick – while Filipe floated to and from the car checking on Roberto, who had initially joined us in the bar but then promptly made his way back to the car to sleep.

Early this morning, tired and a bit hungover, with mom in tow, we took a taxi to Padangbai and caught the 4-hour ferry to Lombok, the island to the east of Bali. I’ve been to Lombok almost as many times as I’ve been to Bali, and no offense to Bali but I think I like it better. Quieter, the most pristine beaches I’ve seen, awesome seafood, less tourists, small villages. Boom. Because a lot of tourists seem to like making the trip to Lombok for the holidays (not just Westerners, but also Indonesians especially from Java), we were told that the places to stay on Lombok and the Gilis – a group of three small islands off of Lombok that are tourist magnets – were pretty much packed full. However we lucked out in finding a small hotel for the night just outside of Senggigi, Lombok, run by Eka and Wayan, an extremely friendly and knowledgeable couple who – by coincidence – also serve up the best damn meal of grilled jimbaran snapper, fresh and spicy sautéd vegetables, and nasi goreng.

Tomorrow morning we head to Gili Air, the small white-sand-turquoise-water island, that is a mix between the social Gili Trawangan and the quiet and romantic Gili Meno. We hope to spend nearly a week here (hoping that not everything is booked up) including the New Year – relaxing, snorkeling, reading, eating, and allowing Dav to complete an advanced open-water dive certification. From there we head to Kuta, Lombok, my old stomping grounds on this island that is home to some of the best beaches I’ve seen, as well as the Novotel, a beach resort that I usually stay at and that mom may be treating us to (fingers crossed!).

Did that just happen?

Christmas eve, 2010. Absolutely no different from any other day in the current lives of Tazi P. and David H.

Breakfast. A quick workout. Shower. Internet for blog and email stuff. A small lunch of chicken satay paid for by Dav betting me I couldn’t name 130 countries in the world. Trip to the ATM. Walk around town. Back home for shower. Cards. Dinner of lumpia and gado-gado. Cards. Bed.

I guess there were some deviations. Arranging for a car to take us to the airport on Christmas day to pick up my mom. Buying a dress as a Christmas present for myself. Brem (rice wine) with dinner.

Christmas day, 2010. Our usual breakfast and an hour long trip to the airport to pick up my mom, who is spending 3 weeks in Indonesia with Dav and I and is supplying us with some better meals and hot showers. (Thanks Mom!) We went for a delicious dinner at Terazo, trudging through a thunderstorm to get there and sharing dishes of ricotta ravioli, steak, and miso-crusted tuna.

My table tag at Terazo

Mom headed back to her hotel after dinner, jet-lagged, but Dav and I were not ready to yet call it a night. We walked around the sparse streets of a late-Saturday night Ubud and found the liveliest bar/restaurant we came across, a pseudo-Cuban communist hangout with Indonesian salsa dancers dressed in Christmas red and white. We got some terrible margaritas and martinis before switching to the comforting and reliable taste of Bintang, until we were kicked out by a young Indonesian in a Santa hat.

Still not ready to give up on our Christmas night, we bought another large Bintang at the 24-hour mart and made the walk home, pausing at a lone street lamp to take an impromptu photoshoot with my cheap yellow and pink umbrella.

And that was our Christmas in Bali.

Last night Dav and I took our motorbike a few minutes outside Ubud to Naughty Nuri’s, an expat favorite that’s known for its mouth-watering BBQ and stiff martinis. A mix between a traditional warung, with its open interior and tin roof, and an Irish pub, with the heavy wooden furniture, vintage posters, and steep booze prices. David and I were excited for a bit of a change. Besides for a BLT here, a chicken burger there, and one Italian Tuesday night, we have remained loyal to the Indofare – an array of rice and noodle dishes with plenty of vegetables and chicken, and always accompanied by delicious sauces.

YUM.

Naughty Nuri’s is definitely a novelty in Bali. We arrived there on the later side after having a few Bintang besar‘s down the road and walked past the grill in front to find a table and search the chalkboard menu on the wall. We both decided to bypass the famous ribs and each got a cheeseburger – lettuce, onion, bacon, and a side of steak fries and another large Bintang to share.

When our monstrous sandwiches arrived we were stunned. They were bigger and taller than any burger I’d ever had – even bigger that the one’s they serve at O’Sullivans in Somerville, a burger joint I used to frequent back home. Back to American-sized portions, it was the biggest meal that either of us had eaten in a month, and we groaned and held our stomachs all the way home and to sleep, completely satisfied.

Anyone who comes to Bali – don’t miss Naughty Nuri’s!

Cat in a hammock

One of the puppies at BAWA

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Anyone who’s traveled to third world countries can usually tell you about the stray dogs and cats that abound, usually looking pretty haggard with skin conditions like mange or ring worm, or horrible deformations or wounds from animal fights or getting hit by cars. Bali is no different, although leaps and bounds are being taken to change the conditions of the animals here. Ubud, our temporary home, is where the Balinese Animal Welfare Association (BAWA) is based. This was my first week volunteering at the clinic, a relatively small compound for such a huge and important operation. Both the clinic and their one animal ambulance (the only on the island) run 24 hours a day, responding to calls regarding animals all over Bali, spaying and neutering cats and dogs, attending to skin problems or broken bones, rearing and socializing abandoned pups, and what has become one of their main focuses – vaccinating animals and responding to potential rabies cases – a virus that is now a full-on epidemic in Bali. Before I even went to the clinic I was warned: You will see dead animals. You will see people euthanizing hopeless animals. And perhaps the worst news I heard, I would most likely witness the beheading of dogs postmortem, which is the only way that the clinic can send the brain (the part of the body that is affected by rabies) of potentially rabid dogs to be analyzed for the virus.

The BAWA store in Ubud. The clinic is about a 10 minute drive from here.

I’m not a squeamish person for the most part, but I was definitely on guard when I entered the clinic for my first day of volunteer work. But my apprehension soon evaporated as I met the friendly and knowledgable Indonesian staff and vet nurses, and the vets who come from all over the world (England, Australia, America) to get experience and lend a hand for the cause. Because it was BAWA alone – the product of an American woman living in Ubud – that took on rabies in Bali and challenged the Indonesian government to stop simply killing the animals (which does not get rid of the problem), the organization has drawn a lot of attention via word of mouth, television channels, and radio stations like NPR. Because of this, the clinic – which would normally take on around 60-70 dogs and a fraction of that number in cats – has now grown to 120 dogs and over 40 cats, with more coming in every day. And besides for a handful, they are all puppies or kittens. When you walk in the main entrance, you immediately see the overflow – cages that would have been inside the compound and housing only one puppy are now lining the main entryway and sometimes hold two or more pups. There are designated areas for dogs with skin problems, those with kennel cough, those recovering from kennel cough, dogs recovering from surgery, newly admitted puppies, adoptable puppies and dogs, dogs that need to be isolated, dogs that are under observation for rabies, and a whole area that is for cats only. They have even taken in a pet monkey, Dexter, that was abandoned and we have become close already – he turning over my fingers checking for bugs, and grooming my arm of vagrant pieces of dirt or sand.

It is pretty incredible to see what they do everyday. There are dozens of intakes of animals a day, and each one has to be checked out and sometimes quarantined for some time. There are people walking into the clinic at all hours of the day to see about adopting, and since there is no set procedure, someone from the small staff must drop what they’re doing to help them and give them information about available dogs. There are surgeries, injections, and medicines given frequently. Then there are the tasks that I help with: feedings, washings, walks with the older dogs in the rice paddies, laundry, cleaning floors and crates, socializing the puppies and teenage dogs, etc.

It has already been quite an experience, and I’ve seen a lot in my short time at BAWA. The people who work in and around the organization are fun and friendly, but they take this job and what it means for Balinese animals very seriously – as they should. Rabies is very real here. It is an epidemic. And even though other animal organizations are popping up in the area, I feel BAWA is the one that is truly making a difference by challenging the Indonesian government’s strategies for eradicating rabies, as well as their growing education program taking place in Balinese schools. I’m so happy I have the chance to personally see and interact with this organization and the animals it aims to help, and hopefully next week at BAWA will bring more adventures and experiences my way!

We’ve arrived in Ubud, the artistic and cultural center of Bali. We’ve decided to hunker down here for 2 weeks in a homestay run by the lovely, smiling Wayan. It is a traditional Balinese homestay with around 4 rooms surrounding a courtyard filled with small temples, the rich greens of plants and manicured grass along the paths, and small fountains and ponds that often make the only noise at night besides for the chirping of geckos.

Rice paddies in East Bali

I wake up before David each morning to the crows of roosters and sit on our large patio with a book and watch the movings and going-ons of Wayan’s family as they get ready for the day. This particular morning, Wayan has already done her family’s laundry, and it drapes across the patios and bushes like a colorful snowfall. As she goes about her other morning activities, sweeping the courtyard or making breakfast for her guests, her elderly mother glides through the pathways with a large tray of palm offerings and gives each one an upward wave, as if wafting each prayer towards the heavens. Later, she walks the small paths with a handful of smoking incense, a swirling cloud or aroma dancing and then dissipating behind her footsteps. I could watch this family all day, but soon the yells of children and the far off rumble of motorbikes on the nearby road bring me back to the present.

Although Ubud has grown considerably and been built up every year to cater to the increasing amounts of tourists, (thanks a lot, Eat, Pray, Love) I feel that it has still remained a deep sense of authenticity and uniqueness compared to the other towns frequented by Westerners. Of course, when you are on the busy streets of Monkey Forest or Jl. Raya Ubud, the shops and restaurants could almost be anywhere on Bali. But once you travel a bit outside, maybe even just a 15 minute walk in the opposite directions of these areas, you find yourself in a whole new world where there is the feeling of a more tranquil and genuine rhythm of life. The other day, David and I rented a motorbike to try and find the black sand beaches of East Bali where many important coastal temples are found. Without a map we never found the temples, but driving onto the various one-lane roads that led to the water we not only encountered the volcanic beaches, but also found ourselves in small villages and rice paddies that the regular traveler rarely gets to see.

The volcanic sands of East Bali

We’ve definitely found a sort of rhythm here in Ubud. We have breakfast and relax at our makeshift home for most of the morning, explore the area on foot or on the motorbike I rented to get to and from my volunteer job here, go on the internet once in a while to keep in touch with friends and family, then head back to our homestay where we might talk and share stories with our newly made friends, play cards, or read before we head out to dinner – either just Dav and I, or with people we’ve met here and there. It is starting to feel like home sweet home, for now.