Getting to Indonesia in theory is easy – we didn’t need a Visa, so all we had to do was turn up. Except that in order to enter, it turns out you need proof of exit, something which your airline is responsible for checking. We, with no concrete plans, did not have this so were not allowed to check in until we had it. This led to a hasty search online for the cheapest flights out of the country in the next month from anywhere to anywhere. Two £15 flights later – from somewhere we’d never heard of and had no intention of using – and we were allowed on the plane. The bureaucracy involved in travel had been largely avoided until this point, but not any more.
When we arrived, we picked the wrong queue at immigration. We were among the first off our plane but were still there when pretty much every other queue had run out of people. Fortunately, the immigration officer was so bored by this point that he barely even looked at our passports and just stamped away without question. We then had to negotiate the taxi carnage, where one of the drivers started at offering 500,000 rupiahs for the ride into town. The correct cost is 70,000, which none of the drivers got anywhere near so we walked out and found somewhere for a beer.
We eventually made it to our hostel via a Grab taxi, which seemingly aren’t really allowed on Bali (due to the numerous non-internet based taxis I assume) for a much more reasonable fee. Along the way we drove through a massive beach resort strip and ended up in the town of Kuta, where we had a couple of days. The hostel itself was very simple, but seemed to do the job so we grabbed some food & went to bed.
Kuta has basically nothing but a giant beach which is more surf friendly than swim friendly (hence the many, many, surfboard rentals) & there were loads of tourists, so for me was nothing particularly special. We did manage to find a couple of decent places to eat and the turtle sanctuary had hundreds of baby turtles which were very cute.
Beyond that, our main activity was trying to get Claire sorted out as her sinuses were really bad. It reached a point where the pressure was starting to affect her eye. This was far enough, so we found a medical centre & after a few discussions were sent away with a pile of medication which was promised to sort her out. We had found a nicer place to stay while she healed up, but not being allowed to swim (or surf) made the beach resort a little limited!
Now done with Kuta, we headed to Ubud which is regarded as the ‘cultural hub’ of Bali. We got there via a simple & cheap bus from the Perama company just south of the bars and clubs strip and we’d strongly recommend this to anyone looking to make the same journey. Ubud was a much nicer town than Kuta, though still pretty touristy. Our hotel was lovely and we spent the rest of the day in cafes sampling the very western and quite expensive but tasty food on offer. The portion sizes leave a lot to be desired there, it being a fairly classic vegan/yoga type place I don’t think many of the visitors eat much!
The next day we explored the town and this was a marked improvement on Kuta. We started with an early visit to the Monkey Forest, which was brilliant. We were early enough that it wasn’t full of visitors yet, so had a really nice walk around seeing all the monkeys. We had been warned that the monkeys, which live in this forest freely but are fed and a number of which are rescued, were quite cheeky and were happy to take anything they could get their hands on from you. This became apparent when one jumped on me from nowhere and tried to get into my bag. With only one arm, it found this difficult so left disappointed.
We spent a couple of hours in the monkey forest which we thoroughly enjoyed and also got a lot of great monkey photos, so a select few below.
The rest of the day we spent walking around and trying to visit parts of town, but much of it was closed for renovation. it’s also very hard to find anything in Ubud as a lot of it is hidden in streets behind walls and down tiny alleys. They are quite fun to explore but not helpful for finding specific places! We did manage to visit Saraswati Temple & walk along Campuhan ridge, both of which were relatively short and simple and offered some nice photo ops.
Having been walking all day, we were pretty tired so went back to relax and booked the following days activity which was a tour to Mount Batur. This is a dormant volcano that lots of people in Bali climb to watch sunrise from. We had booked on a generic cheap tour having heard that they are basically all the same regardless of who you go with. At 2am we had a knock at our door and were picked up by a car which took us to the bus, sleepy and a little confused given we had been told to meet outside our accommodation at 2.30.
The bus of around 12 grumpy and half asleep tourists then trundled along to a breakfast stop where we were given a single small pancake and a coffee. Being SE Asia (just), this also doubled up as a sales opportunity with coats and jumpers available for a fee. Fortunately we already had our warm clothing, as even at ground level it was pretty chilly.
We then proceeded to the mountain, where still in the dark, lit by the bright moon and stunning stars, we met our guides, were given torches and set off. We then realised how many people do this trek as we could see the entire route up thanks to the trail of marching ants and their torches. Apparently in the region of 500 people per day do this trip, so don’t expect a calm, quiet morning!
We worked our way up the well trodden path, which at times became a bit challenging, especially when both of our torches stopped working properly!
Eventually, after a number of stops for the less fit members of the group and obligatory shops that nobody wanted, we reached the summit. Sunrise was on the way so we quickly set up a camera and settled in to watch it. We were very glad to have brought our warm clothes as the altitude and wind meant it was freezing! We had 2 t-shirts, a jumper, a jacket and a Buff on each and that was only just enough.
The sunrise itself was lovely and well worth the walk up. The location meant you looked across Bali, including Lake Batur, the currently active Mount Agung volcano, over the sea and out towards the recently earthquake ridden Gili islands and Lombok island. The dust and gasses from Mount Agung helped turn the sky a lovely red and as the sun rose, the warmth it provided felt incredible.
After looking around the craters from previous eruptions, we began the tedious walk down as everyone at the top walked down the single file path at the pace of the slowest person. This did allow us to take in the wonderful views however. On reaching the bottom, we were picked up by our bus and taken back to Ubud just in time to catch breakfast at the hotel.
After a nap, we spent the afternoon in cafes planning the next few stages of the trip as we had reached a point where our tactic of planning no more than a day or two in advance needing adjusting if we were to fit everything we wanted to cover in before we head home. The following day, we took the bus to the airport (which again worked really well, including the mid-highway bus swap for those of us going to the airport rather than Kuta!) ready for our flight to Flores Island.
I enjoyed the activities we did but I personally didn’t really rate Bali and wouldn’t be afraid of skipping it from an itinerary of Indonesia. While there is a lot to like in Ubud, the volcano was great and the north of the island is meant to be lovely, there are just too many people and Kuta particularly I’d say is worth avoiding. Claire doesn’t entirely agree and enjoyed it more so perhaps its worth a try, but overall I was glad to be moving on.