Bali

Ah Bali. The land of endless smoothie bowls, extreme traffic and a surprising number of Australians. I can’t believe its been over 2 weeks since I got back from Indonesia, my tan is already fading and I’ve just about gotten back into the routine of home life but I still wanted to write a bit about the trip. We spent 8 days in Java, 16 in Bali and 5 in Lombok. Each island was amazing and it may be because we were there for the longest but its Bali I have the most to say about.

I know Bali is having a bit of a ‘moment’ right now. It’s all over people’s social media (mine included), Brits are taking the long-haul flight for a relatively short stay and on multiple occasions when I told people I was going they said ‘me too’. That being said, it was different to what I was expecting. Perhaps the attention it’s getting and some of the incredible photos I’d seen didn’t provide an accurate portrayal of the island or, I’d forgotten the difference money makes to a holiday. Either way, I felt some parts of the island were (and I don’t want to say overrated because that makes it sound too negative) not what I thought they’d be. It was busy and far more western than I was prepared for, the abundance of brunch places is ridiculous and I hadn’t realised that, unlike other destinations in Asia where you only see other travellers, there would be so many families. That being said, I thought I’d share some of the things we got up to and a few recommendations. There is plenty of information out there online but I think it would’ve been helpful to hear more of a first hand realistic account before we went, hence this post. If you have no interest in what I got up to (which is completely fair enough) I finish with a few more general thoughts on travel so skip away to the end. Also be warned there are lots of photos.

Munduk

We arrived in Bali a couple of days ahead of schedule and, on the recommendation of someone we’d met in Java, decided to start off in Munduk. Starting there meant we weren’t quite prepared for the busyness of the rest of the island, the quiet northern village still feels very local and had very few other tourists. We stayed in a family run hotel called Swar Bali Lodge which was really nice, the brothers working there were so helpful, happy to give us lifts on the back of their motorbikes and recommend places to visit.

That being said, there isn’t loads to do in Munduk but there is a beautiful waterfall hike. The 5k route starts at Red Coral (Munduk) waterfall and didn’t take long. The three waterfalls en route were incredible, even more so because there were so few other people there. We also visited the Munduk Moding coffee plantation where we were talked through the process and got to try some of the coffee grown on site (for free which was a bonus).

Canggu

Arriving in Canggu was very different. We were immediately aware of the number of tourists in the area. We had 4 days there which we essentially spent sunbathing and eating, some stand out spots being Crate cafe, Bali bowls and Quince. However, food prices were definitely much higher than what you might expect travelling, closer to a good value meal in the UK. The town is definitely an ideal spot for surfers but unfortunately and unsurprisingly, I don’t surf, so worth bearing in mind the beach is very windy with huge waves that can knock you right out. We did venture outside of Canggu one day to visit the Tanah Lot sea temple which was nice but there were bus loads of tourists there too and because you can’t actually go in the temple, there isn’t lots to do once you’ve seen it. Canggu was lovely but slow paced, just something to be aware of.

Seminyak

We thought Canggu was touristy but Seminyak was another level. Traffic was terrible and the streets were overflowing with people and shops. However, the food here was very good, we went to a place called Shelter for lunch, had brunch at Coffee Cartel and went to Dough Darlings (twice) for the most amazing doughnuts. Seminyak beach is windy too but we did see some baby turtles being released so that was pretty cool. We only had 2 days in Seminyak but because it was so busy it almost felt too overwhelming to explore, we spent most of the time on our motorbike going from beach to restaurant and even though you see things, it all goes past pretty quickly. It’s definitely a part of the island I think I found a bit much but would’ve liked to experience when it was quieter.

Ubud

Ubud was far more chilled, a good mix of tourists and local culture, it felt like we were experiencing Bali again rather than a western beach town. The Monkey Forest is obviously touristy but a must do, likewise with the nearby waterfalls. The two we went to were very busy and I think if we hadn’t been to Munduk I would’ve been disappointed. The Tirta Emple water temple we went to where we bathed in the fresh spring water and the Tegalalang rice terraces were definitely both worth it despite being busy. We also did a bike tour with a company called Bali Breeze and a cooking class with Paon. Both were great and a chance to learn a bit more by chatting to locals and do something a bit different, the bike tour was downhill (ideal) and the food we made in the class was amazing.

Wandering around Ubud was nice too, we had the most amazing chocolate coconut banana bread at Tukies and managed to get all our souvenir shopping done at the market. I also did some classes at the Yoga Barn while we were there which was really nice but safe to say I haven’t kept it up…yoga in my room in Bedford is not quite the same as in a windowed studio in the jungle with the most ‘zen’ instructor I’ve ever met.

Nusa Lembongan

We didn’t do the main Gili Islands but Nusa Lembongan, about an hours boat trip from Bali, was amazing. A beautiful island with a relaxed and beachy vibe, it was almost what I expected Canggu and Seminyak to be like and I wished we’d spent more than a night there. The beaches were beautiful and we went over to the Blue Lagoon on Nusa Cenida which was amazing. Definitely worth the slightly damp boat journey there and back. However, be warned that the ‘roads’ marked on google maps are more like rocky steep crumbling tracks that a motorbike probably can’t handle…we may have learnt that the hard way.

Uluwatu

Our final (and potentially my favourite) destination in Bali was Uluwatu. The area is far from crowded with plenty of space between everything, beautiful scenery and a good mix of locals and visitors. There were some beautiful beaches including Bingin beach and Padang-Padang (which features in the Eat Pray Love film) but be warned that quite a few of the beaches in the area are only accessible at low tide. We stayed in a basic but lovely hostel called the Bingin Inn and ate at the Cashew Tree, Loft and Drifter, all of which I’d recommend. The Kecak fire dance at Uluwatu Temple made our final temple experience a bit different, something that is again worth doing, but be prepared for lots of other people.

A final thing I’d say about Bali is do your research, but realise you can’t do everything. There physically aren’t enough meals in the day to eat at every nice place on the island or enough nights to spend at every beautiful hotel you see (I guess you could stay longer but my finances definitely didn’t allow it). Perhaps because it is such a popular destination at the moment I found it so easy to compare my experience of the island to other people’s…yes, I went on the trip of a lifetime and I was still there wondering if I was doing it ‘well’ enough…comparison is very clearly something I need to work on. Travel is tricky, its something that should be for personal reasons (relaxation, quality time, recovery) and yet I find it something people want to share the most, whether that’s posting pictures online or recounting stories to friends for weeks to come (or writing a blog post about it). It’s definitely something I’m guilty of, but maybe guilty is the wrong word, is there actually anything wrong with wanting to share what you’re doing, to let people know you’re enjoying yourself? Indonesia was a long time coming after a very long year and if I’m being honest, I had a bloody great time.

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Twitter: @IndiaGarrett

Out of Sorts

It is a strange time of year, it’s just before the Christmas festivities kick in properly but winter has definitely arrived, its dark before 4 and I don’t think I’ve seen the sun in at least a 10 days.

For the last week or so I think I’ve been out of sorts, I think lots of people have. It’s hard when the weather is so cold and all anyone can think about is university deadlines. There are also lots of things happening with my family at home so its hard to be away from them, I feel very distant. That being said, you’re not here to listen to me complain, so on a more positive note, here are a few of things that I’m appreciating and are helping to keep me (slightly) sane, they may work for you too.

  • Rubbish rom coms and Christmas films with whoever will watch them with me. Would recommend Texas based Forever my Girl on Netflix and I’m just days away from getting Love Actually on.
  • To do lists. Especially with small goals, everyday feels productive, even if I’ve just showered, can give that a tick.
  • Yes its cold, but trying to stay inside doesn’t mean retail therapy has to stop due to the wonder of online shopping. In my case its online browsing but still.
  • Christmas Markets may be overpriced and not quite the same as actually being in Germany but that doesn’t mean they’re not worth a visit, one of the best ways to feel festive.
  • Speaking of festive, I have decided there is no shame in buying an advent calendar for yourself, or asking someone to get one for you. Its the small things.
  • Food is a friend, especially in winter when you’re in layers rather than bikinis. Plan warm meals and spend time cooking with people.
  • I may not be middle aged but I’m loving Radio 2 (don’t laugh), I think because it reminds me of home, but its always nice to have on in the background. Or a podcast, I love The High Low and Pillow Talk (the fact I host the latter doesn’t change my opinion).
  • Facetime and phone the people you care about. It’s not the same as being with them but it helps.
  • Make plans. Whether its a coffee with a friend or what’s happening on New Years Eve, its good to have things to look forward to other than submitting an essay.

I hope that helps but if all else fails, whack on some Christmas music and whip out the mince pies, no judgement here.

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Instagram: @IndiaGarrett

Twitter: @IndiaGarrett

 

Summer

On Tuesday, my summer travels come to an end. I have spent the most unforgettable time in Greece, I’ve wandered for hours through Spain and have celebrated my family with them in the Channel Islands. I have no more holidays and no more exciting plans, just plenty of time to earn back all the money I’ve spent and scroll through the endless photos. However, in the meantime, and so that I can drag out the reminiscing for as long as possible, I thought I’d share a few things I’ve learnt from the past 6 weeks.

 

  • Wear sun cream, everyday, right up to the edge of your swimming costume.
  • Don’t spend 12 euros on a mojito, it’s really not worth it.
  • You’re not going to exercise everyday, that’s ok. In fact it’s ok not to exercise at all.
  • Make sure you eat 3 meals a day, especially when travelling with a male, they get particularly hangry. Might be worth bringing snacks.
  • Send a couple of postcards, it makes other people happy and doesn’t cost you much.
  • Do as much as you can but don’t be annoyed if you couldn’t manage everything you wanted.
  • Read.
  • Sleep.
  • Don’t drink too much wine at lunch, you feel sleepy and lose the afternoon and then feel guilty about it later.
  • Be flexible, plans might change but that’s not necessarily a bad thing.
  • Clean your feet before you get into bed, there’s nothing worse than sandy sheets.
  • Try and see the sunset everyday.IMG_1711 (1)
  • When buying aloe vera moisturiser to help with sunburn, make sure it is in fact moisturiser and not hair conditioner (easy mistake to make).
  • Don’t compare your holiday to other people’s, you’re lucky to be where you are and should be busy living your life, not looking at theirs.
  • Remember that people form opinions about you quickly in a shared villa, try and make sure they’re good ones.
  • Sneaking into hotel pools is easier than you’d think and a great way to spend the afternoon. Added bonus if it’s a DoubleTree Hilton, they give out free cookies.
  • Don’t forget bug spray and make sure you don’t run out of toothpaste.
  • Don’t underestimate the difference an iced coffee can make to your mood but don’t get addicted, they’re full of sugar.
  • If you’re going on a bike ride, make sure you won’t be cycling up any surprise mountains (I learnt that the hard way)
  • Always carry a deck of cards or uno.
  • Swim in the sea, 9 times out of 10 it is true when people say “It’s lovely once you’re in”.
  • It’s ok to take a bit of time for yourself if you’re feeling overwhelmed.
  • Chances are you won’t realise what a great time you’re having until it’s over, make sure you enjoy it while you’re there.

If you are yet to embark on your summer travels I am incredibly envious, I shall be here, trying to endure the heatwave and drinking copious amounts of Pimms which actually, now I think about it, doesn’t sound that bad at all.

 

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Twitter: @IndiaGarrett