Be sure to check out our photos from Bali. Hover over the photos tab until the drop down menu appears, then click on Indonesia.
An artist at an art collaborative in Ubud
On our last day in Bali, we took a day trip to Ubud, a town known for its artists. Ubud is about an hour and a half drive north of Nusa Dua.
We discovered that the best way to travel around Bali is to hire a driver for a day. Everyone in Bali seems to have an uncle or brother who can provide transportation. Our driver, Ketut Suputra, was referred to us by his nephew, the driver who took us to the Odysseys Surf School. Hiring Ketut for the day only cost us about US$35. It's incredible how cheap transportation is in Bali!
Ketut was a great driver and tour guide. He was born and raised in Bali and knows the island well. I have his contact number for anyone who is thinking about visiting Bali - just let me know if you need it!
Along the drive to Ubud, we passed through areas that appeared to specialize in different types of art. Ketut explained that each village in Ubud produces a unique form of art. First, we saw many stores that had enormous stone carvings - they were huge elaborate statues that you might see in front of buildings. Next, we saw stores with enormous wood statues that were beautifully carved with fine details. Finally, we saw stores with beautiful paintings. Ketut took us to an art collaborative that featured paintings by local artists. Although the paintings weren't my style, they were very beautiful. We weren't allowed to take photos of the paintings, so unfortunately I can't share them here. But I did have a chance to grab a photo of one of the artists hard at work.
Next, Ketut took us to the center of Ubud where we explored the Ubud Market. Half of the market was under renovation, but the remaining half was still an expansive space full of market stalls selling touristy trinkets. Although most of the goods were cheap junk, I was impressed by the quality of the Balinese silk and discovered some really pretty scarves.
After the Ubud Market, Joe and I wandered around the streets of Ubud. The streets are very narrow, packed with spas, restaurants, shops and guest houses (small hotels). The entrances to the guest houses are ornate and beautiful (see the photo below) and left me wondering what the accommodations look like. I wish we had had more time to stay the night at one of them.
Rice fields along our walk
After exploring the town, Joe and I ventured to a restaurant called Sari Organik Warung Bodag Maliah. This is a must-do for anyone who plans to visit Bali! The restaurant is about a 15-minute walk away from town and the trek is beautiful. We walked along a narrow foot path through beautiful, green rice fields. It was picturesque and great to see an undeveloped, natural aspect of Asia, away from the hustle and bustle of tourists.
Sari Organik is a small, family-owned restaurant right in the middle of a rice field. The building is basically a big open air deck and most of the food cooked at the restaurant is grown/raised on site. Everything is fresh and delicious! We shared a meal of a mango smoothie, guacamole, Balinese chicken satay and nasi goreng (Indonesian fried rice). What's more, is that the entire meal only cost about US$18! I couldn't believe that a big meal like this at a beautiful farm would be so cheap!
Lunch at Sari Organik was a great way to end our trip to Bali. Overall, Bali is my favorite place that we've traveled to so far, and I hope we're able to visit again someday!
Attempting to surf in Kuta, Bali
Before going to Bali, I researched many different options for excursions and tours. I came across one girl's blog that detailed the fun she had taking a surf lesson. I decided to go out on a more adventurous limb than usual, and signed Joe and I up for surfing. When in Bali, do as the Balinese do... right?
Bali is known for its great surfing conditions, and the town of Kuta is very popular with surfers. Kuta is about a 25 minute drive north of Nusa Dua... although the ride can take up to an hour because the traffic is terrible and there is only one road from Nusa Dua to Kuta.
Joe was really good at surfing
I chose to sign us up with the Odysseys Surf School because of the great reviews I read online. The surf package was really inexpensive. At $45 per person, the school provided transportation to and from our hotel, all of our surf gear/clothing, a 2.5 hour private lesson, bottled water and a decent shower facility. It was totally worth the experience!
Surfing is VERY DIFFICULT and our surf instructor Gary was very patient with us. Joe got the hang of things pretty quickly and was able to surf on his own. He had some great rides on the waves.
Gary laughs as I fall down
Me on the other hand... let's just say I needed some extra help. I could not, for the life of me, keep my surfboard perpendicular to the waves in order to surf on my own. Gary had to be my "training wheels" and hold my surfboard until a wave would come so I could have a fighting chance at standing up.
Despite falling a million times, getting hit by my own surfboard as I toppled over, and swallowing mouthfuls of disgusting sea water, I have to admit that the experience was very exhilarating. It was worth it for the few times I was actually able to stand up and ride the waves. Joe and I have promised ourselves that we will try surfing again in the future... maybe Hawaii next time?
Photo with Gary after our lesson
While I highly recommend surfing for anyone who visits Bali, be aware that you might not be able to walk or move your body the next day! :) I consider myself to be a pretty fit person, so it was comical that I could hardly breathe the next day (my ribs were extremely sore!).
Our daybed on Nusa Dua beach
Joe and I had a fabulous trip to Bali. It was a relaxing, adventurous, and overall awesome vacation! We stayed at the Westin Resort Nusa Dua. Nusa Dua is a gated community in Bali that's known for being a quiet, family-friendly area. The beaches in Nusa Dua are really pretty with warm, crystal clear water.
Our first day in Bali was quite lazy. We hung out on a daybed by the beach, dozing, reading, and enjoying the ocean. The Westin is an awesome resort with great food and service. I highly recommend it to anyone who is thinking about visiting Bali.
Although Bali is beautiful, the most striking thing about the island is the people. The Balinese people are some of the friendliest and most peaceful people I have ever met in my life. Their smiles are incredibly warm, welcoming and genuine! I was struck by how positive the Balinese are, despite the fact that they are very poor. One of the locals we interacted with said he had never been outside of Bali because it is too expensive for him to travel, but that he is just thankful to be alive and well. It's a sobering experience to see how people in poorer countries live and makes me appreciate my life even more than I already do. I'm going to make a conscious effort to be as positive as the Balinese any time I face an obstacle in the future!
Stay tuned for the next posting... day two was a little more adventurous. Joe and I tried surfing for the first time!
I walked up to a frozen yogurt stand and asked for mango yogurt and sprinkles. The lady at the counter looked at me with a confused expression on her face. So, I pointed to the sprinkles... and when I looked down at them, I realized they are called color rice here in Singapore. Lesson learned. Sprinkles = Color Rice
Despite the fact that many countries in Southeast Asia have gorgeous beaches, Singapore's beaches are not the greatest. They are manmade (the sand is imported from Indonesia) and the water is not blue or clear (you can actually see huge ships in the distance and I imagine they pollute the water). However, my first visit to a Singapore beach was quite fun.
Today, I went to Tanjong Beach on Sentosa Island with my friend Nina (Nina is from Germany and works for BASF). Sentosa is Singapore's playground - aside from beaches, the island has a Universal Studios theme park, a casino and several resorts.
Tanjong Beach is supposed to be one of Singapore's prettiest beaches. Since my expectations weren't that high (I had read and heard about the quality of Singapore's beaches before my visit), it lived up to its reputation. Nina and I hung out at the Tanjong Beach Club, a restaurant/bar with a pool and lounging areas. The mini resort was relaxing and fun, and the food was delicious! The ambiance at the club almost made me feel like I was not in Singapore. It's amazing to think that the beach is only about a 15-minute taxi ride away from our home right in the middle of the hustle and bustle on Orchard Road.
The highlight of the visit was the fact that I made a new friend - Sam the wiener dog. Sam's owner had fallen asleep beside us, and when he couldn't get her attention, he unexpectedly leapt onto our daybed for a belly rub :)
It's surprising how new opportunities can pop up out of nowhere. I visited the Canadian Education College here in Singapore to pay for my Mandarin Chinese course (I'm excited for this to start!), and the program coordinator mentioned that I had an easy-to-understand American accent. So, out of the blue, she asked me if I would like to be an English tutor for the school. My first private lesson begins tomorrow, and I'll also step in as a substitute teacher on Wednesday for a class of 11 students.
I am excited about this new opportunity :)
While in Clark Quay, we got to see the Ministry of Information, Communications and the Arts building - it's across the street from restaurant row. No real story to tell here - just wanted to post this picture because it's a pretty building. Want to know more about the building? Click here for info.
Best mango margarita in the world
Who would have thought that Singapore would be the place where I would find the best mango margarita I've ever had? Certainly not me... but that was the case this weekend.
Joe and I had an intense craving for mexican food, so we visited Cafe Iguana at Clark Quay. The food was surprisingly delicious, although it was far more expensive than mexican food in the US. A burrito here costs S$25!