Bali: A True Adventure

During my first trip to Bali in November of 2017, I always felt like I had unfinished business there. Although I only spent 5 days in Bali, getting a big stomach bug cut what we saw short. Almost a year later, I decided that my girlfriend and I should return back to Bali to explore the areas we previously didn’t explore.

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The trip already started off on a high as when we were landing we saw one of the many volcanoes that Bali has to offer from the plane. On our arrival, we planned to stay one night Kuta as we really wanted to get to Ubud as quickly as possible. We stayed at Angkul Beach Inn Hotel, which was located right in the centre of Kuta Square. However, this wasn’t the best hotel as the cleanliness could have been a lot better. Nevertheless, it was only for one night, it was cheap and had breakfast included.

The next morning we woke up early and took a grab to Ubud. We were going to rent a scooter from Kuta as we had to eventually return back here to get our flight home. However, we decided that riding for two hours with our backpacks wouldn’t have been the most comfy. (Side note: It did probably cost us around £50 more over the entire trip as we didn’t hire a bike from Kuta, but we decided we wanted comfort over budgeting).

After around a 45 minute taxi drive we arrived on the outskirts of Ubud at our Hotel, Casa D’ Sami. Although the only downside was that it didn’t have air conditioning which was surprisingly not an issue, it was a really clean and a nice hotel. As soon as we checked in, we hired a bike for 50k Indonesian Rupiah and set about exploring Ubud. First we drove about 4 km to Ubud centre where we stopped to eat. We ate at a restaurant called Buddha bowel which served phenomenal Asian food.

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After eating, we drove the short trip to the Monkey Forest Sanctuary which was an incredible experience, if not terrifying. You can spend as long as you want here and the tickets are 50k each. Just be careful you don’t end up becoming one of the unlucky few where a monkey jumps on you and won’t jump back off. Saying that, the monkeys have obviously become comfortable around humans and do usually just sit around or play with themselves. It is quite incredible how close you can get to take a picture without them seeming to care. Obviously, it goes without saying, do be considerate of the sanctuaries rules.

From here, we went to Campuhan Ridge where we walked through the rice fields and the surrounding mountains. We got to witness an incredible sunset as well as some stunning scenery! What’s best about the Ridge walk is that it’s completely free!

Although we were in Bali, we had come across a Mexican restaurant (Taco Casa) which was absolutely rammed all day from the moment it opened. We decided for dinner we would eat here and wow it didn’t disappoint! After visiting Mexico earlier this year and falling in love with the food, I would never have expected for a restaurant in Bali to live up to the standard of food I had in Mexico – But it did! As you can imagine, the food is more expensive here than eating traditional Balinese food, but if you can afford to splurge a little then make this one of your places to eat.  When we eventually got back to the hotel, it was around midnight and we decided to go for a late night swim at the hotel’s pool.

After again eating our free breakfast, we checked out and headed to our new hotel in the centre of Ubud. The plan was to base ourselves here and then travel up to the north of Bali and visit its many waterfalls and volcanoes. Unfortunately, the place that we stayed (Alam Terrace) was fully booked for the day after our stay. Therefore, we could only stay one night here which meant we had to move to a new hotel again. However, I would definitely recommend this hotel as its quite simply stunning. The rooms are amazing and the pool is sublime.  

Before arriving at Alam Terrace we still had our bike from Casa D’ Sami, and we drove to Tegenungan waterfall. Although it wasn’t the best waterfall that we visited in Bali it was still a stunning waterfall and one that should be high up on your list. What is also convenient about this waterfall is its accessibility. Other waterfalls such as NungNung require a 2 hour drive just to get there.

When we did arrive at our hotel, we decided to just have a chill day where we relaxed and ordered room service. The hotel served incredibly cheap food, which was some of the cheapest we saw in Bali and also some of the best.

The next day we moved to our new hotel which was next door (Tenah Semaujan) and we set off early as possible as we knew we would have a long day ahead. Firstly, we visited the rice terraces just north of Ubud which had awesome views and also areas where you could go on massive swings. Do be warned that it is incredibly humid and hot walking through the rice terraces. After we had finished admiring the views,  we made the long drive north to Mount Batur national park where you have to pay an entry fee to get in (around 32k). Although we wanted to climb Mount Batur, we knew the mafia had taken it over and therefore charge you a ridiculous amount to climb. We felt that it wasn’t worth the price and decided that we would just admire it from a far. We did drive down to the lake area which was really nice although there’s not much to do there. We finished our day with again, another long drive to NungNung waterfall which was probably the best waterfall I have ever seen! My girlfriend had previously visited Bali before and said that this is one of the must do things to see, and she wasn’t wrong. As you can see from the pictures below, the waterfall is just simply awesome!

Our last day in Ubud saw us moving hotels again (Indira Cottages). As we didn’t have much planned we had a chill start to the day just trying different Balinese foods. We then decided that we would go and visit the Ulun Danu temple which is in the north of Bali. Ulun Danu temple is far away from Ubud (around a 1.5hour drive) but is a really cool temple to visit. The temple is “floating” on water and is in the midst of an incredible mountain range! The only problem with the temple is its location. Although there are some great views to admire on the drive north from Ubud, there isn’t much to see around the area. Therefore, if you are planning to come visit the temple then I’d suggest setting off early so you can go and see other things throughout the day before they close.

Sadly, we then decided to leave Ubud and go check out Uluwatu. Again, as I was ill the first time I came, we never really got to visit Uluwatu that much and I really wanted to go back. We stayed at an amazing hotel called Seno Guesthouse & Cafe for two days and I wish we had more time to have extended our stay. Uluwatu is a place that I could have stayed, like Ubud, for a lot longer than we did. During our stay in Uluwatu we chilled by the hotel pool whilst also visiting Dreamland Beach and surfed.

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We did contemplate diving as we are both licensed divers, however, Sita previously burst her eardrum whilst diving and it still causes her problems every now and then.  Therefore, we didn’t want to take the risk of it causing her problems for the remaining time we had left. As we wasn’t going to dive we made the most of our time chilling by the pool, the beach and surfing.

Beyond any doubt, my favourite moment in Bali was watching the sunset at Uluwatu sunset point. The place is just crazy! Sunset point has a bar with loads of fellow travellers just enjoying a beer whilst relaxing in beanbags watching the sun go down. Being able to experience that moment with my girlfriend was really nice and one I won’t forget any time soon. At the time I didn’t think anything would trump NungNung waterfall but I can’t recommend sunset point enough! During our last night in Uluwatu, we visited Single Fin Bar, which has some amazing views overlooking the sea. Even at night time the place is buzzing and offers great food. Although as you can imagine, with a view like that, it is more expensive than your typical restaurant.

Unfortunately, as we were running out of time, we had to cut our stay in Uluwatu short. We headed to Legion as we wanted to be close to the airport as our flight was in the middle of the morning. We stayed at Si Doi Hotel, which was decent although it had a power cut for the first night (although they did give us a 25% discount on our stay). In the Legion/Kuta area there is a lot more to do/see. There’s markets, shopping centres and just normal day to day stuff. If you do visit the beach I personally prefer Legion beach to Kuta beach just as its less packed and a lot cleaner.

Ubud and Uluwatu are definitely in the top 5 places that I have visited. Both places had just a great but different buzz about them. Ubud seemed more for the busy traveller, the one that wants to go out and explore all the different things Bali has to offer. Whereas, Uluwatu was more for the chill traveller, where you surf and watch the sunset go down with a beer. The only disappointing thing about them both is that we couldn’t stay longer. I make the point again, watching the sunset at Sunset point was just incredible and anyone who visits Bali should definitely visit this place!
View the rest of our Bali pictures here

Phnom Penh: Cambodia’s Old City

After spending the last 9 days in Malaysia, we flew out from KL and arrived in Phnom Penh. As we arrived in the late afternoon we decided to just walk around our hostel and sample some Cambodian food. Our first experiences of Asia were Hong Kong and Malaysia which are much different to Cambodia. Like Hong Kong, where it felt everyone had somewhere to go, Phnom Penh was just so busy. It was a bit of a culture shock as we learned as soon as we got out of the airport the roads were mental!

Before expanding on our trip to Cambodia, we would just like to point out that Cambodian food is incredible. Although most of our posts have raved about the food, (and deservedly so) we really did appreciate the Cambodian food. Not only the food, but the culture and people are incredible. Everyone is so friendly, and really make you feel welcome. You hear a lot of scare stories as Cambodia is a relatively poor country compared to other SEA countries, but we always felt safe and welcomed where ever we went.

For our first proper day, we relaxed and took things nice and slow. As we had scheduled to have a lot of time in Phnom Penh we didn’t feel the need to rush things. Although we spent way too much time in Phnom Penh (one of the many mistakes we have learned from), there were still lots for us to see and get involved with. We started our trip by just walking around the city and getting a feel for Phnom Penh. In other words, we just wanted to chill whilst still enjoying our time. As is very common in Cambodia, we were soon stopped by so many different Tuk-Tuk drivers asking us if we wanted a tour of X, Y, and Z. Some people may be put off by this constant nagging, but just remember your business is how they make a living and feed their families, and usually, the Tuk-Tuk drivers were very friendly. After a bit of persuasion, we decided to take a Tuk-Tuk city tour around the city, in which we saw the old city and the newly built part. During our trip, we stopped at many attractions, like the war monument, many Buddhists temples, and the Grand Palace. Although our day was pretty ‘tame’ compared to our whole Asia experience, for once it was nice to chill and just take in the city. The breeze you get in the back of a Tuk-Tuk is always very welcome!

During our second day, we decided to again go by Tuk-Tuk and experience Phnom Penh. During the day we visited Monkey temple, where we got to hand feed some bananas to the monkeys there. One little monkey wasn’t allowed to be fed as the big monkey, unfortunately, get very territorial over the bananas. After we visited a temple in the shape of a boat, a quite strange temple, and you shouldn’t be surprised to hear that it’s called Boat temple. This was included in the package we negotiated down, but if it wasn’t we wouldn’t recommend. The temple is nothing special and not worth going out of your way in our opinion. An activity we did enjoy was visiting Silk Island and its surrounding temples. Having to get a ferry boat over, we first visited a family’s house to see the weaving process. It looks quite a difficult task, and if you like you can purchase a pure silk scarf, tablecloth or other garments at a much lower price than you would get it at home. We then went to a more ‘industrial’ place (although not like you would see at home) where they made silk on a slightly larger scale. We got to see the silkworms here and learned more about how the silk was actually produced. There are a few other attractions at the site, such as a few (caged) animals. One of our highlights of our day was sitting on a big swing chair and just looking over the river and listening to our tour guide tell us about his life, and experience with the Khmer Rouge. Although we had to leave just before seeing a good sunset, it was a really enjoyable way to end our trip to silk island. We made one more stop off at the so-called Golden Temple. Again, the name literally explains what it is, a golden temple. However, unlike the Boat Temple, we really enjoyed walking around all the golden temples and buddhas. It had a lot more to offer and a lot more to see. Throughout our trip to Asia thus far, we had been trying local cuisine wherever we went. However, we decided to go and eat some western food at a burger place close to our hostel. The place called ‘Cousins’ was a French-owned restaurant and it served amazing food. The burgers were some of the best we have ever had, and we didn’t think we would be saying that in Cambodia.

The next day involved a bike tour that we had booked before leaving for Asia. The tour group consisted of us, two Australian guys, and our tour guide.  After cycling for a couple of hours, we reached our first destination, another silk weaving family. Here we tried some locally grown fruit: rambutans, mangosteens and dragon fruits. I have to say that these tasted delicious. After we had eaten we set off again and stopped at a local primary school where the kids suddenly became more interested in us than they did their studies. This was great fun as every child wanted a hug and a high five. The Cambodian children almost made you feel like you were a celebrity, and this was another fitting example of the welcoming feeling you got from the place. Finally, we ended our 5hour cycle tour seeing some temples and being blessed by a monk. We found this very interesting and enjoyed the experience as we had never been blessed by a Buddhist monk before.

On day 4, we met up with a friend that we had met in Malaysia. After having a catch-up and breakfast together, we decided to visit the Royal Palace and the National Museum and not do much else. The Royal Palace was a great piece of architecture, but it seemed a bit pricey for what you get to do. You are not allowed to walk inside the actual palace, which for us really killed the buzz. Nevertheless, the National Museum was very interesting and had hundreds and hundreds of artifacts spanning back over 1000 years. The Museum was a time warp into Cambodian culture and history and is worth taking a look.  Most of you will be happy to know that beer is incredibly cheap in Cambodia. With beer only being 50 cents during happy hour, we decided to have a little bit of a night out for the first time since arriving in Phnom Penh. We eventually stopped at an Irish bar at the end of our pub crawl and watch Wimbledon, where Nadal lost in nearly a 5-hour match. Safe to say one of us wasn’t happy the match went on too long.

Even though we went out the night before, we got up early so we could visit Tuol Sleng Prison (S21) and Cheoung Ek Killing Fields. As someone who is immensely interested in history and politics, learning about the genocide in Cambodia really frustrated me.  In the West, we don’t get taught about it, either at all or in any kind of depth. It’s hard to believe that the atrocities committed here by the Khmer Rouge happened only 40 years ago, and the places both feel so surreal. Almost all the local people of Cambodia have been affected by and lost family members to the evil deeds of the Polpot Regime. It made us reflect just how lucky we are that not only are we able to live in a free country, but were able to visit Cambodia and learn about the culture, history and the remarkable progress it has made since. One of the policies of the Khmer Rouge was to execute any educated people to prevent possible uprisings, and it is thought by many that this is a large part of the causation of Cambodia’s poverty-stricken situation. Comparable only to places such as Auschwitz, if you visit the country you really must visit these places to be able to take into consideration the scale of the nefariousness of the Khmer Rouge.

On our final day in Phnom Penh, we decided to make it all about the markets. The Central Market in the daytime is huge and is so easy to get lost in (trust us, we did). We must have walked down the same aisle thinking it was a different one over 5 times. As someone who doesn’t have a massive interest in markets, I had to say I really did enjoy this one. In fact, both of us did! With clothes being so cheap, we decided to buy a few tops each as we wanted something that would fit the climate and also stop the constant “Tuk-Tuk?” calls. Obviously, we opted for the ‘No Tuk-Tuk T-shirt’ each, and you’ll be surprised to hear that they didn’t work.

All in all, although we agreed that we spent far too long in Phnom Penh and could have done everything in a much smaller time frame, we did thoroughly enjoy our stay. The people really did make us feel welcome, especially our Hostel, the Sla Boutique which we can recommend. We would defiantly recommend visiting Phnom Penh so you can visit S21 and the Killing Fields, but we wouldn’t stay there as long if we went back. Again, it comes down to not pre-booking your travel arrangements, as we would have left for Siem Reap a couple of days earlier if we hadn’t already paid for the bus and hostel.

View the rest of our Cambodia pictures here