Bali – Time to rest and plan for South East Asia

We arrived in Bali thoroughly exhausted after a pretty eventful two weeks. Whilst normally Christmas and New Year is simply a time to indulge in rich and favourite foods whilst drinking far too much and seeing lots of friends this year it was a little different. We still drank too much and ate too much but it was a bit more exhausting physically and mentally as we travelled back and forth. Luckily Jen, as always, had done plenty of research and had found us a really nice place to stay a short distance away (30p taxi ride) from what is the manic town and hustle of Kuta. With a nice big bed, air conditioning and affordable minibar we were at liberty to stay in our room and gather our strength whilst planning ahead to what looks to be an awesome few months ahead. We booked flights, researched hostels, sorted out visas and generally tried to research where we were going in South East Asia and in particular Myanmar.  We booked our hotels and flights in and out and now can’t wait to see all the places we have only seen on the internet. We did still have time in our stay in Bali to enjoy the place itself and to get a good feel for at least the Southern part of the Island. Staying in the tourist Mecca that is Kuta was eye-opening and a long way from paradise visions we had of Bali before we arrived. Kuta seems to be a cross between the Costa Del Sol, Magaluf and Zante (never been to any of these but still) for Australians. It was a real shame because on our tour around the island with a local guide who had moved down south from the quieter north we started to understand a bit more about the difficult transition that Bali is going through. It has its own very strong religious culture with three main temples in every village and every family then having their own “home” temple and a small one where they currently live. Families pay large amounts of money to support their temple and for religious ceremonies that take place throughout the year helping to maintain traditional Balinese culture.

If it's good enough for Becks
Moss-covered temple garden

Unfortunately this is being eroded and you can see the neglect that many temples are showing. More and more people are coming over from neighbouring Java and because they are often better educated are taking the jobs and then not putting any money back into the community because they have no roots and different religious beliefs. This combined with the worst sides of western influence are creating a strange place where temples vie with McDonald’s and bars with dancers in cages. Hopefully, the Balinese can maintain their culture and preserve their artistic skills because some of the artwork on display is absolutely amazing. Whether it is in the brilliant wood sculpting that adorns almost every traditional house, or the Batik dyeing process that creates incredible fabric and designs or the stone carvings, glass blowing, painting and more their skills are very traditional and exceptionally beautiful and it would be a shame to lose them.

Once a home this is now an "art" gallery aimed exclusively at tourists
Here's looking at you gorgeous

We also experienced some of the truly amazing Balinese sunsets that paint the sky in reds, oranges and yellows as the sun disappears over the horizon. We enjoyed one of these at Tanah Lot which is a beautiful temple built into rock that now is out at sea due to the cliff path leading to the temple being eroded over the centuries. It was a magical place at sunset and was a great ending to our day trip around the island. Well, almost ending. On the way back we stared out of the window in wonder as the sunset reflected off the flooded rice paddies over and over.

Pretty good setup for a temple
Taken from one of the ubiquitous beachfront bars/clubs

We almost succeeded in not mentioning food at all in this blog post but we have to point out Jen’s incredible Pina Colada and the smorgasbord of delights we had at Poppies restaurant. Served in rijsttafel style of the old Dutch East Indies we tasted about 12 lovely dishes in a beautiful garden setting. Well worth a meal whilst in Kuta as it is peaceful and quiet and a great respite from the chaos. Also if you are looking for another venue there was a great Japanese place (called Kori) we ate at down one of the lanes in very tranquil surroundings with terrapins and coi swimming about lazily.

Mildly terrifying, totally delicious

We had a great time in Bali but for us it was largely a stepping stone to South East Asia and with Jen’s sister Sally and her boyfriend Dan joining us in Ho Chi Minh City we were both looking forward perhaps a bit too much to really enjoy Bali to its full. It would be great to come back and see a bit more of Bali and Indonesia. Perhaps in one of the long summer holidays ahead. We are now in Asia where football is everywhere and still Arsenal are top of the league! Also there were monkeys:

Monkey on a temple wall in the Monkey Jungle