Paradise island Bali: popular Kuta beach and cultural Ubud
I’ve finally arrived in the place many people call paradise. A popular honeymoon getaway for couples and lovers. However, it’s not all just about lovey dovey couples here in Bali. Before getting arrival, I had no idea that Bali was such a big island. I’ve always thought it was a rather small island with resorts and honeymoon suites but to my suprise, the island itself is pretty big and there’s actually more to do than just lie around on the beach.
One of the most popular tourist areas in Bali is Kuta. Because of its long broad Indian ocean beach-front, it’s been a popular stop on the classic backpacking route in South East Asia. It’s a major surfing paradise for beginners and veterans. This was also one of my goals of my trip. I wanted to learn how to surf and apparently Bali was a great place to start out with it’s easy waves and sandy beach. But more on that later.The infrastructure has really picked up the last couple of years apparently. It’s been turned into a really tourist area with a major commercial shopping street with tons of high end stores and not to mention the many surf shops. At night the area turns into a bubbling night life area with people from all over the world gathering and partying it up till early in the morning. Bali is a really popular destination for Aussies because of it’s location and excellent waves for surfing, so it might not be rare to bump into a bunch of obnoxious drunk Aussies. I think it’s best to come here with a small group seeing how there’s not that much culture and stuff to see by yourself in Kuta, it’s more about shopping and dining here and of course surfing. I met up with Matthieu, a French guy I met in Yogyakarta and who’s doing an internship on Bali and coincedentally is a surfer! I called him up and he offered to give me a few beginners surfing lessons so off we went to the beach! In the beginning it was quite hard to manage to get the timing right and to stand on the board itself, but with some patience and practice you can catch your first independent wave after a few tries. Please do note that I really advise you to get one of those rash guards and NOT surf topless. I did that mistake and ended up with really sore and bruised nipples after the first day! The next time I tried surfing again I bought one of those rash guards and practiced by myself on paddling and standing up and it went so much better! I really loved it so much that I ended up surfing for like 4-5 hours the second time around. But you’ve gotta be careful as well though when you try to take a bigger wave. I actually managed to break a surfboard on my second day and ended up coughing up about 50-60 USD for repairs. Really sucks. Sorry for lack of pictures, as I didn’t manage to take many since I was busy surfing…. Personally Kuta was nice to do some surfing, but I wasn’t really into the shopping and endless parties so I made my way to Ubud, the cultural heart of Bali.
Only a 45 minutes busride from the commercial Kuta area you can discover the cultural gem that is Ubud. It’s known for their arts and crafts and historical presence everywhere around the villages. It’s a lot less commercial and has a lot more local life. Ubud is easily walkable, but it’s also recommended to go around by bike to visit the outerlaying sites. Within walking distance you can visit several rice paddies and valleys which are really excellent for a stroll during the day. That’s exactly what me and Livia did the first day. We arrived around lunch time so had an afternoon to spare to explore the place.The next day we rented a bike to visit some of the other historical sites in the area. First we went to Goa Gajeh (Elephant Cave), which was nominated as a UNESCO world heritage site. The cave itself was pretty interesting, but nothing too spectacular though, it was a rather short visit. We did see some people preparing for some festival, so we found this area where a lot of old ladies were preparing cakes, baskets and other ceremonial stuff. Afterwards we went to visit Gunung Kawi and Tampaksiring. Little that we know that Gunung Kawi actually meant Poet Mountain. MOUNTAIN! WE WERE BIKING UP A FREAKING MOUNTAIN! Livia realised this after about 10km into the 18km we had to go. Really didn’t plan it out that well, but oh well… we eventually managed to get up there and visit the place which was actually pretty stunning. It was supposed to be a burial ground for one of the previous kings and his many wives. The structures are carved into the sides of a steep river valley, and the river crossed by twisting trees and vines. The good thing about all this was that afterwards we got to ride all the way downhill back to Ubud. Weeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeh! But sad part is that Livia had a flat tire so she couldn’t go all the way out on the downhill part. Once back, we went for a quick dip in the pool, oh yeah we shared a room and had a pool! And then went out for dinner and a massage after a long exhausting day. Another specialty you must try is the Babi Guling (spit-roasted pig), it’s world famous and served with rice and spiced veggies including offal and blood sausage. MUST TRY!