The ferry from Java to Bali was only one hour, but I could’ve sworn we arrived in India. Sketchy men tried to scam us at the bus station, Hindu sculptures protected villages on the side of the road, and the bus driver stopped near a shrine on the side of the road for a woman to bless the vehicle (complete with a splashing of holy water).
Our incredibly long day that started with Ijen ended in Sanur, where we celebrated Gabriella’s birthday in style by staying in a hotel room with hot water AND a/c!! We spent her birthday walking down the beach, enjoying the sites of our new destination, and indulging in her birthday wishes (i.e. gelato and coconuts). Sanur is more of a posh tourist destination for those with families (and money), but in the style of Balinese culture. There are designer shops down the streets and every restaurant had prices similar to those back home; quite a shock after Sumatra and Java.
After the two-night birthday-splurge, we headed north to Lovina, another beach town. Its charm mostly comes from its unique black sand made from volcanic ash.
We rented a motorbike for two days and explored along the northern coast. We visited traditional Balinese temples (one overrun by monkeys), bathed with dragons at Air Banjar hot springs, hiked through fields of vanilla and clove to Git Git waterfall, and took a refreshing dip at the Air Senih fresh water spring. The traffic was annoying, but the sites were amazing. Balinese architecture is unlike anything else we had seen in Sumatra or Java and the offerings of flowers, rice, and incense in a banana leaf basket brought a whole new cultural experience.
On our last day in Lovina, we gave in to the touts and booked a sunrise trip to go see the dolphins. Everyone tries to sell the trip to all the tourists, and at $6.25 it’s kind of hard to pass up. We were picked up at 5:45am by our “captain” and hopped into a canoe with a motor. The sun began rising behind the mountains as our boat puttered away from the coast. Sure enough, there were about 20 other boats on the water with the same intentions of spotting dolphins in the early morning light. It didn’t take long though to see whole families (err…schools? packs? herds?) of dolphins jumping out of the water in unison. The boats veered left and right to try to anticipate the best view for their customers. At first, I wasn’t too psyched about waking up at 5am to go chase dolphins, but it was truly magical experience to see so many swimming together. After 30 minutes though, it just felt like chasing dolphins again and I felt bad for polluting their territory so we could snap a photo.
From Lovina, we went 2 hours south to Ubud, the cultural capital of Bali. It was here that we met up with our Kahumana friend Ben (aka Holo)! We worked together on the farm in Hawaii and he lives in Germany now. He decided to spend his two-week vacation from work with us in Indonesia!
Our first day, we walked through the hillside and terraced rice fields, allowing him to decompress from the stress of a full-time job (what’s that like?!). Then, we rented motorbikes again and drove north to south across the eastern part of Bali. It was great to just cruise, but we also stopped to admire the beauty of Mount Batur, with the adjacent Lake Batur, and the oldest temple in Bali, Besakih, where we learned how to make a Hindu prayer with the offerings. At night, we attended a traditional Balinese music and dance performance, complete with gamelan orchestra. The costumes were amazing and the music was so intricately composed.
Ubud was a decent place, but it is becoming overrun with tourism and losing the Balinese charm that attracted people here in the first place. There are way too many people trying to make a living off of tourism and the salespeople can quickly become irritating. It’s impossible to walk down the street without someone shouting at you to have a look in their shop, get a massage, rent a motorbike, or take a taxi. But it’s their livelihood and the desperation is apparent. Fortunately, we moved further east to the Gili Islands next, where there are no cars, no clocks, and no worries.