In 2017 I took it upon myself to travel somewhere new and doing it solo. It was amazing! (Apart from the ridiculously long airport layovers which were over 20 hours in total.) I touched ground in Bali, Indonesia around 8pm at night. It was humid, it was warm and it smelt like adventure. I had a driver take my luggage and transport me to my little hotel - tucked deep into the busy streets of Kuta.
I finally arrived after a 40 minute drive and was welcomed with fresh juice and escorted up three flights of teeny tiny stairs to my room. Using it as an equipment charging base - and free wifi point, I made it my mission to be up and in the streets at 5am every morning. There's really only one good reason for this... less people! (During the day the streets of Kuta gets flooded with tourists, shop owners and market stalls.) I met a friendly Anjing (Indonesian word for 'dog') along the way; got to track my area and become familiar with all the streets and landmarks that was around me.
This little Indonesian jungle stole a huge chunk of my heart. The community here are a lively bunch, the streets were green and there were loads of rice fields, spaces, scooters and animals AKA Athena heaven <3 I visited the sacred monkey forest in Ubud and sipped Chai Tea at an intimate little deli just outside my hotel most nights. Fresh dragon fruit became my spirit animal during this expedition and I quickly got over my fear of driving on bikes and scooters - especially with strangers. I made lots of friends with the locals and learnt a couple of Indonesian phrases which always helps when you are trying to find your way (and can't read a map - joke. But really).
If you want to live life on the edge then try and take an Uber around these parts. Instead of supporting expensively outsourced transport for tourists I decided to rather invest in the local community and arrange an Uber from Ubud to Sanur. I needed to get to the Coast if I was going to island hop to Nusa Lembongan. At that stage there were only 3 listed Uber drivers in the whole of Ubud. One of the drivers agreed to pick me up but not somewhere 'so public'. He asked me to walk two streets down, memorize his number plate and just hop in the car when comes driving by. Now I know this sounds like the beginning of an award winning horror movie but I promise you everything went smooth AF. There's loads of tension in the transport community in Bali currently and Uber drivers (being less expensive than the 'touristy' taxi's) are being watched and threatened. I also learnt about the religious practices of the area, festivals, public holidays and their meanings and, of course, their vegetation. They were also colonized by the Dutch and also call a room a 'kamer'. Lekker!
Sanur was a busy area and I arrived late morning after my drive down from Ubud. I arranged for a boat to take me over to Nusa and made my way to the beach front. We were a group of about 40 passengers getting on board. You have to walk quite a bit into the shallow water to get to the boat and climb up into it so they had everyone take off their shoes, chucked them into one crate and started loaded the boat. I got myself a lovely window seat and 30 mins later we approached the beautiful Nusa Lembongan. When it got shallow enough we could jump out and walk through the crystal clear turquoise water up unto the shore of this beautiful island. Little beachfront restaurants and chalets ruled the coastal line here. During my trip I had made friends with a Spaniard who had already made his way to Nusa and was waiting with a scooter to pick me up. The most beautiful scene was going over the yellow bridge that interconnects the mini islands around Nusa Lembongan.
Two days later there were big reports on the volcano on the island being active. Everyone around the mountain had started evacuating and were on high alert. I made my way back to Kuta, checked in for my flight and slowly started greeting this beautiful paradise. Every now and again I light some of my Balinese incense and take a trip down memory lane to the busy busy streets of Kuta, my playlist and earphones, the smells of Asian foods and the delight sights of White & Yellow Frangipani flowers; everywhere.
Ah Bali. You will see me again, promise - terima kasih