Bali Part 5 – Canggu

So here it is – after 3 weeks, the final post about my Bali trip.  If you follow my blog you’re probably sick of hearing about Bali, but perk up, I swear this last stop is worth a read.  So here it is, Canggu(pronounced like Chahn-goo), to continue from my last post about NOT making it to Gili T

We were all standing around in Padang Bai, trying to figure out how to salvage our day and travel plans.  In case you missed my last post, my friends and I had all been planning to simply go to the ferry port and quickly/cheaply jet off to Padang Bai.  Then we realized that there wasn’t actually anything worth spending our precious Bali time on in Padang Bai, and we should go somewhere else.  More like Padang BYE.

So I blurted out the first place to come to mind.  “CANGGU!”  I literally knew nothing about Canggu, I had just seen the name before and saw that it was only a 45-minute van ride from us, and off we went.  I turned not making it to Gili T into one of the best mistakes I’ve ever made.

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Our hostel pool.

Ohhh Canggu.  In my previous post on Ubud, I mentioned how I could see myself retiring in Ubud.  Well I could see myself living in Canggu now.  If my career as a digital nomad takes off or I win the lottery, I’m hopping on a plane and moving to Canggu.

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Canggu is the perfect blend of trendy western stores, restaurants, and Indonesian culture.  For lunch you can get a DANK sandwich (with avocado! This is a BIG DEAL in Asia), or you can walk 15 feet away to get served authentic food from a little Indonesian lady in a warung.  Home to the infamous Echo beach, Canggu is chock full of surfers and stylish expats.

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Homegirl serving up some DANK Padang.

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Even the street vendors are trendy- this guy was selling his homemade honey outside of an ATM.  Next to a gourmet supermarket that had a WINE section and a ton of cheese.  Completely unheard of in this neck of the woods.

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Upon arriving in Canggu after our little Gili T fiasco, we of course headed straight to the beach.  Lucky for us, we stumbled onto something else we love as well; a trendy little overpriced beach club, called Finn’s.  The place had a nice vibe, similar to beach clubs in Bangkok.  By that I mean good house music, overpriced cocktails, a couple overweight old white dudes, and an infinity pool; sub a beautiful beach for the usual polluted Bangkok skyline.  Initially our broke selves were drawn in because the waitress told my friend that for 200,000 rupiah total you get a table and 2 beer towers.  This was exciting, until our beer towers never came, and we realized that she in fact promised us “2 free towels.”  Made sense; it was definitely too classy of a joint to be serving up beer towers.

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I was so pumped when our nachos arrived…until I realized they put tomato sauce instead of salsa.  A recurring theme with western food in SE Asia is that they always ALMOST get it right.  THIS close.

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Nope, definitely not the type of place that has beer towers.

Canggu Nightlife

Nightlife in Canggu was THE BEST by far that we experienced in Bali.  Granted that Seminyak is supposed to have nice clubs, but we were too broke to make the trip.  Next time.  Canggu was cool in that even though it was a popular area, you didn’t really see many tourists.  It had a small town vibe, everywhere we went we saw the same group of grungy surfer expats.  So at all the bars, you literally were hopping from place to place with one huge group of surfers.

I was told by a couple of people that THE nights to go out in Canggu are Wednesdays and Sundays.  Everyone laughed at me, until(after I had left) my friends had a wild Sunday night.  So if you go to Canggu, go out on Wednesdays and Sundays.

Old Man’s

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Old Man’s is exactly what you picture when you think of surfer nightlife.  It’s kind of a semi-ratty-but-still-trendy little outdoor joint, complete with walls painted to look like they belong in a Pac-Sun store.

The really interesting part came after Old Man’s closed at 12.  Everyone headed to the beach.  And by beach I mean a two litte bars on the beach, Favela and Sandbar.  You literally had to wait to go until the tide was down so that you could walk across the sand to get there; it doesn’t get much more Bali than that.

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This was the SICKEST bar I HAVE EVER been to.  It was a bar that literally had a huge skateboarding rink in it.  Apart from a dancefloor, everyone in the bar was lined up around the edge of this skate rink, and guys would take turns trying to impress everyone.  We actually got so close to the action that some guy went up for an Ollie and smashed my friends’ beer bottle.  It was that type of bar.

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Something I loved about going out in Bali – outside of every bar there are vendors selling AMAZING corn, complete with chili powder.  The finest drunk munchies I ever did see.

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So that was it really, Canggu in a nutshell.  All we really did was go to the beach and go to cool beach bars.  But it was absolutely amazing, and the town is definitely worth seeing.

And so the Bali chronicles draw to a close.  My next stop for my month off of school to travel was Malaysia, via an 6:00AM flight.  So I did what any responsible young adult would do; I went out with my friends, danced on the beach until 2:30AM, grabbed a motorbike taxi back to my hostel where my hired car was waiting (100,000 rupiah), and headed off on a 40-minute drive to the airport in Denpasar.  It actually felt like something out of a movie- jetting from the dancing on the beach past rice paddies on the back of a motorbike with a cab driver named Ketut, saltwater hair billowing in the wind.  Off to Kuala Lumpur.

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Bali Part 4 – How NOT to Get to Gili T

Happy black Wednesday!!!  Especially sad to not be home during the holidays, I’m a festive human being and I live for stupid things like baking an absurd amount of cookies and listening to Christmas music 3 months a year.  PS I started listening to Christmas music 3 weeks ago, if you were wondering.

For Thanksgiving this year my friends & I are trying to host a huge Thanksgiving at an airbnb in Bangkok, wish us luck!  I also treated myself to a little Black Friday shopping at Chatuchak Weekend market in Bangkok last weekend.  The deals are better; and the clothes are cuter, I want to do a post on it at some point.  Just to illustrate my point this weekend I bought a jumpsuit, a bottle of perfume, a 2 piece skirt/crop top matching set, a new pair of shades, and some string lights, and it altogether only set me back about $30US.  I love Thailand.

Sometimes when you travel, it’s better not to plan ahead, and to just take things as they come.  This is especially true when backpacking Southeast Asia, when there’s no financial benefit to booking ahead of time, a lot of accommodations don’t even exist online, you find your best travel information from other backpackers, and your plans tend to change at the drop of a hat.

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Epic pano of the struggle morning that’s about to ensue.  Breathe if you’re hungover.

For example, check out my post on the passing of the King and the cancellation of Full Moon.  Yes, I still went to Koh Phagnan, but the people I originally planned to meet up ended up getting stuck up in central Thailand.  I also ended up taking an overnight ferry, and had I bought my ferry tickets ahead of time I would’ve been screwed.

Backpacker’s reference – book things on booking.com if you are going to book things ahead of time.  A lot of their listings require 0 deposit ahead of time, so if you change your mind it costs you nothing.

So in Bali, my friends & I went in with that kind of mentality.  Yes, we had an idea of where we wanted to go and what we wanted to do, but we didn’t pay for anything ahead of time, and we took everything as it came.  The only exception was Kawa Ijen, which we reserved on Air BNB, and even then we didn’t hand over any money ahead of time.  Even with our hostels we paid one night at a time, and extended our stay in the morning every day.  The only issue I’ve ever had with that is having to move rooms.

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Our hike we were leaving in beautiful Ijen.

That being said, we didn’t really plan anything after Ijen.  We just assumed that we would go back to Kuta, because we didn’t put any thought into it and that was close to the airport, and we had crossed all the hikes and temples we had wanted to see off our lists.  So we booked our transport from Gilimanuk(the Java ferry port on Bali) to take us to Kuta.

Sleep-deprived after our 1AM hike, halfway to Kuta we realized that we didn’t really want to go back to Kuta.  Yes, we had a fabulous time in Kuta, but (further explained in my Krazy in Kuta post) Kuta wasn’t anything super special.  It was like the Balinese version of every other Southeast Asia party destination.  So our first sleepy, groggy thought was to go to the Gili Trawagan.

Keep in mind, we hadn’t put any planning into this whatsoever.  We called ahead and realized that we wouldn’t make it to a ferry that night, so we decided to continue on to Kuta and catch the first ferry in the morning.nogilitstitch1

Left: The only picture I have from Captain Gross, ooooops I mean Goose.  For some reason free pancakes were a thing at every crappy hostel in Kuta.  And by free pancakes I mean make-your-own mediocre pancakes with whatever gross pancake mix had been sitting out in the heat for a couple days.
Right: One of many scary private-chartered transports we took throughout our Balinese trip.  I thought Thai driving was horrifying, and then I got to Indonesia.

So we crashed at a gross party hostel in Kuta for the night(Captain Goose, would 150% NOT recommend), complete with a green pool and overpriced rooms, woke up early, and headed off to Padang Bai, the alleged ferry port that would whisk us off to the mystical Gili Trawagan.  In my defense, Captain Goose slightly led us astray.  They offered some kind of package that included transport and a ferry ticket to Gili Trawagan.  We asked if we went to the ferry port in Padang Bai if we could get a ferry to Gili T, and without blinking an eye they said yes.  So we purchased transport straight to Padang Bai instead of going with the package we offered, because after doing a little research we thought we could do the transport to Gili T for cheaper than the 150,000 rupiah/person package they offered, seeing as a ferry ticket to Gili T from Padang Bai only cost 40,000 rupiah.  We were all feeling a tad broke at this point in the trip, so the thought of saving money got us all kinds of excited and probably slightly clouded our judgment.

That was the Achilles heel of the entire operation – you CANNOT go straight from Padang Bai to Gili T, unless you pay an absurd amount of money to charter your own private speedboat.  By absurd I mean 500,000 rupiah a person, which is $37US a person.  For Southeast Asia that’s like penthouse-level pricing.  I’ve also heard many horror stories of those speedboats tipping, so I wouldn’t recommend the speedboats.  Not that the ferries are much safer.

We woke up at 6AM, hopped into our hired car, and took a 30-minute drive on out to Padang Bai.  This was the first annoyance of the operation – the ferry wasn’t until 8AM, and the hostel had us convinced that we had to leave so early to avoid traffic.  Which was probably partially true, as traffic in Kuta is so horrifying that its borderline worth of a Stephen King novel, but I’m more convinced that they trolled us into booking our transport with them and their driver had another private pick-up at 7.  One of the things that I didn’t like about Kuta – it was a freaking minefield of tourist traps.

The second annoyance of the operation – our hired driver took us straight to a transport company, that was trying to sell us a private speedboat to Gili T.  The hired driver from our hostel.  Captain Goose, you’re pretty high on my shit list after this whole fiasco.  The transport company also tried to lie to us and say that there was no ferry available because it was low season, a fact that I knew was wrong after spending time on the phone with ferry companies during our drive from Gilimanuk to Kuta the night before.  Maybe I’m just getting cocky because I’ve been in Thailand for so long, but nothing pisses me off more than when people try to trick me into a tourist trap, as it’s insulting to my intelligence.

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Rice I bought from a street vendor at the ferry port, the only good thing to come out of Padang Bai.  In Indonesia, you can buy these little packets of rice and chicken and other goodness for only 5,000 Rupiah.   Although this woman charged me 10,000 because she saw that I was a foreigner.  You win some, you lose some.  Of course I had to buy unknown food from a random street vendor after getting food poisoning and complaining about how I need to stop being so cocky with spice and street food.  I’m my own worst enemy.

Status update on the crew at this point – everyone aside from myself had gone out the night before, despite being sleep-deprived after two back-to-back sunrise hikes.  I’m not weak I swear, I just was still on the road to recovery from food poisoning.  So our crew consisted of 7 people fighting a hangover and a sick imp, AKA me.  More accurately it was probably 3 people that were still drunk, 4 people fighting a hangover, and a sick imp.  And it was 6:30 in the morning.  Recipe for disaster and I haven’t even gotten into the meat of it.

Thailand is freaking wonderful.  Yes, I’m biased, but the 54% return rate of tourists backs this statement.  Whenever you miss a ferry to an island, you can barter at the dock with random Thai guys to charter a private speedboat to any island that you wish.  We made the mistake of assuming that this would also hold true in Indonesia, which was not the case.  I mentioned above that they charge about 500,000 rupiah a person for private transport, and the furthest that anyone waivered from that number was 400,000.

At the ferry port, we learned that the ferry didn’t go to Gili T, it went to Lombok and Gili T.  Indonesia is a country that consists of thousands of islands, so why we thought that you could obviously hop from Bali to Gili T in one fell swoop is beyond me.  If you take anything away from this post take that – you CANNOT go straight from Bali to Gili T.  You have to go to Lombok first, a neighboring island that’s supposed to be very nice as well.

I was the first one from our crew that had to catch a flight out of Bali.  So, it was at this point in the operation at which I put my foot down.  I wasn’t spending a ton of rupiah and an even bigger ton of my time(proportionally speaking) to get to Gili T and only be there for 24 hours.  One of my friends had decided to stay behind in Kuta with an Indonesian boy(closer to the airport), so I figured if anything I could go back and meet up with her.  But then another friend realized they also had a flight coming up soon and wanted to stay.  And then the domino effect happened; everyone decided that staying on the mainland of Bali would be a better idea.  But, as discussed in a paragraph above, we didn’t really want to go back to Kuta, as there was so much of Bali to see.

At this point in the trip we were in Padang Bai.  Padang Bai – the middle of freaking nowhere.  People only really go to Padang Bai to get on the ferry to Lombok, so we didn’t want to waste our time there.  While we were all sitting at breakfast dying, I blurted out the first city name that had been listed on our Bali-planning Google doc “Canggu!”  Given that no one was in a position to do any critical thinking that point and decide otherwise, we decided that Canggu was the next stop in our Balinese crusade, and we decided to bargain with one of the horrid transport companies near the pier to get there.  I’ve mentioned this in earlier posts but in Bali there’s not much public transport, the best way to get from place to place is by hiring a private car.  It’s also very affordable, especially when traveling with a large group.

Being that it was low season, and we were a large group of walking dollar signs – oops I mean people – several guys from the transport companies had been circling us the entire time.  You know in dramatic cartoons when someone’s about to die, for example in the Lion King, and vultures start circling?  That’s what it was like.  We were ignoring them, but they literally followed us from place to place.  Some of them were even waiting outside the little restaurant we had hidden in to eat breakfast.

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My breakfast, AKA 30,000 Rupiah for over-priced mango juice from said breakfast place and 10,000 Rupiah rice that I snuck in from outside after seeing our waitress eating her own with her hands(standard in Indonesia) in the corner.  This is Nasi Ayam, or chicken rice (Nasi = rice, Ayam = chicken), and in the back you can see sambal sauce.

I was sensible enough to realize that our large group was drawing unwanted attention, so I left the hungover kiddies eating their breakfast, grabbed my intimidating friend Brad, and went off to barter for another private transport.  And just like that, our pumpkin turned back into a horse-drawn carriage, and we were off to one of my favorite places in Bali, Canggu.

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The promised land coming up, AKA Canggu.

TO BE CONTINUED

Bali Part 3 – Temple Run in Ubud

Happy Monday!  As I mentioned in my previous Bali post, Ubud was one of my favorite places in Bali.  When I retire in about 45 years, I could definitely see myself living there long-term.  Ubud was a great mix of culture and chill, health food/spa treatment/yoga/vacation-y things.  As for the culture aspect, my travel companions & I rented motorbikes and spent about 2 days running around around & seeing a couple different temples.  Hindu temples in Bali were really cool, definitely different from the Buddhist temples I’ve grown used to seeing in Thailand.  So here’s a short review of the temples we visited.

Goa Gajah

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The standard “can you take this so I can send it to my mom” pose.

Goa Gajah means “elephant cave,” and you’ve probably seen pictures of this if you’ve looked at Bali on Pinterest at all.  The cave is part of a small complex with pretty bathing pools and other religious structures.  It costs 15,000 rupiah for the entrance fee, and they provide you with a sarong to wrap around your waist.  Something interesting about temples in Bali is that women are actually prohibited from entering if they’re on their period, not that anyone asks.

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Goa Gajah also is pretty aside from the elephant cave.  There’s pretty little gardens that you can walk around in.  They’re so lush and green that they look like they belong in a Lord of the Rings movie.

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This temple was conveniently located about 10 minutes from our hostel, right in the heart of Ubud.

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Pura Ulun Danu Bratan

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With regards to this temple and the next temple listed, I’d recommend hiring a car to take you around for a day to see them.  Driving up to Pura Ulun Danu Bratan was especially treacherous, and even in the backseat of a motorbike I was on the verge of an anxiety attack.  You literally have to drive up a small mountain, and people in Indonesia drive insane.  Plus, it was about a 40-minute drive from our hostel, which is a long time to be sitting on a hard motorbike seat.

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This temple was absolutely gorgeous; despite the rainy weather we ran into.  It’s at the top of a mountain perched on a lake, and being such it’s actually kind of cold for Bali.  Its dedicated to a Hindu water goddess, and apparently the land its near is supposed to be very fertile from the lake.  This makes sense, as driving up the mountain we saw various strawberry and other fruit farms.

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Pura Tirta Empul

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This temple is also a water temple, but of a different kind.  It’s famous for it’s Hindu healing bath, that allegedly has holy spring water, where people go for ritual purification.  We saw both tourists and locals alike getting cleansed in the water.  For a mere 40,000 rupiah(includes sarong rental), you too can get cleansed.

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Personally, I chose not to get into the bath, as I was tired and food poisoning was starting to hit me at this point in Bali.  However, I was able to get awesome pictures of my friends getting purified.  They had to raise their hands to each spout, bath in it, and also drink from it.

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On our 40-minute ride back from Pura Tirta Empul, disaster struck.  And by disaster I mean rainy season came in hot with a full-blown cats & dogs thunderstorm, of course while we were out on little country roads with no cafes/restaurants/touristy places to hide in.  After 10 minutes of hiding in a little shack thing, we did manage to find a tiny little warung (traditional Indonesian restaurant), and had some of the best food that we had in Indonesia.  It was Padang, an Indonesian style of eating where you’re served rice,  pick what you want to go with it, and pay per item.  I got some kind of full-fish that was cooked, a hard boiled egg tomato thing, and eggplant, and it was all fantastic.  It made getting stuck in a thunderstorm in the middle of nowhere almost worth it.

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Bali Part 2 – Ubud

The Bali Chronicles continue.  After a crazy few days in Kuta, my friends & I hired 2 cars via Grab Taxi to take us about 2 hours(including rain and traffic) to Ubud.

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Ubud gained its tourist fame from it’s appearance in the book/movie Eat, Pray, Love.  It’s where Julia Roberts’ character goes to talk to the medicine man, Ketut.  The Ketut from the book is a real person, and you can go hang out with him, although we didn’t feel the need to do so on this trip.

Fun fact: everyone in Bali is named either Ketut, Made, Wayan, or Nyoman.  This is something within Indonesia that is unique to Bali.  It has to do with the order they are born in, instead of having surnames.  And they all go by them; every Balinese person I met was either Ketut, Made, Wayan, or Nyoman, regardless of gender.

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Ubud is like a more mature version of what you think of when you think stereotypical Bali, minus the beaches.  It’s tied with Canggu for my favorite place in Bali, and while I couldn’t see myself living there now because of the lack of nightlife, I could definitely see myself retiring in Ubud.  Nightlife isn’t very big in Ubud, due to the strong Hindu influence, and most of this small city is quiet by 9PM.

Ubud is full of quiet, full of beautiful Balinese architecture, and constantly has this wonderful smell of sandlewood and incense from the little banana leaf offerings that are left outside of every building.  There’s also great coffee, fantastic yoga, and a plethora of different trendy healthy vegan and vegetarian-friendly restaurants.  Not to mention, some amazing coffee shops.  Ubud is a good home base for seeing different famous temples and rice terraces, and it’s where you can do a sunrise hike up Mt. Batur.

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Lagas Hostel

I cannot recommend this hostel enough.  They had a really nice pool, comfy beds, awesome free breakfast that was more than just toast(what you often get in SE Asia when hostels offer free “breakfast”), and the staff that worked there was super friendly.  The hostel was really helpful in arranging transport, we were able to rent motorbikes at the hostel, and the Indonesian food they served was awesome.  It was also a great place to hang out and drink Bintang by the pool every night when nightlife wasn’t really a thing.

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Day 1

Ubud Art Market

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Note “Chicago Bul” with one “l.”

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For our first full day in Ubud(we arrived late at night), we rented motorbikes from our hostel and set out to see the art market and a few temples.  The market was pretty standard as far as markets go.  They had your usual mix of elephant pants, spices, jewelry with the Hindu Hand of Fatima, and pottery.  I bought curry powder and a “Namaste” symbol necklace, 15,000 Rupiah for the spice and 40,000 Rupiah for the necklace.

Tegenungan Waterfall

What’s more Bali than a waterfall in the jungle?  After shopping, we headed off to rocky Tegenungan Waterfall to cool off.

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We loved the marketing on this sign, “good toilet.”

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Day 2

Temple hopping at Pura Ulun Danu Bratan and Pura Tirta Empul, check out my upcoming post for details!

Day 3

Intuitive Flow Yoga

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Of course, being in Ubud, we had to do yoga.  I periodically get into yoga when I’m home in the states, particularly hot yoga, so I was pretty pumped about this.  Although like I said before, food poisoning was starting to creep into my trip at this point, so getting through a 1 hour class was a struggle.

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We researched ahead of time and signed up for a flow yoga class at Intuitive Flow Yoga.  It was a small class, which is always nice, our instructor was super nice, and the view from the practice room was breathtaking.  Located on the side of a hill, it gave a great view of lush green Ubud and some of the pretty surrounding Hindu-influenced buildings.

Ubud Monkey Forest

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This one I sat out of, because I was slightly dying at this point.  Not to sound like I’m above it, but monkeys are one of those things that are only cool the first, second, and MAYBE the third time you see them.  After that they’re kind of irritating, and actually pretty vicious.  This is especially true in touristy areas, where they have no qualms about running up to you and stealing things right out of your hand.  They also bite, and if you get bit it’s recommended that you do rabies shots.  So as I was feeling under the weather, I sat this one out, saved 40,000 rupiah, and still someone managed to get harassed by the beasts while I was minding my own business outside of the forest.  One even decided to hang out on my head for a few minutes, until an Indonesian guy took it off for me, as I was concerned about getting peed on.

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OMW 2 steal ur gurl

Tegaling Rice Terraces

The rice terraces were also absolutely breathtaking.  We saw them at the end of a long day, so we didn’t hike down into them, but it was really cool to be able to see people working the rice terraces, and we went around sunset so it was really pretty.  Although it was very touristy; tons of souvenir shops and restaurants surrounded the entrances to the otherwise tranquil terraces.

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Kopi Luwak

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“Kopi” means “coffee” in Balinese; Kopi Luwak is the most expensive coffee in the world, coming from the poop of a Luwak cat.  Yes, I paid to drink jungle cat shit.  Luwaks eat cherries that have the beans in them, poop them out, and then some poor Indonesian person gets paid to pick through their poop and find them.  It’s supposed to make the coffee have a better taste, whether this is true or not I don’t know, although it was VERY good coffee.  A cup of Luwak coffee that would cost around $30 in NYC cost 50,000 rupiah (less than $4), and came with a tasting of different teas/coffees that were from Indonesia.  One of my favorite things about Indonesia by far was the readily available coffee and tea, especially coming from Thailand where they put Carnation in every beverage and consider powdered espresso to be coffee.

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If you plan on sampling Kopi Luwak when visiting Bali, make sure you research the place you’re visiting first.  A lot of them treat the Luwak cats unethically, and force them to eat and poop at an alarming speed.  We chose to visit Bali Pulina, which ethically treats their cats and had a really nice view of rice terraces.

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Day 4

Mt. Batur

Confession: I didn’t actually make it to the Mt. Batur hike.  By this point in the trip my food poisoning was in full swing, and I could barely get out of bed, much less for a 1:30AM hike.

The point of hiking Mt. Batur so early is that it’s supposed to offer a really pretty sunrise over a neighboring volcano.  While I didn’t go myself, my friend went and took pictures on my phone so I would have them.  There’s a lot of discussion online about whether or not you need to book a tour group and a guide to do this hike, and you 110% do not.  The mountain is super close to central Ubud, it was only about a 20-30 minute ride from our hostel.  You can arrange your own private transport ahead of time, and it’s so packed with tourists that it’s impossible to lose sight of the trail.  It’s more of a rocky climb than an uphill climb, unlike my hike at Kawa Ijen.  Of couse, this is all second hand information from my friends, as I was too busy dying in bed to attend.  They said it was gorgeous though, definitely worth waking up so early.

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After everyone returned from the hike, we all scarfed down Nasi Goreng and Gado Gado(Indonesian food that will be explained further in a later post), and hopped in our hired cars to drive 5 hours up to the ferry port to Java, for our next adventure at Kawa Ijen.

So there you have it.  4 nights and 5 days in Ubud.  We originally didn’t plan on spending so much time there, but we loved Ubud so much that we had to extend our time.  Even with 5 days, we were constantly busy, running from temple to temple.  I easily could’ve spent a few more days relaxing in Ubud, exploring the downtown area, doing yoga, and trying out the different trendy health food places.  It’ll just have to wait until I eventually go back.

Hindu Ceremony at Uluwatu Temple, Kuta, Bali – Photo Blog

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If you read my previous post, Krazy in Kuta, you’ll know that I, ironically enough, wasn’t too crazy about Kuta.  Like I explained earlier, it was fun, it served it’s purpose, but there wasn’t anything super interesting from a cultural perspective, nothing that it made it unique from any other party destination in Southeast Asia.  However, one “cultural” thing that we did in Kuta was take a short trip to see Uluwatu Temple.

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Getting around Bali is kind of a pain.  Public busses/transit aren’t really a thing(or at least I couldn’t find them) so my group of friends and I(8 people at this point, making it cheap) hired a van to take us there.  I can’t remember the exact numbers, but I believe it came out to around 60,0000 rupiah each, or about $4-$5US.  Uluwatu, while it’s technically located in Kuta, still took us about 45 minutes-an hour to get there from the main tourist area where we were staying.  And it wasn’t through peaceful, pretty roads past rice paddies – it was up hills and around winding bends.  Not exactly fun when you’re in a packed car with no aircon.

But, per usual, the temple was worth it.  Uluwatu is known for being the cliff-hanging temple in Bali, located on the edge of a pretty limestone peninsula.  Apparently this part of the island used to be pretty deserted by tourists, until surfers drew attention to it recently.  The entrance fee to the temple was about 40,000 rupiah(about $3US), and they provided sarongs for you to wear inside the temple(many temples won’t let you in or will require you to cover up if your pants are too short).  I didn’t have to cover my shoulders, however, and I was wearing a tank top.

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The classic “hey can you snap this pic real quick so I can send it to my mom/prove I was actually here” shot, ft. aforementioned tank top & sarong.

The temple itself was of course, crawling with tourists, but it was really pretty.  The cliff it was located on was covered with flowers, and there were pretty little banana-leaf and flower-incense hindu offerings everywhere.  We got lucky with our timing – when we arrived to the temple there was actually a hindu ceremony happening.  I’m not sure which holiday it was, but there were a ton of Balinese people there dressed in traditional clothing, and drummers hammering out traditional music.  The rest of this post is pictures of the ceremony, enjoy.

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The pretty banana-leaf offerings we saw all around Bali.

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After the temple, we hit up neighboring Sultan beach.  It wasn’t the prettiest beach in Bali, but the cliffs were pretty.

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Pictured above: Bintang & homegirl who I finally purchased my first sarong from.  I never realized how much I needed a sarong until I finally bought one in Bali – it serves as a beach towel, temple cover-up, overnight-bus blanket, AND towel for when you have no room in your backpack to bring one.  Worth all 50,000 rupiah that I paid.

More Bali chronicles to come!

 

Bali Part 1 – Krazy in Kuta

Happy November!  Wow how time flies, I can’t believe that I’ve already been in Asia for almost 5 months.  I finally had a chance to travel out of the country during my October break recently, and was lucky enough to start it off with 10 days in Bali.  And I already can’t wait to go back.

Bali.  Even just the word sounds exotic.  This beautiful island in Indonesia was just the first stop of my month-long charade of pretending to be a backpacker.  And it was by far the best place I’ve been besides Thailand, in fact actually a close competitor with Thailand, and I could easily imagine myself living there for a few years.

While many people know that Bali is some exotic dream destination that seems to only exist in the land of wedding blogs and Instagram models, if you’re like myself you don’t really know where it is.  It’s an island in Indonesia, one of thousands, and holds the honor of being the last Hindu island in Indonesia.  The currency of Bali is the rupiah, the people speak Balinese, and the island is known for beautiful beaches, world-class surfing, and yoga.

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When my friend Freddy & I landed at the airport in Denpasar, it literally felt like a dream.  Probably because I was sleep-deprived after cramming 4 girls into 1 full-sized bed at a friend’s apartment in Nana(Bangkok), but it was still magical.  Even the airport had beautiful Balinese architecture, and(even if it was just for tourists) there were people everywhere wearing the traditional Balinese sarongs and head wraps.  I was FINALLY on vacation.

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The airport and it’s gorgeous architecture.

A large group of friends were joining us in Bali, all on separate flights(teacher problems), so we spent our first few nights in Kuta, which is about a 20-minute cab ride from the airport in neighboring Denpasar.  Note – in Bali there are people trying to rip off foreigners left and right(per usual), and you should only take verified Blue Bird cabs.  Blue Bird is a cab company that requires that it’s drivers use meters, and is identifiable by the Twitter-like bird on the top of the car.  Although to be honest transportation in Bail is pretty rough all around.  Public transit doesn’t really exist, and traffic in Kuta/Seminyak is hell.  Since we were traveling with a group of 9 we usually hired cars to take us around, which was the most affordable way to do things, but would’ve been pricey with a small group.

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Even the entryway to our hostel was gorgeous – Balinese architecture was everywhere.  We stayed at TZ party hostel, which had 2 awesome pools and a great location, but I wouldn’t recommend.  It was pretty dead the entire time we were there, the owner was weird, the “free breakfast” advertised was pancakes that you make yourself, and it definitely was not a party hostel.

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Little details from around the city.  The Balinese architecture is EVERYWHERE.  There are also little Hindu shrines everywhere.  Someone told us that the black and white colors on the shrines represent balance between good and evil.

Ahhhh Kuta.  The armpit of Bali.  Don’t get me wrong, I thoroughly enjoyed my time in Kuta, but it was rank with cheesy tourism and tacky spring-breaker-type bars, complete with plywood and stripper poles.  Even the beaches were ehhh.  They were overcrowded, and you couldn’t take 3 steps without someone walking up to you to try to sell you surfing lessons or give you a pedicure.  Unless one of those women were able to pull a hot foot bath and a massage chair out of their backpacks, there was no way that I was letting a stranger play with my feet while I was trying to tan.  I pity all the poor foreigners I saw flopping around on the dry beach in front of hundreds of people for the “surfing lesson” they paid for.

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The entryway to Kuta beach, and our first Bintangs(Balinese beer) of the trip.

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Kuta is also known for being the site of the infamous Bali bombings in 2002.  A terrorist group decided to target popular tourist areas, and killed over 200 people.  I found an article from BBC that explains it in-depth here.  Apparently they were actually targeting Americans, which is ironic because Bali is more of an Australian vacation spot, due to the fact that it’s only a few short hours away.  There was a big memorial to the people that died in the bombings near our hostel.

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The memorial to the people that died in the bombings, and a Balinese woman walking on the street.  For some reason it’s a Balinese thing to balance random stuff on your head, I’m not really sure the reasoning, but it’s impressive.

So what did we do in Kuta?  Exactly what people do in Kuta.  We soaked up the sun, sucked down our first few Bintang beers, enjoyed Indonesian coffee(!!!) and sampled the local nightlife.

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Not that Kuta is the most dangerous place that I’ve visited, but it’s definitely the place where I’ve experienced the most travel-incidents.  By travel-incident I mean random scams that you read about on blogs that never actually happen to you.  Well this time they did happen, not to me but to the people I was traveling with.

So what happened in Kuta?  We were heavily warned not to take our phones out to the club with us by the people that worked at our hostel.  Even when we were getting post-club pizza the guys at the pizza counter told us “watch your bag.”  So these weren’t freak occurrences, they must be regular in Kuta.

  1. My friend had her phone pick-pocketed right out of her purse when leaving the bar on her first night in Kuta.
  2. On my first night in Kuta, I was thirsting for kebab(do I miss Europe?), so my friend Calli and I made a turn off the main road to go literally 20 FEET to a kebab place.  When we were about 5 feet off the main road we were suddenly surrounded by 10 Balinese guys.  They didn’t get aggressive, I think it was just a scare/distraction tactic.  Then I turned around and one of them had Calli’s purse IN HIS HANDS and was trying to take it.  Thank god it was a cross body, both of us immediately started yelling at them and they scattered.  But it was definitely a close call.
  3. Someone staying at our hostel brought a girl home(thinking she was a normal random Balinese girl), and in the morning she woke up and said to him “2 million rupiah.”  He refused to pay, and she started freaking out and screaming.  The police had to be called to remove her from the premises.
  4. (Disclaimer: this was actually 10 minutes away in neighboring Seminyak) The beaches in Bali can be pretty rough, which is what makes them so great for surfing.  My friend Anna got caught in a rip tide and started getting pulled underwater repeatedly.  Luckily 2 Balinese guys spotted her, immediately grabbed their boards, and swam out to save her.  It was a rough current, I’m really not surprised.
  5. My friends went to exchange money at a place that had good rates for American dollars(almost too good to be true) while I was exchanging money at a legitimate Central Kuta with my friend.  I insisted on staying at Central Kuta, they went to this other place in a convenience store, and they ended up getting ripped off.  I don’t remember the numbers exactly but the man exchanging money was chatting with them to try and distract them, and ended up slipping a couple bills out of their pile(easy to do with Auber-inflated currency).

But Kuta wasn’t all bad.  We had some laughs, mostly at infamous Paddy’s Pub(actually one of the locations of the 2002 bombings) and Skygarden, the largest club in Kuta, where everyone ends up at least one of the nights they’re there.  We mostly just beached and hung out, we even found a fun little bar to hang out at during the day that had a pool.  While I don’t remember the exact name of our little pool bar, here’s a great list of restaurants and bars that have pools in Bali.

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For some reason some of the touristy bars served their drinks in these nasty sippy-cup looking things.  10/10 WOULD NOT recommend.

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Because when you see smurfs in a bar, why wouldn’t you take a picture with them?

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Late night pizza & Balinese dancers on stilts.  Being a touristy area, there’s an absurd amount of western food in Kuta.  Ironically, where the pizza is located on the main strip is where a lot of people get pick-pocketed.  They literally bait you with pizza.  Genius.

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Confession(pictured above) – one night we actually paid 100,000 rupiah(about $8) for an unlimited food & booze dinner at Skygarden, the club mentioned above.  It was super touristy, but still a good time.  Although I must say eating dinner in a club is one of the strangest things I’ve ever experienced.

We spent one day at neighboring Seminyak beach.  Seminyak is like the slightly-less-grimy more expensive version of Kuta, but is still just as touristy.  However, the beaches were WAY prettier.  And there were tons of restaurants on the beach that had pretty umbrellas, a great place to get drinks and watch the sunset.

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The food pictured is gad-gado, Indonesian salad made of steamed vegetables and served with peanut sauce.  SO good.

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We even experienced our first round of AMAZING Indonesian food in Kuta at Warung Indonesia, which you have to check out if you head to Kuta, especially considering the heavy amount of western food and the lack of authentic Indonesian.

Indonesian food is extremely underrated, in my opinion it actually might be level with Thai food in terms of tastiness.  It’s the same concept as Thai food, meaning it’s mostly everything over rice, but it’s absolutely wonderful.  They eat an extremely spicy sauce with everything called samba, and I miss it dearly.  A “warung” is like an Indonesian food stall restaurant, if that makes sense.  So basically it’s a little hole in the wall with authentic food.  They have a style of food called “padang” where you’re given rice, and then you pick out what you want buffet-style and pay per item.  The padang at Warung Indonesia had awesome stuff like tuna curry, eggplant, and tempeh that will blow your mind.  Tempeh is like the chunky peanut butter version of tofu, it has more whole soy beans in it, and it’s absolutely wonderful.  I’ll talk more about amazing Indonesian food in another post.

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Padang in Kuta, recognizeable by the stacked plates with different Indonesian dishes.

So that was it, our first 3 nights in Kuta.  If you head to Kuta make sure you watch out for pickpocketing, especially on the main strip at night.  Also make sure to be careful at the beach, and only exchange money at legitimate places.  I’m usually one to roll my eyes and say “I’m not an idiot” at tourist warnings, but Kuta is the one place I’d actually listen to them.

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Rainy Paddy’s on our way out of Kuta.

Blue Flames & 1AM Volcano Hikes – Java, Indonesia

Happy Halloween!  Halloween is by far one of my favorite holidays and I’m super sad to be missing it this year.  I’m THAT annoying crafty girl that plans her costume months in advance & basically buys out half of hobby lobby, all for the sake of attempting a clever costume.

I seriously considered splurging on a Thai school uniform and rolling up to school dressed like one of my students, but then I realized that my American co-workers and I would be the only ones that understood it, and the students/Thai teachers would probably think I’m even weirder than they do already.  Oh well, there’s always next year.  Thanks to my wonderful mother I at least get to munch on candy corn this year, after receiving a care package from her a couple days ago.  But tragically that’s as festive as it’s getting.

On another note, back to the chronicles of my October break from school.  During the first part of my month pretending to be a backpacker, I spent 10 days in Indonesia.  While most of this was spent in Bali, my friends and I made one 24-hour detour 7 hours Northwest of beachy Bali to Java, Indonesia; another island.

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Java is one of the largest islands in Indonesia, home to the capital Jakarta.  Where we were was quite a 180 from touristy Bali – the second we stepped onto the ferry to get from Bali to Java everyone was staring.  Having been in a state of recovery from a round of food poisoning, I immediately found a corner to hide in and put my hood up.  However, my friends who were walking around on the outer decks had numerous people ask to take pictures with them, especially my blonde friends.  It was quite different from western-saturated Bali.

Now why did we drive 7 hours away from Ubud to spend less than 24 hours there, before making another 7 hour trek back?  Kawah Ijen.

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Kawah Ijen is an active volcano, complete with a beautiful turquoise-colored acid crater lake.  The volcano is known for a blue fire created by sulfuric gas given off by the acid lake.  Kawah Ijen is also the location of a working sulfur mine, the lifeblood of the economy in that area.

How the sulfur mine works is that the miners are paid per kilo of sulfur chunks that they pull out of the crater.  While it is considered good pay for the cost of living in the area, the miners make around $6 USD per day, while exposing their bodies to sulphuric fumes and hiking up and down a volcano every day just to make that money.  We wore gas masks when we were near the exposed sulfur and we were there for an hour.  They don’t wear gas masks and they work there every day.

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Gas mask fun featuring Freddy, Brad, and delirious post-food-poisoning no-sleep no-makeup snapchat selfies.

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Our trip to the top of Kawah Ijen began when we landed at the ferry port in Banyuwangi.  We arranged a lovely homestay at Edy Mickey’s homestay on airbnb.  There were 9 of us traveling altogether, and we were able to arrange transportation to and from the ferry to his house in a rural village, transport to and from the volcano when we wanted to hike, and we were able to rent flashlights/gas masks from the homestay.  Edy himself was a miner at the mountain once, which was awesome when we had any questions about the hike.

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When we arrived in the village where the homestay was, it was like something out of a movie.  All the local people were waiting to see the westerners come, and the men were dressed in the traditional Indonesian sarongs and head wraps.  It was extremely rural, like we drove over the river and through the woods and past a bunch of rice paddies to get there.

The homestay itself was exactly how it sounds, it was a house where we each got to share two to a normal bedroom.  The décor was hilarious – there were portraits of children that had clearly been dressed up in traditional Indonesian clothes just for their portrait.  Kind of creepy, but also hilarious.

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My personal hike began at 11:45AM, one FREAKING hour before my alarm was set to go off, when I woke up and had to run to the bathroom 4 times to throw up.  Shout-out to food poisoning for making my misery possible.  I almost had to back out of the hike, but after having to skip a morning hike in Ubud up Mt. Batur I forced myself to suck it up.  And I’m beyond happy that I did.

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The view from Batur that I missed because I was too busy dying.  Oh well, I guess I just have to go back to Ubud!

At 12:45AM, we all grumpily rolled out of bed and hopped into the waiting hired cars to go to the volcano.  You have to wake up super early to hike Kawah Ijen so that you get to see the blue flames coming out of the sulfur, so most people start around 1AM.  After a miserable half-an-hour drive up to the volcano, I was on the verge of jumping ship, when our hired driver drove away.

Maybe it’s just because I was sick?  But the hike was freaking hard.  It was cold at that time of the morning, and we couldn’t really see anything because we were walking up an ashy dirt trail.  The hike was also mostly straight up uphill walking, as opposed to my preferred hiking of rocks and roots.  It was fabulous for my butt, poisonous for my ego.

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On the way up, people kept offering us “taxi rides.” up to the top.    I was super tempted to give in to my illness and take one, when I realized that they weren’t actual taxis, they were miners joking around with us and hauling they’re carts for removing sulfur up to the top of the mountain.  How these people were able to be so lighthearted when they had to trek up and down a volcano for $6 is extremely impressive.

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After about an hour and a half, we finally reached the top of the volcano.  At this point it was still dark, and we could see the blue flames from the top.  Then we trekked about 20 minutes down into the crater to see the blue flames up close.  The entire time the poor miners were dodging around us tourists, all while carrying massive chunks of sulfur.  I’ve never felt more unathletic in my life than when I was huffing and puffing next to a tiny little Indonesian man who was carry probably half his weight in sulfur chunks.

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The little white/purple light towards the middle is the blue flames.

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Then we scampered up the mountain to catch a little bit of the sunrise.  I don’t know if it was the elevation or the adrenaline, or if I was just too tired to feel anything, but hiking that volcano basically cured my food poisoning.  The view at the top was definitely worth it.

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The miners sell little carvings that they’ve made out of sulfur to tourists that hike up the mountain.  While normally I roll my eyes at people who try to sell me trinkets in tourist destinations(often they don’t get the money or are being forced to work by some criminal organization), I was informed that the money went straight into the pockets of the miners, and the carvings were something that they just sold on the side.  So I bought a little turtle.

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After basically stumbling back down the volcano, we headed back to our homestay.  When we rolled in at 7AM Edy’s wife had homemade Indonesian food and hot tea waiting for us, which will probably go down as one of the best breakfasts I’ve ever had.

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Ijen squad!  I didn’t hop in the pic because I was too busy playing photographer, regrets.

Then we all packed our bags and headed 7 hours back to Kuta, Bali chronicles…

TO BE CONTINUED