Friday, December 28, 2012

Ubud - part 1


We arrived in Ubud on the 22nd December and stepped off the plane to the most humid air either of us have ever felt. From this point forward I have been permanently sweaty and have been trying to be as creative as possible with my frizzy out-of-control hair. It now resides in a plait but any alternative hair style suggestions are welcome.

Thankfully our driver had air conditioning in his car which made the 1.5hr journey to Ubud fly by. Almost every piece of the road en route had a shop front outside - these shops sell one of a few things: Stone carvings, wooden doors, paintings or food. The number of stone carving stores seemed excessive until we were informed about the Balinese family compound. Each extended family lives in a compound - which is basically a walled area, with 4 - 5 small buildings around a family temple. That's right - each family has their own temple - which accounts for a large number of these stone carvings, as these compounds are pretty ornate.

We spent our first three nights in Bali at Swasti Eco Cottages - this place is just amazing. We walked in and felt the tranquility instantly. We were brought welcome drinks of 'mixed juice' - which is everywhere, and which we now believe to be solely watermelon juice.

  Our deck at our bungalow

Swasti have a wide variety of animals on site including: goats, rabbits, frogs, bats in the trees, chickens, geese and a very noisy rooster.

At night the sounds of the insects and the animals combined throughout the night and the early morning took a bit of getting used to - the cicadas sound so much like a vacuum cleaner that Alex and I had a disagreement about what the sound actually was - to the point he went to investigate and ask the staff where the vacuum cleaner noise was coming from. Needless to say I won this bet - not a vacuum cleaner in sight at this place.

Our first night at Swasti also proved to be quite entertaining as we attended the 'special Balinese dinner' - all vegetarian food (to Alex's disgust) and ended with an awkward 40 minutes of each staff member being introduced (all 18 present on the night) and then each member doing their own unique dance. The man in charge of room service did a Balinese dance to the guitarists rendition of Metallica whilst the other staff members clapped around him. At various points throughout the evening we had been called up to dance with them, so by this point we had our heads down wondering when we would ever be able to depart. The ratio of staff to guests by this point was at about 4 staff to each guest.

We spent our first day in Ubud exploring on a scooter. I am usually a bit adverse to high speeds on these vehicles, especially given the close proximity of large trucks and other automobiles on the roads. However, in Bali this method of transport creates the only wind/breeze possible - which for two sweaty New Zealanders like ourselves, is a godsend. Almost every second eating place in Ubud provides organic and delicious food so we have eaten like kings since we've been here!

On our second day we had booked into the Bali Eco Cycling tour - a whole day spent traveling through the Ubud countryside on mountain bike. Our fellow tour companions were quite hilarious - including one old-ish lady from Sweden who is a yoga teacher, and had no time for the Australian woman who asked one ridiculous question after the other.

We visited a Coffee Luwak plantation on the way - it is quite an odd concept, but the animals 'Luwak' - which are similar to cats, but look more vicious - eat the Red Coffee Cherry which grows in bali and then later poo out the coffee beans amongst the rest of their droppings. Apparently the locals collect the poo from around the forest and dry it out and then collect the beans, but I have read differently elsewhere and suspect these animals are farmed for this purpose as the beans are worth a lot.

Once the coffee beans have been filtered from the rest of the cat's poo - they are cleaned and processed. The beans are a lot lighter than normal coffee beans, and the coffee tastes a lot thicker than your normal brew - but very smooth.

Below are a few snaps from the Bicycle tour

Our guide for the day - Yeoman - I initally thought he said 'Yo Man' at the start of the day.

Here he is showing us the Luwak beans before they have been roasted - did you know there are female and male beans?! Yeoman thinks the male beans taste stronger, as males are stronger....

Alex smoking the natural tobacco at the Luwak plantation

Crazy little Luwak eating snakefruit

  Tea and coffee tasting at the Luwak plantation

Getting a bit bored writing this so think I will need to resume the Ubud blog at a later point - that should be enough to keep you all in the loop for the moment!

We are staying in the mountains at Sarinbuana Eco Lodge at the moment - very remote and again filled with a huge variety of animals and insects. Peaceful but I am looking forward to heading to the beach tomorrow!


Oh I almost forgot! We happened upon the premiere of Les Miserables whilst in Sydney and got a glimpse of Hugh Jackman and Russell Crowe on the red carpet. We and the other few hundred onlookers played paparazzi for 20 minutes which I have to say, Alex got really into. Proof is below.

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