And then he went back to Bali

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The sound of my favourite reptile erupted from the bushes.  Crickets launched into their nightly chorus as the smell of incense wafted on the warm breeze.

Having not slept in 36 hours, our brains had no idea what timezone we were in.  Our senses, however, had no doubt.

We were back in South East Asia.

Ubud, Alas Petulu

With both temperatures and bank balances falling, the time had finally come to leave Europe.  We had loved our time in Hungary and the Balkans, Romania and Bulgaria had impressed, and Istanbul was simply mind blowing … but the tropics were calling.

First stop: Bali.

The Indonesian island was a last minute addition to our plans.  We were last there in March, and had crammed a lot into our two weeks – there was no immediate need to rush back.  For once, though, timing worked in our favour – my sister and cousin mentioned they were going to be hanging out at a fancy hotel in Bali around the same time we returned to Asia.  Never ones to turn down the chance to use somebody else’s swimming pool, flights were quickly booked.

Alas Petulu room

We had a couple of days to kill before hitting up the resort, and decided to return to Ubud to enjoy great smoothies and the sight of hippies in yoga pants.  Wimdu was kind enough to offer us a couple of nights accommodation, so we opted for a standard room at Alas Petulu.

With a rack rate less than we were paying for our hostel in Istanbul two days earlier, we ended up somewhere quite wonderful.  With a swimming pool.  And a balcony to eat the healthy included breakfast on.  And yes, of course, those are hibiscus flowers on the bed.

Damn it was great to be back.

Dragging ourselves down to Nusa Dua a few days later, first impressions were mixed.  While our guesthouse was lovely – and highly recommended if you need to stay nearby – the resort area itself was a manicured enclave of blandness.  It bore little resemblance to the rest of Bali in terms of population, food, price or anything else, and I can’t help but feel that was the designer’s intention.  The fact there was a security check at the entrance to the suburb told me a lot.

Still, hanging out with my family was perfect, and being able to make liberal use of the facilities was far from a hardship.  We did get some strange looks from the guys on the gate every day, mind you – apparently people don’t usually turn up at high-end resorts on a dirty rented scooter…

Seaweed farming, Bali

Debbie, a local travel blogger, had kindly offered to show us some of the lesser-known Balinese beaches while we were in town.  We gladly accepted – anything to experience a side of the island away from the horror of Kuta sounded ideal.

Even though the cranes and bulldozers of yet another resort development loomed nearby, Pandawa beach itself was a snapshot of local life.  Seaweed farmers knelt in the shallows, harvesting their crop before laying it out to dry.  I loved the overloaded barges that seemed ready to sink at any moment, the lumbering frames contrasting starkly with sleek paragliders soaring over the cliffs.

Seaweed and paragliders

Finishing off an exhausting ten minute stroll down the beach with a well-deserved beer, I sat back in my plastic chair and admired the view.  Many of the best strips of sand in Bali have either been destroyed or privatised, and the rumble of heavy machinery suggested that Pandawa may not retain its laid-back charm for too much longer.

If golden sand, minimal sun loungers and shacks selling cold beer are your thing, I’d suggesting getting there soon.

The tour wasn’t over yet, however.  Debbie had threatened a climb down hundreds of steps to get to another little-known bay, and after a twenty minute drive and fighting off monkeys in the car park, we descended to the perfection of Green Bowl beach.

Green Bowl beach, Bali

We stayed for a couple of hours, and saw maybe four other people the entire time.  I didn’t know places like this still existed in Bali – apparently inaccessibility can be a huge benefit.  We splashed around in the shallows, read books on the sand and watched waves crashing over the sandbar.  It was heavenly.  Were it not for the lengthening shadows I think we’d still be there now.

The stairs had somehow doubled in number while we were on the beach, and the panting from behind me would have made a phone sex worker blush.  The toothless old man selling soft drinks at the top was on to a great business model, that’s for sure.

There was one last surprise left in store, however.  It looked a little something like this.

Green Bowl beach sunset, Bali

The perfect end to a wonderful week in Bali.

South East Asia.  It was good to be home.

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