Making kind choices in your everyday life.

Tiptoeing through Bali

Posted by on May 24, 2015 in travel | 4 comments

“Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness.” – Mark Twain

My little travel bug within was indulged recently on a trip with my fella to the beautiful Bali.

DSC00132

Gorgeously lush surrounds of Ubud

It is slightly harder to tread kindly when you are away from home but we gave it our best go.

First stop after Denpasar Airport was Ubud. Regrettably, I discovered Ubud a bit later in life and the Ubud of today would be immensely different to that of 20 years ago and I feel a bit of travel envy over some friends who visited Ubud long before it was “discovered”. Although still undeniably gorgeous, this town is clearly being loved to death and the construction and development which has occurred since we were last there a couple of years ago is significant – hotels are going up EVERYWHERE. On the last visit we ate at one of the restaurants gazing across the rice paddies. Now the view is this.

DSC00115

 

 

 

 

 

 

Sigh.

I stumbled upon a wise but troubling article by “worm lady” (this namesake coming from her ambition to re-populate the soils of Bali with earthworms) Ni Luh Kartini, the founder of the Bali Organic Association who pointed out that the current rate of development is just not sustainable. The surrounding rivers and lakes are choked by rubbish, the soil is ruined by pesticides – which in turn has killed ducks and worms and each big, new hotel uses around 50,000 litres of water a day – water which Bali desperately needs for it’s rice and other crops.

The rubbish problem in Bali, notably in the rivers and oceans, is immense and really did make me want to cry. The influx of western living (and the need for all the visitors to drink bottled water) with seemingly no rubbish disposal plan to speak of, means that rubbish is everywhere. At times I felt guilty for just being there knowing that my western lifestyle is in most part to blame. The most shocking examples we saw were near the town end of the Campuhan Ridge walk where tonnes of rubbish and plastic were lining the steep banks down to the river. I also saw an elderly local woman upend her garbage bin full of plastic and rubbish into the river near where we were staying. It is obviously just the normal way that garbage is disposed of as there is nothing else in place which I found quite saddening to see and makes me fret about the human race and what we are doing to the world. You can pull your tiny, minuscule weight though (and it does feel like the equivalent of removing a grain of sand from the Sahara desert) by avoiding plastic bottled water by bringing your own water bottle and filling it with safe, drinking water at a number of refilling places around the town for the equivalent of about 50 cents – including a couple of the restaurants I have listed below as well as the library near the monkey forest football field.

We stayed in Motama Villa for 6 nights which was a great find (own private pool ‘n all – spoilt !) and set out of town a bit which gave it a bit of a village-y feel which I liked (aside from the local village cock fighting (of the bird variety) ring we stumbled upon one day – not so nice). It is a stone’s throw from the Yoga Barn, if that is your thing. (I always like to think that yoga is my thing but I never quite make it – why do classes start so freekin’ early ? Why does everyone look so damn serene, coordinated, suitably attired, lithe and soulful looking ?!? – I felt like an unfashionable, uncoordinated, thundering interloper even walking through there !). Nice food in their cafe though.

A traipse through the monkey forest is a must – even if you decide to tempt fate and buy a bunch of bananas which will result in you being front and centre of a loud, squealing (you !) monkey fracas (which I secretly enjoy). I could never tire of watching packs of marauding naughty monkeys and, unlike other animal entertainment options, there is no cruelty involved – the monkeys clearly lead good lives in their vast forest.

DSC00056

My other Ubud highlight has to be the FOOD. Omigoodness. Unlike the rest of Bali, vegetarian and vegan food is abundant. Some of the raw foodie cafes have the yoga-panted, new age-y earnest, dread locked, fire twirling vibe about them which is not really my scene (you have a lot to answer for “Eat, Pray, Love” !) but I found plenty of other places to keep my voracious appetite at bay. Unlike my last visit where my usually iron clad stomach was crippled by food poisoning for most of our stay, we ate our way around the town and my recommendations are :

1. The Elephant Bar and Restaurant. This place was so much up my alley it was ridiculous and if I could’ve gotten away with eating every meal there I would have – stunning hillside setting and view, random dogs lounging around, superb  vegi / vegan food and juices and cocktails and you can fill up your water bottle there.

2. Kismet. Oh lordy, I loved this place too. We sat up on the balcony a couple of times, watching the world go by, playing scrabble and eating vegi / vegan exquisite food. Their “bowl food” is the best. Another water bottle filling up venue.

3. Art Kafe : Good selection of vegi foods and non diary smoothies but meat dishes available too. Love their little multi mirrored walls – such a cute and quirky little place to hang out in.

DSC00094

Art Kafe

 

My favourite, atmospheric Ubud day spa Kayma Spa is near the back of this cafe. When massages cost around $20 an hour, let’s face it – you will probably spend your fair share of time being pummelled within an inch of your life, I know I did. Another favourite was Karsa Spa up on the Campuhan Ridge Walk (although I should’ve listened to my inner skeptic and avoided my “chakra alignment” which involved a dull (but peaceful) 30 minutes of having the chakra whisperer hovering his hands over my torso – zzzzzzzzz.)

4. The Melting Wok Warung : My fella’s pick of the bunch. Very French. Very chic. A few delicious vegi options for me.

If you are usually a meat eater, Ubud is the perfect place to try some plant based meals and see how magnificent they can be. South east Asia has a dreadful reputation for terribly inhumane methods of animals slaughter (who could forget the Four Corners report a few years ago and, more recently, grisly reports about how cattle in Vietnam – including those from Australia – are killed).

A visit to Ubud would not be complete without a visit to one of the 2 Bali Animal Welfare Association (BAWA) shops (there is also one in Sanur). There will always be a gorgeous rescued dog or two smooching around if you are feeling homesick for your hound which I was.

DSC00121

BAWA

They have some beautiful gifts (I love my bumble bee necklace, t-shirt and stash of street dog photo cards from there) and you know that by buying from them you will be helping the animals of Bali -animals who desperately need all the help they can get. BAWA do a tremendous job and there are a number of ways you can help (by bringing products from their wish list from Australia with you, donating, buying from their shop). If you see an animal in need, which you inevitably will (and we did)- you can ring or email BAWA with the details and they will do their best to help and send one of their ambulances to the location. (As with most developing countries – or developed for that matter (we just hide ours better) – there are some sad animal issues to deal with and witness. Life is hard for the dogs (particularly those outside of Ubud where help is not so close), there are thousands of tiny cages with birds in them (I find the sight of birds in cages quite unbearable) and the sad little ponies who drag around the tourists in Kuta (and on the Gili Islands) will break your heart.

After all that eating and being massaged, some physical activity was in order and a bike ride around the hills and rice paddies was just what we were after. Unfortunately 99.9% of the bike tours in Ubud include a visit to a coffee plantation – inoffensive suggestion at first glance, yes. However, I was railroaded into one of these tours on my last Ubud visit without realising that they all involve the tourist entrapment of trying to make you buy Kopi Luwak (civet cat coffee). I do not want support this cruel industry which involves a nocturnal animal being placed in a small, barren cage and forced to eat unnatural amounts of coffee beans. Luckily we chanced upon the half day tours offered by Bali Emerald Touring which involved purely bike riding only. It was a lot of thigh burning fun and the scenery around the town was beautiful.

DSC00077

Bike riding around Ubud

Ubud (and many other places in Bali) is big on advertising elephant rides as an activity. Please do not support this terrible industry. (I am so ashamed that my younger, ignorant self, rode elephants in Thailand because I “loved elephants and animals”). This post from my latest fabulous blog discovery “Earth By Anna” has written the best synopsis of the heart wrenching cruelty behind the elephant riding / performing industry ever – even the ones which claim to be “sanctuaries”.

Onwards from the glories of Ubud, it was East bound to Talumben – a pretty, sleepy dive town, under the shadow of the imposing Mount Agung. Spent the time doing my first dive ever (terrifying) around a wreck, eating lots of tofu and tempeh curry and vegetarian spring rolls as vegi dishes were few and far between. There was a lot of plastic bag and other detritus collections too along the rocky shore – only to have that sinking feeling – not only that my act of picking up a bit of rubbish was laughably ineffectual (plus I think I looked a bit mad, I was the only soul doing it) but also that the debris I placed in the garbage bins would end up exactly where I found it – in the ocean.

The last day was spent near the rowdy, flashy Kuta for airport convenience only. (In saying that, Waterbom provided much fun and hysteria for our mid 40’s childless selves ! Incongruously they actually had a lovely little homemade vegan ice cream stall in there). My determined search for some vegetarian food in a seemingly meat obsessed town found us at Black House Burgers where I had possibly the best vegi burger and chips I have had in a long time. It was also run by an incredibly lovely couple. I had my final, glorious 2 hour body pummeling massage courtesy of Smartspa who caught my eye as they donate to BAWA. Plus they do a damn fine massage.

At that point it was back to Sydney and work for me – waaahhh – whilst my spoilt other half continued on to a sublimely gorgeous looking part of Indonesia. He has been floating around like a prince on a diving boat for nearly the past week around Flores and Komodo – all National Park and brimming with incredible sounding sea life and turquoise warm oceans. If I can get beyond my nancy girl fear of diving (or just stick to snorkelling), I will join him next time.

Oh, and for my fellow avid readers out there I devoured 3 great page turning holiday reads too on my holiday – Girl on the Train, King of The Road and Big Little Lies. I would recommend them all.

 

 

 

 

 

4 Comments

Join the conversation and post a comment.

  1. kate

    Well, you look really rested Ing so Bali must have worked it’s magic. xx mum

  2. Sandra

    Hi Ing, you make me want to visit Ubud now I know there is plenty of vegetarian food to be had there!

Leave a Reply to Tread Kindly Cancel reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *