What Happens in Bali, (doesn’t) Stay’s in Bali

A few years back on honeymoon we had quite the adventure and experience in Bali.

The first two days was extremely overwhelming and all we wanted to do was come home. It was their school holidays and a spiritual holiday and heaven knows there were more scooters driving around than there are people in South Africa. The weather was not great either. We had rain almost the whole time we were there and it was cloudy most days.

We got lost on the first day there. We did end up in a cool, quiet bar to have a cool drink and saw some very cool shops with art and woodwork. Luckily a taxi driver picked us up, just before we got drowsed in rain, and took us back to where we were supposed to be. We saw where we went wrong as we were driving back. We just wanted to go to the shopping centre around the corner but took a wrong turn. The shopping centre was literally right behind our hotel. We did not make the same mistake again.

On the second night we were saying to each other that this is just too much and we need to get somewhere where it is a bit more quiet. The street in front of the hotel just never slept.

Etienne went onto Booking.com and looked for a place close to the beach in a quiet area and booked it there and then. We packed a night bag, well our little back pack and off we went. We organised a taxi to take us to Ubud and from Ubud we would then continue to Padang Bai.

Ubud was already different from Semenyak where we stayed. The atmosphere was different and you had quite the variety of shops, restaurants and bars next to the road. A foodies heaven. Our first stop was die Ubud Market everyone is always talking about. We did not stay there long as it was a bit busy. We were told that you should not take the first offer and haggle a bit. Let me tell you, I suck at haggling to begin with but those aunties had none of this. And some were straight up rude!

We left and then took a stroll through the “main road” of Ubud. We had a lovely lunch and got some ice cream. It was all very delicious.

After our little stop it was time to make our way to Padang Bai.

After quite a slow drive, they do not drive faster than 60km/h, we made it to our accommodation for the night. It was rated 2 stars, but you had the basics, a bed, bathroom, restaurant and breakfast was included. We even had a guest, Mr Cockroach came to say hi. We had quite a laugh because we had some questionable breakfast the following morning, and the garlic bread was toast with garlic, but our tummies were satisfied.

The day of arrival it was quite late in the afternoon, but we decided to take a stroll. There was not a lot of space to walk on the beach itself so we stuck  to the road. In our exploring we almost crashed a ceremony of some sort at one the temples-sorry guys!

As we were walking through the little harbour, every second guy kept yelling “Gili!”, “Gili!”, “You want to see Gili?!” We thought to ourselves who the hell is Gili. Our curiosity got the better of us and we asked one of the people who is Gili. We were then told that Gili is an island and not a person. Well, we did not have any plans for the next day and you can take a day trip on a speed boat so let’s do it. We booked ourselves on a day trip, on a speed boat,  to Gili Island.

We left Padang Bai at around 9am and we were booked to return at 3pm the afternoon. The boat ride was almost an hour and after what felt like we hitting a dolphin every few metres, we arrived. This was Etienne’s story. Every time we struck a wave he said we are killing a dolphin. The ride made my tummy feel weird, not sea sick but the feeling you get on a roller coaster.

After what we experienced the first two days, it felt like we arrived in heaven. There were scooters operating on battery power which meant no scooter noises and no cars! It was donkey carts everywhere or you can hire a bicycle or just walk around on the island.  It is small enough to cover every inch of the place in about 2-3 hours.

We went to get ourselves bicycles as we needed a bit more speed than walking and we set out exploring. We did not pack a towel so we had to buy one and we hired some snorkelling gear to go watch some fishies. It is only us who will go to a beach without a towel and sunbathing costumes, but then again we did not plan for this. It was completely spontaneous.

We cycled around on the island, I visited some shops, we snorkelled, well Etienne did and had  a blast. I made it in a few centimetres and then just gave a nope and returned to the beach. My feet stepped on some funny feeling stuff below the water. That did not sit well with me or my imagination. We returned our bicycles and then went to have lunch.

We ordered chicken wraps and I asked the waiter if the chilli is very strong. He just said no, in his best English, not strong. He was very wrong. I tried my best but could not finish mine and Etienne who loves hot foods had a bit of a challenge with this so called sweet chilli option.

Then it was time to bid Gili farewell and fall into queue for our boat ride back to Bali mainland.

3pm arrived and passed. 4pm arrived and passed. We were a whole group together and after our boat did not arrive it was not long until people started asking questions. The people at the little port was very evasive and no one could give us a straight answer. They kept on saying the boat is just late.  After a while it came to light that our boat had problems and it will not be coming to get us. So naturally the next question would be so how do we get back to the mainland.

We were all loaded in boats and were told that there is alternative arrangements and we are being taken to Lombok and our boat will fetch us there.

We arrived in Lombok and were ushered into the port building. We did not pass immigration or border control or checked in to the new country. This is not part of Bali so you are suppose to go through customs. So we were in the country illegally. Apparently, this was not a problem. And so we waited. I can add this to my bucket list now and scratch it off. Question: Have you ever been in a country illegally? Yes, yes I have! Hahaha

We did walk onto the jetty but  were told to please return to the port building. We asked about how much longer before the boats arrived and the answer again was very vague. At one point they told us it will be another hour or so.

At last they told us, okay, our boat is not coming. It was too late already and the speed boats are not allowed on the water at night. Pandemonium of course, because how will we get back. We were told that they are organising a bus for us and we will be taken to the main port on the island where we will take the ferry back to Padang Bai, Bali and at Padang Bai we will then catch a taxi to get back to our respective areas and accommodation. Well, does not seem that bad. Little did we know.

We got onto the bus and off we went. That was one hell of a ride. The road is not built for a bus. It was all the way down hill and every time we approached a turn the bus had to use both lanes and all it did was toot-toot and then kept on driving. It did not wait to see if there is actually anything around the corner. My shattered nerves.

Eventually, what felt like hours of driving, we made it to the port. Here we were told that we need to go and wait until someone come and fetch us and take us onto the ferry. We were a happy bunch and was not too bothered. We just wanted to get back by whatever means.

We were led to a bus stop waiting area, which is saying a lot, it’s more like an old type concrete pavilion with a shabby tin roof. It had a fridge, which was broken but being used as a stand for a projector showing the soccer world cup against a sheet hung from the roof. It was a hot, humid evening and we were sitting around tables and drinking beer that was being sold right there. Etienne went in search of food and said when he returned from the vendors opposite the road that he was looking at the options and thinking to himself “nope, my wife will not have that, but this chicken can do”. At least you can tell it is chicken! Hahaha.  I had my dinner and as long as my tummy is fed I am happy.

We had a chat with the peeps around us, well Etienne did, I observed. We were there quite a few hours and at last we were led to the ferry. So begun a torturous 4 hours ferry ride back to Bali. Now, this was close to 2am when this ride started. It was quite the ride. The people in Bali are not very large people and I do not mean to say that we are large, but in comparison to them we are giants. Poor Etienne had quite the challenge as we were squashed in these tiny seats. You could see who the foreigners were as we were all seated together

There were this dudes walking around yelling “popme” “popme” and we again had to wonder what the hell is popme? We later found out it is like 2 minute noodles in a cup and it is delicious! I am sad we did not bring more home with us.

If you wanted to you could grab a mattress, which was as thick as a cardboard, and sleep on the floor. We decided against that as we were sure a blue light on those things would bring nightmares to life. HAHA!

After what felt like forever we made it to the Padang Bai port. Here it was another story. The company with the broken speedboat organised taxis to take us back to our respective places but no one could tell us which one we should join. After we explained to the driver and he trying to understand in his best English, we got onto one of the taxis and set off for another hour on the road.

This drive was an experience on its own. When we approach the robots, the taxi driver will just go toot-toot and speed through. Etienne and I said we should bring our taxis to Bali and they will sort them out very quickly. We had to laugh because imagine that!

The taxi driver stopped in the middle of a random place and told us to get out this is our stop. We looked around very confused and told him, no, this is not it. We need to be at Semenyak Square. The more the driver tell us this is it and the more we say it is not he simply opened the boot, took our bags out, placed it in the middle of the road and drove off-with the rest of the passengers looking on. He got quite angry at one point so I told Etienne to let him be.

It was there, tired, frightened in the middle of the street where I lost my composure and started crying. I was fine the whole day because we were in the same situation as all the other people, but now we were alone in a different country where English is not a well spoken language and we have no idea where we are or how we are getting to our hotel.

Almost as if a miracle was sent, a taxi driver passed and saw us. We hailed him and he was kind to take us to our hotel. Upon arriving he wanted to charge us 50USD for a less than 5min drive because the taxi dropped us basically at the back of Semenyak Square. Etienne got really upset and the driver tells us but it is after hours. Etienne threw some money on the seat and told me to get out. I willingly obliged.

We eventually made it to our hotel at 6am the Friday morning, where our adventure started on the Wednesday morning, The staff still wanted to meet and greet but we just rushed part. I heard Etienne saying something to them, but I just wanted to get to our room.

We got to the room and I finished crying. We were suppose to go on a tour with Suka, our guide, but I had to let him know we need to postpone it. Luckily he could take us on the Sunday. We got into the shower and got into bed. We slept like babies until 2pm that afternoon.

The afternoon after we slept everything seemed different and everything was good in the Clarence clang. We spoke about what we actually had gone through and laughed about it. We said this will be quite the story to tell at home!

We went to do some shopping, had a lovely lunch and relax the rest of the day just staying in and around our hotel. Maybe we were a bit frightened to leave the area again – haha. The rest of our stay was quite memorable and we will most certainly like to return one day but approach Bali in a different way. Seek out that quiet places with the open beaches like on Gili.

There are a few things we learned from this experience:

  • Have a map on hand of the area you are staying in
  • Make sure the taxi metre is running when you get into the taxi. Very important.
  • Take the adventure in stride and tell the story
  • If it says 2 star it is 2 star hehe

Have you had any weird, wonderful or scary experiences travelling the world?

Tell me about it in the comments. I would like to hear it!

E xx

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