First, I still can’t get over the backward seasons here. I’m somehow almost at the end of first semester while Glasgow is just a month in… and it’s Spring and getting warmer while the majority of social media from Edinburgh is throwbacks to summer “before it got cold”.
Anyways – it’s SPRING. We just got back from a mid sem holiday (Spring Break woohoo) from uni and I spent TWO WEEKS IN BALI! How insane.
This is 100% just an added bonus of studying abroad internationally – the neighbouring countries are completely different so you have a chance to see the other side of the world for a fraction of the cost. Holidaying internationally is very different in Australia than it is in the UK however. Back home, you fly for an hour and you’re in a different country… on the flight over to Indonesia, after flying for 5 hours we looked at the map and realised we were still in the same country. Very far North Australia to be fair, but still very much Australia.
A group of 14 others and myself flew out at the end of September and travelled round the South of Bali staying in different hostels and a villa. The map below shows you where we went…we didn’t actually walk 52hours to Gili T, I’m just not technically skilled.
I could (and probably already have) go on about Bali for hours, but I’ll try to make a list of the highs and lows of my time away. First, the peaks:
Eating the most amazing Indonesian food every day
I pretty much ate local food for the whole two weeks so ordering Nasi Goreng, Mie Goreng and lots of rice and noodles became standard. I’d been advised not to eat chicken…but chicken satay called and I forgot this advice but luckily didn’t die… although I’ll explain the fear of getting Bali Belly later. For a really nice three course meal you’d typically pay about £8 ($15) which is amazing and meant I ate far too much!
Constantly being surrounded by new culture and sights
You can’t wake up looking out at rice fields or hearing geckos back home. You also can’t walk 5 minutes and be at a monkey temple (while trying to avoid stepping on multiple Canag Sari flower baskets on route – these are religious offerings that shop owners lay out every morning to give their sales good luck for the day ahead and thank the Sang Hyang Widhi Wasa.)
Having breakfast with elephants
One of my favourite days of the trip was spent in Ubud at The Elephant Safari Park Lodge. We were picked up from our hostel at 6am and driven to the elephant sanctuary where we were able to help bathe the Sumatran elephants there, swim with them and go on a trek – all before having breakfast ourselves! Each elephant has their own carer who comes in every day (even on their days off) to ensure their elephant is being fed and is well – I rode an elephant called Tia Maria and her guide had worked with her for 9 years.
Chasing a turtle while snorkelling from the Gili Islands
Gili Trawangan is an island a ferry away from Bali and the beaches there are so beautiful – white sand and the clearest blue sea. No cars, no motorbikes; just horses and bikes as transport making it a very different experience to main Bali. We spent one day on a snorkelling trip to the other gili islands where we saw so many different fish and coral reefs… and so many turtles (all for £5)!!
Watching the sunrise from the top of an active volcano
So I’ve seen the sunrise from Arthur’s Seat before and thought it didn’t get much better than that… apparently it does. Despite being woken up at 2.30am to start hiking up the volcano in the pitch black at 4am (dressed completely inappropriately in a Sarong and leather rucksack…Rosie) the view from the top was absolutely amazing, and the feeling of achievement having a hot chocolate and watching the sunrise was incomparable. The journey back down was just as “unreal” running down the volcanic ash with our guide, eating an egg that had been boiled from the natural heat at the top.
This is just a few of the highlights of such a busy and fun two weeks. Before you book your flights however, there were a few negatives…
It got to the stage where if someone suddenly jumped up and ran/crawled to the toilet…it wasn’t questioned. The bacteria in the tap water, an increase in exotic food, too much food and an increase in alcohol generally causes what’s known as “Bali belly”… two tips: don’t drink the tap water and bring Imodium.
Constantly being sold something
In Scotland, a confident “no thank you” and you’ve got rid of any sales assistant. Not the case in Indonesia. Unfortunately, this conversation became all too common:
“Nope, as you just pointed out I’m already wearing a Sarong so no I don’t want to buy another one.
Yes I know the one I’m wearing is nice.
Yes, I’m sure your price will be great
Aw god please stop putting it on me
As you just pointed out I’ve already got one
No, really, I don’t want to buy another one
Not even for 200,000rupiah, no thanks
Don’t need a pearl necklace either
I’m sure they’re real pearls
Oh wow, yup you’re biting the pearl to prove it’s real
I’m walking away now. No.”
The men have a very different idea about how to approach girls than is culturally acceptable at home which got annoying. Walking down the street, particularly in Kuta we would be approached by so many men trying to sell things or asking to be your boyfriend… probably not the best way into the dating scene – none of us came back to Sydney with Balinese boyfriends.
Terima Kasih for reading. Hope I’ve inspired you either to go visit Bali or to travel while on your year abroad… now back to the reality of uni. Next time I’ll compare the final 3 weeks of exam & end of the year stress at UNSW to the bleak month of Christmas exams at Glasgow.