Padangbai Bali Indonesia
We completely lucked out with Padangbai. The reason we came was because only a couple harbours on Bali send boats over to the Gili Islands, and the one in Padang happened to be closer, but could have spent another day here. Our hotel played a major role in that as it was situated within a triangle bordered by the ocean, a pond with night bloom water lilies and an ancient temple, and had the best hotel restaurant of our entire 3-month trip. Plus it was managed by an amazing man who arranged for our boat tickets to Gili Trawangan as well as a ride to the harbour at a nice discount compared to anything we could find online, and then spent 20 minutes mapping out a route for us to explore on our only full in Padang and reserving a scooter for us.
Our first stop took us North to the Ujung water palace, a stone structure built in 1919 that is surrounded by a large moat and fruit gardens. It was used for entertainment and recreation only by the king who had it built, and after his death was opened to the public for tourism. Palace walls are lined with black and white pictures of historic king’s and their families, along with a few short stories about their lives. The most interesting story was the history of the moat itself: prior to the stone palace being built, the moat was called ‘The Moat of Dirah’ and was used to punish people accused of practicing black magic.
Our next stop was Pantai Kecil, a secluded white sand beach with a strip of bamboo seafood restaurants. The weather was overcast and the only people around were tourists who tan rain or shine and restaurant owners playing cards, so we stuck around for a plate of shrimp and chicken and called it a day.
Our ride to the harbour took off first thing in the morning and ended up being a small highlight of Padang, as our driver kept everyone in the vehicle engaged in his stories about the history and religion of Bali. The mix of religion in Indonesia is very interesting – Islam is dominant, but also present is Christianity, Hinduism, and Buddhism, but it’s not like Islam dominates all of Indonesia, either, as many individual islands are wholly dominated by one of the other religions. Some people wear headscarves, some people wear bathing suits, and others offer Canang Sari, but the rule of thumb is ‘to each their own’ and love and happiness take precedence. The fast boat from Padang was only 1.5 hours to Gili T; thankfully it wasn’t any longer or everyone would have been sea sick from the rocky ride!
Uluwatu Bali Indonesia
No Means Yes
Uluwatu is on the southernmost tip of Bali and is a bit of a 30-yr-old Australian surf bum town. We stayed a few steps away from Balangan Beach which is tucked inside two jagged cliffs pointing out at sea that taper down and connect around the back of the beach, creating a semi-circle inlet with consistent waves and low tide with acres of coral along the bottom. The beach is lined with surf board rental shops and little local restaurants where each owner takes your order wearing no shoes, no shirt, and has a dart hanging out the corner of his mouth, and returns 40 minutes later in the same state with heaping plates of whatever their wives cooked for you. Every restaurant is open air and faces the beach so you can drink coconut water while watching people surf in the practically purple/see-through blue water.
Neither of us surf often and the guy at the first surf board rental shop wouldn’t rent boards to us because we were inexperienced in shallow water and posed too great a risk of bailing and bleeding all over the coral. So we walked to the surf shop next door and rented two boards at a discount and paddled out planning to be a little extra cautious. Minimal blood loss since Mindy rode on her knees the whole time and a patch of underwater sea moss protected Russia from being cheese-grated after taking on the biggest wave of the day.
We arrived in Uluwatu only a short time after the massive tsunami hit the Philippines and the storm residual kept all of Bali pretty moist, but we figured if it were sunny we’d be getting wet in the ocean anyway, so f*ck rain. One overcast day we scootered to Pura Luhur temple, also knows as the Uluwatu Cliff temple, and then down to Suluban beach hoping we could make it back to our bungalow before the rain started, but torrents began while we were still in one of the restaurants on the cliff at Suluban beach. After an hour of ordering desserts we got back on our scooter but the treacherous monsoon downpour thunder god storm was so bad we had to pull over in an abandoned roadside bar to wait it out. Meanwhile, the locals just raced on in their speed ponchos as per usual, not giving a care about the storm or the three additional family members on the back of the scooter, or the boulder-sized basket of fruit balancing off one side of the scooter or the baby hanging off the other.
Uluwatu was our first stop after a month of work in Thailand so we spent many rainy days hiding in our bungalow and catching up with our websites. By the 10th day of work we were over it and creeping hard on Indonesia’s weather reports to find somewhere with less than a 94% chance of rain. We found a few days of glorious sun shining down upon the Gili Islands, so we said goodbye to Uluwatu and cabbed up the coast for a pit stop in Padangbai before fast boating to the Gili’s.