Thursday, 17 December 2015
South-East Asian Adventures: snorkelling, spa-time and Balinese cooking in Pemuteran, Bali
I'd been looking forward to going to Bali for my whole trip.
No, what am I talking about? I'd been looking forward to going to Bali for MONTHS! I remember being mid-finals at uni and dreaming about going to Bali.
So when it was finally Bali-time, not only was I mad excited (I couldn't stop singing "Bar-layyyyy") but also a tad nervous that it wouldn't live up to my expectations.
Chums, it exceeded them. And my expectations had been high.
A lot of people go to Bali, you know? It's the most popular of all the Indonesian islands amongst tourists. And whilst I didn't know of anyone who'd been to Sumatra or Java, some of my friends have been to Bali and so I had a little more of an idea of what to expect.
I'm going to say it: Bali was my favourite place on my whole trip. And I hope the many Bali blog posts that are coming your way will help you understand why.
So, let's get cracking!
We took the ferry to cross the small sea between Java and Bali - the sight of golden sandy beaches was too exciting - and it was then a short drive to our first destination: Pemuteran, on the northern coast of the island.
I immediately noticed Bali was more developed than Java and significantly more so than Sumatra. Bali is interesting as it's predominantly Hindu (compared to Muslim on the other two islands) and there's no evident Dutch influence - when the Dutch colonised Indonesia they basically left Bali alone as it's small and they were more interested in all the produce they could get from the likes of Java, or so I have been reliably informed.
Pemuteran isn't a big tourist destination, although it's becoming increasingly popular with divers, and now I understand why.
We stayed in the absolutely charming Kubuku Hotel, which I thoroughly recommend.
Upon arrival, we were greeted with flowers in our hair, chilled glasses of juice and cold, wet towels. It was wonderful. And flowers were to become a bit of a theme - they were everywhere!
See the G made of petals on my bed above? That's the G Adventures symbol (with whom I was travelling) - isn't that such a lovely touch? The hotel is small but all decorated in charming traditional Balinese style, which I loved.
There was a pool, spa, array of optional organised activities, restaurant and bar, and boy were we happy to see wine on the menu. I hadn't had wine since the flight out to Bangkok because a) I'd been in largely Muslim countries and b) when in places like Singapore where there was wine on offer, it was ludicrously expensive.
So on the afternoon we arrived, Sarah and I decided to treat ourselves to mani-pedis in the beautifully relaxing spa.
Masha then had the INSPIRED idea of bringing us wine whilst we were being beautified. So that happened. Oh, how wonderful it was to be pampered!
And just as I emerged from the spa, complimentary afternoon tea was being served, It's a tough life, this travelling malarkey.
(I don't know what the afternoon tea actually was, but it was covered in sweet coconutty stuff and that was enough for me!)
We ate dinner by candlelight (the most fantastic tempe curry for me) before retiring to our little cabins for the most contented sleep. I was in love with Bali already.
The next morning we started the day with fruit salad and banana pancakes (which are seriously enhanced if you bring your own peanut butter, just sayin') before heading off for the day's activities: snorkelling!
Considering our snorkelling attempt in Koh Samui had been such a fail, I was praying we'd have better luck this time round.
On a private boat, we whizzed out to Menjangan Island, just off the northern coast of Bali.
As the boat was anchored I looked over the side and could not believe my eyes! The water was so clear and so blue!
I'd never seen anything like it, and all I wanted to do was dive in. Well, jump in, maybe. I imagine any attempt at a dive on my part would end up as a very painful, very embarrassing belly-flop.
It was snorkel-time! I cannot tell you how glad I am that the lovely Sarah had a Go-Pro and thus we could take some underwater snaps.
This was the most incredible experience of my trip. Hands. Down. Potensh in the top three experiences of my life.
You know how I've always wanted to be a mermaid? No? OK well I have. And this was the closest I've ever come...
I love all the underwater snaps but only wish they showed the incredible colourfulness of everything down there - we saw fish of every colour under the sun! Some were so bright they looked electric. Starfish, swordfish, puffer-fish, jellyfish and the whole cast of Finding Nemo. Look! We found Nemo!
And he really does live in an anemonemone.
I can't even express in words how much I loved exploring the corals. It was all so vivid!
We went for two long sessions in the water, interspersed with lunch and sunbathing on the boat. It was pretty dreamy.
I had to be pretty much dragged out of the water. Can I just live in the sea please?!
After a late-afternoon massage back at the hotel, as ya do, it was time for a Balinese cooking class!
We were shown traditional methods to cook up a delectable dinner.
And what is cooking without a glass of wine or a cocktail in hand?
What was especially lovely was that after all our hard work we sat down at a beautifully-laid table and had the results of our hard work served to us.
First up, our spring rolls:
I hate to toot my own horn but they were potentially the best spring rolls of my life. Yes, even the awfully misshapen ones.
Then came out the chicken satay:
What made these so good was the fact that we'd grilled the chicken in a barbecuey glaze so they tasted divine on their own, but then that sauce! Oh my days, I could've eaten it with a spoon. OK, I did. But you would've done too, trust me.
Next up, our coconutty chicken veggie curry:
Served with fluffy rice, natch.
And to finish, despite being so full I could barely move, a typical Balinese pudding:
Unfortunately I've forgotten the name (anyone know?) but they're basically little pancakes (naturally green from the leaves that go in) full of coconut flesh mixed with coconut sugar, and served with chocolate sauce. And let's be real, anything served with chocolate sauce is going to be good, amIright!?
It'd been really good fun to actually do a spot of cooking for the first time in months - we'd eaten out for pretty much every meal. I told you, travelling is really tough.
Our couple of days in Pemuteran had been the most wonderful welcome to Bali. And it was only going to get better...
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