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Indonesia

Bye Bali, Hello Gilli T!

We woke up to a gorgeous morning, and popped down to the beach to wave goodbye to Mount Agung before heading to catch the morning boat to Gili Trewangan.

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We'd heard mixed reports on the boats leaving from Amed to the islands but we decided to throw caution to the wind as it would save us time and money to take the boat from there rather than going back down to the main port on the east coast. Literally half the price, which we always like. With stories of dangerous overcrowding, bags getting soaked and generally an uncomfortable ride we braced ourselves for a bit of a dodgy start...but we needn't have worried and this was another example of how you should take what you read on the Internet with a pinch of salt, but maybe we were just lucky that day. The company we went with was Kudah Hitam Express and we would definitely look them up again if we head back that way.

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A group of women were waiting on the beach to take our bags onto the boats and it was amazing how much weight they could balance their head. This porter service was included in our ticket price and turned out to be a godsend for me as I had somehow managed to badly stump my toe which was gradually swelling up making it painful to walk on.

By taking the speedboat we would be in Gili T in an hour, and these speedboats have had a massive affect on the development on the Gilis making them more easily accessible from Bali, which we would find out more about during our time on the islands.

Arriving at Gili T we quickly made the decision that Dan would go and walk the strip to find us somewhere to stay whilst I sat with the bags. It looked like my toe was probably broken so traipsing up and down wasn't a good idea. If you were looking down on the island you would see the following cross section... beach, beach bars & restaurants, road and then the accommodation, so beachside bungalow really means across the road from the beach bungalow. Our plan was to head right from the harbour where the beach was meant to be a bit better and a bit quieter.

Dan was finding it hard to find somewhere for our budget that was what we wanted so we decided to just book one night at Easy bungalows so we could drop off our bags and continue the search together. This was quite a slow process, one because I was walking really slowly and two because a lot of places were charging more than we wanted to spend. The island was quite busy so I think they could hold out for someone who didn't want to haggle, some places were charging 400,000 to 700,000 a night, others wanted 300,000 for rooms that weren't as good as cheaper ones we had stayed in before (maybe we were a bit spoiled by the amazing room we'd just left). Eventually back closer to the centre of the strip we met the friendly 'Randy Andy' (that's how he introduced himself!) from Sunrise Bungalows and got a nice fan bungalow for 200,000 a night with wifi in the room too. Result!

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We would move there the next day, and finally we could relax and take in where we were...

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And make friends with the locals...

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There are no cars or motorbikes on the Gili Islands which makes a nice change. Everyone either walks, cycles or takes a horse cart to get around.

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It was nice to have a slower pace but we soon realised that a lot of the horses didn't look in too great condition and seemed to be attached to the carts all day and night. Even though my toe was bad I preferred to slowly hobble with my backpack rather than take one of these horse carts. We would see a big difference in the condition of the horses on Gili Air compared to Gili T. Here the horse carts run all day and night but on Air you won't find any from about 10pm, this seems to be directly related with the huge increase in the number of people coming to Gili T which has more of a 'party' reputation with bars and restaurants open all night. We saw several tourists flagging up concerns to the locals about horses foaming at the mouth, no water, sores from the harnesses etc...

Most of our time on Gili T was spent lazing on the beach in the morning and then chilling out at our bungalow when the rains came in the afternoon. This was fine with me as we d started chatting more about what we might like for our wedding and whilst Dan would take advantage of the cooler temperature and run in the rain or go to yoga class, I would be browsing wedding blogs for ideas. Exciting :)

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Its always a bonus to wake up and find a kitten asleep outside your door!

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Unfortunately as my toe was busted it meant that I couldn't put fins on so going on the snorkelling and diving trips was a no go. The currents can be quite strong and even just trying to swim off the beach you would just end up going nowhere or backwards! I also couldn't do yoga either, who knew you needed your little toe so much to balance!

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We weren't massively up for getting on the booze so the all night bars weren't really for us. Being in the last leg of our travels we had to be mindful of our budget. It would have been very different if we were just here for a holiday but it meant that filling our evenings fell a bit flat as you felt you were maybe missing out on something (particularly karaoke bingo night!) but at the same time we didn't want to force a night out for the sake of it, so when we found a bar that played movies including popcorn for just 30,000 per film we couldn't say no.

Its become a bit of an on running joke that Dan will always get served his food before me and I ll have to watch him eat as mine will no doubt take another 40 minutes or have been completely forgotten about! But on Gili T it stopped being funny as about 3 meals in a row mine was mucked up...one was given to someone else, another when it finally arrive was a tuna sandwich with no tuna in it despite them having an hour to put the tuna in it, and another was some chips that were so hard and trying to get over the concept that even though they were hot that didn't mean they were cooked was futile! You have to laugh about it really but after this happening on and off for months I was 'at my wits end' until Dan found me a decent chocolate cookie to make it better :) we did also have some amazing barracuda and tuna kebabs yum yum!

One day we walked round to the other side of the island to watch the sunset. It was an almost deserted beach with a small beach bar, completely different from the other side of the island. It was great to chill out and watch the sun go down with a Bintang and I think there was no more than 20 people sharing it with us!

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One thing to remember though is that when your camera battery is low dont waste it taking loads of photos of a hermit crab so the battery is dead for sunset! Such a cool little dude though!

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Although Gili T is beautiful it wasn't quite what we were looking for from an island experience.

We decided we would move on to Gili Air the next day and see what that had to offer

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Sxxx

Posted by doyledan 06:01 Archived in Indonesia Comments (0)

Liberty Wreck

The next day after Uluwatu we left Jimbaran to make our way to Amed on the East of Bali so we could try out the wreck dive which we heard about during our stay on Mabul island. USAT Liberty was a United States Army transport ship torpedoed by Japanese submarine in 1942 and beached near to the shores. In order for us to get there we negotiated with Awan, our driver from the trip to Uluwatu, to take us. It cost us 450,000 RP which is about £30 and the ride would take about 4 hours. The idea would be to get to Amed at 11am so we could dive the wreck and stay over one night before getting the speed boat to Gili Islands.

So we left Jimbaran quite early to make sure we could reach Amed in good time. The trip started off not so well because Awan turned up in a different car to the day before which didn't have any seat belts which we instantly were not happy with especially with the type of the driving that you witness but there was nothing we could do about it. Basically in Bali its the norm to drive down the centre of the road only swerving back into your lane when on coming traffic gets close, sometimes not paying any attention to whether anyone has come up on the inside, so at times it was a bit of a white knuckle ride!

As we left the south of Bali we began to see that a lot of the island is countryside with small Banjar's dotted along the coastal road, it was a nice scenic route. The ride didn't seem that long and we made it to Amed with time to spare. We checked in with Adventure Divers and fortunately they provided lunch in the cost of our dives so we tucked into some Nasi Goreng and waited to meet up with our dive master.

The guy who turned up was a local who liked to be called 'brother', and he was really friendly and we later found out that he had been freelancing for a while but had at least 20 years experience diving. We signed the waivers and in no time we were jumping in the mini-van to make our way to Tulemben, which is the bay that the Liberty Wreck is located.

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We couldn't stay at the dive centre as their accommodation was full but luckily one of the ladies who works there had a Homestay and a spare room for us and we would drop off our bags on route. I left Sarah to go look at the room and she came back with a big smile so I knew it was good but didn't know how good... More on that later.

Moving on from where we would be staying we drove for about 20 minutes and came to a car park just a short distance from the bay. The entry to the dive was going to be a new experience for us as we had always gone from a boat but in this case you just walk off the beach into the sea with your dive gear on. The locals helped with taking all the gear from the car to the beach area for us so it was a really easy setup as a customer. Once we were geared up we did the standard buddy checks and then we were off walking into the sea!

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At first the visability was not that great and it took while for things to appear but as we went deeper approaching the wreck from the stern we came upon some regulars that we have seen and some not so regular. The marine life was very diverse.

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It took a while for the wreck to appear, I had expected there to be a ship like shape in the water to follow but seeing as this had been torpedoed it was split up and there was large parts of the ship pertruding from all angles. What was cool to look at was the way the coral life had adapted around it and almost made it unrecognisable.

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You could only see bubbles come out of small holes in the wreck and you knew that someone was diving inside the wreck.

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We saw these garden eels for the first time.

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Spot the fish...

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On the way up for our 3 minute stop we were shown this Mantis Shrimp who didn't take to kindly to having a rock put down his front door, and quickly pushed it back out again... Well lets be honest you wouldn't either!

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Brother used our first dive to see how our diving was before taking us further into the wreck, so it wasn't until our second dive that we got a chance to go into the wreck itself and see its actual size inside the hull.

On the way we found a wheel!

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This fella came out of the wreck to the surpise of Sarah.

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We found a big gun!

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Going theough the wreck was a great experience and also helped us improve our diving skills in terms of buoyancy and control through smaller areas.

After travelling back from Tulemben to the dive shop we chatted about what we saw and filled in our logbooks and were fortunate that we could upload the photos from the dive instantly as a girl who was staying a the dive center had the apple connector to allow us to take it straight from the camera. We chatted with David who was one of the main guys for Adventure Divers and afterwards we walked back to our homestay and I got to see why Sarah was so happy with what we got.

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It was a room that had just been built behind their house to great standards, with a view out over the sea and only about 10 paces from the black beach and stunning views of Mt Agung! Very impressive :) and amazing value for money.

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We opted to have dinner next door where there was a band playing and it was good food and ok music, but after our long day we went back to our room and got some rest knowing we would be on our way to Gili Islands.

Its all go!

Stay tuned for more tales

Dan

Posted by doyledan 03:38 Archived in Indonesia Comments (0)

Fire dancing at Ulawatu

Somehow we had managed not to see any of the traditional dances whilst in Ubud, despite several shows being on throughout the week! So when we heard that it was possible to see Kecak fire dancing at Uluwatu temple, located on a cliff, with an amplitheatre overlooking the Indian Ocean providing some of the best sunset views in Bali we knew we had to go!

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It would take us about an hour to get the tip of the south coast from Jimbaran and we organised a driver to take us there and wait to bring us back after the show had finished. We d been advised to get there an hour or so before the show and that it would be difficult to find an available taxi if we had not prearranged one as the show was so popular. Our driver was a guy called Awan, who also helped us organise our tickets when we got there and walked with us around the temple. Unfortunately he didn't really give us any insights into the temple as all he wanted to talk about was how we would get to our next destination the following day, how easy it would be to cancel our taxi we d already booked and he could take us for less money etc... This was fine, the first time, but he kept going on about it despite us saying we would sort it out later.

The traditional sarong and sash are provided when you arrive so you can be dressed appropriately as you walk around. Knowing we were going to a temple I had chosen to wear long trousers anyway so did not need a sarong and it was just a bonus that they co ordinated with the waist sash you need to wear.

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I think its fair to say that the reason this place is so popular with visitors is due to the cliff top setting rather than the temple itself. The temple is quite small and you are only allowed to walk around the outer grounds, catching glimpses of the inner grounds which are reserved for people who are coming to use the temple to practice their religion.

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There is a walled path that runs along the cliff with great views and from a distance looks a bit like a mini Great Wall of China.

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We had been warned several times by our driver to be careful of the monkeys that live at the temple. They are attracted to shiny objects, have no fear of humans and no qualms about stealing your camera, glasses, water bottles etc... Now given that I can't see anything without my glasses and hadn't thought to wear contacts this would be a bit of an issue if I was targeted, although I didn't really believe that they would be bold enough to take them off your face! However I heeded the warning when a troup of monkeys came around the corner and quickly took my glasses off...and it was lucky I did as in a flash one monkey had jumped on my head and another had jumped onto my back. After a lot of hair pulling and realising my glasses were no longer on my face they got bored and jumped off but that was a close one. I then had to run the monkey gauntlet back up the path being led by Dan as there was no way I was putting the glasses back on when they were close by. It was quite funny and I was gutted that I had been guarding the camera at the time so we weren't able to get any pics of the potential thieves in action.

We timed getting our ticket before the hoards and were given a sheet telling us the Ramayana story that would be told through the dance.

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We still had about an hour to kill before the show began so just enjoyed the view as the sun began to set...

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And watched as more and more people were squeezed on to the benches...

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You would think this is full capacity but no, they kept ramming people in even after the show had started, given there would be a lot of fire later and the benches are mainly wooden, not sure overcrowding is a good thing to add to the mix!

Jazz hands! Well it is a theatre after all.
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From our vantage point at the back of the stands we had the interesting view behind us of the performers getting ready. It was great to see how they were putting on their makeup and costumes and also how they were each blessed before the performance began.

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The Kecak dance uses no musical instruments and the rhythms are all created by the chanting of a group of men. The main chant was "Chak, Chak, Chak" and on watching and listening more closely we began to relise that not everyone was chanting the same and as the momentum built and the chanting became more complex it was clear why this is known as the trance dance.

As the male chorus created the ambiance the dancers moved amongst them to depict the story.

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One of the favourite characters was the white monkey who would from time to time appear amongst the crowd and generally getting up to monkey business, stealing sunglasses and grooming people's hair.

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The climax of the show was when the monkey character was surrounded by a ring of fire and had to jump and dance over the flames, kicking at them with bare feet to put them out. I'm sure there were a few concerned people in the front rows! Video upload is not working again so can't show this at the moment.

Can definitely see why people say if you only go to once traditional dance in Bali then go to the one at Ulawatu. The setting really adds to this unique trance/fire dance.

Sxx

Posted by doyledan 21:15 Archived in Indonesia Comments (0)

A jaunt to Jimbaran

Eager to escape Kuta we managed to dodge the 'taxi touts' outside our hotel that would clearly rip us off and much to their annoyance we flagged down a bluebird taxi to take us south to Jimbaran. By going with the metred taxi we only had to pay just over 50,000 rather than the 150,000 we had been quoted elsewhere! Such a difference!

We were heading south to be reunited with Sam and Adnan who we had met on the cycle tour in Ubud, they had been kind enough to invite us to spend some time with them at the hotel they were staying at and we would also be closer to Ulawatu which was recommended by them as a great place to see some traditional dance.

As we came into Jimbaran we drove passed their hotel and got a first glimpse through the gates of the Intercontinental hotel...its was massive and looked very impressive (we weren't too sure if security would let us in).

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We had chosen a hotel that we thought was just a bit further down the road but started to get a bit worried when our taxi driver had to stop several times for directions. We found ourselves taking a small turning down a dirt track which got narrower and bumpier, surely this was the wrong way but soon enough we turned a corner and saw the hotel. It was a new build and very nicely finished with a small pool area and all the mod cons (including a bin with a sensor so it automatically opens when you stand in front of it...I think one of them will go on our wedding gift list if we have one :) ), but it seemed totally out of place with its more rustic surroundings. Although we didn't mind as it was great to be seeing more of the local life compared to OTT Kuta.

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We settled in and popped put to a local Warung for some lunch of Nasi Goreng and Cap Cay for less than a quid each. So yummy and a bargain!

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On the way back to the hotel I spotted a hairdresser and decided it was about time I had mine cut. After all the sun, salt & pool water and just general travelling wear and tear it had got into a bit of a state! Despite the potential for a language barrier disaster which could have resulted in it all being chopped off, the hairdresser did a good job. Although they did blow dry my hair so it was poofier than a poodle! Definitely felt a bit conspicuous as we walked back down the dirt track to our hotel with this bouncy hairdo!

We d arranged to meet the 'British contingent' for a few drinks in the afternoon and to use their pool. It was great to catch up over a few Bintangs and Mix Max! Although Dan ended up turning his tongue red and Sams went blue, not sure that's normal!

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They had been to the Gilli islands for a few days and we were excited to hear how much they had loved it and diving there too, we definitely would be making a stop there too.

It was time to check out the pool before the sun went down. It was such a treat to be able to experience this hotel, which was insanely big and luxurious. Each statue is given a fresh flower every day, there are fountains, candles are put out each night around the pool and path ways to create a romantic atmosphere...

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and this is the pool!! Which is impossible to swim from one side to the other on one breath underwater, despite our many attempts!

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The hotel backs onto the beach and here are our first views of it.

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In the distance you could also see planes landing at Dempesar airport, the runway juts out into the sea and it wasn't until later that night that we found out after receiving some concerned messages from home that a plane had missed the runway and crashed into the sea that afternoon and we were none the wiser! Fortunately no one was killed but it was a bit scary to know it had happened so close by.

News report here...

Sam and Adnan had already booked in for a special dinner being put on by their hotel so as the sun went down we said our goodbyes. Some lanterns by the beach had caught my eye and it turned out to be one of the hotel bars so we went for another drink before finding somewhere for dinner.

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This turned out to be a good shout as it started to rain and we had planned to eat alfresco on the beach with Jimbaran is famous for.

We waited for the rain to stop and then had a nice stroll on the beach under the stars, directed by all the flickering candles in the distance to where all the dining areas on the beach were. We had a lovely meal of squid and rice before heading back to our hotel.

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A huge thanks to Sam and Adnan for such a great time, looking forward to catching up with you both when we head back to the UK.

Sxxx

Posted by doyledan 04:35 Archived in Indonesia Comments (0)

What a load of Kuta!

Kuta, Bali.

With a fondness for Ubud we knew it would be tricky to top but going to Kuta really was not the best place for our next destination.

Imagine every place you have been too off Spain that caters for the booze trips and you're getting close. Don't get me wrong, parts of it are perfectly fine to hang out and there is even a classy side to the area with boutique cocktail bars edging the coast. Its just it had no charm, no substance and coming from Ubud where Balinese culture surrounds you it was a difficult to get enthused. We had decided to treat ourselves to a nice hotel with a pool using our trusty Agoda.com and were pleased with our choice, apart from the room we got was a twin and we'd asked for a double. They had pushed the twin beds together with double sheets to try to disguise this but the huge gap in between the mattresses was a bit of a give away.

Sarah was on a mission, so calling up the reception she made it clear she was not happy and chucked in the 'I'm with my husband' and we would prefer a double and bobs your uncle the hotel suddenly changed their stance from "sorry we re fully booked" to an offer to move us to another room. What we got was far better, a suite in the newer building with a bath (we hadn't seen a bath in 7 months!). Result!

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From then on we enjoyed being by the pool and getting some sun and decided we would venture out round Kuta later in day.

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I had an idea that we should check out the shopping in case we needed to come back here to buy stuff for when we go to Australia so we went to look around. The first thing you realise is that the market stalls all sell the same thing and all sell stuff for the huge influx of Aussie "sicko's" (Chris & Nicole you would love it :) ). So it was the choice of vests with great sayings like ' I'm not a gynaecologist, but I'll have look', sunglasses, Trucker hats, Bintang stubby holders, magnets etc, basically tat!

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The mall however has a selection of high street stores like Topman and New Look which would serve if we decided to buy from here.

We thought this was pretty smart idea in the mall.

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We walked around the mall for a while and then thought to make it a trip to the beach would be a good idea but by the time we got to it it was overcast so not a spectacular scenery, but it was fun to be near the sea for the first time in a while. Making our way off the beach we had to dive into a bar as it started to pour down and enjoyed an ok dinner before calling it a night. We had noticed that the usual "do you need transport" had now changed to "do you need drugs brother? viagra? ladies?", and they were persistent too, following you down the street which got a bit frustrating. Another example of the negative affects of tourism in this area.

The next morning it was our goal to go to the beach and enjoy some sun. As we walked through town to the beach we passed a memorial to the people who died in the bombings back in 2002, which killed over 200 people. It was a sobering site and there were several people there clearly upset and remembering loved ones. We had noticed in the mall that you had to walk through detectors and have bags inspected and I can only imagine that this is a result from this to try to prevent this happening again in a busy tourist area.

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The sun was shining and we were ready for a good day until we were stopped by a local man who was handing out flyers which he in turn asked us to open. It turned out that we had won one of three possibilities which was either a 7 night holiday in Bali , an IPAD2 or a phone. All we had to do to claim the prize was go to their new hotel that had just opened, see a presentation about their hotels so we could recommend them to others. Listening to him we thought it was going to have a catch but we decided it would be ok to go with by taxi to look at a hotel for an hour and then we could claim our prize. In hindsight its one of those things you think you won't get drawn into doing but unfortunately because we thought it was just viewing a new hotel we succumbed to the lure of winning a prize.

And you guessed it, it was a lie! Even though Sarah continually asked what it was in the car journey we ended up having to listen to a guy try to sell to us into buying a kind of timeshare which allows you to visit different resorts. We weren't going to have any of it and were completely upfront with the guy and told him that we had been mis-sold on the street and we wanted to return to the beach.

Fortunately, there was no issue with us leaving but unfortunately we couldn't claim our prize because the rules stated that I would have to be 30 or over to claim it within the year! ......so it was all for nothing!!! C'est la vie.

After that debacle we got driven back to the other end of Kuta beach and started walking back to where we planned to chill out. As we walked the beach we got to see what really draws a lot of people to the area. The Surf Dude!!

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The drawbacks of this beach is that you are hounded by hawkers and guys wanting you to use their sun loungers and on another day we would have put up with it but after the morning we had we just thought lets ditch it and head back to a bar. It turned out that the bar we chose was a decent one, and gave us a nice view overlooking the bay. So far Kuta had not impressed us and we had seen why a lot of our friends had said not to bother, and with that mindset we were glad that our plans to move on to Jimbaran and Uluwatu were imminent.

We did enjoy a nice meal on our last evening but were happy to see the back of Kuta as we picked up a Bluebird taxi to Jimbaran.

Stay tuned for more tales

Dan

Posted by doyledan 00:42 Archived in Indonesia Comments (0)

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