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music, laughter, water and silk in Ubud and Nusa Lembongan, Bali

Written in Depansar Airport, Bali on Saturday 18th June about Monday 13th June to today, the Balinese chapter of our trip. More photos to follow when no longer airport-bound…so in a good 24 hours.. (wish I could click my fingers and be home on my sofa…with everything washed and ready for work on Monday!). The one here was taken by Emma, looking across to Bali from Nusa Lembongan – an incredible pink stormy sunset on our first night there. 

It seems I finally hit the go slow pedal when we got to Ubud and couldn’t quite pluck up the motivation to write until now.

NOS Ubud street

We’re sat (rather appropriately) in the Bintang Bar in Bali airport, (still) sweating with a view to the left through the glass balcony of the open and sunny thoroughfare between Departures and Arrivals.
We’re both looking forward to certain things about getting home. Like not sweating unless we do exercise and not smearing ourselves with suncream or DEET, and not having permanently grubby feet (more Emma’s problem than mine – we blame her skin). We’re going to miss the smiles though.

Bali has an addictive happy go lucky, live for the moment attitude that seems to permeate those who live here. More so maybe the men than the women….

(Ijen fourth on right as we ferried across from Java to Bali)

NOS Ijen from boat

Emma: “Did you notice the Billboards on the way to the airport” I nod. You couldn’t not notice. All the models are Indonesian but their skin is white. Whilst we’ve been here, an unusual amount of people have commented on our or (particularly) Emma’s snow white skin. It’s a very desirable thing here, we’ve discovered. Strange to us, but perhaps it’s that which explains the markedly different reactions we have had from men compared to (generally younger) women here. Although there may just be some other reason we’re unaware of.

What else to tell you? Ubud is choc-full of shops brimming with patchwork items and silk of all calibres.

NOS Ubud burnished orange

Burnished orange is everywhere, highlighting bed throws, flowers on street-side trees and bar cushions. The locals make daily offerings outside their houses, shops and temples of flowers, fruit, rice, biscuits or sweets and incense.

NOS Canang 2

NOS Canang edit

These 15cm square offerings on palm leaves appease the spirits and prettily line the street where they lazily smoke until they extinguish themselves or are accidentally trodden out by a careless foot.

NOS Canang 3

The Sacred Monkey Forest (Mandala Suci Wenarar Wana) was pretty amazing but it reminded us how these cute looking cheeky creatures can lull you into a false sense of security: we got sat on by a few (and Emma had an undesirable bit of one in her ear!); then saw another bare it’s (huge) fangs to a girl who had him on her shoulder but no food to give (she managed to encourage him off her arm and away from her face but it could have gone either way.

NOS Monkey wecome

NOS Emma monkey head

NOS me monkey shoulder

Had we seen those fangs earlier we agreed the sitting-on our heads and shoulder would not have happened); we were then practically chased out of the forest by a mother (fangs bared again and too close to my ankles) who I’d accidentally looked at in the eye.

NOS Monkey mum

NOS Monkey grooming

NOS Monkey eating

They are quite brilliant creatures but our monkey saturation point has been reached.

Everywhere you turn in Ubud there is joyful live music and singers grin with happy satisfaction. The laughter is free flowing and people will put themselves out for you so you can light a candle for a tiny person loved and lost. Putu and Komang were our hosts Wednesday, after we got happy drunk, danced and drank the local alcohol the night before (Arak: flavoured with who knows what but in shades of green and red and brown). We told them that I wanted to visit somewhere beautiful where I could make an offering and remember someone, so they waited for us at the bar the next day and took us to the ancient temple of Goa Gajah.

NOS ancient elephant temple 1

It was the perfect place, with an ancient cave one side and a water temple on the other (where the King used to bath) and I had a quiet moment to say goodbye and promise to remember, as we lit some incense in front of an age-old Ganesh.

NOS outside elephant cave temple

Then, as if it had all been organised ahead of time, a wonderful wise old lady at a smaller temple, gave us a blessing, flicked water above and on our faces, annointed between our eyebrows and on the middle of our necks with rice and placed a Balinese flower behind our ear. A special place.

NOS Komang & Putu 2

Komang helped me barter for two Ganeshes in lava stone. Ganesh is all about the balance of good and bad and you place him/her/it (?) at the door to your home, above head height to protect your home and sanctuary from bad spirits. When you have a bad feeling or negative thought you offer a flower or some incense and it will be taken away. What a wonderful and liberating way to believe and live.

We met Oka Wati, the lady who owns the place we were staying for a few moments and she too seemed a beautiful soul in her bright yellow laced dress. She made a point of introducing herself and bid us a welcome stay. Those who work in guest accommodation in Bali proudly display the accommodations’ colours on their sarongs or in the cleverly tied head bands tied like crowns around their foreheads. I’m sure they have a proper name. Everyone wants to know where you are from, how long you are staying and offer to show you around, proud of where they come from and (mostly) satisfied to stay home-bound. The live for the moment attitude has none of the cynical tendencies we are cursed with back home and it reminds me that childish wonder and being easily satisfied are good qualities to nurture.

After the temple visit (shoulders and legs running with sweat under respectful sarongs) we were relieved to climb back on mopeds and let the wind caress our limbs dry again. Rashes of red, orange and yellow tree-flowers whip past, here’s another stone deity carving shop, and then (bizarrely) a road lined with flapping German and French flags either side (“for the War Supper” I think Komang says and I am none the wiser). Moped-height I spy temples towers and overhead kites fly high. When I see the first one I think it’s a giant serene black bird but there are dozens more and later I see a child cradling hers with his mum (on a moped of course). These feats of aerodynamics, shaped like birds or fish, look to be homemade miracles of cane and plastic. “It’s the season” I just catch Koming’s words before the breeze carries them away.

We pull up at another moped-park and make our way down tall sandy steps to Tengenungan waterfall as Putu serenades our slow progress with a song on his banjo. It’s a surreal descent and and various different people chat to him on the way down and another asks him to play his song or ‘No Woman Man Cry’ when we get to the bottom. We suspect that both he and Komang (who is some kind of chef with a contract in Denver who has a big watch and – apparently – half a dozen mopeds at his rather large house) are more well known than we might realise which adds to the hilarity of the situation.

As soon as we reach the bottom through, I’m drawn away from the music and am hypnotized by the forceful power of the water falling from the rocks above and the cold welcome of the waters dropping heavily into the crater at the bottom. It’s unstoppable. I leave the rest of them and hobble in my bikini over the pebbles, diving head first into the pool, and swimming around to the back of the cascade. It’s so powerful and the force of the water means I have to hard-kick to get around the back. I clamber on to the rocks at the back as droplets caught by the wind lash into my face and hair, and am thankful for my spade hands and boat feet which make balancing quick and easy when you’re on all fours. I probably look quite like a drowned monkey but I don’t care. (I’ve been too hot to care what I look like more than a little bit on this trip). I stand up at the back, open my throat and let out a note which echoes around the chamber behind this impenetrable curtain of water. It’s totally invigorating: the unstoppable force of nature felt directly through my skin. I’m glad to be just me.

The rules here seem to be few and far between. Everyone smokes inside. Everyone talks on their phone. There’s a lot of fairly drunk moped driving. Even the moon breaks the rules and is on it’s side. Another smile.

NOS Oka Wati 1

The doors are rickety but carved in ornate patterns, the pavements and roads are uneven, there are lots of big ants and a couple of cockroaches (one day Emma screams and leaps out of the bed after she put her legs into the covers and felt one, which turned out to be her hair clips which I’d neglected to move to the top of the covers with everything else – whoops!). Tiny lizards run over your feet and cooking classes take place in jungle gardens as a ten year old wafts away coconut husk smoke and steams the banana leaf wrapped tuna we just prepared from a feast of so fresh they’ve just been picked and are almost still alive ingredients.

NOS cooking Teba Bali

NOS Teba Bali start

NOS Teba Bali ingredients

NOS Teba Bali cooking

NOS Em me and cooking

Things you can’t do: climb on the temples; flush tissue down the toilet; pass things or eat with your left hand. That might be it. I think we may have inadvertently broken all of them at some point.

NOS 100% love goal


We were even lazier for our two nights on the island of Nusa Lembongan.

NOS leaving for NLembongan

We did venture away from Mushroom Beach this morning and across the narrow yellow framed planked suspension bridge to see the bright blue swirls of the blue lagoon on Nusa Ceningan.



We thought we might swim but as soon as we set eyes on the swelling whirlpools and foam we know that won’t be happening.



So that’s about as adventurous as we get. Plus a final bumpy ride on the back of a motorbike.

Our home for our final couple of days, was one of the Lanai Cottages at Nusa Bay resort: a cute round, straw topped pagoda of a bungalow with a chalk-paint blue bathroom walls.

NOS NL Lanai cottages

(The bathroom is around the back but there is no door between it and the bedroom, and we laugh about how this may not be the ideal toilet set up for a first romantic getaway with someone). The bed has mosquito curtains draped softly around it though and diffuses the light adding a dewy tone to ever so slightly bronzed skin. (That’s a bit more romantic). Shame we aren’t lovers really. We wonder how many people we’ve encountered think that we might be with our double bed sharing habits! Doves coo gentle wake ups and lullalabies and every so often the gekkos pipe up with a squeak to remind the world of their presence (everywhere).

I did manage to squeeze in two dives yesterday morning with Blue Corner Diving. The second was at the Blue Lagoon and the first was Tengo-something or other that I can’t remember and now my bag has been checked in with my dive log inside it so I can’t even check and tell you. Topekong. But just five minutes into this first dive we fin gently through a narrow short cave where five or six white tipped sharks are chilling in the darkness. We see urchins and seahorses, box, cow and damsel fish, squirrel, ribbon and snowflake (?) eels and fat purple star fish. A wonderful underworld stuffed full of the brightest most effervescent coloured fish.

“SO many fish!” I say, after the first dive – in my typical (maybe a tad over-excited) way. But the diver I say it to is just a bit “meh”about it because she’s seen better sites (and even says so to the Dive Shop manager later as she leaves..!). I can’t help but quietly disapprove of such casual disregard. We are so privileged to get a glimpse of such this underwater world.

Something that will stay in my head as we journey home and submerge back into normal life, will be our speed boat trip out to the dive site that morning. The engine on the boat is noisy, so no-one can talk to you(!). I perch on the side nearer to the front with the sun on my face and the wind blowing my headscarf. If someone could make silk that looked like the sea when it glistens with moving sunlight, it would be the most beautiful material in the world. Bali’s mountains rise behind, smokey mirrors falling into rows behind each other, reminding you that it will always be a mystical island, swirling with smiling people, heady home-brews and a half moon smile.

NOS NL panorama runset

2 Comments Post a comment
  1. Auntie Ang #

    Shame that your travels have come to an end, I will miss your beautiful descriptions of your travels. X

    June 18, 2016
  2. Andy #

    Another great read, Particularly love the descriptions of the waterfall.Safe jourbey home. A

    June 19, 2016

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