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Day# 103 A Christmas in Bali

After almost 3 months in India and a tough last couple of weeks in the underdeveloped Andaman Islands, getting on a plane to Bali felt like utter freedom. We were ready for a scenery, culture and above all culinary change! We loved Indian food but after all this time we couldn’t take any more chapatis, dhal or spicy curries!

Arriving to Bali was no disappointment. The temperature was perfect, the air was more breathable, everything was clean and aesthetically looked beautiful. There is no doubt that Indonesians have a great sense of aesthetics which is reflected in the hotels, restaurants and all the varied local crafts. You feel like decorating your whole house with those! Another factor that makes Bali special is the abundant green nature and rice paddies that are perfectly integrated within the villages and left wild in the rest of the island. For us, Bali felt like civilisation again. We planned for a week here. We would spend a few days in Ubud so we could easily do day trips to visit around and another couple of days in Uluwatu where we could enjoy Christmas next to the beach. I had been to Bali before but visiting it with Antonio felt like a totally new experience. I was excited to show him around and was impressed to see how much Bali grew since I first visited 5 years ago.

In Ubud, we stayed in Pondok Bambu Homestay, a very welcoming set of rooms and bungalows integrated in a series of Hindu Balinese temples where, the family that runs the homestay, lives. There was a refreshing pool, we finally had a proper bed and we were surprised by delicious green banana pancakes for breakfast! The only inconvenient during our stay in Ubud was the rain. It is still raining season in Indonesia and the rain seemed to be a constant thing! Despite the fact that we had long raincoats on and had accepted having to ride under the rain, it poured so badly that the roads would flood turning our scooter into a submarine… This made it impossible for us to get to Mount Batuk on the first day which, I had really hoped to show to Antonio. Nevertheless, we still managed to visit a beautiful Luwak coffee plantation that we stumbled upon in the search of some nice and non touristy rice fields.

Luwak coffee is considered one of the best and most expensive coffees in the world and is a big thing in Indonesia. Luwaks are civets, a local nocturnal mammal that looks like a mongoose and that is known to be quite aggressive. They are given the coffee fruits and the coffee is then made from the partially digested and defecated cherries. This process is meant to be better for several reasons: firstly, the civets only select the best cherries to eat. Second, because the coffee cherries are fermented during digestion, the coffee will have an enhanced flavour, be less bitter and have a lower dose of caffeine. Sounds odd? For us as well! But they take the proper steps to wash and roast the remaining beans at high temperatures killing whatever bacteria there might be and the result is incredible! The coffee is indeed really tasty and soft. My only concern and like in any other animal production, is the conditions in which the animals are kept... I know that the price of Luwak coffee gave way to intensive farming methods being used on civets and despite the fact that we visited a small local farm, the civets were still kept in small cages and we were suspicious of the way they were behaving.

On our second day in Ubud, we went for a tour of the Green School: always impressive for its avant-garde bamboo structures and for the many spiritual, entrepreneurial and creative activities they hold to inspire the kids. We felt the tour could have been better however. Considering all the unconventional things they do there, we would’ve liked to learn more about what makes them different and about their method of education. We then continued our day trip to Canggu which took us almost two hours in our very uncomfortable scooter. The thing with Bali is that the the time suggested by the google maps cannot be trusted either because of intense traffic or because of sinuous roads and hills that seem to deviate you from the right path. Still, it was good to get a feel of the ambience in Canggu: it is busy and there are lots of cafes and restaurants for a healthy meal. Antonio used the opportunity to cut his hair before we headed back to Ubud where we decided to separate and go Christmas shopping. We felt sad for not being with our families this Christmas so we decided to at least celebrate the occasion with a few little gifts to each other! We each had 1h30 and a budget and we disappeared happily into the streets in search for some nice gifts :)

While in Ubud, we also booked a local cooking class where we learnt to cook 6 different dishes! We loved this activity because they took us to the local market, to their own organic garden to pick vegetables for the recipes and we each had our own cooking stove. Antonio and I were really impressed with the local market, especially the variety of delicious tropical fruits that we had never heard about!! Personally, I fell in love with mangosteen which I have been making sure to eat every day while I can!!

In Uluwatu, we stayed at the Gravity Hotel: a beautiful design boutique hotel that Antonio’s mother chose for us as a Christmas present. It had an incredible view over the hill and down at the sea and we stayed in a quiet and relaxing bungalow. Uluwatu has a really cool vibe. It is a small village with many beautiful coastal beaches where Antonio could surf and where we found good places to eat. We felt it had much more charm than Canggu for instance and it was thankfully less crowded. The highlight of our days there was of course Christmas! Although we didn't get to wish people we encountered Merry Christmas because it is not celebrated in Indonesia, we found our own way of celebrating this occasion and made peace with the fact that, this year, we would be far from our friends and family. Once we accepted this within, it actually turned out to be a really great day, even if different from what we are used to. We mostly enjoyed our time together that day, went to the beach, Antonio surfed some waves and we picked a nice restaurant for dinner. More importantly, we had a lot of fun during our long skypes with both of our families and seeing them open the Christmas presents we had sent to them via airmail. Fortunately, technology makes it possible to spend Christmas together although each of us were in different corners of the world. Antonio and I also exchanged our own presents that we had purchased in our "Ubud gift run" which definitely brought the spark of Christmas as well. At the end of the day, our hearts were filled with love and gratitude as we thought back to our Christmas and to our loved ones who we felt were “miles apart, but close at heart”.

We are going to Lombok next where we decided to book a 1 week surf and yoga retreat. We heard the waves are amazing there and we can’t wait to get some sport back into our routine!

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