A trip to Gili T island on Bali

Gili Islands are a group of 3 islands northwest of Lombok and one of the most popular beach destinations around Bali. I had heard about it from Elizabeth Gilbert’s Eat Pray Love and my friends in Ubud. I knew I wanted to see the white sand beaches before my trip came to an end. It is a destination slightly more expensive than Ubud and it was good that we were going in a group of five people. We rented a taxi to Padang Bai from where the boat to Gili T left at 9:30am. Gili T is more of a party island and Gili Air is romantic place mostly for honeymooners. We used the boat company SindEx (for 310K IDR for round tickets, it was a great deal! Usual rates go upto 500K). It was a calm sea and sunny day, we took our places on the sunny deck. With enthusiastic local staff who kept on serving Bintangs and playing Vengaboys party songs, nice breeze and heavenly view of the shiny blue waters all around, the trip had already started on a high. This is why I would again highly recommend SindEx boats.

Sindex boat to Gili T
Sindex boat to Gili T
Happy on the boat!
Happy on the boat!

We reached Gili T island around 12:30pm and walked to Cotton Tree hotel where we had taken a 5 bed family room for 2.5M IDR for 2 days. There are no automobiles allowed on these islands, therefore you need to use the bicycle, foot or horse carriages. Dumping our stuff, we went back to the main shore side for some lunch. Needless to mention, we were drenched in sweat and starving already. The island, although the biggest among Gilis, is still quite small and can be covered in foot or bicycle.

Selfie time at the beach
Selfie time at the beach

We explored few beach areas before walking up to the West coast which is full of idyllic clean beaches and resorts. You will also find interesting spots where they have swings in middle of the sea which makes for great photo ops. After clicking some pics, we headed to Serene Sunset on Ash’s recommendation. I could not agree with her more because this little bar on the beach is like a place from Alice in Wonderland. It has cute wooden furniture, swings, hammocks, bonfire and done in a taste that makes you want to do nothing but sit and stare at the blue glory in front. It was almost sunset time and we enjoyed the view sipping the best Ginger Mojitos on the island. We went to the neighboring restaurant for dinner. The falafel plate I ordered was fab. Since the horse carriages asked too much, we decided to walk back to our room which took another 45 min or so. I decided to call it a day after nice hot shower.

Swings in the ocean on Gili T
Swings in the ocean on Gili T
Sipping Mojitos on Gili T
Sipping Mojitos on Gili T

Next day, I just wanted to laze by the beach after renting a bike. We hanged around at Horizontal beach bar on the east side and I enjoyed my Kindle and with decent wifi all around in the island, I was able to take my work calls in between as well.  Marbree enjoyed her diving and showed us the pics of turtles and cuttlefish and the amazing sea life later on. By the way, Gili beaches are great for snorkeling too and you just need to take a mask and go on your own just near the shore. Just before the sunset, I knew where I wanted to go back – the Serene Sunset bar! 🙂 So we biked back, noticing how low the tide seemed, exposing the dark green coral on the sea. I needed another Ginger Mojito watching the sun go down. I admit the scene made me very reflective and emotional. I was thinking of a lot of memories and people. But as the day began to set, I noticed how I have come a long way since the beginning of my Bali trip (which some of you might remember from this post). I was happy to witness this magic of the nature and thankful to be with people who are amazing and kind to me (do I need to mention again how amazing Ash has been throughout my journey?). I was literally happy and peaceful. There are so many ‘could have beens’ in life but I was glad to just be. And I did not have any regrets, resentment or anger, only warmth and happiness (sometimes I do wonder if that water priestess thing did work some magic on me since I have really not been feeling any residual emotions after that). I did not want to jump into the future, I just wanted to witness that beautiful sunset and I did.

Most amazing sunset at the Serene Sunset Bar at Gili T
Most amazing sunset at the Serene Sunset Bar at Gili T

We settled there itself for a dinner and guess what, Ash found a wonderful note hidden away in our table drawer. It got us chatting and soon the bar owner (Iranian Mr. _I-dont-know-the-name__) joined us and took us for a walk on the moonlit beach. His passion for the place flowed in his words and we decided to head back to the east side for parties that night. Stopping over at karaoke bar, Irish bar and Sama Sama for a reggae band performance, I retired to my room around midnight. The parties and after parties continued long into the night but I was happy to be back into the bed.

Curious note
Curious note
Lovely dinner conversations
Lovely dinner conversations
Sama Sama Reggae Bar
Sama Sama Reggae Bar

We left at noon next day and the boat ride was choppy in the beginning, so we ended up riding in the lower section of the boat itself. We made it back to Ubud by 6 p.m. We were tired but thankful. We had seen something beautiful and magical. And who can regret that? Financially, I spent around 2M IDR on the full trip which was a great deal for the things we got to experience. If you go to Bali, you do not want to miss the Gilis. And if you are there with your special someone, go off to Gili Air, watch the sun and stars, sip some wine and enjoy the feeling of love.

I have only one week left in Bali now. It has been a phenomenal trip and I am going to always cherish it.

  

Bali Uluwatu Road Trip

There’s something in humans that makes them want to go to the edge, see that vast soaring ocean, see the sun go up and down and stare at the nothingness. It is in this everyday cycle of nature that he realizes his own insignificance – or rather the significance of his insignificance. I have often felt the need to run to the sea water and just watch it wave up and down, uninteresting in its regularity and musical in its rhythm. The tide will go up and then it will recede. Sometimes, it will reveal the ocean floor naked and other times, it will hide the corals. It is a predictable movie that I can watch again and again.

So, I had decided to come back to Bali after my Singapore trip. We joke here at Hubud that no one can leave Ubud in a month, you got to come back. In my last few weeks, I had felt restless to touch the saline water and walk aimlessly on the shore. And with this desire in my heart, I and my never tiring flatmate, Ash decided to head off on a bike trip to Uluwatu, which means lands end + rock. Unsurprisingly, it houses one of the most beautiful cliffs formed by territory limestone resulting from subduction Indo-Australian plate under the Eurasian plate. A surfers’ paradise, Uluwatu is insanely picturesque. Now, biking in Bali is a whole interesting experience. The highways are quite similar to India but less wide. Road signs are not ample enough and we needed to stop every 15 minutes to make sure we are on the right road. Driving on a scooter, helmet is a must. We drove via Canggu (more common beach destination for tourists) and reached Uluwatu in the late afternoon. We checked in on the Bingin beach at a small place called Sticky’s. It had basic and fancier rooms with beautiful lookout terraces on the cliff. The hotel housed so many Aussies who were spending weeks there to surf. Drenched in the sweat from afternoon sun, I took a cold shower and moved to the beach. Alert: lot of rock steps on your way between parking and the beach. Travel with light luggage 🙂

Sticky's at Bingin Beach
Sticky’s at Bingin Beach
Bingin Beach
Bingin Beach

Due to the holiday of Galungan, many cafes were closed but I found a sweet birds nest kind of spot in one and it made for gorgeous view of the beach. The water was dark blue and as far as the sight went, surfers dotted the sea. However, the beach is not entirely safe due to shallow corals very close from the shore. Ash hurt herself with a sharp cut within minutes. Smoothies, drinks and corn made for our light lunch before the sun started to set. It was my first proper sunset view in Bali and was as beautiful as I wished. I sat on the beach watching it go down at its leisurely pace. The cliff, cloud and beach turned colors gradually. In the darkness, lit up the numerous ships standing far on the horizon and the lamps on the seaside shacks.

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Sunset at Bingin
Sunset at Bingin

Fresh seafood was brought out and people hungry from their surfing an swimming retired to find a table with good view. All the views in this place are good by the way. So, we sat down, chatting about the inconsequential episodes of life that tend to rattle us wildly in the moment but mean nothing more than a speck on a sprayed wall. I noticed lights in middle of the sea, someone told us that people are looking for octopuses and squids with a headlight. The light stuns them and you can shoot them with a spear kind of thing and bring it to the cafes on the beach to cook those! Gross! An okay dinner was followed by a party at Single Fin Rock Bar which is located right at the tip of the island giving a 360 degree view of the ocean. The night parties are legendary and we knew we would be coming back there again. It is a must visit in the area. Next day, we checked out from the hotel (paying 200K for a night was a fab deal in that place right on the beach) and headed to Single Fin for the lunch. I had been craving for a good cappuccino but the coffee machine was broken. The food was not great but what people come here is for the view and experience. We did enjoy looking out at the crystal blue waves hitting at the rocks, read a book for an hour before heading back to Ubud on the road.

Single Fin bar at Uluwatu
Single Fin bar at Uluwatu

Again, driving back on the scooter was not all fun but we managed it fine, having a brief stopover at Sanur beach. Frankly, as soon as the paddy fields came into the view, it felt like home is here. There is something about Ubud that is warm and motherly. I was glad to drive across the slanting sun rays on the green fields. Already longing to take a hot shower and slip into the bedsheets. It was a good trip, a major beach checked off the list. Overall I spent a little over 500K IDR on the trip. After two intense work days, I knew I was heading to Gili Islands – one of the most talked about islands in the world. More on it in the next post 🙂

  

Experiencing Singapore – urban garden

Singapore is the 7th country I am setting foot in. Now, that’s nothing compared to what my follow Ubudians had been up to (remembering Amber counting her countries list somewhere in 30s) but hey, its a start! 🙂 After arriving from the lush green land of Bali, Singapore initially seemed like a concrete jungle. The skyscrapers, cemented roads, metros, buses, shopping malls all reminded me of the west. On my first day here, I decided to meet Julie (aha, another Hubudian who was on her visa run here) for the night safari at Singapore zoo. Having traveled a lot in NYC subways, the transport system was easy for me to figure out and I could travel on my own the very first day. The biggest disturbing thing was when I saw super brand conscious public breaking their necks over their smartphones everywhere in the metro and buses. Glittery handbags, watches, iPhones with kitty covers and colored hairs. I was already missing the warmth of Balinese people.

But that’s being a bit harsh. As I explored more (courtesy of my generous cousin hosts), I could see government’s efforts at maintaining greenery in abundance. Be it the gardens by the bay, botanical gardens, east coast parks or even the expressways, palm and yellow rain trees with manually planted bird’s nest ferns will offer a green feast to your eyes. Apart from an impressively maintained infrastructure, what I love about Singapore is how secure it is. One my first night, I was coming alone with no phone at 1 a.m. and I did not have to think twice about it after the reassurance given by my family and friends staying here. Coming from India, that is one thing enough on its own to convince me to spend more time in Singapore. I wish vegetarian food was more accessible though and of course, that things were a little less expensive (expenses are almost at par with US, I would say) 🙂   

Gardens by the Bay
Gardens by the Bay

With my travels, I had been feeling as if I was growing more conscious and mature (ha!). And I was not ready to go back to India as I intended originally on 14 Aug. So, I ended up canceling my ticket and planning to go back, once again, to Bali before crossing the seas over to India. This extension also gave me a chance to spend Rakshabandhan with Ashutosh and Megha and have fun with my awesome buddy Geetika. The best parts have been when I got to bicycling on East Coast Park for 10-16 km. My sedentary lifestyle was shaken another time when I got a taste of swimming pool. Something about these physical excursions has given me a new goal – ‘to learn swimming’. Let’s see if I can overcome my fear of water for real. It only helped that Joseph Schooling, the new Olympic champ and hero of Singapore, has triggered a wave of swimming enthusiasts in Singapore. The building pool had been busier than ever 😛

Cycling at East Coast Park
Cycling at East Coast Park

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Talking of Rio Olympics, watching Sindhu win and other fighting performances by Indian girls was only a reinforcement of what I have always believed in – the genius and heroism are never a matter of gender or skin color. I feel inspired every time an unlikely champion raises her head. History knows no favorites.

Other places I loved include the awesome street shopping experience of Bugis Street Mall and the Marina Bay area. I also got to spend a lot of time on my Kindle thanks to Dr. Marshall Rosenberg. As I bumped into reading about his work around Non Violent Communication, I have found a transformation in the way I have looked at communication and expressions, particularly anger. I am still in the process of adopting it at a more practical level but it has already been an eye opener to me. More on it later because I am still in discovery phase but it looks promising.

Light show at Marina Bay
Light show at Marina Bay

This is my last weekend in Singapore and thanks to my well wishers here, the time has been productive and fun, both. It had been on my travel wish list for sometime and I’m glad to check it off. I can see how people like working and living here. If you are doing a job at the end of the day, it is a nice place with uber urban culture, interesting food and security. Plus, the location is a big advantage for Indians and it does give good access to traveling the cute countries around on a budget – Malaysia (a bus ride away), Bali, Vietnam, Cambodia etc.

Sunset at Bedok Reservoir
Sunset at Bedok Reservoir
Another day goes down
Another day goes down
Keep Growing
Keep Growing
  

Placid Lake and the Tempest

tempest
Rainy day at East Coast Park

‘O placid lake, why do you lie so calm?’ asked the tempest.
‘Because I have lost the desire to dance.’
‘Oh, but you are missing out the beauty of the tumult. The life of passion. Wait, I shall show you!’
And saying that, the tempest threw a stone creating a million ripples in the lake.

The lake watched herself wave up and down and felt ecstasy passing through her very veins.
‘Hey, I had never felt like that before. The energy felt good and brought back some of my lost treasures back to the surface!’
‘Aha, now you can become the sea,’ said the tempest with a roar.
‘No, my dear, let me now give you some of my calm.’

‘But I am the hail, I am the storm. How can I be calm?’
With that, the ripples on the lake calmed down and she invited the tempest over her. With her moisture laden arms, she pacified the dry storm and grounded it.
‘Oh, that felt nice for me to rest a bit. I have always moved in whirlwinds,’ replied the tempest with a gleam in his eyes.

‘I am the lake with an ocean hidden in me and you are the storm with a calm at the center. Let’s embrace our cores and keep ourselves open to transcending our identities once in a while. Let’s love who we are.’
‘But we are one!’
‘Yes, we are!’

  

Bali Diary 6: Accomplish and Celebrate

Ok, I admit I’m somewhat of a workaholic. Whenever I get stuff done (the slang is get shit done!), I feel awesome and then I get more stuff done. My projects are coming together naturally as I surround myself with other interesting people – we have marketing geniuses, content writers, film makers, app developers here at Hubud. Monday to Wednesdays have been super productive and then we have our social time on Thursday lunches and Friday excursions.

On my third Saturday, I attended the energetic Invasion pool party (there is no dearth of these in Ubud) in the picturesque Bali Resort. I spent the Sunday relaxing on Sanur beach with Colleen. And I got the Balinese massage which was fantastic. Bali is all about healing, massages and spa. I had not planned any tourist activities in Bali and have let things happen on their own. I think there are better beaches to explore in Bali, perhaps some other time.

Invasion Party, Ubud
Invasion Party, Ubud
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Sanur Beach

Fourth week of working hard resulted in my coming up with strategic decisions for next season of SS. I also managed to publish the divorce article that I have been holding for too long now on DailyO. It seemed fitting that I post it from here where I have felt most myself.  Our third Tribe lunch was at the permaculture center, Moksa Cafe where all the ingredients are grown fresh. We had most amazing organic coco drink and rice bowl. Oh and the bamboo straw was so cute! The rice fields surrounding the restaurant called for a lovely walk. For my last Friday here, I headed to the beautiful Tjampuhan Spa where Amber even tried to give me some swim lessons! This, by the way, is a very beautiful place. The hot water pool is enclosed in carved rock caves overlooking the jungle and the river. I love how Balinese preserve their greenery.

Rice fields behind Moksa Cafe
Rice fields behind Moksa Cafe
Organic food at Moksa Cafe, Ubud
Organic food at Moksa Cafe, Ubud
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Tjampuhan Spa, Ubud

I spent a very soulful last weekend with Ash when we headed to the Holy Water TemplePura Tirta Empul. I had been wanting to go there ever since I landed, thanks to Ash for pushing me to go there finally.Bali offers some very beautiful temples and this is more than a 1000 years old now. The fresh water comes from the spring in the temple and thousands of visitors bathe in it. I and Ash took turns to bathe under the designated spouts. Definitely, an experience I would remember. I do not see any prominent statues inside Balinese temples although there are lot of carved figures outside. We also visited the stone temple next to this one that featured gigantic rock with faint carvings but were at a loss to understand its significance. On Sunday, we walked around the famous Monkey Forest in the center of Ubud. Balinese monkeys look slightly different than Indian monkeys but compete well in terms of mischief and chaos. Many a times, they would jump on the roof and garden at Hubud, making for amusing scenes.

bathing at Holy Water Temple Bali
bathing at Holy Water Temple Bali
Holy Water Temple Bali
Holy Water Temple Bali
Monkey Forest, Ubud
Monkey Forest, Ubud

Last week went by quick with a merry happy hour at Watercress with Ash and Aline and a closing lunch at Laura’s place. Her daughter cooked for us and that to me was very sweet 🙂 Laura’s home was again very beautiful with a garden and sunbathed pool. She served us some traditional Russian equivalent of potato filled tortellini and salad. We ended with fruits, honey and spicy tea. In this last lunch together, I had a lot to acknowledge. After all, Bali has given me so much.

Happy Hours at Ubud
Happy Hours at Ubud

The reason we all are able to spend good time celebrating is the fact that we are getting so much done. When you are productive, you feel happy. It has nothing to do with how much time you have. It is all about how you spend whatever time you have. Ever since I started working, I had felt a need to maintain a very healthy work life balance that gives me time for myself. But although I now get a lot of time for myself, I often squandered it away in India. As a result, I was neither productive nor enjoying as much as I should. This month at Hubud has shown me the promise of ‘work hard, celebrate harder’.

My first innings at Bali came to an end. I had come distraught but am leaving with a smile. I am heading off to Singapore now. This is not the end.

And, here are the previous posts in Bali Diary: