After over a week of our gruelling routine on Gili Air we moved to Bali where our first stop was Ubud. Day 1 was spent raiding Ubud’s jewellery shops whilst on the second day we organised an ill-fated day trip to see the sunset at Tanah Lot temple, supposedly one of Bali’s most magnificent sights.
On hindsight we probably shouldn’t have stopped at this other temple which happened to have a jackfruit vendor outside meaning we promptly bought a quarter of the fruit. Stopping at a coffee plantation wasn’t a wise idea either because I used the last of our cash to buy some Balinese coffee (induced by the caffeine high from all the free tasters). So by the time we arrived at Tanah Lot and Nyoman, our driver, informed us that there was an entrance fee to pay for the temple, we were utterly penniless. This meant we reluctantly had to turn back and go back to Ubud, leaving the sunset and a whole lot of shame behind us. To console ourselves we finished off the jackfruit and washed it down with some Balinese wine. Totally worth missing the sunset for that jackfruit.
The next stop was Danau Batur, a huge lake at the bottom of Gunung Batur, an active volcano in the north of Bali. Most people head there to climb Gunung Batur and admire the sunrise (why the obsession with sunrises?), but of course our lack of suitable attire and the fateful injured foot meant we had to forgo what would surely have been a very enjoyable early morning walk.
We contented ourselves with sipping hot lemon tea whilst admiring the view of Gunung Batur from below at a floating restaurant on the lake’s shore, digging into unbelievably cheap fresh fish and paying a visit to the nearby hot springs. Most people do this after the trek but there’s no reason why one should necessarily climb up a mountain at some ungodly hour before dipping into a pool.
The day before we flew back to Bangkok Nyoman drove us down to Kuta and so as not to completely tarnish our tourist credentials we asked him to stop by Tanah Lot on the way there, promising we’d have enough cash this time! We were accompanied by an Indian filmmaker from Goa who had had his big break by filming a documentary on Union Carbide’s pesticide plant.
Our parsimony was well rewarded with Tanah Lot’s spectacular views. The temple is perched on a large offshore rock which is relentlessly pummelled by the waves. Given the high tide we couldn’t actually walk to the temple itself and were limited to admiring the hypnotising waves crash onto the beach at the foot of the black cliffs. The awe-inspiring sight of Bali’s western coastline battered by the tide did little to assuage our dread at the thought of going home so soon.
Back in Bangkok, we endeavoured to cram in as much papaya salad, jackfruit and morning glory as time would allow. We became regulars at our favourite stalls and were happy to be back in a city that draws you in with its never-ending buzz of steaming pots and sizzling street kitchens, its heady smells of garlic, chili, fish sauce, fried chicken and salty grilled seafood, and its fiery noodle soups that set noses running being slurped in the sticky heat.
Chris was only too happy to show us around again and we finally got a chance to introduce him to our papaya salad lady on Charoenkrung and our spicy squid salad lady just by our hotel. Chris ensured we broke out of our habits by making us try papaya salad with salted crab and rotten fish sauce (it actually tasted nice!), noodles with pork blood (again, a pleasant surprise) and a soup with mushrooms, pumpkin, green vegetables and enough chilies to feed the whole of Thailand (although apparently this was the “non-spicy” version for us farangs) which was to die for. We promptly asked the lady for another bowl and took it up to Chris’s to have after our swim in his pool!
To end the trip in style we hit up the notorious One Night Only on Silom Soi 4 for what we hoped would be a night of dancing and ogling at the drop-dead gorgeous not-so-gay-after-all waiters. Well, it turns out that unless you’re a big group willing to either shove lots of banknotes down their trousers or consume copious amounts of alcohol, they’re not that interested in you. Astrid and I swallowed this bitter truth along with our wine and contented ourselves with ogling in a way that was only marginally more restrained than the first time.
All in all, it was a fitting ending for our trip and we boarded our plane already hatching plans to return.