Exploring Ubud

The next stop for Liam and I was Ubud in central Bali. This area of the island is known for its artistic and cultural pursuits. It is also full of wellness services, such as hair and nail salons, yoga classes and massage therapy. Art galleries and shops selling jewelry are also abundant.

When we arrived in Ubud, we quickly found a guesthouse that suited our needs. We didn’t have a booking, but this time the walk-in method worked out well. The room was spacious, clean, provided breakfast and, most importantly, had air conditioning to combat the heat.

After settling in, we had a wander around the town. The architecture of some temples were amazing. The figures commonly found at roadside altars were stunning. This reflected the high level of skill and craftsmanship of people in this area.

When we could no longer stand the sun’s relentless rays, we took refuge in a small café and got something to drink. Stepping into the air-conditioned shop was a bit like heaven. Who would’ve thought that something as simple as a cold drink and a cool room could feel so good?

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Finding Accommodation on Gili T

Most backpackers don’t worry much about accommodation. They just turn up to a place and go door-to-door in search of a hostel or guesthouse that is both cheap and clean. It’s usually pretty easy to do and not a bad way to go about finding a place to stay if you are flexible and up for anything.

It wasn’t until Gili Trawangan that I tested out this method. I’d always booked a couple of nights at a hostel and then extended or moved as needed. But when Liam and I arrived at Gili T, we had no idea where we were staying. People told us that there’d be heaps of people greeting the boats who could help with accommodation. As we found out, this was definitely not an exaggeration.

We met a guy who told us he’d bring us to a guesthouse. We tried a couple of places a few blocks back from the ocean but they were fully booked or more than we wanted to pay. We finally got to one place that seemed pretty clean and bright, included breakfast but had no a/c. It was midday and I really wanted a place with a/c, but we decided to book into this place for a night and then check out nearby guesthouses to see if we could get a better deal.

We found a great place down the road that had cute little bungalows and a pool. It sounded perfect so we told them we’d be over the following day and to reserve a room for us. Unfortunately, when we arrived the next morning, they had sold our room. They showed us to one of the bungalows, which turned out to be extremely small but it had a/c. Liam loved its character, but I thought it was a bit cramped. Still, we decided to take it and not go walking to find another place.

We spent the day lounging around the pool and watched a movie in the room. However, I felt something wet on the bed even through the duvet. I looked under the covers and found a growing patch of wetness that was coming from the mattress. It stunk of urine!!

Liam quickly went down to tell the staff. At first, they offered to change the bedding, because they didn’t understand that it was pee and thought it was just water. After one of the guys smelled the duvet, he looked disgusted and offered to move us. It turned out people occupied our room the previous night, and housekeeping apparently changed the sheets without seeing the huge wet patch. More likely, they ignored it and just covered it up! That is so horribly unsanitary and gross!

After moving to a new bungalow, I decided to take a shower hoping to wash away any cooties I might’ve gotten from that bed. After a few minutes (enough to get a good lather going in my hair), the water in the shower stopped running. I tried the tap at the sink and that was also dry. The bungalow’s bathroom, like many in Bali, was out the back and an open-air concept. High walls provided privacy from other bungalows and guesthouses, but there was no roof covering the space. After waiting several minutes and testing all the taps, I had to ask Liam if he could report another problem to the staff.

When he returned, he said they’d turned on the water pipes to our bungalow so I returned to my shower. But, after 10 minutes with no water I came back upstairs again and decided I may as well give up. But, as is common in Asia, a heavy downpour of rain started up and I decided that might be enough to at least get the soap out of my hair. Halfway through, the water finally started up again and I was able to get a proper shower.

Never before have I experienced so much drama at an accommodation. Now I’ll be more careful to fully vet a place out before committing to it. It makes me a bit wary not to pre-book accommodation, but I think I’ll still give it a go. Places that can afford to list themselves on a website, especially guesthouses and hostels in Asia, are bound to be more expensive. Prices are also set once you book it online while you can negotiate for a better price in person. I suppose there are pros and cons to both ways of traveling. This is definitely one of the most memorable things that I’ve done. Too bad it had to be the high level of grossness and inconvenience that’s made this time so unforgettable.

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Culinary Delights at Gili T Night Market

The night market on Gili Trawangan is legendary. I had heard about its wide variety and cheap prices from several people I spoke with while in Australia. But when Liam and I arrived there for dinner the first night, the night market really surprised and impressed us.

A small paved lot, which would have served as a car park if there had been any cars on the island, transformed into a buffet of delicacies when the sun went down. There were two or three main food stalls where you could have a mix ‘n’ match meal by pointing at things in trays. A Thai woman (I noticed that women tend to serve you the pre-made foods while men cooked on the grills or replenished food) puts a bit of whatever you’ve pointed at on a plate and tries to answer the constant barrage of “what’s that?” questions. When you’ve had your fill, she totals you up and collects your money.

If you enjoy seafood, the night market is an excellent place to have fresh fish, lobster, prawns, squid and other seafood. You get to pick your dinner for the night from a gigantic display of seafood on ice. Then, a Thai man cooks it up for you while you wait. Everything looked fresh and, even though I’m not too crazy about seafood, I have to say it looked and smelled really good. While you waited, you could also pick up a fresh fruit shake or a corn on the cob.

For any food lover, this place is heaven. Over three nights, Liam and I tried a range of Thai food from the night market despite not really knowing what we were eating. Everything turned out great, and the only danger was selecting a dish that was too hot for you to handle. But, the vendors were usually able to understand “hot or not hot,” and that’s usually enough to get you by. I guess they’re probably used to the meek palates of Western visitors.

My favorite food stall is one that only sold desserts. The quality of the sweets amazed me. Despite having limited provisions and the costs to get ingredients to the island, the cakes and cookies on Gili T were of a very high caliber and could probably beat some of the desserts in bakeries back home. Instead, here I was, at an open-air market in Thailand enjoying them a few feet from the beach. You could get cakes, cookies, tarts and donuts and many were almost too prettily decorated to eat.

After a bit of a disappointing time in the Kuta/Legian/Seminyak area, Gili T has certainly lived up to all the hype. I wish I could’ve stayed a bit longer and just chilled out more. However, Liam only planned to stay in Indonesia for a short time so I decided to tag along a bit longer as I waited for my friend Reena to join me.

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