Thursday 6 May - Day 3 in Bali and our 10 year wedding anniversary!

Today we were up early for our day trip with Banyan Tree Bicycle Tours.

Gede and Nyoman arrived at 7:15am to pick us up from our hotel and then we went and picked up another couple from Germany (I could not understand the man's name but his wife's name was Christiana) and a solo female traveller (Vanessa) from Australia. After talking for a little while we found out that while Vanessa now lives in Darwin she grew up in Nambour and her parents are living in Palmwoods.

We drove for about an hour before coming to our first stop - Labhagga Restaurant. After a light breakfast we continued on driving for about another 20 minutes before reaching our starting point where we each got a bike and helmet. We were about to face a 26km ride back to Ubud where we would have lunch at the home of the owner of Banyan Tree Cycling Tours. His name is Bagi.

We rode for about 5 minutes before stopping to visit a traditional Balinese home. Gede told us about the purpose of each hut and took us through the garden explaining how each plant is used and showing us the animals that are bred for food and income.

The next stop was the rice fields where women where harvesting the rice. We each took our turn to whack the wooden board to release the rice. It was explained to us how the cycle works with a new crop being planted every 3 months. As we were leaving the ladies were talking and laughing with Gede. Steve asked what they were saying and Gede's response was "I not tell you...embarrass you". After being assured by Steve that it was okay he said that the ladies were saying that he was handsome and they liked his fair skin. They were joking around and saying that Gede could leave Steve with them and take the rest of us...well at least I think they were joking! Gede went on to tell Steve that if he stayed in Bali he would have lots of women!!!

After prying my husband away from the rice fields with an extremely inflated head we continued on down the road to a local temple. Each village has a temple and Gede talked to us about Hindu beliefs.

Next we came to a dam. We crossed the dam and pushed our bikes up through some lush green rice fields. The view was amazing! By now we were exhausted - it was extremely hot (about 36c in the sun) and my butt was hurting so badly! We kept going through the rice fields, passing about 5 women who were bathing naked in the water along side the path and yelling at us. I have no idea what they were saying but it did not appear to be hostile. On the other side of the path were two women resting in the fields - they were pointing at Steve and watching him as we rode along the track. I am going to have to keep a close eye on my husband now and maybe even be nice to him. He appears to be attracting a lot of attention!

After we left the rice fields the roads started to get busier and we were coming into the more built up area. As we rode past houses young children who were playing in groups would yell out "hello". Sometimes when we yelled hello back they would giggle.

After a while and a few big hills Steve and I decided to pack it in and take the easy way out - in the soft leather seat and air conditioned mini bus with Nyoman. Nyoman drove us to Bagi's house where Bagi was waiting with cold face clothes to freshen ourselves up. As we were still waiting for the rest of the group to arrive we took a short stroll down the drive way and spoke with the children who were there. The language barrier made it a little difficult but they knew a small amount of English and they were extremely adorable!

We sat down in an outdoor eating area with Bagi and Gede. Lunch was cooked by Bagi's wife and served by Gede's wife and was absolutely beautiful. It was one of the best meals we have had here so far. Gede explained to us that everyone (men and women) can cook in Bali because there is little fast food or convenience foods and the men cook for ceremonies while the women make the offerings.

It was interesting talking with Bagi. He is a very intelligent man and his knowledge of the world and politics was amazing.

We were dropped back at our hotel at about 3pm and we headed straight for the pool! We had a quick swim and relaxed for a while before deciding to get a massage.

We each had a 1 hour massage and they massaged everywhere. There were only two places they didn't massage on me and you can imagine where they are! They massaged our knee caps, our eye brows, our noses and even our ears! We were out by the pool and this was my first massage ever so I was a little surprised when she asked me to roll over onto my back and pulled my 1 piece down to my waist. I am not big on showing my bits to the world but there I was laying by a public pool with almost nothing on! I decided to go with it because I am never going to see these people again and the hotel was very quite at the time...I couldn't see anything because my eyes were covered but I could not hear anyone in the surrounding area. Steve tells me however that photos were being taken by mobile phones and passed around to mates....maybe there will be a big controversy over that soon.

We headed into town for dinner at around 6:30pm. We went to a restaurant called Nomad.

For starters we ordered Rice Paper Rolls for 35 000 and Japanese Gyozas for 33 000. Both were extremely good and I knew this was going to be a good dinner!

We decided to share a main of 9 Tapas for 69 000...again it was really good...

We also decided to share dessert and chose Banana Cream Caramel with Chocolate Ice Cream for 25 000. The dessert was different to what we had expected but was nice. It appeared to be a small banana cake that had been soaked in caramel sauce.

Steve had a few small Bali Hai's for 17 000 each and I had a Sweet Dream for 37 000 and a Cosmic Colada for 48 000. I didn't really like the Sweet Dream. It was very strong and was made with Arak which is a potent local "wine". I imagine it is highly flammable!

We had hoped to see some shops but by the time we finished dinner they were all closed so we headed back to the hotel.

Later in the night when we were both asleep there was a knock at the door. It was Lau (not sure on the spelling). We had told the hotel driver on the way to the restaurant that it was our wedding anniversary and Lau was delivering a small chocolate cake to our room for us to share as a celebration of our anniversary. The next day he apologised for waking us and I told him that it was okay as it was a very nice cake to wake up to!

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Wednesday 5 May - Day 2 in Bali

Today we slept in a bit later than we have so far which was nice. The room comes with breakfast so we went down to the hotel restaurant and both had french toast, the french toast here is a little sweeter that we make it. A little later we saw monkeys in the restaurant where everyone was having breakfast. The waiter had a slingshot that he was scaring them away with.

We then went back to our room to get ready to go into town. today we have a better plan with our money and are much more organised. We went to reception to organise the shuttle bus to take us to ubud, I also asked for a map so we had some idea where we were. On the map we could see how close the hotel is to ubud. The lady suggested we walk along the scooter path through the side of the monkey forest.

Along the path to the monkey forest we came to a dead end where there was a wood carver working away, he ushered us into his workshop. the carvings were amazing, after quite some time looking around we decided to get the three monkey statue as it was a bit different to what we had seen before and it reminds Rachael of Kaleb, Blake and Zane.

We walked for about 500m through the monkey forest looking at the monkeys. The centre of Ubud is like a big circular 1 way street, it is probably 6 kms all the way around at a guess. We talked for a bit looking for a good spot for a drink with WIFI internet so we could upload our pictures as the internet at the hotel wasn't working very well. We went into The Warung which is the restaurant for the Ubud Inn and sat down. We ordered a small Bintang for 20 000 and a mixed juice also for 20 000. While enjoying our drinks a man came out from the Ubud Inn with a very large bat hanging from his arm! He was swinging the bat back and forth a little as he walked up to a tree and hung it from a branch. I am assuming the bat is a pet as the man seemed to know exactly what he was doing and they bat just stayed there. It nibbled from the branch for a moment and then just hung around like it had nowhere else to be.

We continued up the was a bit past 11am by now. We were heading for Ibu Oka Babi Guling - the famous suckling pig in Ubud. We decided to catch a taxi because we were still a fair way off the restaurant and we didn't want to be too late because we have heard that they can sell out quickly. When we got there they were packed out! We made our way in and sat on the floor at a low table. We ordered 2 x Nasi and Babi Guling Specials for 25 000 each, a Babi Soup for 5 000, a bag of the yummmiest freshest Prawn Crackers ever for 7 000 and a small bir (beer) for 20 000. The order came quickly and Rachael was in heaven. The crackling was different to what we are used was crispy but more moist and not as hard. It also came with a small piece of sausage that was made from the liver and other inside bits and some small crispy pieces of the intestine or something like that. Steve was way to wussy to eat either of these bits!

After lunch we went walking up the street with no idea where we were going but in search of a Commonwealth Bank which we were told was down that way somewhere. We stopped by a Circle K (mini supermarket) and bought a razor, some cheese pringles, dettol soap, tissues (can you believe I didn't pack tissues?!) a chocolate bar, a coke and a gatorade. All up it cost 100 000. Drinks are really cheap here - the coke was about 90cents aud and the gatorade was about 65cents aud!

Along the way we felt everything getting a little less touristy, as there were less and less boutique shops. Rachael noticed a small shop selling sarongs and she had no trouble finding on she liked for a good price. We kept walking until we found the Commonwealth Bank and withdrew some money. The banks here have very tight security...they have at least two men in security uniforms. They open the door for you when you arrive and again when you leave and are quite pleasant and friendly.

We decided to walk back towards the Monkey Forest and our hotel. We quickly noticed we were in a local area as there were no tourist shops just locals and noone was asking us if we needed a taxi.

We spotted a clothes shop which was full of locals shopping so we decided to go and take a look. I asked the staff where the shirts where that would fit me. He laughed a bit and showed me a tiny section of shirts. We also found a couple of shirts for the boys.

We continued walking towards the Monkey Forest hoping there would be a taxi soon as we had not been asked for about 1km and we needed to ensure we got back to the hotel on time.

We stopped and spoke to a couple of young local guys who were working building a new shop and asked where we could get a taxi and they quickly asked where we were going and would motorbike be ok.

Rachael was a little apprehensive but really enjoyed the trip in the end as they took us though all the backstreets too small for cars. It cost us $1.75 AUD each.

Back at the hotel now we quickly grabbed a Bintang and mixed juice and had a refreshing dip in the pool.

At 4pm we had a shower and headed next door to the Laka Leke restaurant for a cooking class.

Laka Leke restaurant is a large restaurant that has open air huts spread around rice fields and beautiful gardens where they grow fresh ingredients to use in their restaurant. In the middle at the centre there is a large area where traditional performances and dancing occur a few nights a week.

We started our class with a tour of the gardens and were shown all of the ingredients we would be using and how they are picked.

After this we were introduced to the lady who was teaching us who was the first born daughter of the owners of the restaurant. Order of birth here is very important and determines which first name you have. So for first born there are 3 choices of name, for the second born there are 2 choices, for the third born there are 3 choices and for the 4th born there is only 1 choice. After that it starts back at 1 again so the 5th born has the same name as the first.

The cooking class was fantastic. We did a lot of chopping (the teacher always saying "Now you Chop" or "Chop Chop" with a giggle. We prepared each of the 5 dishes together so we all got to be involved in each process which was fantastic.

We made a chicken salad, chicken curry, Balinese style prawns, black rice pudding and nasi goreng (fried rice).

We did the class with another couple from Melbourne so there were only 4 in the group which was great.

At the end we enjoyed the fruits of our labour by eating it all up. It was very very nice. Rachael and I especially liked the fried rice, chicken salad and curry.

Time for bed....

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Tuesday 4 May - Day 1 in Bali

Tuesday 4 May - Day 1 in Bali
 We did not sleep well on Monday night in anticipation of Tuesdays flight to Bali.  Our flight was leaving at 9:25am and we had booked a shuttle for 7am to transfer us to the airport.  The problem was our room did not have an alarm clock!  We requested a wakeup call but they act so casual when we talk to them we were worried that they wouldn’t wake us up and barely slept.  In the end we needn’t have worried because the wakeup call came through twice!

At the airport we bought a universal travel adaptor which works in most countries for 88 RM.  The box says it is the Swiss Army Knife of travel adaptors!

After a quick 2 ½ hour flight we landed in Denpasar. Visa on Arrival was quick, immigration took forever and customs was easy because we didn’t have anything to  declare. It took about 1 hour to get out of the airport where Nyoman and his son who is training to be a driver were waiting to take us to Saren Indah Hotel in Ubud.  They were both lovely and while their English was not great they still tried to answer all Steve’s questions that were asked with a great deal of Aussie slang.  The only concern was that as the conversation got more in depth Nyoman’s driving got worse!  He told us that he was a wood carver but had gone bankrupt about a year or so ago along with a lot of the other local wood carvers from Ubud.  His driving was a bit hit and miss, he did a lot of driving in the middle of both lanes which attracted road rage and a lot of beeping from other drivers.
Along the road to the hotel we were both amazed at difference between here and home, nearly all the way from the airport to Ubud the road was lined with small shops/stalls and people were everywhere. The streets are narrow and there is not a lot of room like back home.
We arrived at the hotel and Nyoman explained he lived only a few hundred minutes down the road if we needed a driver. On arrival at the Saren Indah hotel we were greeted with welcome cooled towels and drinks to refresh ourselves. Just after we had arrived it started to pour down rain which I believe is typical in the afternoon/night in the rainy season which Nyoman had told us is hanging around for a bit longer this year.
Our room was beautiful, in an amazing surrounding of gardens and rice patties. The room was spotless clean and very very nice. At 4pm we left to go adventure around Ubud and go out for dinner. The hotel shuttle dropped us off in town and we had a walk through some small markets looking at sarongs and that sort of thing. Then down the road and noticed the “Gelato Secrets” stand which we couldn’t go past. We got a 2 scoop cup for 22000RP ($3aud) .. it was delicious.
As we were eating our gelato it started pouring again so we walked around for a bit looking for a shop that sells umbrellas, we found one and she loved us... this was our first purchase in the country and we had no idea how much an umbrella would cost. Well we started and ended at 80 000RP, Rachael though the lady said 8000 which is about 1 AUD...but she had said 80 000 which is actually 10 aud and it was a pretty crappy umbrella,  this highlighted to us that we need more shopping practice.
We left the umbrella shop feeling a little foolish but possibly a little wiser... only time will tell. As it was still pouring down we decided to goto “Tropical” which was a bar and restaurant that we had noticed was packed out.
They offered us a face towel to dry ourselves and sat us on the floor at a low table.  I immediately grabbed my first Bintang (Beeer 27 000RP) (large bottle not small of course) and Rachael grabbed a Cosmic Colada (33 000RP) these were great and we sat down and reflected on our excellent bartering skills and came up with a more organised plan for next time.
Once our drinks were over we asked our lovely waitress if we could walk to Bebek Bengil (Dirty Duck Diner) restaurant or would it be best to cab it and how much should be expect to pay... she was helpful and we had no trouble getting a cab for close to what she suggested was a good price.  Paying for the cab was a whole other thing.  We only had larger notes on us and the driver didn’t have enough change.  Steve ran into the restaurant and had a note changed down but it was still too large for the driver.  The driver (Wayan) was very nice and suggested he run down to the local store and buy something so we could get some change.  He came back quickly with a drink and our change. We paid our fare and reimbursed him for his drink and all was good again.
On arrival at the restaurant we realised they were under massive renovation. We decided to go anyhow as we had read so many amazing reviews. As you can see from our photos there were still heaps of areas not being renovated and the place was very busy. The atmosphere was fantastic, the furniture was beautiful and the view of the rice fields from the back of the open air restaurant were amazing. 
 We started with appetisers: Snail Stuffed Mushrooms for 45 000rp and Aunt Mitzi’s Chicken Soup for 36 000rp.  Rachael loved the Snail Stuffed Mushrooms – the snails didn’t really have any taste but the mushrooms were beautiful and the sweet chilli type sauce was excellent.  The Chicken Soup was also beautiful. 
For mains we ordered Chicken Sate for 49 000rp and the restaurants signature dish Bebek Bengil which is crispy skin duck for 68 000rp.  Steve loved the Sate.  It wasn’t as spicy as the one from Malaysia but it did have a spicy sauce on the side so he could spice it up to his satisfaction.  The crispy duck was a little dry but very nice.  The dipping sauce on the side was very, very hot so we passed on that.
Unfortunately, after appetisers and mains there was no room left for dessert.  Rachael was a little disappointed by this because she was eyeing off the Coconut Cream Pie on the menu.  All up including 1 tallie and 1 stubbie plus the 15% service charge our dinner cost 316 500rp.
We then went back to the hotel and had another tallie and a juice from the hotel restaurant then it was bedtime...we were exhausted.

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The Weather is as hot as the food :)

Well we left for Malaysia yesterday morning at 8:40am from the Gold Coast airport and are now in Malaysia at the Concorde Inn which is close to the KLIA airport and not far from the LCCT airport which we flew into.

The flight was 8 hours and seemed to take forever, we were lucky enough to get on of the recenly refurbished planes so everything was sparkling new.

This is the plane we went on as it arrived at Gold Coast airport.

About 3 hours into flight realised we could hire a little media player for 30 Ringits (about $10 Austrlian). It was excellent we watched Couples Retreat and also Pearl Harbour.

When we landed in Malaysia we went through customs and immigration very quickly. We basically walked straight through customs and just stopped at immigration for a moment to get our passports stamped.

It was about 34 degrees when we landed which was a little bit of a shock as we walked off the pane. once laneded we stopped in to an Asian fast food restuarant called "Marry Browns" for a quick snack.

In our planning we decided to catch a bus from the LCCT airport to the KLIA airport (about 20 mins) and then get a cab from there to our hotel which was quiet close to KLIA. we found the first bus pretty easily and it cost us 5RM (about $1.75 AU) for the both of us. Once at the KLIA the fun begins.. man that place is huge. took us a while to find the cabs and then once we did the cabbie couldnt take us saying we needed to get a coupon. We had some help finding the coupon counter only to be told by the lady that served us we needed to get a shuttle bus not a cab as it's free. We found the bus stop after a while and asking a few different people.

The hotel is very nice and the room is clean and tidy, with much swearing and trip to reception we got the wifi working in our room. We went down and had a drink at the bar (Rachael likes the Pina Colada's here) and over to the restaurant for a meal. The food was beautiful the satay was great and the other black pepper beef with clear soup and sticky rice was also great. I realise now when the menu says pepper they mean chilli. I eventually worked out that the black things in with the beef were actually dried whole chillies... no wonder it was blowing my head off. Our waiter bought us complimentary tomato soup and some small heated rolls to snack on while we waited for our mains. so the two mains and a few beers ended out costing us 67RM ($22 aud) which i thought was very cheap for the service and quality of food we got.

One thing I'm noticing is that everyone is so eager to help you out and so far we have not been hassled by anyone so we are really looking forward to our 3 days in Malaysia at the end of this trip.

We are flying out to Bali today at 9:25am (11:25am au time) and arrive in Bali at 12:30 (2:30pm). In Denpasar we will have a driver waiting to take us up to Ubud for our first 9 nights.

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