Early Retirement Travels - Week 2, Bali & Australia
Our second week of travel started by moving to Ubud in the interior of Bali. The farmland and smaller villages felt more like the real Bali than the hubbub of the coastal resorts.
Ubud itself was busy. First impressions were that the commercial tourism had perhaps spoiled it a little. There were cars, motorbikes and people everywhere. But once we stepped away from the main thoroughfares, we found a more chilled out vibe that was more to our liking.
We stayed slightly out of town in a homestay, with an en-suite bathroom and breakfast for £11 ($16) a night. The location was peaceful, but a fifteen minute walk to the centre of town meant it was close enough to easily get to shops and restaurants.
After arriving in the early afternoon, we walked to the Monkey Forest to see the, no prizes for guessing, monkeys. It's cheap and simple, and fun to see the monkeys up close.
The following day included a visit to the market, the tiny part of the Royal Palace that you can access (if it wasn't free then it wouldn't be worth it), followed by a long walk on the Campuhan Ridge. The Ridge walk was my favourite part of the day, getting to see some of the beautiful scenery of inland Bali.
Our next day was by far the best in Bali. The highlight was a trek up Mount Batur volcano and seeing a beautiful sunrise from the summit. It was worth the 2am start time. We enjoyed the trek, the sunrise and chatting with our guide. We followed this with a dip in the thermal baths and a visit to the rice terraces at Tegallalang. We slept well that night.
We finished off our stay in Bali with a quiet day. Checking out of our homestay at midday, we had eight hours before our transfer to the airport. We relaxed in coffee shops, meandered through the market, and caught up on some home admin. I like these quiet days, and I think a trick to longer term travelling is accepting that these lazy days are quite necessary.
And just before heading to the airport I got to try the local luwak coffee, sometimes referred to as cat poop coffee. Yes, it really does involve cats pooping, which you can read about here if you want to know more. Anyway, the outcome is a very tasty cup of coffee, and a nice little cat poop story to boot.
Although Bali didn't quite match the pictures in the brochure, we enjoyed ourselves and we're glad we went. The interior was my favourite part, and the trek up Mount Batur and the sunrise the undoubted highlight.
Arriving in Australia
We were tired after the overnight flight, so were glad that getting through the airport was a breeze. A short taxi ride took us to our accommodation at the Mad Monkey Backpackers Village.
This was Sally's first hostel stay. If it sounds like it's named for the young backpacking crowd, that's because it is. We've since stayed in another hostel, and it's true that we're generally the oldest people there and, yes, there can be some loud music. But we've slept well enough - we check the reviews to make sure they're not too crazy and we've made it part of our travel experience. We do book a private room however, although we'll try out the dorms at some point, if only to say that we have, or because we've run out of money🤣
We instantly felt at home in Cairns. It has a nice vibe, and for a Brit, it feels instantly familiar. There are so many things that are the same as home. It's nice in one way, but it also means that not all we're experiencing is new.
Our first day in Cairns was recovery after the night flight. We wandered the wide but quiet streets, enjoyed the Esplanade, and looked at some possible trips that we might want to take. We booked a boat trip to the Great Barrier Reef for the following day. The Southern hemisphere winter is the time to visit, the weather is perfect and it appears to be the quiet season for tourists - perfect.
Our trip to the reef was fun. We were on an older, slower boat which works well on your wallet as well as on calm seas. Perhaps it's less fun in a swell. Sally tried an introductory scuba dive, but decided to switch to snorkeling with me. To be honest, the reef had less colour and sea life than I'd expected, but the day was still a success, and I'm pleased we've ticked the Great Barrier Reef off our list.
I think alternating active and quieter days is sensible when travelling for a longer duration, so day 3 was quieter. We moved to a new hostel, then spent the early afternoon planning for the next part of our trip. A late picnic lunch while playing cards on the Esplanade was a simple but perfect way to spend the rest of the afternoon - we don't do enough of this sort of thing at home.
Next week we start to head down the East coast of Australia. We should have the warm weather for the next week or two, but it's then going to start getting cooler, so we're going to enjoy the sun while we have it.
Daily diary and costs
Similar to last weeks post, I'm including a list of what we did during our week and the approximate costs - I'm using this part of my blog as a mini diary for myself, but feel free to read if you're interested.
Week 2 - what we've done:
Monday - Transferred from Seminyak to Ubud. Visited the Monkey Forest, and ate in a restaurant with good views but less good food/service.
Tuesday - Explored Ubud, the market and the Royal Palace courtyard. Walked out of town to the Campuhan Ridge Walk which was very scenic. Another below par dinner unfortunately.
Wednesday - An awesome day. A 2am start to trek up Mount Batur volcano, followed by a dip in thermal springs and a visit to the Tegallang rice terraces. Dressed in Balinese clothes to visit the temple of our homestay host in the evening. Good meal at a Mexican restaurant.
Thursday - Checked out of the homestay at midday, and then a lazy day in Ubud coffee shops and market. A fun cat poop coffee experience - we didn't have enough local currency left but the coffee stall owner was super nice and gave me a coffee anyway. If you're in Ubud, grab a cup of coffee from him.
Friday - Arrived in Cairns. An easy day wandering the streets, looking at some trip options, and enjoying the Esplanade. An Aussie pub for dinner.
Saturday - Great Barrier Reef trip
Sunday - Moved to a different hostel. Booked transport and trips for the following week. Picnic lunch and playing cards on the Esplanade.
Week 2 - we spent a total of £751 / $1,059 for 2 people on:
Accommodation £171 / $241
Meals/Coffee/Snacks £243 / $342 (we're still eating out and consuming more beer & wine than we should)
Toiletries/Sun Cream £16 / $22
Taxis £48 / $68 (transfers to/from airport in Bali and Cairns)
Trips £249 / $351 (Mount Batur trekking, rice terraces etc in Bali and Great Barrier Reef from Cairns)
Laundry £13 / $19
Clothes £4 / $6
Other £4 / $10