Monkeys, Meditation & Mee Goreng

Trip Start Apr 09, 2010
Trip End May 25, 2010

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Sunday, May 2, 2010


We land in Bali and are eagerly awaited by our friend, Wayan Widana who Tara met 2 years ago in her trips through Bali. Wayan brought his daughter with him and she is beaming with energy and curiosity.  It always feels nice to have our names written on a piece of paper and to be greeted by someone when arriving to a new and unknown land.  We head directly to Ubud, which is referred to as the "cultural epicenter" of Bali and is a good 45 minute away from the heavily tourist ridden Kuta Beach. 

Ubud – Cultural Epicenter of Bali

Upon arrival to Ubud, we get to have a late dinner with Wayan and his daughter at 3 Monkey's, where Wayan works during his daytime job and the meal is nothing more than perfect after a long day of travel from Borneo, to Singapore and finally to Bali.  Jeff asks about 1,000 questions about local life in Bali, working here, tourist attractions and local traditions.  We feel we have a good start to our next 10 days in this mystical and spiritual place where unlike the rest of Indonesia, which is predominantly Muslim, Balinese are Hindu and follow a long line of traditions left by many generations of their ancestors.

The next morning starts with a tour of the main strip of Ubud where the streets are lined with craft stores, internet cafes, and plenty of traditional Balinese style inns and hotels.  We make our way down to the Monkey Forest Road where tourists enter a natural habitat of the Macaque monkeys and if you’ve heard about this before, these particular type of monkeys are rather aggressive, greedy and very intelligent.  We take nothing but 2 bottles of water into this Monkey Forest and manage to barely leave the place with 1 bottle and a near fight with these fierce mammals.  There must be over 500 monkeys playing around the relatively small forest/park.  It is a one of a kind experience where, especially with any type of food, you will have a swarm of monkeys jumping right onto your lap, shoulders or chasing you for your last banana you’re holding onto. 

After lunch, we meet our man Wayan and are scooted off to the Coffee and Spice plantation where the 'infamous’ Kopi Lewak coffee is produced.   This particular type of coffee really took off after the movie “The Bucket List” where Jack Nicholson mentions that it is THE most expensive coffee in the world.  The reason it is so expensive is due to its very unique production method.   During the night, the Lewak (an animal that resembles a mongoose or a large ferret) climbs up the coffee trees and eats only the best coffee berries.  The Lewak’s digestive system can't break down the coffee bean itself, and in the morning workers sift through the Lewak poop and collect the coffee beans.  The beans are washed (thoroughly we hope), roasted, and presto – Kopi Lewak coffee!   We actually got to see one of the little critters at the coffee plantation (check out the picture). 

We get to taste 4-5 types of coffee made at this plantation along with a half dozen varieties of freshly grown fruit they also harvest with the coffee beans they so famously roast here.  The tour is complete after a few key purchases of Lewak beans which go for $25 dollars per 100g; sorry everyone - not many of you will get these as souvenirs and if you do, please appreciate how much work goes into each of the beans before they are actually finally made into consumable coffee for us!  J

On our last day in Ubud we take on a 5 hour traditional Balinese cooking course, complete with tour of the local market to learn about the fresh spices, vegetables and culture of Balinese cuisine. We were VERY satisfied and overfed after the 5 hour marathon of the feast during our cooking course.

Orchid Villa – Heaven in Bali

We had signed up for a 4 day, 3 night ‘retreat’ as we both felt we needed to ‘slow down’ our lives and literally meditate on what was most important to us for our future.  We arrive to Orchid Villa where immediately we are engulfed into an oasis where the jungle surrounds the pristine villas.   The setting is unbelievable and our host for the next 4 days is a truly enlightened man with many amazing experiences to share.  We take our breakfast every morning in front of mountainous landscape and cascading farmer’s fields opposite the eternity pool and gazebo.  Photos do not do this venue justice and our experience is deeply enriching.  We are far enough away from the distractions of Ubud so we focus on a few teachings from our hosts (whose house is actually located on the grounds) and painfully (at times) sit quietly for 20 minute meditation sessions.  Though this is what we were looking for, it certainly is not an easy task to keep one’s mind quiet and not be distracted by the many thoughts that constantly bombard us.  The 4 day experience is a great leap to knowing ourselves better and helping us move forward in our lives.


Next we trek 3.5 hours to the east, driving through perfectly groomed rice terraces and old fortress towns to arrive to Amed, which is where the best snorkeling and diving is found on the island of Bali.  This part of Bali certainly functions at a MUCH slower pace as the sparsely placed hotels are all very private and quiet.  We split our time between lounging on the beach, having a few massages (of course) and plain old relaxing around the hotel.  We spend our last morning in Amed snorkeling just 50 feet in the water away from our hotel and the coral there is amazing.  There is so much untouched coral with so many bright and varied types of fish; it is probably the best snorkeling we’ve seen to date.  We even catch a glimpse of wild dolphins swimming in the distance!!  After a few hours of this we leave the sleepy town of Amed and head to Nusa Dua, one of the ‘posh’ areas of Bali.

Nusa Dua/Kuta

Nearing the end of our stay in Bali, we treated ourselves to a night at the Westin Resort in Nusa Dua, the southern part of the island that is home to all the big hotel chains.  The hotel was located along the gorgeous strip of white sand beach, and we enjoyed our first real afternoon of sun tanning since we’d been in Bali…about time we got some colour as Tara’s white legs were starting to blind the locals!

On our last night in Bali we headed to the touristic epicenter of Bali - Kuta beach. This is the busiest spot on the island and the place that originally made Bali famous back in the day when Australians started flocking here.  It’s still one of the most popular vacation spots for Australians…many of whom come for a visit and never leave!  The streets of Kuta were pretty chaotic, lined with aggressive massage vendors, cheesy tourist shops and motorcycles zipping around.  The beach here was surprisingly filled with locals, we were told because it was a Sunday, and people come from all around Bali to enjoy the best beach on the island with their families.

So, after a fantastic and varied 10 days of life in Bali, we depart with great experiences and high hopes that this is not our last time to visit this beautiful island. 
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Dan on

So how was the coffee? Is it worth the hype to be on a bucket list? lol Bali sounds nice it is probably a place I will definately visit!! How's it going with all the monkeys Jeff?? Cooking class looks like fun!! I dunno if I could do meditation for 20 mins... must have felt like an hour. Well not much stuff going on here... there was a bomb in Times Square that didn't go off... very lucky!! Plus an Oil disaster that's going to take some time fixing. Other than that weather is starting to heat up!

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