A few days in the Balinese Jungle

After 3 days of relaxing in the beach town of Canggu, Bali we headed to the jungle town of Ubud for the next three days. Ubud is only around 40 miles and 1-1.5 hours from Canggu but the landscape is vastly different. It is in the middle of the rain forest and it has much more of a laid-back, vegan and yoga vibe. It is cool how diverse Bali is and how you can easily spend a few days on completely different spectrums of nature so close to each other. It is definitely worth it to spend some time in each of the different terrains on the island of Bali. I didn’t have any set activities planned for the three days, I just wanted to explore, relax and enjoy my time in the Balinese jungle.

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Nick thought it would be a good idea to play golf and see one of the famous temples in the morning before we actually checked into our spot in Ubud. I absolutely agreed and was very excited to play golf, especially after I didn’t go one time during my entire RY trip. The course was a few hours away so we had an early wake up call from our driver, Wawan (same guy who picked me up from the aiport), who would accompany us throughout the day. We arrived at the golf course which was tucked into a resort and when we got there I could have sworn it was closed. We walked in and sure enough they were waiting for us and were all ready to go for our tee time. I was surprised to see that we had two caddies waiting for us on the back of a golf cart when we got outside. We certainly didn’t ask for caddies but at that point you just go with the flow. The course was beautiful and in great condition. It was surrounded by mountains but at this time of day there was still fog covering most of the view. We didn’t mind though because that meant no sun, which meant no sunburn for us. We began our round and I was actually playing pretty well which makes any round more fun. Nick struggled a bit but after he got a few beers in his system, he relaxed and started to play better. It was an amazing experience especially because we had the course completely to ourselves. We honestly did not see one other group on the course while we were out there. Our caddies were super funny and after the first few holes, they realized I didn’t need much direction so they both showered Nick with tips which was really funny for me to listen to. It was a wonderful round with great weather and we just played out our own pace, enjoying the day.

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The 18th hole

After golf, we drove to check out one of the more famous templates in the area. While it was cool to look at and right on a lake, I’m glad we didn’t drive all the way out just to see it. After a few minutes of walking around the area, we hopped back in the car for some lunch. Our driver, Wawan, had told us his favorite dish was “Crispy Duck” and that the place he was taking us to was famous for it. We thought that sounded great and as hungry as we were would eat anything at that point. The duck was unfortunately not very good. It was super boney and there wasn’t much meat to it. When we got back in the car of course we told Wawan how good it was and it got me thinking. We do things like that all the time, especially as tourists. Whenever we get recommendations, we always say how great it is and rarely is it actually the truth. Did Wawan actually think that restaurant was tasty or did he artificially think it was because all the tourists he drove there always came back saying how delicious the food was because they were too afraid to be honest and tell him the suggestion wasn’t great?ย  Either way it something I thought about as we drove to our hotel to settle in a take a quick nap.

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The famous temple

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Some temple gates in town

We stayed at Roam which is a coworking and coliving space. I stayed at something similar in Costa Rica and they are a great choice if you need to get some work done. Each of these coworking/coliving space is designed with the digital nomad in mind. Besides having fast and reliable internet, they foster community with nightly events, have coffee readily available and usually have a yoga/meditation space. On top of all this, they are usually priced much lower than a hotel and in many cases an AirBnb. The rooms at this Roam location were amazing – spacious, big bed, working AC and a great shower. The space also had a pool, a rooftop workspace with a great view, a full kitchen, just a few blocks from town and many other amenities. It was the perfect place to spend a few nights. The first day, I set out to explore the city a bit with my other friends from RY. The main town area is fairly small so we just walked around a bunch through different streets, alleyways and markets until we found a spot that looked good for dinner. The dinner place was very cool. You had to take your shoes off upon entry and there was a huge koi pond that surrounded the place, almost like a moat. It had a really cool bohemian vibe and the food was delicious and healthy. After dinner, we all went to bed because we had a 2am wakeup call the next day for our hike up a volcano to see the sunrise.

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Looking across the volcano to the other ridge – and a monkey!

I woke up the next day at 2am which might be the earliest wake-up call I’ve ever had. The plan was to hike a volcano to see the sunrise and that is really all I knew about the trip. I hopped in the van, put my headphones and eyemask on, and fell back asleep. It was a two hour drive to our final destination and sometime around 4am we showed up in the pitch black. We were on some kind of farm it seemed like and it was so dark you could only see a few feet in front of you. Luckily, we were provided with the flashlight but it didn’t help immensely. After around a half-hour of hiking, we were basically told to just hike to the top and we will meet you up there. The hike took around two hours and was pretty damn hard. It was severely uphill the whole way and the ground was really rough to hike on since it was a volcano and you had no idea where the top was. You would pass over large rocks that made it hard to keep your balance and then you’d pass over black sandy slopes where your feet would dig into the ground making it hard to continue upwards. Every few minutes, you had to take a break and catch your breath because of the incline. Slowly but surely, it became a bit lighter outside and the top of the peak came into view. The hike seemed to never end as we continued up the trail that became super narrow at parts. There was nothing else to do except go up so that was what we did until we made it.

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View from the top overlooking the lake and the other volcano

As soon as I made it to the top, all the feelings of being tired went away as the view was amazing. The sun still hadn’t risen yet but it was light enough to see the other volcano in the distance, the lake just underneath it and the steep slope from the peak that we were standing at. It was kind of surreal seeing all these people funnel up from different sides of the mountain because you couldn’t really see anyone else during the hike. Slowly but surely, the sun continued to rise and the top of the mountain became busy with people. All of a sudden, we started seeing monkeys pop up from everywhere. This must be their daily ritual as they know that when humans arrive, food usually follows. It was cool to see these inquisitive monkeys walking around waiting for their chance to steal some food. Someone near me put his bag down and a monkey immediately grabbed a protein bar from this bag and ran off with it. Other monkeys went to chase him down to get a bite but the monkey held his own and seemed pretty happy with the chocolate bar he was now consuming. There had to be close to one hundred monkeys walking around the top of this mountain and they just kept funneling up one after the other. As this was happening, the sun began to peek from the back of the volcano in the distance and the amazing view came into perspective.ย  iPhone photos can’t really do it justice but it was certainly a site to behold!

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My new monkey friend

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View of the volcano rim

The sun kept slowly rising and we just sat in awe not wanting it to fully rise. Eventually it did and just as quickly as it came, fog began to move in. In just a few minutes, the view went from a beautiful sunrise got so foggy that you could no longer see the other volcano or much of the mountain we were about to descend. After handing at the top for a while, we began the trek down which wasn’t much easier than the climb up because of the loose terrain.ย  As we made our way down further and further, the fog began to clear and we had amazing views of the valley. At the bottom was just a simple farming community. Simple wooden homes and plots of land stretched for miles but there wasn’t a proper building in site. I thought how cool it was that this area had remained undeveloped even with the amazing views and lake right at the base of the other mountain. I would peek my head back every few minutes as we continued to descend and I would always be amazed about how high we climbed. I was very glad that we couldn’t ever see the peak during the early morning hike because, if we had, it would have been tough to envision ever reaching the top. The hike down seemed to take longer than the one up and by the time we got to the bottom we were all tired and wanted to get on the van.

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View of the valley below

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Panorama of the valley

On the way back, we stopped at some hot springs then went straight home to nap. It was an amazing experience and not something I think I will ever do again. It was so unique with the extremely early wake up call, the unfamiliar terrain, a flashlight as your only guiding light and of course the monkeys. The rest of the day was pretty lazy as I switched from napping to eating until I went to sleep.

I woke up the next day and realized it was my last in Bali which was very bittersweet. I knew I was going to Korea the next day to hang with my buddy Yun but the rest of my trip wasn’t planned at all. I spent the morning researching flights, AirBnBs and different cities and finally got the rest of my trip planned. I was going to spend 5 days in South Korea, 3 days in Hong Kong, 4 days in Tokyo and 3 days in Kyoto before I would fly back from Tokyo to Atlanta. Now that everything was booked, I could relax a bit and enjoy my last day.

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Monkeys at the sanctuary

The day continued with a vegan lunch and a massage. After taking a dip in the pool, I set out to grab a shirt in town and then wanted to check out the monkey sanctuary. I grabbed my shirt and headed to the monkey sanctuary which was really cool but I had seen so many monkeys the previous day that it wasn’t as shocking as it probably was for other people. It is hard to beat seeing monkeys on the top of a mountain and watching the sun rise. Either way, monkeys are still cool to see so I walked around the jungle-like sanctuary where the monkeys just roamed free. They could also leave the gates of the park so you’d see several walking up the street a few blocks away which was interesting. After the sanctuary, I decided to join Nick for a yoga class since you can’t go to Bali without doing at least one yoga session. The session was relaxing and we set out for a nice dinner. Dinner was delicious and I opted to go to bed because I was getting picked up around 1030pm for my 1am flight. Not the most ideal flight time but figured if I was going to sit on a plane for 7 hours, I might as well sleep on it so I didn’t miss any time in Korea.

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I had a very enjoyable three days in the city of Ubud. It was so different than the beach-side town of Canggu and it gave a great sense of why so many people love Bali. Ubud is so lush with greenery and rice patties and it also really seemed to move at a slower place. Between that, yoga studios everywhere and almost exclusive vegan/vegetarian restaurants, you really feel like you’re giving your body a much needed detox. It was the perfect start to my trip as I knew the next two weeks would be a bit more busy with travel, moving around and staying in huge city centers. I was grateful to have been able to spend time was some friends I hadn’t seen in a while and explore a truly exotic destination. Now it was time for to explore some of the biggest city centers in Asia!

 

 

 

 

 

 

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