Bali: Featuring thieving monkeys, rolling rice fields and an unfortunate trip to hospital

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There are three places to go in Bali as a run-of-the-mill traveller: Seminyak, Kuta and Ubud.

Seminyak and Kuta are where you go to get rat-arsed on the beach, have regrettable tattoos, and buy the sort of memorabilia which includes bottle openers shaped liked penises.

Ubud is the setting of Eat Pray Love, so attracts hippies and rich people. If you haven’t heard of Eat Pray Love, where the hell have you been for the last decade?

It’s a book written by a Type-A Personality New Yorker called Elizabeth Gilbert who had a shitty divorce so went off to find herself in Italy, India, then Bali (as you do).

She’s a good writer but unfortunately she is obsessed with spirituality and so lots of her otherwise decent book is clogged up with her very frustrating quest to find god even though she sort of thinks god is silly but actually she really wants there to be one.

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This is Julia Roberts in Bali pretending to be Elizabeth Gilbert in the film adaption of Eat Pray Love

I know I’m in the minority here, but I find all this ‘spiritual’ and ‘agnostic’ struggle a total bore.

Do you believe in a supernatural governing force, or do you not? If you do, you are religious. If you don’t, you’re an atheist.

ANYWAY.

I went to Ubud with Mr B, who rented a beautiful villa from Airbnb, a site which has just changed everything when it comes to holidays, hasn’t it?

We could have stayed at a nice hotel for the same price, and shared a pool with all the other guests, and regrettably ordered room service or raided the insanely expensive minibar every single night because we couldn’t be arsed to leave the premises.

But no.

We had a whole big house to ourselves, the owners brought us delicious breakfast every morning but otherwise let us be, and I swam up and down our own pool naked lots (something I only ever do completely alone and at night-time and which I believe to be one of life’s greatest small luxuries).

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The beautiful Air BnB villa

Best of all, I got to lure some stray cats into my fold.

Some people say you shouldn’t feed or be affectionate towards stray cats with when you’re on holiday because it gives them a taste of the good life and then when you go home, they’re abandoned again.

I think that logic is totally fucked.

So I went to the supermarket and purchased a big stack of canned cat food and fed the three nearest cats I could find (Thor, Tippy Tiger, and Panther) every day and gently hugged them often. Because I think some charity is better than no charity at all.

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Panther
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Thor
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Tippy Tiger

Here is a list of the good things and the bad things about Bali, purely according to Annabel…

The Good Things

  1. The Sacred Monkey Temple

A beautiful and fascinating place. It’s basically a sprawling set of temples shrouded with ancient knotted trees and absolutely crawling with kleptomaniac monkeys. 

I had my map hoisted by a little one as soon as I walked in. He just leapt onto my shoulder and hoisted it. So I marched back to the map dispenser man to get a new map. And that promptly got hoisted too, so I gave up on having a map and just wandered around spell-bound, watching monkeys jump around and steal things from people.

They’re very good at it. They can unzip backpacks and reach into pockets no problemo.

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The Sacred Monkey Temple
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Inspecting treasure
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Hoarding treasure
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About to steal some treasure
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Thinking about stealing treasure
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Stealing Annabel’s shoulder
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Very beautiful monkey forest

2. The rice fields

Best accessed and viewed with a guide, on an electric bicycle (the electric bit is key because it means you can stop pedalling when you’re going up hills . You just press the button and zoooooom, you’re at the top and you don’t have a stitch).

I hadn’t ridden any sort of bicycle in ages and am utterly malcoordinated so I crashed mine and fell off twice. The views were beautiful though.

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Electric bike, great for slobs
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Rice fields, palm trees, volcano
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A worthy view

3. The Balinese are very friendly

I don’t like making such sweeping generalisations because I reckon all humans are fundamentally wankers but can be nice when they want to be, regardless of where in the world they are from.

However, I suppose you could say that according to the popular stereotype, the Balinese are friendly in the same way that the French are arrogant, the Americans are oblivious, and the English are apologetic.

The Balinese are not nice to animals though. More on that later.

4. Hospital

One night, I randomly developed the worst cramps I have ever had in my life and after about two hours of shocking agony and loads of ibuprofen, we gave up and went to the nearest hospital.

They rushed me straight in, plonked me on a bed and introduced me to a very friendly doctor who asked some questions, took some blood (I only fainted for a few seconds, which was a massive result), and then fed me some proper painkillers through an I.V.

Mr B was very sweet and concerned, but he kept waking me up to check if I was dead, which was a bit annoying because I wasn’t dead, I was just whacked out on some variation of heroin.

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Excellent red blood cell concentration as I’m sure you’ll agree

5. Internet everywhere surprisingly fast and reliable. WIFI widespread

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Praise be to Lord

6. The trees.

An abundance of strange and remarkable trees…

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Giant trees
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Wax melty trees
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Stringy trees
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Braided trees
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Trees everywhere! (Mr B doing fast walking)

7. Food brilliant

 Or at least the restaurants I went to with Mr B were, as follows…

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Bridges Bali – a gorgeous restaurant and wine bar nestled under a dense vegetation-shrouded bridge. In retrospect, one of my very favourite places in the world
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The bridge under which it is nestled
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Mozaic – an astoundingly expensive and thus incredibly impressive six-course degustation dinner spot manned by French chef hotshot Chris Salans
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I was too busy with my food coma to take any photos of my plate but this is what it looked like – except this is meat and I don’t eat meat. They did me a very wonderful vegetarian version
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Locavore – another degustation restaurant where we had lunch. Again, brilliant
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Lots of fresh zingy vegetables and frothy stuff. Again, not my photo
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Alchemy – Absolute hippy paradise. We went the morning after my hospital trip to infuse me with health. They sell organic vegan fare, and this salad was delicious. It’s the only photo I remembered to take of my food, probably because Alchemy doesn’t serve alcohol
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Element – lovely little restaurant with interesting light features and good not-too-outrageously-expensive food. The gecko you see on this interesting light feature is real

The Bad Things

  1. Dangerous roads

The best way – so they say – to get around is on a scooter. I absolutely flatly refused to board one even after much attempted persuasion from Mr B. The roads are lane-less, traffic light-less death-traps.

I looked up the statistics about scooter crashes in Bali before we arrived because I think about death more than most people, and they were not promising. Every Single Day, at least three people die in scooter crashes (!!!) and 150 mangled accident victims turn up to Bali’s main hospital, Sanglah, for treatment.

High chance of either death or a shredded thigh? No thanks.

Walking (my favoured option because everything in Ubad is pretty close) is also quite dangerous on account of all the mad people on scooters hurtling past you, and there being no pavements.

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Fucking chaos

2. The humidity

Obviously, it being a tropical destination, it’s very humid. Mr B loves humidity. I don’t. Who wants to live their life covered permanently in a fine layer of sweat?

Not me. Also, it encourages mosquitos.

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A whopper of a bite

3. Cruelty towards birds

The Balinese love hanging tiny multicoloured birds in very small cages outside their houses. My heart broke every time I walked past one. Which was all the time. Mr B had to give me a stern talking-to every time I threatened to open the cages and run away.

Also, at a certain time of day, they trap their cockerels in wicker baskets and leave them by the road for a bit. I asked a number of locals why. It’s a combination of religion and cockfighting.

I’m not sure how the two are connected but when I asked one local whether he considered this custom to be cruel, he looked genuinely confused and then said: “No, no, no it’s good for them! The one that wins gets to go to heaven.”

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I couldn’t bring myself to photograph any of the bird cruelty so here is some graffiti I walked past one day instead

Putting the ‘bad’ list after the ‘good’ list might leave you with the feeling that Bali was a bust. It wasn’t. Bali was brilliant. Expensive wine, dangerous roads, and bird cruelty is quite a short list really.

In summary, if you ever get the chance to go to Bali, go. 

Here are a few more photos to tempt you.

*I don’t have my beloved fat Canon camera anymore so all these were taken on my boring bloody iPhone. 

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Mysterious smoky corners
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Quaint little back streets
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The secret garden
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They build these to put (rich) dead people in before they burn them
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Temples at every turn
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Good door game
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Strangely Western old-school street lamps
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Completely terrifying dolls
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Art
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I see what you did there
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Farewell Bali…

3 thoughts on “Bali: Featuring thieving monkeys, rolling rice fields and an unfortunate trip to hospital

  1. Hey Annabel, what a great write up with awesome pictures. If I’d never been to Bali before your post would have inspired me to go, it’s so good. But as I have been I know first hand how brilliant it is and how much fun it is. I loved Ubud, though I can’t say I befriended cats like you did. Love to go back one day. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

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