10 Reasons Why I’ll Go Back to Bali

I get it. I understand why travellers love Bali. It’s beautiful, it’s spiritual and everybody smiles – even while they’re being knocked down by a scooter. It’s probably the hippiest happiest place on earth. It’s also the place where backpackers can afford mani-pedis and a restaurant lunch with a five star view costs less than an M&S sandwich.

 

1. BREATHTAKING LANDSCAPES

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This is the Tegalalang Rice Terrace. No wonder Bali’s unique irrigation system is on the UNESCO World Heritage List.

 

2. FOOD

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Spicy food, healthy food and comfort food. Nasi campur, a macrobiotic meal at Bali Bhudda and a rice pudding my neighbour brought round for breakfast.

 

3. UBUD

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It’s all about art. Beautiful works by Lempad in the Puri Lukisan (above) and the Neka museum. A small collection of Walter Spies’ paintings at ARMA.

 

4. HIKING

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This is the view at 1,717m from Mount Batur. Mount Agung is on the other side of the lake. To its left, you just make out Mount Rinjani over on Lombok.

 

5. CEREMONIES

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I came across these ladies on my way home one day. They were taking fruit offerings to the temple.

 

6. A LITTLE THANKS

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I’ve found an offering outside my front door every morning. Sometimes there’s even a little cracker or some rice. The trouble and care that goes into these makes them very special indeed.

 

7. TEMPLES

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Tirta Empul. The waters here are said to come from a holy spring, which is why thousands of people use the fountains for spiritual purification.

 

8. THE BEACH

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This was a real treat. Nusa Dua was very laid back. Amed is also on my list for next time.

 

9. MAKING FRIENDS WITH YOUR ENEMIES

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A quick game of hide-and-seek at Monkey Forest in Ubud. When your breakfast has been stolen by these critters, it’s hard to like them. I tried.

 

10. LOCAL ENTERTAINMENT

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There are always plenty of opportunities to see Kecak, Barong or Legong dances, but shadow puppet shows are few and far between. I love them – the combination of the live gamelan music and the narrator screeching his way through an often violent story, is really captivating.

 

The thought of returning to Bali one day is something to keep my spirits up as this amazing twelve month journey reaches its final stages. Next stop – Singapore.

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Surprises – Good and Bad

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This is the man I came to see – President Rafael Correa. Whilst in Quito, I was told that he always comes out onto his balcony for the Changing of the Guard ceremony. What surprised me, was the response.

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Hundreds of people were waving flags and shouting, “Viva Ecuador!” The national anthem then started up. Not surprisingly, I didn’t recognise the tune and the older woman standing next to me took the cap off my head and told me to show some respect.

Minutes later, this happened:

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Ecuador’s World Cup football squad arrived. Hundreds more packed into the Plaza Grande to cheer them on. The atmosphere was fantastic. I tried to work my way through the crowds to get a better view, “Let her through” I heard someone say. People do make you feel welcome here. The day before, I went into a shop to ask for directions and the woman gave me her telephone number just in case I got lost.

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Quito is a UNESCO World Heritage site. It’s a beautiful city to walk around. I got a great view from the Vista Hermosa restaurant one night where I tried Canelazo for the first time – an alcoholic drink served in a teapot. What’s not to like?

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The Virgin of Quito can be spotted from most parts of the centro histórico, which is a great place to explore on a Sunday when the streets are closed to traffic. I was drawn towards the gold interior of la Compañía and found that a classical concert was about to start. It was the longest time I’d ever spent in a church.

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Another nice surprise was being invited up to Mindo by some friends I’d made on the road. The town is located in the foothills of the Andes, about a two hour drive from Quito. It was beautiful. I hiked up to the Cascada Reina and felt like I had the entire canopy to myself. Maybe this was why:

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Getting to the waterfalls involves a ride in a cable car high above the treetops. I say cable car, but it’s basically a platform on a pully. It’s not for the faint-hearted. When the attendant dropped me off he said, “Just kick the cable when you’re ready and we’ll know to come and get you.”

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The antidote was a visit I made to a local chocolate factory. They take you through the whole process from fermenting to tempering. Obviously, the best part was the tasting. We tried a 100% cocoa liquid and gradually added sugar to make it more palatable, then some nibs, ginger syrup and even a barbecue sauce. Chocolate is used a lot in the meat dishes here.

After the hustle and bustle of Quito, Mindo was a really relaxing place. This was my favourite spot:

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With good surprises, come bad ones. I’d planned and prepared for credit card fraud on this trip, but I wasn’t expecting it to be inside a bank, during a face to face transaction. But – I prefer to leave Ecuador remembering the kindness of others. One driver I got to know dropped me off at the airport. He gave me a big hug and said “Goodbye my friend!” With any luck, the investigation will be dealt with quickly. The nice surprises will stay with me forever.