Monkey Wrestling


Back in Bali we have booked transfer along to the inland town of Ubud.Hostel backyard! When we finally get there it’s after four in the afternoon instead of noon like we planned and the tour we booked has to be cancelled. The hostel Jourdan found for us is super nice though, I’d call it a hotel actually, and has a very cool temple-like backyard with an infinity pool and everything. Ubud itself also seems like a rather nice town, certainly bigger than I’d imagined when looking at the map. The sidewalks are terrible though, meandering up and down in sometimes inexplicable level changes.

It seems like every other citizen of Ubud is either running a taxi service or a massage parlor, according to our rather unscientific sampling. They generally only ask once though and can take no for an answer, so they aren’t that annoying. We end up eating at a rather upscale-looking place that has about twice the price level of Gili Air, but also twice the food (and drink-) quality.

Monkey feedingJourdan and Alex have a cooking class the next morning, so Jen and I are off by ourselves. We start by going to the nearby Monkey Forest. It’s a very pretty area in the middle of town with lots of vegetation, and of course, monkeys. There are tourists everywhere, feeding the monkeys bananas that you can buy at the entrance. Finally I too cave and get some, and sure enough, along come the monkeys. But there is one big, surly one that gets most of them on account of being rather scary looking and insistent. We do eventually find a smaller one and as instructed by the lady selling the bananas we hold them up high to get the monkey to climb up. Jen has one sitting on her shoulder happily eating as we snap a few pictures, I also get one and even if it’s very touristy, it’s quite fun.

We walk back and find ourselves in a rather deserted end of the park. There are plenty of monkeys here as well and we get some nice pictures, they’re even more climber happy than the others and several of them try to munch at the Docomodake mushroom plush toy I have on my bag. They are sorely disappointed though and another climbs on top of my head and start gnawing on my hat.Monkey king? Fortunately their teeth are much like human teeth and not sharp at all, it wouldn’t do to have them breaking skin and having to get rabies shots.

At this point we feel rather done with the monkeys and head back to city center. After wandering a good while we stop in at a Italian restaurant called Blackbeach, boasting to have an Italian owner. The pizza is actually decent, but their bruschetta with black olive tapenade is to die for! We end up staying there for most of the afternoon before we have to head back in order to catch our taxi to the airport. The cabbie has a terrible taste in music and it seems that if I put my mind to it I could make a breakthrough recording artist around here; the music is filled with cheesy synthesizers, uninspiring vocals and awesomely bad drum fills.

Gili Air


Since we arrive in the evening we have one night at a hostel in Bali before heading out Gili Air the following morning. It’s a good thing too, since the hostel is pretty skeezy – lots of older men with younger, local, women. The food is really great though and in the morning we’re picked up by a van that will take us to the speedboat.Mellow cuttlefish We’re not very impressed by the fact that the speedboat leaves dock at 1.5 h after designated time. Equally unimpressive is the freezing temperature they’ve set the AC and the hysterical techno beats pouring out of the speakers just overhead.

It gets us to Gili Air though and as we find our way to the dive shop and everything looks very good; super nice rooms, a big reception area, their own beachside restaurant with cozy cabanas to have your breakfast in. The diving part of their operation is less impressive though; they only have two full time dive masters and we find out that we can’t even do a dive the same day since they’re short-staffed – even though we booked over a month in advance…Harlequin shrimp They also don’t do more than two dives a day, which isn’t very much (we were planning to do at least three a day). It all works out really well though and there is never a problem doing a dive, they are also very nice about us being late a couple of times when lunch service had been terribly slow. (whatever you do, don’t eat at Zipp’s, even though their wood fire oven looks promising)

In terms of diving, Gili Air has some really nice features, chief among them the abundance of turtles. I saw two within ten minutes of my first dive, so you’d have to be very unlucky to not see turtles here. Our most memorable dives were probably our muck dives – dives where you go fairly shallow and look at small stuff and get rather long dive times. Outside Lombok we saw spiky sea horse, ghost pipefish and ribbon eels; on our night dives out in the house reef we saw decorator crabs, juvenile sweetlips, spanish dancers and even a mandarin fish! We also witnessed a tussle between two squid, ink in the water and everything.Bike inspector Additionally, the probably most unlikely thing to happen to me on any dive so far was when we found a green turtle at the end of our night dive. We followed along with it when it swam, when it suddenly veers sharply towards me and then takes off like a rocket. I suspect the turtle was as surprised as I was when it hits me square in the chest! It was never aggressive though and went on its confused way after that.

There was also the fabulous Secret Garden, or Turtle City as I’d call it. Immediately upon descent we meet two turtles and a trigger fish, munching away at some coral. We pose for some pictures while our dive master goes off and finds us some more, even bigger, turtles.Hermit crab They are all very friendly and don’t mind the attention. In the area Jen finds a mantis shrimp (head on over to The Oatmeal and read about these awesome critters right now!), this one is rather shy though and doesn’t really show itself. Just a few meters off though, I find another one. This one is out in the open and is even stalking a fish. I get some great video of it all, or so I thought. Turns out that I’d double-tapped the button and immediately ended the recording… Mantis shrimps are super cool, and I’d never seen any before this trip, but around the Gilis they seem to be relatively common. Just be on the lookout for those big freaky eyes poking out from under a coral rock, after a while you’ll get pretty adept at spotting them.

Another memorable dive was the second one I did, at the so-called Bounty Wreck. It’s actually a jetty that sunk during a storm back in 2005 and it has become the home to a lot of fish and corals over the years. This day however, it was super strong current, so strong that you had no option but to just go with the flow at most times. It was both scary and fun, even though we didn’t see much on that dive. At the very end we did find two turtles taking shelter from the current behind a rock.Duuuh

In the end we were pretty satisfied with both the diving and the dive center. 11 dives, of which two were night dives cost me roughly 1600 sek, but then I also lugged my new BCD along and only rented fins, tank, weights and wetsuit which earned me an additional 5% rebate.

Getting back to Bali turned out to be harder than we thought. We’d already booked speedboat tickets through the dive center but over the days we’re there we hear that the speedboats aren’t running due to bad weather.What are you looking at?! That sounded rather strange to us since the weather seemed just fine. Little did we know… On the departure day we get word that there will be one speedboat leaving, but that it will be leaving at 10 instead of 8 as we booked. Not much to do about that, but when we get there they say it’s 11 instead. When we finally leave, it’s more like 12 o’clock and as we get out on the open sea we find out why. The waves are something like three meters high and we’re bobbing along at what seems like far too high-speed. The captain seems to really know his/her stuff though and even though we’re blazing along at full speed, it never felt unsafe. It’s a good thing I don’t have any motion sickness, poor Alex wasn’t as lucky and ended up spray painting all four 150 hp engines in one glorious stream of puke! Rather impressive if you ask me.