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Ok it’s been a bit more than a week since the last update but whoa a lot has happened since then.
Here’s a summary of our latest shenanigans:
Well another week, another group of students. Every bit as enthusiastic and eager to learn as the first. It didn’t take us long to feel super inspired by the amazing group of ladies we were teaching, and it was a great reminder of why we do what we do and how fortunate we are.
If there’s one thing I’ve learnt from this experience, it’s that everybody has something to teach you. No matter who you are and who you’re talking to, there’s always something they’ll know that you don’t, and vice verse. Whether it was learning new marketing strategies, a new yoga pose or even learning about a new videographer, I feel like we came away from the course as slightly better people.
The absolute highlight for me was hearing Alex Tooby speak about her successes with her Instagram Mastermind course. I came away with so many new ideas about how we could grow our business and feel so inspired to go out and crush 2018. If you want to learn more about the Institute of Code courses and the things you can learn, check out our last blog post!
At the end of our course, Louise and I partnered up with X, a luxury properties business, and arranged a stay at a beachfront villa called the Ylang Ylang on the east coast of Bali. We didn’t know much about it other than a) it was beachfront, b) it had a private chef, c) it had a movie room, and d) it slept 12 people… Considering it was just the two of us, we realised we may have overestimated how much space we’d need, and recruited Christina Galbato (the bold Brunette blog) to fill one of the other rooms. Only having 2 bedrooms each instead of 3 felt far less decadent 🙂
It turns out in fact, that the Ylang Ylang was much better suited to larger groups, and we were told that the previous group was an actual wedding. Kind of explains why the staff gave us an interesting look when we said it was just the three of us.
Anyway, after the hectic month we’d been having, this place was just heaven and a real hidden gem. We had a couple of glorious days lounging around the pool on oversized floaties, being plied with endless cups of coffee and fruit trays by the fantastic staff. 10/10 would recommend and actually compared to some of the hotels we visited it was vastly cheaper! You can visit their website for more info.
This has to go down as one of the our most unforgettable photoshoots.
Valentine’s day was fast approaching, and the thought crossed our minds that we should do a memorable photoshoot. We’d already bought $120 worth of balloons, and when we heard there was a black sand beach nearby (Mengening Beach) it seemed like the stars had aligned perfectly. We grabbed the balloons, jumped in an Uber and headed over there for sunset.
Feeling inspired, we decided that we’d try and take some Mary Poppins style, flat lay drone shots, and we each took turns lying on the ground in various poses. It started out great, but with each successive battering from the waves, the dress got progressively sandier and wetter and more bedraggled. By the end it was clear that the photos were less ‘Baywatch’ and more ‘Swiss Family Robinson’. Nonetheless, we did manage to get some awesome photos!
While all this was happening, it started to become apparent that the beach wasn’t exactly sanitary. It was all fairly tolerable while it was just litter, but then all of a sudden one of our group spots something large about 20ft away that must have just washed up. Yes… it was a dead cow.
Well, the photoshoot ended fairly abruptly at that point as we all seemed to be overcome with the immediate urge to shower/decontaminate. Aside from that, this really is one of Bali’s hidden gems, and there wasn’t another soul in sight the entire time we were there!
For most of our time here, we’d managed to hit all the tourist spots without bumping into too many other tourists. Generally speaking, waking up at the crack of dawn doesn’t sit well with most tourists, so we usually have free reign in the wee hours. This time though, we decided to trust our new driver and let him suggest various spots that we hadn’t yet visited.
First up was Mt. Batur for lunch, followed but Toyah Devasya hot springs. Our driver took us to the top of the Mt. Batur crater, to a restaurant with incredible panoramic views of the volcano and valley below. The delicious lunch we were promised turned out to be a buffet stuffed with more tourists than you could shake a stick at. At 130k per person, it was one of the most expensive and worst quality meals we’d had during our time there. Our advice, eat before you get there. I noticed that there was a sneaky restaurant beneath the restaurant where all the drivers disappeared to while we were eating. Felt like a bit of a racket to get our driver a free lunch …. but I’d hate to sound bitter 🙂
Next up was the Toya Devasya Hot Springs. We mentioned it in the last post about the top things to do in Northern Bali, but here’s a bit of a recap.
The natural hot springs are naturally heated by the surrounding volcano, and in total there are 7 pools that you can check out. Once you’ve gone in through the tourist entrance (locals pay less but are confined to other pools), you’ll eventually emerge in a very kitsch world of purple elephants, roosters in cages and coy ponds. The water is delightfully warm in the cool mountain air and the views from the pools are breathtaking, just don’t go there expecting peace and quiet. It’s most definitely a stop on the tourist route.
The next stop was Tirta Empul, a temple built around a natural spring where you can bathe in the holy water. Either stand and watch as others take the plunge, or get involved yourself. The temple itself was beautiful, but again, I can’t help feeling that some of the sanctity was lost by making it so commercial.
Once we’d seen all there was to see at the Temple, we tried to make our way back out the way we came. Well, it turns out that you can’t do that, it’s very much “exit through the gift shop”. The only way you’re getting out the security guarded entrance is if you’re heading to the very conveniently placed ATM.
Unlike the Ubud market, there’s no escape route on this market. The market continues with endless twists and turns verging on the absurd, and the stall owners are a different sort here too. They’ll come at you hard, so don’t expect to get through unnoticed. One stall owner proudly shouted, “I can come with you!” when we told her we needed to go to the ATM before we could make any purchases. Be prepared to bargain hard!
Another thing we really needed at the end of the course was a spa day. Louise booked us in for a couple’s bath at the Five Senses Spa, and I was kind of intrigued to see what that would entail so went along willingly.
When we got there, we were swiftly checked in and told we’d have 30 minutes to enjoy the treatment. Seemed a little on the short side for the price, but they did say that if it went 10 minutes over, that would be ‘ok’, *sigh*.
Anyway with that in mind, we were ushered into our own hut where the therapist had already filled the bath and now was ready to fill it with ingredients. In went the ginger, lemongrass, oranges, salt and a few other ingredients, and then she threw in some flower petals for good measure. I’ve got to say that it smelled pretty good, and if someone handed me a tea with all those ingredients it would probably taste pretty delicious. Wasn’t really interested in tasting the bath water though so I’m afraid that’ll forever remain a mystery.
In terms of a couples activity it’s not bad at all. It’s definitely pretty romantic, and once you navigate the sharp leaves floating around it can actually be quite relaxing. The bath is easily big enough for two people, unless you were both as big as me (6’3), and the view of the river running past is pretty cathartic.
Once you’re finished with the bath (30 minutes absolutely flew by), you can relax on the porch with a spicy ginger tea. I think if we were actually staying here, it would be a great place to spend a couple of days, especially as it’s so secluded. Enjoying the various spa treatments would fill most of the day but it would also start to get expensive. I wouldn’t recommend visiting for an hour like us though as it doesn’t make a whole lot of sense.
We’d seen some incredible photos on Instagram taken from the Smart Villas hotel and decided we wanted to check them out and try to shoot something there. We reached out to them and arranged to visit around 5pm, hopefully with enough time before sunset.
So we turned up in Seminyak at 5pm, all ready to shoot, and then were told that somehow we’d got our wires crossed and that the pool we were talking about was in Dreamland, Uluwatu 1 hour 30 minutes away. Sunset was at 6.45pm but we figured we’d roll the dice and see what happened.
With about 10 minutes of daylight to spare, we finally checked in to the Smart Villas and got to work trying to recreate the scene from “the Shape of Water” (not really but that’s kind of how it turned out!) If you’ve seen any of those photos before, you’ll know there’s a living room with a window looking out into the swimming pool. The idea was that we’d set up the camera indoors and co-ordinate the photos by yelling upstairs somehow.
The funny thing was that the window was directly below a shelf, meaning that you couldn’t just drop down to the window and know where you were. To make matters worse, there was a waterfall exactly where you needed to push off from, meaning you were trying to gasp for breath under a torrent of water falling from above. Yelling to each other through a waterfall only added to the fun, so inevitably we ended up soaking the floor running in between. Whoops! Just a small window into what it’s like being a photographer!
In terms of what this place is actually like, each villa is huge! The pool is stunning, with amazing views out into the ocean, and only is there a ground floor swimming pool, but there’s also one on the upper level! It strikes me as the kind of place you’d go if you had about 10 friends and were looking for somewhere enormous to party. It kind of felt like it used to be pristine, but too many parties over the years have left it a little tired and grubby. Certainly grubbier than you’d expect if you were going to be paying around $3k per night!!!
One thing that everybody knows is that monkeys and poop are synonymous. Nobody ever expects to get pooped on though. Our first visit to Sangeh was uneventful, so our guard was down the second time and we were all happy to let the monkeys climb all over us. We probably shouldn’t have let our guards down so easily.
One friend that was particularly nervous about holding monkeys (her friend was bitten last time), eventually relaxed enough to let some monkeys climb on her. Big mistake. A big monkey seemed to take a liking to her, climbed her head and the plopped an enormous poop right in her hair. She tried to knock it out but it ended up getting seriously matted in there. Guess we’ll know better for next time!
This place is definitely another one of Bali’s hidden gems. While everyone else is fighting the crowds at the main monkey forest, you’re virtually guaranteed to have this place to yourself.
One of the dangers of flying a drone in a rainforest is that there are a LOT of trees to avoid. Usually we’re not too bad at flying them, but on this occasion we let our guard down and crashed the drone into the canopy of a palm tree about 40ft up. Although we’d lost sight of the drone, we were able to track it down through its GPS (top tip).
The amazing thing that happened next was that Wayan, a farmer that must easily be in his 60’s, shimmied up the tree to give it a rustle. Incredibly, he was able to shake it loose… buuuut on the downside he shook it out straight into the flooded rice paddy, killing the drone instantly. I think travel insurance was the only saving grace here, but it was just incredible to see Wayan fly up the tree with such ease.
So there was one last treat in store for us as we boarded the plane back to Canada. Our plane was one of the infamous Hello Kitty planes. In case you haven’t heard of it, EVA Airlines have special “Hello Kitty” themed planes in their fleet.
What does that mean?
Well, all cushions, cutlery, barf bags, inflight messages and information is Hello Kitty themed, and from the moment you walk into the plane you’ll be bombarded with the Hello Kitty theme tune on full volume. It’s quite a spectacle and whatever bad mood you were in before you boarded, you cannot help but grin.
So all in all, it’s been a pretty eventful couple of weeks, and it’s been so busy that it’s been tough to keep on top of! Thanks for reading!