Bali is a much larger island than we’d imagined, so we can say that we’ve had but a small taste of it.
Considering that we only booked flights in and out of there to fill an 8 day gap in our itinerary, it was nice to taste that über-popular destination that, despite being so close to home, we had never previously visited.
Ubud is a stunning town quite unlike anywhere else we’ve visited on this trip. I highly recommend you spend some time there rather than in Bali’s beachside resorts. The beaches are better – and cheaper – in Thailand anyway.
Ubud excels with beautiful jungle landscapes and exquisite architecture without too much in-your-face development and touts. Although to comprehensively avoid the touts you need to be on a scooter rather than on foot. And do yourself a favor by staying in Ubud Bungalow. Brilliantly located luxury for around $35 a night.
One place you do not want to ride a scooter on Bali is around Kuta / Legian and Denpasar. I confidently contend that the driving habits of Indonesian road users are among the deadliest in the world. It was a genuinely scary experience and not one I intend to repeat. Riding conditions around Ubud and in the highlands, however, are fine and the routes are rather enjoyable.
We made the obligatory visit to Kuta, and were privy to the “Australia Zoo” experience we expected. Keep well away from there is our tip.
We flew out of Denpasar to Singapore for our final stop, with Jetstar playing their usual “make everyone board the plane 30 minutes before scheduled departure, and then depart 30 minutes late” trick.
Singapore was the 30th and final country we would visit – more out of necessity than explicitly wanting to visit. For starters I needed to buy a suit for the string of weddings scheduled shortly after our return to Melbourne. And indeed some day to day clothing to replace what is so easily destroyed / lost / stolen / discarded during 10 months on the road.
It’s a nice enough city, though. As clean and modern as you’d expect. Shopping is probably not as good as KL, and certainly inferior to Bangkok or Hong Kong. Food options, though, are spectacular.
For our final nights we splurged and stayed at the Scarlett Hotel, fittingly our fanciest accommodation for the whole trip. It’s located in Chinatown and for once we were in the right place at the right time: Chinese New Year was rung in on our last night with the pomp, ceremony and volume levels you’d expect in a city where 77% are of Chinese descent.
So on February 15th, after managing to squeeze in a few more hours of rooftop jacuzzi, we headed to the airport on eerily quiet new year’s day roads to wait for our brand spanking Qantas A380.
Simultaneously heavy hearted and brimming with excitement we boarded and crept back to Melbourne overnight. And what do you know, there was a Chinese New Year dragon float to greet us in the arrivals hall at Tullamarine.