Truthbutter

Bali: Day 4 (plus being gluten free in Bali)

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The fourth day in Bali was when we did all our major sightseeing. Six of us rented a driver for the day (it only cost us $10 each, and we had him for almost 12 hours!), and he just drove us wherever we wanted to go! He didn’t speak too much English, and the first place he dropped us off we actually had no idea where we were or what we were supposed to do there. There was a little garden with some statues and what looked like little temples, so we just roamed around for a bit and then got back in the car to drive to the monkey forest.

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Monkey forest was probably the highlight of the day for me. If you know me, you know I adore animals, so walking through a forest with monkeys running around everywhere is right up my alley. The monkeys climb all over you looking for food, and one of them straight up leapt from a tree onto my friend’s head! We had a couple monkey bites – one on a finger and one on a head – but nothing too serious. And I managed to escape without a scratch, although one monkey did try to yank out a chunk of my hair.

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We stayed at monkey forest for quite awhile. It was just so much fun to watch them! We saw lots of baby monkeys, a few monkey fights, and even monkey sex. And their little hands are so cute, especially when they just grab your finger and hold on. They’re scary when they scream and bare their teeth though!

After monkey forest we got lunch at a beautiful restaurant overlooking some rice paddies. I got nasi goreng (again) and papaya juice, and it was all delicious! And the atmosphere of the place was really nice. It was a breath of fresh air (literally) compared with the crowded city.

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After lunch, we visited a coffee plantation for a tea and coffee tasting. They brought out a little tray with a bunch of different teas, coffees, and cocoas in little glass mugs, and the six of us passed each mug around to taste while Lydia read a card listing the health benefits of what we were drinking out loud. Everything tasted awesome, although I was the only one who liked the ginger tea. Not surprising :) I didn’t end up buying anything though, because it was so expensive. But it was fun to try everything!

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The last thing we did was go visit some temples. We visited a water temple that was right on the ocean, and you can only access it during low tide. It was built on a big rock formation, and in a little cave under the rock there was a stream and a sort of waterfall, which was holy water. We washed our face in the waterfall, and then a Balinese man anointed us with water, put rice on our foreheads, and gave us all flowers. It was really neat, although I wish I’d had more background on what it all meant.

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Even though we couldn’t enter the temples, the whole area was beautiful, and for a while we just explored the beach and waded in the water to cool off.

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Then we watched a gorgeous sunset from a cliff overlooking the ocean. Definitely not a bad way to end the day :)

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I’m incredibly glad I decided to go to Bali with all my friends, and I had a fantastic time. But all the same, it was an overwhelming trip, and it was a relief to get on the plane back to Australia. I had never traveled somewhere non-English-speaking before, and it was strange and unsettling to feel so separate from the community that I was visiting. The separation between tourist and native was so distinct everywhere we went: from the disparity between our gorgeous villa and the poverty and construction on either side of us and all down the street, to the clear boundaries between the water park we visited and the surrounding area. Walking down the street, Balinese men would actually pull out their phones and take pictures of us. And even without any of that, the crazy traffic and crowded streets made me eager enough to get home.

I’m sure there’s a better, more authentic way to see Bali, but I’m happy I got to experience what I did! It was enjoyable and eye-opening.

Before I sign off, I’ll include a note about food in Bali that I posted on my Facebook page. If you aren’t Celiac or allergic to gluten and small amounts don’t bother you too much, you’ll have an easy time finding food in Bali. There are rice dishes everywhere. But if you need to be really careful about even¬†tiny amounts of gluten, you might have a hard time because of things like sauces, flour used to thicken curries, and soy sauce.

If you’re going to Bali (or any part of Indonesia), I highly recommend printing and bringing this Indonesian Gluten-Free Restaurant Card. It explains in Indonesian what you can and can’t eat, and it’s SO much easier and more productive to just hand the waiter a piece of paper than to repeat the word “gluten” to them ten times and try to mime flour and wheat stalks.

I’m pretty sure I managed to avoid gluten for the most part, but wouldn’t be surprised at all if a little snuck in here and there, even though I was careful and I always asked. I didn’t notice any major gut problems while I was there, but my skin was extremely unhappy, which is a pretty sure sign my body isn’t happy with whatever I’m feeding it. That probably had more to do with all the vegetable oil from the fried rice, though.

But if you are in Bali, definitely take advantage of all the delicious fresh fruit and smoothies! I ordered a “juice” (basically blended fruit) at almost every meal, since we couldn’t drink the tap water, and everything I tried was great: watermelon, strawberry, papaya, pink guava, banana…and they were pretty affordable, too! Usually around $2. And if you’ve traveled in Bali and tried to stay gluten free, I’d love to hear your experience too!

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