Travels Elsewhere

Scuba diving in Bali

As a big swimmer and more importantly,  an eternal fan of The Little Mermaid, I’ve always loved being in the water. And yet the idea of taking the plunge, so to speak, to scuba dive has never crossed my mind for more than a few seconds. Once was when in High School my teacher talked about scuba diving in a pool, which sounds a bit boring doesn’t it? Also my familiarity with open bodies of water is limited to the Great Lakes which don’t seem very appealing for diving, although I’ve heard that Kingston (Ontario that is!) is a big pull for people who like to explore shipwrecks.

It started off very technical when we put all the equipment on (wet-suits and flippers) and hopped into a pool. We practiced breathing from the air tanks, how to pop our ears (some snot mayyy have made an appearance) and hand signals. The we scuba-dived (scuba-dove?)! In the pool! The hardest part was adjusting the new weight I had on my back and to the buoyancy. Our instructor showed me how to properly put on my mask so it wouldn’t fill with water. I didn’t think this would be my biggest struggle, but it was. Incidentally now I know why I always have so much problems with my mask when I go snowboarding (lol). I also didn’t think to bring a hair elastic so my hair was often plastered to my face above water. Our guide would push it back against my head in the way someone might push a small child’s hair out of the way when they’re eating ice cream. Not because you think they can’t do it but because you know they’re busy with more important things (ice cream).

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Then we made our way down to the beach and plunked ourselves in the water. And there we were!  We went under and started swimming around. Perhaps floating is a better word – it turns out that you actually shouldn’t move to much while underwater. You shouldn’t use your hands too paddle forward because it throws off your body position and all you need is slow, stead up and down movements with your feet to allow your flippers to move you forward. You also have to remember to breathhhheee. It’s like when you’re at the gym doing weights or something and you suddenly realize you’ve been holding your breath. You have to keep breathing, slowly in and quickly out.

So I was in the midst of doing all this, thinking about breathing, thinking about my arms, and I suddenly looked around me and realized I WAS UNDERWATER. It is an insanely surreal experience. To feel weightless in water, and be able to move any direction and look at anything. I realized it was how I felt when I’ve flown in my dreams. And what I imagine flying might be like if my one superpower was granted. Scuba diving was not exciting in a heart-pounding, adrenaline kind of way. But it was thrilling and otherworldly.IMG_1700Bali

We spent about twenty minutes underwater to have lunch. Walking up the beach for lunch was actually the biggest struggle I had all day because my legs were so weak from climbing Mt. Batur the day before plus now I had a giant air tank on my back! I felt like a toddler just discovering how to walk down stairs.

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We went back into the water for about 40 minutes. We went to see a big sunken ship. I saw a ray, and a HUGE turtle (it must have been like three feet long at least). I posed for a lot of pictures, and upon reviewing them I have truly realized the impact living in Japan has had on me (peace signs in every.single.one. haha). Our instructor and I took a selfie together. I had to mime this underwater but he understood immediately what I was asking.

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Seeing the Sunrise from Mount Batur

We started climbing just before 4:00 am. The climb was gradual at first and then became very steep the farther we got up! The climb was particularly challenging because of the loose rock that covers the mountain (technically an active volcano) and because we were in the dark, although we did have flashlights! We were with a group of 7 and two guides, who were both very nice and clearly thought scaling the mountain was no big deal. Sometimes they would need to return to the front of the group after helping someone below and would run up the mountain smiling at us huffing and puffing below. We made it to the top right around 6:00 am to see the sunrise. the lack of sleep plus the adrenaline of the climb made reaching the top incredibly exciting. I felt tired (but only a little) and incredibly accomplished sitting on the top of the mountain watching the sunrise.

After the sunrise we walked around the top a bit, feeling hot air escaping from vents and shouting to hear our echo (both firsts for me!). We ate toast and eggs at the top which tasted amazing (but it could be just from the exhilaration of the morning). The climb down was a new form of entertainment. The top of the mountain is covered in ash so I climbed down, I could jump a little and slide a few feet at a time. It was like snowboarding except my shoes got a lot dirtier. About halfway down the mountain we switched to a different route that was less steep and it was a fairly easy walk down. I made it back to my hotel around noon and fell asleep immediately! Ha.

The climb has inspired me to be more proactive about climbing in Japan, Living in Toyama is prime location for climbing and I should take advantage of it. One of my goals is to climb the three holy mountains. As most people who have done it will tell you, climbing Mt. Fuji is not fun. It’s long, difficult, and often wet. And after the two hour climb I did, I know the (at least) six hours of Fuji will be a challenge.

All in all though, climbing Mt. Batur was (surprisingly to me) my favourite part of the trip!

I went with Bali Eco Cycling, which I would definitely recommend if you feel interested in doing this. The guides were incredibly patient and kind, and they made the experience a positive one!

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Winter travels in Bali

On the plane leaving from KIX I was wearing two layers of heat-tech under my other layers of clothing. I wanted to pack light so I left my coat home. Luckily Osaka was warmer than Toyama (a solid eight degrees Celsius at least) so my plan worked alright. Once we got to Bali, we were hit immediately with the heat and humidity which we hadn’t felt since summer in Japan. Although I love my Kotatsu, the heat was a welcome change.

We stayed in the Kuta area, right on Legian street which it turns out is essentially the main tourist hub. The streets are loud, busy, and the streets are full of cars and tons of scooters. Our first afternoon there we walked a good five minutes down one side of the street waiting to find a crosswalk, before realizing that actually there aren’t any. So over the course of the week we slowly gained courage staring down motorists as we stepped into the street to cross the road. In actuality, the traffic doesn’t move that fast because it’s so busy and everyone seems to be excellent drivers who expect people to walk across the street so there was no need for fear.

I think our trip was a good balance of activity and rest. The first five days or so were packed, visiting temples and attractions North on the island, Scuba-Diving, and climbing Mt. Batur (which is one of my favourite things I’ve done all year!). We hired a driver to take us around the island and we took vans to and from the scuba-diving and mountain climbing. The drives were some of my favourite parts of the trips because it was so beautiful to drive through the lush fields and forests.

Another thing that was really cool about Bali was the multilingualism. Pretty much everyone who works in the tourist areas speaks English as a second language as well as maybe some of the languages most commonly spoken by tourists (Japanese / Mandarin/ Cantonese). I was mistaken for being fully Japanese a lot, and had a lot of people call out to me in Japanese. It came in handy when I went to transfer money and had difficulty explaining the amount in English and the lady who was helping me went through the transaction in Japanese instead.

Rices fields and terraces

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Kopi Luwak – tea and coffee tasting!

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and some other experiences… Click the photos for more posts!

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Climbing Mount Batur for the sunrise