The next day, having spent the previous afternoon relaxing by the ocean, we caught a boat to Gili Trawangan, an island across the Lombok Strait, which is a popular destination for tourists seeking the paradise experience.
When we were arrived I was taken aback by just how many tourists there were; other than the shopkeepers, hotel owners and restaurant workers, not a local was in sight. Those local that we did come into contact with were unapproachable, unfriendly and glum-looking, perhaps a side-affect of being swept up in the tourism machine that is consuming the island. We found a quaint guesthouse to stay away from the main strip and ventured down to the beach where we stayed for the rest of the day. The island itself is naturally beautiful. Although the sand is mainly made up of spiteful sharp coral, the water is a hazy aquamarine colour and with gentle waves lapping the shores it is easy to float in the balmy waters.
Straight from the quay we went off to Ubud which is in the northern direction, closer to the centre of the island. Along with the Seminyak area, Ubud holds the duopoly over tourism in Bali. However it has fiercely held on to its traditions and culture making it a place which we thoroughly enjoyed. When we arrived we went to Mandala Wisata Wanara Wana or The Sacred Monkey Forest to you and I. This sanctuary's mission is to create peace and harmony for the visitors, in line with Hinduism philosophy, and is also home to three temples and five groups of Balinese long-tailed Macaque monkeys. The dense swatch of jungle creates the perfect atmosphere to wander around in, taking in the not-so-cute monkeys and holy temples.
We got a bite to eat at a restaurant-come-living room of the chef where we sat on wicker mats under a single light bulb devouring delicious homemade dishes. I would have really liked to stay longer in Ubud however we had to get back to the airport for our flight to Yogyakarta, Java. I have to admit that Bali didn't quite live up the expectations I had (don't watch the film Eat, Pray, Love if you're planning to come here!) but between its sandy beaches, impossibly green rice terraces and strong religious and cultural influence, it really has alot to offer to a menagerie of travellers!
On the first day we went off to the Kraton, or palace, of the Sultan with images of glittering palaces and treasures at the front of our minds. We were sorely disappointed however when we arrived to find a sparse compound of burnt grass with pavilions housing weird mannikins displaying life at the Kraton - perhaps we should have known what we were letting ourselves in for paying only 7,000 Rupiah (around 30p!). We aimlessly wandered around the city that afternoon in the baking sun, having dinner in a rooftop cafe down a hidden gang, or alleyway.
The next day we set off to Pranbanan temple, this time on our own rather than as a tour like we had done the day before. Jogja, the affectionate nickname for the city, has a well developed transport system so we rode the bus through neighbourhoods for around an hour before we arrived at the temple. Pranbanan is the grandest Hindu temples complex in Java and is also a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
It was built in the 9th century and consists of three main temples for gods Shiva, Brahma and Vishnu then has more than 220 other temples and shrines near by. Many of the structures suffered extensive damage in a 2006 earthquake and whilst restoration work is ongoing, it is slow with many still in a dilapidated state. For me, the cracks and crumbling blocks give the site even more character to make it an unmissable historical item on your 'must see' list. Similar to Borobudor, the place was heaving with tourists, many of whom were here to celebrate Ramadan so we took a walk around the complex which sprawls for miles and took in the other smaller temples in the sunshine. Even if temples and religion are not your thing, Pranbanan offers the setting for a nice relaxed day to meander around the grounds, have some lunch or even play on the swings!