Bali

May 3, 2011 - Sanur, Indonesia

Hallo from Bali, one of over 18000 islands in Indonesia and very near Lombok and Komodo (where there be dragons).

We left via Kuala Lumpur airport - where I lost my ipod just to finish off what had been a rough trip in Malaysia - and headed for Ubud, where we had booked into the Ubud Villa for four nights.  A lovely place as the pictures try to show, but not exactly in Ubud - 5km out to be exact so the name is a bit misleading.  Luckily they laid on a free shuttle so we could go back and forth into this little town which was full of bars, restaurants, shops and temples.  Very pretty indeed. 

Bali is predominantly Hindu - something between 80 and 90% I'm told - so there are temples and places to make offerings all over the place, most of which are covered with black and white cloth as these colours are symbolic to Hindus.  You have to watch where you walk as well as everyone puts these lovely little handmade bamboo leaf trays on the streets three or four times a day which they fill with flowers, some of the food they've prepared, jossticks and even sometimes a lit cigarette (ladies aren't supposed to smoke by the way).  The ants have a field day in them, must be like a giant takeaway.  The ants, along with other insects, are huge here - we saw a cricket that was almost 3 inches long and some of the ants are over half an inch.  The only thing which seems small are the spiders, which so far have been tiny.  There are also gekkos in abundance, and frogs which send out mating calls all night, and I think some kind of lizard which the Indonesians call chit chats as that is what they sound like they are doing when they call to each other. 

We did a trip out while we were in Ubud.  It seems that villages all have their own particular skills; one village do wood carving, another batik, painting, stone masonry - whatever.  We went to a wood carving place which was amazing, you can watch the men carving all sorts of stuff by hand - elephants and other animals, their religious figures, people - life size in some cases - and all out of one piece of wood.  Some pieces take over 8 months to carve.  We also went to an art market where some of the pictures were fabulous - they have a very different style here and tend to use really bright colours.  We drove over a pretty large area - although Bali is small, the roads wind rather than go straight and are not good in all places so you have to allow a fair amount of time to get even a short distance.  The countryside here is breathtaking - green and lush, rice paddies everywhere which are stepped so they look great, and of course lots of mountains and volcanoes which are covered with trees.  There's loads of water too, streams everywhere which people use to wash their clothes, food, themselves and their motorbikes.

We then had lunch at one of the two volcanoes here, Mount Batur, which has a caldera lake sitting at the bottom on one side, surprisingly called Lake Batur.  It's the most active of the volcanoes here and has gone off 10 times since the 60s, the last time being 2000, and you can still see all the black burnmarks down the side.  It trickles down rather than blow it's lava sky high though and historically is only a mildly explosive volcano, pretty low down on the volcano scale in terms of danger.  I find volcanoes fascinating and it was great to get up so close to one.

After four days we moved on to Sanur, still in the south.  It's a touristy area - not as mad as other areas though - but in fact this being the low season, it was really quiet.  It's basically one long road with restaurants, bars, shops and places to stay along it, with a gorgeous beach about two minutes from the road.  And diving.  Bali is great for diving, some great sights all around the island.  Zuby got a few in while I dossed around and caught up with some shopping and eating - had trouble once again with my ears which scuppered my chances of going in as well.

We were staying in a place called Puri Satang which was great.  We also found a fab little bar/ restaurant called the Little Birds.  The family who run it are big time Bob Marley fans so we were treated to reggae music all the time we were there, which just seems to fit the pace and view of life here.  They also love VWs and have a couple which they use to take visitors on trips round the island, plus a couple of really nice old motorbikes.  Food wasn't half bad either.   We watched the traditional Balinese dancing one night, only done by women, who do that side to side movement thing with their eyes open really wide - like Eagle Eyed Action Man for those old enough to remember him.  Fantastic costumes and they start the girls off really young - the youngest we saw was probably under 4.  The ladies in Bali are very graceful all the time - whether serving you in a shop, making an offering at one of the shrines or temples or just walking along, so they make the dancing look really easy, although I don't think it is at all.  Music is a bit strange though, doesn't seem to have a rhythm to my untrained ear so I've no idea how the ladies know when to do what move, which does go in time with the music.

We moved on again to the East coast, Amed, and got a taxi to take us - about 3 hours drive - rather than a bus which is just as expensive and takes much longer.  Our driver, Gooday (who got the mickey taken out of him by visiting Ozzies as you can probably imagine), was well knowledgeable and made the drive really interesting.  He told us that the Balinese don't have 12 months in their year, they have less (I think he said 10 months with 35 days in but can't remember exactly) which I think is something to do with their being predominantly Hindu, so their calendar year is shorter.  It also means they are in a different year - he said 1933!  (I've tried looking this up but can't confirm the year).  They celebrate the new year by staying at home with family - there is no traffic or anything allowed on the roads and people are not supposed to leave their homes, no tvs or radios, and they are supposed to stay silent and fast for the day.  There are even people employed to patrol the streets to make sure everyone is at home!  They do have big processions and parties through the streets the days before though.

Gooday took us to the other active volcano here, Gunung Agung, for lunch.  It's classified as highly explosive (as when it goes, it goes) and last went off in 1963 for the first time in over 100 years.  The Balinese hold a ceremony every year to appease the god of the volcano and stop it going off.  Apparently in 1963 there was some VIPs visiting the island and the Balinese people were told to change the date of the ceremony - not sure how they work the date out but it changes every year.  Anyway, they argued but were overruled and the ceremony took place late so that the VIPs could be there, and the volcano went off during the ceremony.  Major eruption too by all accounts, mass evacuations, affected loads of neighbouring islands, the works basically.  It's a big volcano (although it lost some height as a result of the last eruption) and looks very impressive, and the land around it is extremely fertile. 

Rice is grown everywhere here and harvested three times a year and when it's time to pick or plant, people from all around come to help whichever family's rice it is.  This seems to be the general way - everyone helps everyone else when it comes to big jobs, and there is a real feeling of community.  And once again it is a place where people smile at you, says hello when you pass, and everyone seems generally very happy - lots of smiling and singing.   People aren't rich here, or even well off really, it's often a hand to mouth existence for the majority - lots of recycling, they make use of as much as they can.  But there is also a lot of corruption we were told;  tourism accounts for something like 85% of their income yet the majority of people don't see any of that money in any form - education, healthcare, roads, anything.  We were told it goes in the back pockets of the priveleged few.

We arrived in Amed and checked in to the place we'd booked.  Lovely rooms, massive balcony but once again well away from the main street of Amed (if you can call it that), only this time there were  no shuttle buses to take you anywhere and the hotel wanted a fortune for a taxi, as did the locals.  The food was dreadful but it was really hard to get anywhere else to eat due to the lack of transport.  We chose to walk, which we do a lot of anyway, but it was long and very hilly and the temperature did me in, especially during the day.  We'd booked for 4 nights and it was only the diving which kept us there truth be told, as many of the dives really were excellent.  However, after four breakfasts of stale bread and jam (seriously), I was glad to move on. 

So we booked a boat and off we went, arriving after much thought on the Gili islands.  Been here two days.  It is paradise and we will be here a while I reckon......


Pictures

temple carvings
Night transport in Melaka
Singapore from the top of the Flyer
Singapore's football pitch....
 
 

3 Comments

Chris and Tony:
May 4, 2011
So good to hear from you. Sounds wonderful. Bet the diving has been mindblowing. Take Care
Chris and Tony
Paul:
May 7, 2011
Are you really travelling?- havent seen you yet!
Angie:
May 9, 2011
Brings back a few memories
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