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Published: August 12th 2005
We found these boys fishing for crabs.
From Lovina we headed south to Gunung Batur (Mt. Batur) and Lake Batur. The view of the mountain and the lake as we edged down the impossibly steep roads on the back of motorbikes was breathtaking. Before we arrived we had vague notions of a climb of Mount Batur and a more a well-formed conviction that would take a boat ride across the lake. Our Lonely Planet had pre-warned us about the persistant, often aggressive hawkers and touts. Right on cue, not ten minutes after our arrival as we sat in a restaurant*, they arrived. It's not what you want is it? To find yourself forced to battle your in-built English politeness and tell someone to sod off with a mouth full of nasi-goreng? Anyway we were there and the view was lovely and that was a good thing. The view from our accomodation were equally stunning (sorry - the photos of this view lost out to other of Kuta beach). However, one of the hangers on from the restaurant was still hanging on. He had followed us back to our chosen hostel; assuring us he lived there (he seemed to be telling the truth). Now, we knew from our LP
This elderly Hindi woman blessed Elaine and I with holy water just outside of Ubud,Bali
that the prices of guides for hikes had been fixed at about $30 for up to four
people. He wanted us to pay $45 for one person! He also told us he worked for the government and that he wasn't a guide himself but we would get a government approved guide (Mt. Batur guides now have to be approved due to "a rather aggressive hiking industry"). Quite frankly we didn't like the cut of his jib. He quickly slashed his prices and as we already knew the prices to be regulated by the governent this seemed fishy. We felt he was taking the piss and felt he would also like to take as much of our money as he could. Finally he went away. The next morning we awoke at sunrise to see the rows of vegetable patches which led down to the lake's edge being watered with huge pump-driven hose pipes by people (probably as bleary-eyed as we were) in big wellies. There was something quite surreal about it; they stood there in the mist and sprayed and sprayed vast quantities of water as though the vegetables they were growing needed every drop from that huge lake. The next
Smoke over KL
This is the view from the tallest twin towers in the world: Petronas Towers, Kuala Lumpur. The smog is actually smoke from the forest fires all the way over in Sumatra.
morning we went down into Kedisan. To be honest it seemed to be the shell of the place it once must have been. A decaying tourist town that had, in it's need and greed, driven away it's tourists. Later that morning we drove away.
We arrived in Ubud. More civilised, more cultured, friendlier Ubud. After the 'authorities' realised what had happened in Kuta (Ibiza to the Aussies) they decided to get on with promoting the more traditional side of Bali to the outside world and they did this through Ubud. We chose a lovely homestay (almost all the reasonably priced accomodation in Ubud is within the walled grounds of family homes) with a ridiculously cold pool: pleasant for only the quickest of dips. On our second day in Ubud we hired bicycles and cycled to the Goa Gaja (a shrine in a cave to the Elephant God Ganesha**) and then moved on to Yeh Puluh (a carved stone relief depicting... well nobody's quite sure). On the way between the two sites (we managed - with great satisfaction - to follow the trails that lead in the general direction of Yeh Puluh with no guide) we met two boys fishing
Frisbee on Kuta beach at sunset
for crab in a stream. They posed for a photo but were generally much more interested in their sideways moving prey than us - quite refreshing really. When we arrived at Yeh Puluh we were promptly blessed with holy water and gave an account of the site's significance perhaps in Balinese, perhaps in Bahasa but certainly
not in English. We left an offering for Ganesha anyhow.
After Ubud we had to go to the airport to catch our flight to Kuala Lumpur. The plan was to fly to KLIA and simply wait it out until our flight the next day (we had about an 18 hour wait). However, on the plane we met a really interesting guy, from Sri Lanka, who works for the UN in East Timor. He told us about how he was was heading back home for a couple of weeks to see his family and we told him how we'd ended up having to fly to KL for one night. When we mentioned that we planned to stay the night in the airport he said he remembered how tight money was when he was student and that'd he'd get us a room in his hotel.
Kuta beach at sunest.
This may sound a little strange to anyone who's not done any travelling but when you're 1000s of miles from home you quickly learn figure out who you can trust. He seemed a nice bloke so we took him up on his kind offer. Instead of spending the night in an airport we spent it in the very comfortable Concorde Inn. Instead of watching trolleys roll past as we waited for our plane the next day we watched palm plantations race past from the high-speed train to Kuala Lumpur. From the station it was but a short work (through a very western and very big shopping centre) to the bottom of the world's tallest twin towers: the Petronas Towers, KL. Acutely aware of the flight we had to catch back to Bali we hurried to the ticket office (you can take a tour up to the bridge oconnecting the two towers) only to be told all the tickets for that day had sold out. With some sad-eyed explaining that we'd only come to Kuala Lumpur to the see the towers we were allowed in... for free! :-) The view from the towers was a little disappointing. We assumed it was
Kuta beach at sunest.
smog that was obscuring the city from us and were told, erroneously, that it was fog. I later learned from the ever trustworthy BBC that it was actually smoke from the forest fires in Sumatra.
When we arrived back in Bali it was stright on to the Kuta area we spent one night a rather dingy homestay (it's one redeeming feature a very intersting/interested guy from East Timor) in Legian, north of Kuta. The next day we moved to Kuta proper. We had some food in a restaurant and left our bags (as usual) while we wandered around looking for somewhere pleasant to kip. After much searching we found a place with a pool not 5 minutes walk from the beach. It had dimmer switches (the height of luxury) and, get this, a pond room! There was a door in our hallway (we had a hallway!) which led to a private, walled patio area with a fish pond. We had four fish: Surf (smaller) and Turf (bigger), Hide and Seek (the shy ones). On our first evening in Kuta proper we headed down to the beach and watched the fantastic sunset (please see excessive number of pictures). The next
Kuta beach at sunest.
two days we hired surfboards (1pound 20p for a day!) and attempted to surf. It took me quite a while even to remember how to stand up and this was an inglorious wobble of a stand with a big grin on my silly English face. Surfing is also possibly the most tiring sport I've ever attempted. Although Kuta is very commercialised it's generally a nice place. The beach is crowded but almost completely hawker-free (I think the police discreetly patrol it) and it's a nice enough town for a couple of days.
Anyway, such things are now behind us as we're in Pandangbai. Padangbai being the port town that is the gateway to Lombok and the second half of our adventure in Indonesia. I'm expecting great things. Watch this space.
*We had by now realised that the by far the easiest option with regard to accomodation-hunting was to: arrive - eat - leave bags at restaurant - trawl the hostels and homestays backs free of their Berghaus burdens.
**Inside the Elephant Cave (as it is known, for it is a cave) there was an English woman who actually thought that inside the cave... wait for it...
was "a real elephant you could ride". What must other nations think of us with people like that roaming wild? Deary me.
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