We've arrived in Bali!

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May 10th 2001
Published: January 21st 2012
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This is a quick letter from Bali...We love this place and already feel quite at home here. It's very cheap and we will be easily able to live within our budget - we even have a/c and hot water in our room. We're staying in Ubud in a bungalow with an outdoor shower. People here are very friendly and there are thankfully not a lot of hawkers in the town.

There were many in in Kuta so we only stayed there for the first night and left the city as soon as possible the next day. I'm quite surprised at how poor the people here are - I guess I thought that becauuse it's such a small island which relies heavily on tourists ( and there are many of those!) it would be less Asian and wealthier.

Alot of national dress is worn here all the time, particularly by the women, who also seem to do all the work! We have hired a taxi and seeing all the sights around the island - yesterday we visited a volcano and some temples - all very impressive. The countryside isbeautiful and very interesting, and we are enjoying watching the local people go about their day to day life. All the washing - people and clothes - is done in the roadside ditches - they seem to have hard lifes.

The man who runs our hotel earns 150,000r a month and we are paying 120,000 a night to sleep here so that certainly puts their wages in perspective. One evening we went to a Hindu New Moon ceremony - we were the only foreigners there - it was a fabulous experience! We had to wear the tradional dress - Jerry looked great - we borrowed them off our frend - the hotel worker. The ceremony was to give offerings to the new moon and the women were all wearing their offerings as headdresses - some of them were feet high - and were piled up with baskets of fruit and flowers.

There is so much to see - new sights everywhere we look - we are starting to suffer from mental overload. It has started to feel like our holiday has actually started though today we feel a little down (13th May) and David is very much in our thoughts. We are having a quiet day though plan on watching the fire dances tonight.

So far lots of impressions - rats being drowned in buckets, dirt and more dirt, happy smiles, women carrying everything on their heads, cocks in baskets ready for the cock fights, motorcycles with whole families on them, mangy dogs, lovely food, beautiful architecture, temples and more temples, rural country life. We love it all!


We are enjoying Bali so much we've decided to extend our stay for another four days. It's great having a son in the travel industry! I sent a small email to some of you yesterday so some of this news will be the same.

We arrived very tired in Denpasar from Darwin in the middle of the night. We left the customs area and walked straight out onto the street. This threw us as we had no accommadtion booked and we had been planning the sort ourselves out (and probably just wait till morning) in the arrivals lounge. We were swarmed with touts selling hotel rooms and feeling a bit out of our depth headed for the tourist desk - thankfully open - and booked a taxi to take us to a hotel in Kuta. Lesson no 1 - always prebook hotels for late night arrivals.

driving through the dark and very lonely streets I realised how much trust we would have to put in people that we did not know. Nobody knew where we were - we didn't know where we were.... He could have taken us anywhere, robbed us and dumped us on the streets and we would not have been able to prevent him. Lessson no 2 was to stop worrying about this fact and learn to go with all the unexpected and scary things that may happen to us over the coming months. We did end up (safely) in a very overpriced grotty little hotel somewhere in Kuta. After a quick wander through the beach side streets of Kuta next morning we left by taxi and headed to Ubud. The hawkers on the streets of Kuta were terrible, trying to drag you into their shops as you walked past.

Ubud was much nicer, and we thoroughly enjoyed the scenic drive (1 and half hours). We put our trust in the Lonely Planet guide and went to one of their recommended hotels, where we have been ever since. We are paying under AUS $20 for the room which includes A/C and hot water (not common here). Our shower is outside in a courtyard and quite an experience to use, very nice actually as there are no shower heads and it's actually like standing under a warm waterfall.

We've seen lots of the countryside and temples. The people are mainly Hindus and all their temples are hung with umbrellas and yellow streamers. Every day the locals leave offerings on the streets (outside their homes and bussinesses as well as in the temples). They are small baskets of flowers and rice, plus incense. The streets are carpeted with hundreds of discarded offering baskets and dead flowers - all of which add to the general rubbish on the streets. Rubbish bins seem to be non existent!

Watching the rural life is fascinating and I'm quite surprised that fora town which is such a tourist hive that the locals still follow so many of their customs and wear traditional dress daily. They are not as influenced by Western society as I expected they would be.

The women here work very hard and every afternoon the roads are busy with them walking home from the fields with their crops and tools balanced on their heads. Everything seems to be carried gracefully on their heads. The men appear to have an easier life - chatting and resting during the day and spending their evenings at cock fights which are a very popular pastime here.

We ahve been hiring drivers to take us out into the country and arouns the outlying temples. For under $25 thetwo of us are driven around all day - the drivers will take you to where ever you want to go. They are so cheap you almost feel embarrassed! And we certainly have not honed our bargaining skills so know that we could get everything much chepaer if we wanted to.

Food is great here though we aren't eating from the street stalls as the restaurant meals are so cheap. Last night we had fruit smoothies (made on yoghurt and called lassis) a huge plate of salad and bread, bowls of fruit salad, large beer and tea for under $10 in total.

Wine and spirits are not readily available but the fruit juices are wonderful and Jerry is enjoying the beer. We haven't spent a lot of mpney on anything but day to day expenses, though Jerry bought a CD ($14) from one of the Celtic groups he likes - it was the last album he expected to find here. I've only bought a couple of small paintings.

Life over here for the locals must be very hard, particularly at the moment as there are hardly any tourists. Balinese countryside is very diverse - lots of rice paddies and further up into the mountains rough farming land where coffee, peanuts, chillies and flowers are grown. There is a big industry here in flowers, mainly hydrangeas, for the offering baskets. Yesterday we were in the middle of coffee growing country looking at the plants when we heard "icecream' music and next minute around the corner came an old man on hid motorcycle with an esky of icecream strapped to the back!

Motorcycles are everywhere and carry everything from whole families (on the same bike), mattresses, contents of an entire small shop, crops, animals or fighting cocks in baskets.... We haven't taken a lot of photos as most of the scenes are too wide and there are just too many!

We ahve snapshots of evberything in our minds though - constant beeping of horns from cars and motorcycles, the smell of spicy food and incense combined with smoke;the constant parade of people wearing sarongs and temple dress (the New Moon festival is on at the moment and evrybody is dressed in their best); the little old shoemaker sitting under an umbrella on the street who repaired Jerry's sandals and did a wonderful job of hand stitching them for $2, women washing themselves, their children and their laundry in the ditches lining the side of the roads; washing spread over bushes to dry, rice spread out to dry on many of the roads we travelled yesterday (they were very windy and narrow roads in the mountains); the rubbish which covers the streets, smiles from everybody - they seem very happt people; Bob Marley played in a continuous loop - all day - in the cassette player in our hire taxi; the absolutely revolting mangy dogs which roam the streets; one particular Top 40 song being played from radios everywhere; men polishing their cars with feather dusters; rows of fighting cocks in baskets getting their daily dose of sunshine; the ease of being able to cash dollars from every cafe or moneychanger at a much better rate then we got before we left Australia; strong, strong Balinese coffee which leaves an inch thick residue of dreg in the bottom of the cup; going to a beautifully decorated restaurant with cloth napkins and good china nd getting a cheap luridly coloured plastic tray of condiments put on the table and banana pancakes (everywhere!).

Far too much to take in really but we are totally fascinted with what we are seeing and experiencing. We are spending as much time as we can talking to the lovely locals. This is how we managed to get invited to the New Moon festival the other night - we appeared to be the only tourists there amongst hundreds of local families. We both had to wear local dress to attend. The head dresses that the women wore were very elaborate and piled high with fruit, coloured rice and flowers - we realised later that they were actually the offerings that were taken to the altar in the temple. The temple dress for the women is a long sleeved fitted lace blouse (under which their brightly coloured bras were very obvious), worn with sarongs and thongs. The men also wore sarongs, little folded hats and sashes around there waists.

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