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Published: January 22nd 2012
Our short break in Bali has come to an end and I feel quite sad about it. We both had a great ten days. I'm writing this in the lounge at Denpassar airport enroute to Singapore. We were sensible enough to prebook accommodation this time and shall be staying at Tai Hoe Hotel in Little India for the next 3 nights, I doubt we'll be staying any longer than that in Singapore as it will be quite expensive. From there we are heading to Malacca in Malaysia.
Since I last emailed we've had a quiet few days. We thoroughly enjoyed our tasty meal of smoked duck (it was very tender and spicy) at one of the best restaurants in Ubud. Very classy restaurant and the meal cost us only $30. Next day we moved rooms within our hotel - new one was smaller and without a/c but was actually cooler than the other room and it was heaps cheaper (we're learning) - we're now only paying $9 a night plus a little extra for breakfast. We really like the staff at the hotel - they are a lot of fun! One of the best nights out we had in Ubud
was when Jordi, one of the hotels staff, invited us to his house for dinner. His sister, who couldn't speak any English, cooked a traditional meal for us which included chicken - not part of the everyday diet here due to its relatively high cost. Jordi's wage was only 150,000 RP a month and we were spending about 500,000 RP a day whilst in Bali We felt very honoured to be invited and the lovely meal was followed with watching an hour of Indonesian TV. His television is his pride and joy - now he's saving up for a CD player (or least the deposit on one) as they cost 1 million RP here. The TV programme was incredibly corny and we both had to try hard not to laugh as they were taking the 'drama' very seriously! The house was lovely - very traditional and set in a big garden. Jordi’s sister is actually the housekeeper - the house is owned by a wealthy foreign artist who spends part of the year in Bali.
At one stage Jordi left to have a shower (they shower here by tipping scoops of water from a bucket over their heads) and when he came back into the room he spent ages rubbing a whitening cream into his arms and legs. Sadly they equate white skin with wealth - so try to whiten their lovely coffee coloured skin with no doubt toxic bleaching creams.
Nest day I had the massage to die for at one of the 5 star hotels which line the main street. It cost me under $20 for the two hour experience. The massage room (suite) was glorious - full of flowers and soft fluffy towels (a luxury item in budget travel). I even had a bowl of frangipanni flowers on the floor to look at as I was massaged. The one hour massage was followed by a body rub of turmeric and rice (which turned me yellow) followed by a yoghurt wash. All this followed by a bath covered in floating flower petals in a mini swimming pool, a glass of iced ginger tea and a dousing of frangipanni body lotion. My enjoyment was only slightly spoiled by the thought that I had just spent nearly an entire monthly wage for the masseur on the massage.
We decided to live life on the edge next day so hired a bike each and went for a ride. Brave or stupid - I still haven’t decided which one…. It was a great way to get out and enjoy the culture but we both felt a little vulnerable amidst the crazy traffic flow. The cars came very close to us, literally inches on some occasions. Still we enjoyed it immensely, though I’m sporting a large bruise from falling off it at one stage, thankfully not right in front of a car.
Other then swimming, a lot of walking and enjoying the food most of our time has been spent relaxing. Last night we went to watch the Kecak dance which was fabulous. There were about 100 men chanting and singing in unison, gradually bringing themselves into a trance. It was held in candlelight which made it even more atmospheric. There was also a lot of temple dances using vibrant masks performed as well. The Kecak dance I had seen before in the movie ‘Baracka’ - the dancers all dress in black and white trousers and mainly use their arms and upper bodies, plus their voices, to do the dance. After that dance they also showed the female version, sung with a choir of elderly women. The last dance was the Fire dance where they danced on hot coals. Fascinating. Though a hard way to earn a living… We also visited the Monkey Temple - full of great carvings (particularly two fine enormous lizards), jungle like gardens and a little too many monkeys for me! I’m not a lover of that animal - they frighten me a little. We’ve also enjoyed wandering the markets here - so different to what we have in Australia. The piles of spices and vegetable are colourful and it’s great just to wander the aisles soaking up the atmosphere.
Today we left the hotel early and hired a taxi to take us to the beach side resort areas of Sanur and Nusa Dua. We were due to fly out of the country later that day and that area is close to the airport. Our driver from the hotel looked after our luggage whilst we explored the area. It felt like we had left Bali behind though as it had a totally different vibe to Ubud. Too many resort hotels and the beaches (after Australian ones) weren’t brilliant. However we lunched at Jimbayan Bay where you eat at tables right on the sand. You choose your seafood from large trays and then it is cooked over the coals for you. As we were running out of Balinese rupees (and not wanting to cash any more dollars) we only had enough cash to buy six prawns - though they were very large prawns! Imagine our surprise when our prawns arrived with plates of salad, rice, fresh fruit and lots of condiments (all of which were included in the price) - for under $6. We had a good laugh with the friendly young waiter and a long conversation with him. The people here have been so friendly and a lot of fun to be around. They have been one of the reasons we’ve enjoyed the country as much. It was always great to walk down the street and have all the little kids run out of their houses calling ‘hello’, ‘hello’ - with big smiles from ear to ear. The people seemed to our eyes very poor but we saw very little begging. There were a couple of women with young children begging in the main street of Ubud everyday though.
We finished our time in Bali with a last look at a very traditional market close to the beach where we ate lunch before our driver took us to the airport. We had a good flight to Singapore and arrived at 7.30pm. Customs and immigration were really efficient and we were in our hotel rooms by 8.15pm! Amazing…… The hotel is new and clean, though our room is tiny - the showerhead is over the toilet in the bathroom! We’re only paying $76 for the room - much dearer than Balinese prices. It’s in the middle of an area called Little India and after settling in we went for a walk. However we didn’t stay out long as I felt uncomfortable. The streets were full of men and we saw no other women so we went back to the hotel.
Singapore is an interesting city, particularly the area that we are stying in. It’s full of ladies in saris! We had a quick look around for a cheaper hotel but have decided to satay at the tai Hoe - it’s a good price as very basic backpacker hostels (very rundown) are $50 and hotels similar to ours slightly closer to the centre are around $120. We’ve been told a lot of hotels have closed down as the centre is in the process of being redeveloped in many areas. Taxis are very cheap here - only S $5 (S$1 is equal to A$1.12) Though from the city taxis are impossible to find late at night. With Bali and the constant call of ‘Taxi Sir Taxi Sir’ ringing it our ears we waited for ages for one before eventually going to a 5* hotel and asking the doorman there to phone us one. There doesn’t seem to be a lot to see in Singapore - unless you’re into shopping - and there are shopping malls on every corner! The city is clean though not as clean as we expected (after reading about the large fines imposed here for littering)Though after Bali it is very clean… We’ve had trouble finding a laundry and our hotel room is presently strung with undies. Yesterday we spent ages walking the streets - it was very hot - but found heaps of interesting little allies to explore.
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