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Published: February 4th 2012
The total time to get from my place in Los Angeles to my hotel in Bali
took over forty hours. I was so exhausted. Not sleeping well on the plane ride to Singapore and being in the heat all day took its toll. The flight to Bali was on a Boeing 777
. I sat beside a photographer from Colombia and an archaeologist who were traveling together throughout Southeast Asia, India, and Russia doing research.
Entering Indonesia was interesting. I felt like I was narrating my own episode from “Locked up Abroad
”. Though I was sleep deprived, I could have sworn I saw the girl in front of me paying off the official to let her in after a lengthy conversation. Everything seemed like it was in slow motion. When I approached the customs agent I felt I was taking snap shots of my surroundings. After clearing up some confusion about my length of stay at the hotel that I put on my entry form, versus how much time I planned to stay on the island, he let me in.
I made my way to Arrivals and saw my name on a paper – “Ted Anderton”. My driver from the hotel,
Bute, was there to take me to Ubud. I was so glad to see him. Being sleep deprived made me so happy to have someone guide me from the airport to the hotel. Usually when I get to a new city in a new country I just take a bus or subway and walk. That would have been impossible given my state that night.
Bute was from Bali and new the place inside and out. This was made evident to me by the number of back roads we took to get to the hotel. Driving in Bali is just a plain insane experience. In Los Angeles people exaggerate about how you can be driving 80 mph bumper to bumper. In Indonesia you literally go 80 mph bumper to bumper. The road was a two-lane highway that goes from asphalt to dirt and back periodically. Also, you have to share the road, not only with the car or motorbike beside you, but also with oncoming traffic.
I checked into my room. The sight of a bed had never looked so good. I took my malaria pill and went to sleep. Babies don’t sleep like this. I woke up the
next morning to the sounds of a rooster. With the sun breaking through my room I looked up at my ceiling fan feeling like I was in the movie “Apocalypse Now
”. My right jaw hurt for some reason. I was wondering if maybe I had been roughed up the night before. Had the Indonesian police beat me because I wouldn’t pay them off? After thinking about it some more I realized I had probably been laying on that side of my face for the nineteen-hour flight to Singapore. Though getting beat up by the Indonesian police, burned with cigarettes, pistol whipped, and being yelled at and asked, “Where are your papers???”
sounds a lot cooler. Day 1
: Ubud is a very artsy place. I woke up early and walked around the grounds of my guesthouse. After eating my breakfast, which consisted of a pancake wrap, fruit, and yogurt, I headed out to walk around. Ubud is a very busy place, though it doesn’t help that most of the traffic is restricted to one and a half lanes. About half the road has parked motorbikes and cars. Nearby there is a soccer field and a bunch of school children were playing
in their uniforms without shoes (this is on Saturday). I decided to stop in a local convenience store and asked how much a liter of water was. It was half of what I paid at the hotel. I then realized that the hotel, paying $0.58 vs. $0.29 for a liter of water, had ripped me off. Yes, food and drinks are pretty cheap here.
I made my way down to the main temple in town that has little monkeys running around. There must have been a hundred monkeys walking freely with the people. Some would jump on you if you had food. I saw one take a guy’s water bottle and opened it up and started to drink it. They monkeys are pretty playful, not only with each other wrestling around, but also with themselves - in public. Some monkeys have no shame.
The heat today was unbearable. I decided to buy a hat, since I had shaved my head. The asking price was about $6.85, but I was able to get it for half. There are a lot of cheap deals here. I wish I had another bag to take stuff back. I can’t get over how
many American “outlet” stores are here.
After lunch I headed back to take a nap. Unfortunately, I woke up around 9:00 pm to the sound of a thunderstorm passing through. I guess I’m getting caught up on my sleep. Day 2
: I got up and took a tour of Bali’s central region today. My driver, Negali, took me to a place where they hand chisel wood sculptures. The Ubud area is loaded with very talented artists and craftsmen. Their store was loaded with hand made carvings and statues, from the size of a fist to some larger than me.
The next stop was the first of two temples I visited. This one was both a Buddhist and Hindu temple side by side and was discovered after an earthquake, which led to the excavation. The thirteenth century temple was in the jungle, which was far more humid than the parking area where we pulled in. When we parked three women trying to sell me a sarong greeted me. They were competing with each other. Apparently you can’t walk into the temple with just shorts. I decided to rent one, only to find that you could get one for
free at the entrance.
Inside the temple a woman gave me a brief history of the grounds (for a donation) and then a Buddhist monk of sorts threw water on me and we put our hands over the incense and prayed. He too asked for a donation. Everyone wants a donation!!!
The second temple was more interactive. There were groups of people worshiping and drums playing. People were also fully clothed in a shallow pool immersing themselves in the water shooting out from the wall. It was so hot I thought about doing it myself. Around the corner there appeared to be some sort of sacrifice or offering going on. The main table had what appeared to be food offered in front of a fake cow with umbrellas - more drums and cowbells.
Next we went to a coffee plantation where I got a private tour on the process to make coffee. It was impressive. My guide spoke great English and hopes to study tourism at university. They even let me roast the beans. A tasting table capped the tour that overlooks a rice valley.
After the coffee plantation it was time to check out the
local volcano, Mt. Batur
. The view was from a restaurant that viewed the volcano, valley, and accompanying lake. To get there we had to pay off the police. They basically had a roadblock and we had to show them our papers and pay the “fee”. My “Locked up Abroad” thoughts were emerging again as I imagined the captain asking, “where are your papers? – These are not the right papers!!!
” – snap back to reality. My driver said they basically all just pocket the money and choose that route because they know a lot of tourists pass through there. The “fee” came to little over $2.00, not bad for the view. Plus, when we got to the top I didn’t have any cash left so they let us in under the pretense I was going to the ATM, which I did. However, we didn’t get around to paying them. Servers them right. At the top of the mountain I had lunch and took in the beautiful view.
After the volcano we headed to the rice fields. The hillsides looked amazing. Some locals let me take pictures with them (for more donations) and I bought some postcards. Driving though this town
off the main road was incredible. There were so many amazing pieces of art being developed and shops that clearly had no access to markets because of their location. Day 3
: A pretty slow day for the most part. I checked out of my hotel at noon. Coming to the realization of how much I had paid the hotel for the taxi, accommodations, and tour, I decided to take a shuttle bus to Kuta, instead of a taxi. On the trip I met a guy from Texas and his girlfriend from Taiwan. Both of them teach in Taiwan. I’ve met so many teachers already. It sounds like a good deal if you’re interested in making money, traveling, and want a change.
The trip from Ubud to Kuta took about an hour and a half. After we arrived we walked about a mile to where they were staying. I took a cab from there to my hotel and we agreed to meet up later that night. Apparently, when we got out of the shuttle I must have left my Lonely Planet guidebook for Southeast Asia
. Figuring out how to get around a country is always one of the most exciting parts of traveling. But
doing it without the security of one of these guidebooks causes some anxiety. So, I spent part of the afternoon trying to figure out how to find another book. Luckily I was able to find a copy at a used bookstore.
Eventually I met up with the guys from the bus and went to a nightclub just three doors down from where the Bali bombing of 2002
killed or wounded over 500 people. Day 4
: After four days I finally found some time to go to the beach. I went to Legian beach for some R&R and to try surfing. I rented a bed, surf lesson, and surfboard for about $10 for the day. The water in the Indian Ocean was so warm. It reminded me of the Caribbean where you actually sweat when you swim. I brought a zip lock bag I had been using to store some mixed nuts to store my money, map, and passport copy. Unfortunately, there must have been a leak because it all got soaked.
After hanging out at the beach for a few hours I decided to buy some Ray Bans from the “outlet” and grab some lunch. I got a Greek salad
and tuna kebob. So good! But, I was a few Rupiah
short. I talked to the owner and he let me slide and said I could just pay “the next time” – which I will do, whenever that is. Day 5
: I checked out of my hotel and took a cab to the Hilton Conrad in Nusa Dua
. A friend from Deloitte, Randy Hau, was traveling through Asia with his girlfriend, Tracy, and happened to be in Bali at the same time. It was good to see a familiar face. We spent most of the day hanging out at the Conrad checking out the grounds. Later in the afternoon we went to my hotel to drop off my stuff and then on to Ulu Watu
. My hotel was in the middle of nowhere. This is the second time I booked a hotel on hotels.com only to have my hotel not really be within a respectable distance to civilization. One of the perks though was a free shuttle to anywhere on the Nusa Dua peninsula. The room and grounds were nice, but I think three Chinese girls and I were the only tenants the two nights I was there.
After I dropped my
stuff off in my room we continued the cab ride to Ulu Watu to see the temple. Like Ubud, this temple had monkeys running around, jumping on people, and trying to grab anything they could. One of the monkeys tore Tracy’s pearl earing right out of her year and tried to eat it. She never did get it back. The monkey thought it was funny at least.
The views from the temple overlooking the Indian Ocean were amazing. There was a traditional dance happening that night and we caught the end of it. There was a makeshift arena set up and a bunch of monk like men chanting. In the middle was a man praying while this guy in a costume starting dancing around. They lit hay bunched up into balls. Then, as the music changed, the guy in the costume starting kicking the lit hay, making it look like fireballs. The scene turned into total chaos. Apparently, the guy in the costume got a little too excited and kicked some of the hay balls into the crowd. The show eventually ended and the members all took pictures.
After the temple Randy, Tracy, and I went to get
Roasting coffee beans
a little too smokey for me
dinner in Nusa Dua. We all got Indonesian dishes. I’m starting to love the noodles here. After dinner my driver took Tracy and Randy to the hotel and I went back to mine. Day 6
: I realized that I didn’t have anything planned this morning so I called Randy and Tracy to see if I could tag along with them to Ubud and Seminyak
. The Indonesians had a holiday and there were processions of Indonesian children beating drums and parading through the streets with some sort of cow looking costume. After explaining to Randy how cheap it was to take a taxi, and how I didn’t feel like getting lost given there are limited signs in Bali, we head to Ubud. Randy was just Hell bent on renting a car.
We went back to the monkey temple and we walked around. Randy really wanted some authentic Balinese food. So, the driver we hired to take us to Seminyak took us to one of his favorite restaurants in Ubud, a place only locals go. Normally, I like the finer establishments. Being a consultant for 8 years made me a bit of a snob when it comes to food, accommodations,
and transportation. But, for some reason I was up for it. The plate I selected was pretty plain. I had some sort of corn flowered thing, rice, green beans, and what I thought was a beef kebob – similar to what Randy had the night before. Oh, and a Coke. Coke is everywhere in Indonesia. I think Coke, Starbucks, and McDonalds are clearly the most recognizable international brands on Earth. Though my goal was to give up pop this year, I drink it abroad because it usually is made with natural sugar and it’s still Coke – so it should kill any bacteria I ingest. Well, the ‘beef kebob’ was not beef. It had a weird texture to it. Randy asked if I like it and I said it wasn’t bad – but it wasn’t what I thought it was going to taste like. That’s because it was chicken guts and heart. What doesn’t kill you will only make you stronger.
Our driver took us to Seminyak and we walked around. I bought peanuts from a guy carrying a bunch he had just picked. They were still on the stem. Apparently these were not dried, roasted, or salted. Not
sure why I thought they would be like fresh Planters. They were still edible and we all walked down the beach to Kuta. As beautiful as the beach can look from afar, the Indonesian government should put some of their prisoners to work and have them clean it because it literally looks like someone took a dump truck full of garbage and drove down the beach with the bucket raised dumping garbage.
On the walk we saw a bunch on Indonesian girls singing and laughing. They had a cell phone and a megaphone and were playing a Justin Bieber song through the megaphone. I also watched some guys play soccer for a bit and then I sat and meditated with the Falun Gong
, which had an exhibit on the beach. Afterwards we went to downtown Kuta to grab dinner one last time. It’s always great to see people you know when you travel. Day 7
: Today was a travel day. I woke up and went to grab some breakfast before heading to the airport. I was one of the only people staying at the hotel. Three of the staff members were sitting on the couch (apparently waiting to assist
me if needed). They were all on their cell phones using the Wi-Fi that came in and out. Indonesia reminded me a lot of Rio de Janiero. There was an interesting mix of poverty, a hodgepodge of communications infrastructure, and dirty streets mixed with nice resorts and stores, along with a Starbucks/McDonalds/KFC. Yes, the Colonel is all over Asia!
I threw my stuff in my bags and headed to the airport. I grabbed some food and wrote postcards to everyone whose address I could remember off hand. This was my first AirAsia flight. I had heard so much about it. I had trouble booking the flight because they didn’t accept my Bank of America Visa. The lady at the call center just said it was “hard to process” cards from BoA for some reason. AirAsia is the Southwest of Asia. Pretty cheap flights all over and it was clean. They crank the A/C up too when you board -looked like the fuselage was full of smoke from all the mist generated by the A/C. Next stop – Kuala Lumpur!
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