(Appologies for the long blog, here goes........)
The ferry from Ketapang (Java) to Gilimanuk (Bali) only took one hour. We had been awake since 3am climbing Mount Bromo, and had been traveling all day in a mini bus. We now had a six hour (packed and stuffy) coach ride to Denpasar, the capital of Bali.
It was around 10pm when we finally arrived. According to the map, the distance from the ferry terminal to Denpasar was around 150km, which shouldn’t usually take six hours, but we are in Indonesia after all, i.e., stopping at every available bus stop, café, pull-in, town, village, street, etc... We were tired and needed sleep, so we went to the nearest hostel/lodge, which was absolutely filthy. We were too tired to care!!
The next day we haggled with the Bemo (taxi/van) drivers a lift to Kuta - this is a difficult task alone: you both agree on a final price and jump in the van, then they stop the van half way and demand more!!...so you get out, and in to another
Bemo, who does the same thing!! It eventually took us three Bemos to get to Kuta. Most tourists visiting Bali
do not experience these inconveniences as they fly directly to Kuta...so no one visits Denpasar, it is a typical Asian city, i.e, dirty, busy and extremely humid. So a white tourist to a Bemo driver, is a walking dollar bill waiting to be had!!
Bali is a brand unto itself, this small Indonesian Island is the epitome of the pre-package holiday paradise. Bali has two sides to the post card: on one side you have the south, i.e, Kuta…which is a concrete tacky epicenter for Australian larger louts looking for cheap booze and women, needless to say that both is readily available. But on the other side of the card you have a stunning, stunning country with absolutely beautiful palm fringed rice terraces with towering volcanoes dominating the valleys and horizons.
Bali has a fascinating and rich Hindu culture that offers an insight into the many customs and traditions of Balinese people. The traditional Hindu architecture is amazing and plentiful, with temples and shrines everywhere with the smell of rich aromatic insense sticks burning. It is here that you see the colourful Balinese dress worn by the women, and fascinating dance costume worn by
the men. Most temples have a Gamelan orchestra playing the mysterious percussive gongs, creating a weird collage of sounds. The atmosphere at the temples/shrines is peaceful and ‘dream’ like, if that makes sense?..unlike that of the Mosques in Java, which usually consisted of mass chaotic crowds and several loud speakers blasting the Islamic song. A complete contrast to the tranquility found in Hindu Bali.
For 5quid a night we stayed at the four star ‘Puri Rama’ hotel with a massive swimming pool, huge bar with free pool, Bintang larger, huge rooms with air-con, lush bathroom, etc..it was proper!! We spent a few days in Kuta lazing on the beach, learning how to surf, badly, and ignoring the persistent hawkers selling tacky stuff.
The Balinese people have suffered big time after the second spree of terrorist bombs, ie, less tourists are coming to Bali (inc. Ozzys, which was the 'bread and butter' for tourism) ...thus resulting in less business for locals. This is also a problem for tourists because the market sellers, taxis, Bemos, café owners and everyone will hassle you non-stop, this became massively irritating!! Tourism is Bali’s biggest industry, without it, many people are screwed!
In search of ‘the real’ Bali
Luckily we bumped into John and Dee, a Dutch couple we’d met in Jogyakarta, Java. They also wanted to leave the busy, tacky streets of Kuta in search of the beautiful landscape and culture that people talk about. So the four of us went to Ubud. Ubud…
- 6th November 2006
About one hour north of Kuta is Ubud, the arts and cultural centre of Bali. Once upon a time Ubud was a quiet hippy/art town surrounded by bottle green valleys and rice terraces. But previously heavy tourism had forced the town to expand. Nevertheless, Ubud was a really pretty town with dozens of art galleries, Hindu shrines & homestays, great cafes/restaurants and trendy shops.
For around 60,000 IR (3quid), John, Dee Ally and I stayed at two different homestays (literally someones house) situated around the quiet backstreets and alleyways of Ubud. The rooms were decorated in traditional Balinese trimmings, and the houses themselves were also cool, with intricate stone work and hand crafted doors. The tiled roofs were an artwork within itself!!
We all went for a walk around the perimeters of Ubud, where the
...this was on the side of a busy street in Denpasar! Hindu culutre is everywhere in bali
steep, bottle green palm fringed paddy fields were. The landscape here is amazing with wooded houses built into the valley slopes, and paddy workers slaving in the heat, ironically making for great photographs. It was places like this that reiterate why Bali is amongst the most beautiful countries in the world.
On the way back we stopped at ‘Monkey Forest’ to see dozens of cheeky Macaques living amongst overgrown Jungle and old Hindu temples. It was a pretty cool place. Ally got bitten on the shoulder by an over playful monkey, so we kept an eye on her health, teasing about the likely content of rabbies found in local monkeys packs!! Amed...
- 9th November 2006
After Ubud, the four of us headed to the East coast of Bali, to a place called Amed. We shared a 3hr taxi ride in which the driver took us through some of the most beautiful valleys in Bali, and drove around ‘the mother’ of volcanoes: Gunung Agung (3142m). The ‘moody’ volcanoe dominates the southern and eastern skyline, ee’az a proper big’un mind!
Amed is one of Bali’s largely forgotten coast lines, and is the best place in
Bali to snorkel - as a fantastic reef network stretches for 9km along the coast, and is ten meters away from the beach. The seemingly lack of commercial dive & snorkel industry means that the marine life grows in abundance, and is close to shore! The beach itself is black and rocky (unlike the pristine beaches in the south), but the real beauty lies in the water...
Ally and I couldn’t believe how good the snorkeling was, we were seeing all types of marine life that we hadn’t seen in Fiji or the Great Barrier Reef (and we’ve done a boat load of snorkeling to be fair!)..We saw schools of Cuttle Fish*, bump head parrot fish & gropers* the size of us, parrot fish, bat fish, Lion fish*!! Marlin*!! weird sea cucumbers, star fish, millions of colourful reef fish, giant lobster*, etc, etc..(*rarely seen snorkeling, usually seen during much deeper dives!)
Amed had really suffered since the second bomb, before the bomb they had a small steady stream of snorkel and dive enthusiasts, but now hardly anyone comes - which is sad because the locals were really friendly, the accommodation facilities were good and the snorkeling was excellent.
Amed definitely isn’t the prettiest town in Bali, but it is worth the trip if you like sea life! Lovina…
- 8th November 2006
From Amed we all shared a taxi to Lovina, which lies in the centre of the north coast. Lovina has also suffered from the terrorist bombs as less people are visiting the town. Lovina offers some good snorkelling and cheap authentic Balinese accommodation. We stayed in a traditional house for 70.000IR = 4quid!!
We took a boat trip out to the surrounding reefs, they were not as good as Amed, but we still had fun travelling on the tiny speed boat that wouldn't pass a safety check in Greece!! After we managed to find a luxorious hotel who let us use there swimming pool - with a bar!!! Oh yes...dreams do come true ;o)
After a few days of relaxing, eating great seafood and drinking the tastey Bintang lager...John, Dee, Ally and I piled into another cab, and headed to Kuta, where we would eventually go our seperate ways! On the way through the centre of Bali we stopped at the tallest waterfall on the Island, which was nice. It
...the monkey that bit Ally...she's still with us, don't worry...no rabbies!
was probably the 800th waterfall that Ally and I had seen on our trip, I hope we see many more of these geographical marvels! hehehe
We arrived in the busy, tacky streets of Kuta again, and went back to the cheap hotel that we had stayed before. We spent the last remaining days with John and Dee. It was sad to see them go (as their holiday was only for three weeks), although, we now have a great excuse to visit 'the Hague' in Holland! "Get on badgers, had a great time with you dutch folk, see ya'll soon"!!)
Ally and I spent the rest of our time preparing for our trip to Malaysia. We booked a cheap AirAsia flight to Kualur Lumpur, and another flight a few days later to Kota Kinabalu - which is the capital of Sabah, Malaysian Borneo. We were proper exited about Borneo mind, Jungle yer we comes init!
Bali was a fantastic place, with some of the most beautiful landscapes that we have seen. It is a shame that Bali has lost alot of its tourism. But in many ways it is a good time to visit Bali: as prices are
very very cheap, there are plenty of beautiful places to discover without masses of holiday makers everywhere, has amazing coral reefs to explore by yourself, and the people are really friendly. What more do you need?
To all those who have endured the long 'waffle' of this blog: !!CONGRADULATIONS!!
Love to everyone (as always)
Nick & Ally
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