Sunday, 21 September 2008

Asia Update #2 - Bali

Feels like we've been here a month now, can't see how we're ever going to get through this since Bali is about 1% of Asia...

We spent a few more days with Tia in Jimbaran (near Kuta) - it's nice to spend a few nights in one place. Last Sunday night we had dinner at one of the famous seafood restaurants which are actually on the beach - all the tables are just out there on the sand with the waves only metres away. Actually by the end of the night the tide started coming in and the bottom few rows of diners had the sea coming up under their seats, crazy stuff.

On Tuesday we visited the nearby cultural centre, where the main attraction is a massive statue of the god Wisnu and his ride, Garuda, which will be 65m high! In theory anyway, all they've finished so far are both heads and the hands, photos:

We also visited the amazing cliff-side temple and beach at Uluwatu, on the southern tip of Bali. That evening we went into Kuta itself for a look, didn't appeal much to either of us, it's full of clubs and tourists, but we did see the Bali bombing memorial.

As we were riding into the main strip of Kuta at about 1am, a guy in uniform jumped out at Ben while taking a corner, so we both pulled over. It was a police checkpoint and they wanted to inspect our papers. We both had our driver's licences but Ben forgot his international driving permit (we hardly ever carry them) and mine was not valid for bikes. Lucky Tia was with us, and she negotiated the "fine" down to 150,000 rupiah (AU$20) for both of us. This is standard practice here, they just wanted to make some cash, not to actually take us in.

On Wednesday morning one of the newborn kittens died, and on Thursday the other went too, so we buried the poor little things in the front yard near Tia's pet monkey. They were always very weak but we didn't know what to do for them :(

Also on Thursday we bid farewell to Tia and met our next couchsurfing host Arnantyo. He had graciously offered to pick us up from Kuta and drive us to his place in Soka Beach near Tabarnan. By "place" I mean "bungalow hotel" that his Dad owns and he runs. Since it is very quiet before Ramadan next month, he let us stay in one of the bungalows closest to the beach for free. In fact we are the only people staying here so we have the entire beach to ourselves. Since Soka is on the main road between Java and Denpasar, their main business is the restaurant, serving breakfast to the coachloads of people coming from the mainland. Otherwise he has over 60 staff with not much to do during the day, so Ben has been practicing his badly-pronounced Indonesian pick-up lines on the staff girls to everyone's great amusement :)

On Thursday night we went 10 minutes up the road to Balian Beach for dinner, where we met a Canadian surfer called Michael who owns the warung (restaurant/bar). He's lived in Bali for 8 years and had some great advice for us on what to see and what to avoid. We went back for breakfast today and he showed us the amazing house he's built here, with his Balinese wife and within view of the beach where he surfs every day. He's really cool, has a dream lifestyle, and had many useful tips for us.

On Friday evening we visited a bat cave down the end of the beach which almost looks man-made, and has a Hindu temple perched right above it (for easy access to their secret base no doubt), and at dusk watched thousands of tiny bats come streaming out to feed. Ben and I also organised a fire on the beach that night, but despite his best efforts none of the girls working at the hotel came down.

Finally, yesterday morning we organised to go out with some of the local fishermen from the village on the beach while they pulled in their nets. We had to get up before 5:30am and got back in about 8:30 but it was a unique experience to watch them work. They never usually take tourists out but we had a guy who lives in the fishing village negotiate a deal for us.

I can't upload new photos from here because the net connection is slow, but will put more up when we get a chance. Thanks for the replies from last time, it's always good to hear what's happening at home so keep your emails coming!

Monday, 15 September 2008

Asia Update #1 - Bali

It's only been 5 days since we landed here but it feels like a month with so many new things to take in. The main things so far have been cheap food and beer, motor scooters, heat and monkeys. So many monkeys...

Couch surfing has been awesome, it's great staying with people that live here so you don't just see things that are in Lonely Planet, and you know how much stuff is actually worth. Made a few good friends and have offers to stay again on our way back from Lombok.

Ubud was our first couchsurf, with an artistic Italian couple who were really cool and living in an amazing open air house. We went for a walk through rice paddies, scooter expeditions at night through the fields, saw temples, and visited the awesome Monkey Forest - twice. There are no cages, you just wander around and feed the monkeys or they jump on you, check out the photos: (Ben has some more really good ones which I will hassle him to get online).

On Saturday afternoon we headed to Jimbaran (which is just south of Kuta and the main airport) to stay with a local girl, Tia. Yesterday we hired more scooters and finally got to spend the day at the beach, where I promptly got fried to a crisp. (Yes Mum I used sunscreen, and spent the whole time in the water or under an umbrella so I don't know how it happened). The beach was called Dreamland and although populated entirely by tourists, was appropriately amazing.

Today we braved the insane traffic to ride into Denpasar and see the animal market, where they have a bunch of monkeys and birds cruelly cooped up in cages or chains waiting to be sold. Tia bought a monkey from there a month or two ago to give it a better life but it died last week.

The traffic is absolutely mental, road rules are optional and all the space not taken by cars is filled with an endless stream of scooters. You just keep straight, watch the space in front of you, and hope to God everyone else knows what they are doing.

Anyway that was fun, and we're getting used to the heat although now I have to wear long pants and shoes since my legs are burnt and my feet blistered from sandals. Currency is still weird, since $1 is roughly 10,000 rupiah so there's just way to many zeroes on everything. Mie goreng and a longneck of Bintang (the standard fare these days) will cost about 25,000Rp or $3. Scooters cost $5 a day to rent, and $2 to fill the tank.

The plan is to spend a few more days in Bali, then head to Lombok (the next island over) and get our diving qualifications. Then we'll come back through Bali, across to Jakarta and on from there.

Until next time...