I’m taking an 8 week trip in Bali, Indonesia for no other reason than it looked fun and would be a great place to surf, shoot and eat.
My plan is, if i can be self motivated enough, to post photos at least every other day and keep a kind of blog.
November 20th 2013
Atypical first day in a new place. I Arrived in Ubud ( pronounced uw-bud not you-bud) Last night after 2 cab rides and 27 hours in airports and planes, pretty wrecked and not quite there. I fell to sleep to the cacophony of frogs and crickets, and woke to a tatoo of heavy rain.
Spent the day wandering around meeting new people and trying new foods. Already love the place.
November 21st 2013
Today i got a car a tiny little Suzuki Jimny, some things work, lots doesnt but at just over £4 a day it’s a bargain.
Then straight to the Monkey Forrest, the clues in the name, it’s a small section of jungle teaming with Macaques and host to an antiant temple.
I’m being eaten alive so i’m keeping this short and going for a bite myself.
November 23rd 2013
Today was quite big day, and the first time using the car for a proper trip.
Over breakfast i was studying my Lonely Planet guide looking for a couple of places that my dad recommended, inevitably swimming holes or anything to do with water.
A few new guests have arrived this morning, and i got to talking to Tabea. Tabea is a 29 year old Swiss flight attendant who along with her partner are both teachers as well. She’s been traveling with a friend in the Philippines for three weeks, she was there when the storm broke. Anyway, she has come to Bali to visit her friend who married an indonesian (Harley) a couple of years ago, unfortunately, her friend has had a problem with her eye which received treatment in Bali but the wrong treatment i believe, so before Tabea even arrived her friend had to travel back to Switzerland to get help.
So Tebea became my navigator, and we set off to visit a number of places.
The first was a temple where you can bathe in three pools. We got directions from the Manager of the home-stay and set off. The directions were vague at best, and the designer of the road map had decided that listing one in every three roads was easily enough and that whoever uses it is in the hands of the gods anyway so why worry about accuracy.
Along the streets we went, there was a lot of police activity which seemed odd, it transpired that the Indonesian president was visiting today and there is still a lot of carfuffle, over the tapping scandal. Apparently for two years Australia along with the US and Britain have been phone tapping the indonesian president. He was hopping mad and wanted all Australian officials out of the county and to ban Aussie travelers, from what i’ve gathered this has all calmed down now and the indonesian president has made a trip to Bali to reassure everyone that tourists will still be allowed to visit, (information gleaned from one person, so I’m not sure of its accuracy). Before long we were traveling up a little road that wasn’t frequented by cars let alone tourists and, as has happened a number of times already a man on a scooter rode up alongside us and asked where were we going, and did we want to visit a coffee plantation, free coffee guaranteed! He would take us first to the temple and then to the coffee plantation just 2 km. He would do this for a small sum approximately £1.50. Although reluctant at first we decided what the hell we were lost anyway and off we set. As it turned out we definitely needed his help, the directions we were given had missed out a vital right turn and in no time at all we were at the temple.
A tip if you ever visit Bali and want to visit the temples is buy a sarong, you have to have one to enter anywhere, you can of course rent one for about £0.30-1 but these 30p’ add up! We needed a sarong to enter the temple 30p then we needed a different sarong and a sash to go swimming 50p then the locker 50p but hey, it was worth it. It started raining as soon as we were changed. Tabea recommended we sit for three minutes to see if the rain passes, i keep teasing her about her being Swiss and her precise timings she gives for things. Three minutes later and the rain had slowed so we went in. The pools have water flowing in them all down one side and they also all have goldfish and carp in them. I felt like a bit of a spectacle as we were the only tourists who’d gone for the dip but it was fun.
After the three pools we changed to the dry sarongs (you wear your normal clothes too) and also noted a few giant spiders above us in the changing rooms black with bright yellow on all the leg joints. We wandered around the temple for a bit and then went back to our ever waiting guide.
Next on the agenda was meant to be the rock temple but first Coffee!
We set off and soon happened upon a small car-park with no cars in it but 4 men waiting at a table who instantly rose to their feet two disappearing into the shrub behind and two staying put to greet us. I had a little trepidation, but when i realised what i was about to try that melted away.
As we walked a small way through the plantation of cocoa, pineapples turmeric and ginger, we learnt what was in store. We were to try five teas and five coffees but we were also to try LUWAK!! the “poop coffee” as our guide informed us. This is the kind of coffee Morgan Freeman tried in the bucket list. It’s famous for two things, the first, its being the best coffee you can get in the world, and the second, the fact that the coffee beans are harvested from animal crap.
The animals eat the beans, and they make their way through to the other end with the only the outer coffee bean being digested, so when they are….er…processed they are collected and the outer layer is removed and the coffee beans, the inner bean, is then ground down and made into coffee powder. We could try a cup for 50,000 rupiah, about £3.50, when you know that in other counties you can spend up to $120.00 on a cup this price becomes very reasonable.
We sat with the plantation surrounding us a view through the trees of the rice paddies and soon a tiny girl with a beautiful smile appeared with ten small glass cups. five teas ranging from yellows to reds, and five coffees all luxuriant browns now we knew where the other two men had disappeared to,
Well it was very good, as were the 10 samples, my favorite being the ginger coffee (why isn’t this everywhere???) and the Luwak was excellent smooth and rich without that bite that you get with so many black coffees, it certainly didn’t taste like S###.
Then onwards and upwards to the Rock Temple, this temple is carved from rock as you might have guessed, and clearly deserves to be a tourist hit but there weren’t many about, again i was meant to rent a sarong, so i bought one instead, problem solved. It takes about 10 minutes to descend the steps, we knew now why our guide declined to accompany us, the steps don’t matter though as you have fabulous views the whole way down, I’m already becoming o fee with views like these that would be magnificent back home.
And yes at the bottom there is a temple, rough hewn in the rock on both sides of the river, we crossed the river via stepping boulders as opposed to using the bridge and came up at a rice paddy, with a little old Balinese woman working it. She beckoned us over and told us to follow her to see a waterfall, so into the jungle we went using slim walkways on the edge of the paddies that became slimmer as the jungle encroached from all sides, then it was only jungle a small river and then the water fall. “swim swim” she encouraged and indicated i should get my kit off by giving me a quick flash herself. Tabea wasn’t that keen but when would i get to do this again? So i used my sarong as a swimming kit and ventured in. The waterfall wasn’t that big but it was powerful, it took a lot of balance to be able to stand without buckling under the fall and then to disappear behind it.
After this it was back up top and meeting with our guide once more who was now to stay with us for the day to help us see the Rice Terraces.
They are beautiful. They cascade down the hillsides one after another utilizing every available space, think rice paddies no more than 1 foot wide in places and this is still useful enough to cultivate.
We took a drink overlooking the paddies and below some too, saw more spiders and two rats playing in the water.
Tabea had to get back to meet her friends husband, whom she’d met only once before at his wedding, and of whom, she allowed, couldn’t remember the face of so she was hoping he remembered her, but that was fine as there was only one more place for the agenda which was on the way back and would leave her plenty of time to get ready.
I’d read about a place where the herons and the egrets come into roost just before dawn, so after getting directions (2 km down the road, everything was apparently 2 km) and parting ways with our guide, we went looking for the egrets. Well we found the road and saw lots of egrets, seen one seen them all so headed back.
I ended up meting Harley too, and the four of us (Kira a german guest at the home-stay being the fourth) went out to dine in another traditional indonesian restaurant. Harley is very funny, he used to run a surf stand on Kuta beach, ‘Swiss Surf’ ( presumably named for his wife as there is no surf in Switzerland) but now he works for an organization that is helping bring technology to poor areas. Right now he’s working with Panasonic on a washing machine that is hand cranked so that it can be used in areas without electricity, one model would also be able to charge small devices like phones. I suggested making them so that it charged a battery so that if your phone is full you could charge it another time and also if it runs on a battery, i.e. electricity then you could make an easy conversion to the mains if they get power in the area. He gets to work on interesting projects in many beautiful parts of the world.
After dinner, which came to about £3.20 for me we went for a drink and to listen to music, we ended up listening to a Balinese band playing British rock ballads. These guys were excellent, and the voice coming out of this guy was brilliant, we were all impressed.
A good day all in all.
The man in the helmet was the guide
November 23rd 2013
Surfing Kuta beach. I’m no a fan of Kuta, but the beach is great. It’s sand as opposed to reef which is ideal for people learning to surf or for anyone that doesn’t want to be cut to shreds if they wipeout. Kuta itself though is awful. Westernization at its worse, Mc Donald’s, KFC, Starbucks, all the pollutants you travel half the way around the world to escape from. Not impressed.
Good consistent surf on Kuta beach though.
November 24th 2013
November 25th 2013
November 26th 2013
This morning was the hottest i’ve felt it here. At about 1 o’clock with no word of warning it rained. A lot. But it lasted no more than 90 minutes.
November 27th 2013
Today i was put in a predicament.
I was invited to cockfight about 20 minutes drive out of Ubud. There are two types of cockfight in Bali, one is for ceremony and takes place in temples the other is illegal, where money changes hands
This one happened to be the latter. On the one hand i don’t agree with cockfights, they seem unnecessarily cruel and it was illegal, on the other hand it was an opportunity to see a part of Balinese culture rarely open to outsiders. I decided that all i was doing was documenting so i went.
The cockfight took place round the back of a temple, there were around 130 men pressed against a fence to see the spectacle. There would be a number of cocks presented to each other and, from what i could gather, they would be indifferent to some and very aggressive to others, the more aggressive the better the fight. The two chosen cocks would be offered up to the crowd for inspection, bets taken and then the fights. I never actually saw one completely finish another, but the looser is slaughtered and the meat sold there and then.
November 28th 2013
At the very beginning of my 8 week jaunt i met a lovely Dutch family. Serge, Esmerelda, and Esmerelda’s two grown up sons Rob and Tim. Initially i thought they were 3 different groups as Esmerelda speaks perfect English, Serge speaks good English but with a strong Dutch accent and the boys appeared to be Australian. It didn’t help that they were sitting at separate tables at the time. It turned out that Esmerelda was married previously to an Englishman which explained why the three of them spoke such good English ( Esmerelda also has a daughter Penny who wasn’t with them on this trip ) and Rob and Tim have been living in Australia for some time and have adopted the accent. We ended up talking on a regular basis going out a couple of nights and sharing a beer or two, and i ended up tagging along a couple of times when they’d set things up to do, notably the cock fight and today rafting.
An early start and one of Indonesia’s dubious Red Bull knock offs and we got going.
Our cab driver seemed to be in a hurry, constantly smiling as he happily overtook families on scooters with a truck, axels at breaking point, looming towards us on the opposite side. A rule about driving in Bali seems to be similar to one i use at home, at home i personally find i can get away with most things if i put my hazard lights on and look as hopeless as possible, over here as long as you toot your horn and smile you can drive like an absolute maniac and it’s fine. I find it particularly harrowing when I’m driving as people are hollering with their horns so often it’s given me a complex. I’m constantly checking my lights, my mirrors, my roof rack to see if the hundreds of motorists around me are trying to alert me to the fact that my surfboard has flipped up vertically to resemble a sharks fin. Inevitably though all those bellowing horns are greetings or indications of an imminent dangerous overtake. It would be no word of exaggeration to say that our driver used his horn more times in that 90 minutes than i have done in the last 5 years.
On arrival we waited for 30 minutes for other groups to assemble. I felt guilty at first as due to me being there making 5 instead of 4 we would have to go in two rafts although it transpired that would have had to have been the case anyway. The guides pointed out that serge was a heavy guy, he is a big fellow he must be 6’4″ and very broad and that he in fact as they said counted as “two people”, one of the guides absent mindlessly patted Serge’ stomach as he said this but Serge took it in good humor.
So to the boats, we were in, jackets on, and paddles at the ready before any safety instructions were given. There wasn’t much. The salient point seemed to be get down and brace when the guide yells “BOOM BOOM” that was it really. we were safe in the water we were told due to our helmets and life vests so no need to worry there and we were off.
Now i don’t mean to cast aspersions on anyone but, our guide, considering he was slagging off a neighboring rafting company for being inexperienced, did seem to hit everything going. Literally there would be a ruddy great rock in the middle of the river and from my, and i stress, Limited, experience would have opted to take the left or the right, but our guide perhaps plagued by clinic indecisiveness would repeatedly opt for the course of most resistance sending the boat that i don’t believe was fully inflated straight for boulders trees or any other detritus he deemed big enough to cause alarm. Inevitably the raft would fold in on itself like a Japanese contortionist. Because Esmerelda and i were in the front our legs would be folded under as well before being catapulted backwards and not one time sent down the rapids in reverse. He said “BOOM BOOM” a lot.
This Devil may care attitude added an element of suspense to the whole operation much like buying a ticket to a rickety roller coaster at the fair run by a toothless man and his interesting looking brood, you know you’re probably safe but that nagging doubt that this hasn’t been safety inspected in the last 20 years is recurring and so when you do get to the top you are genuinely afraid.
Apart from once very nearly being flung out of the boat i was ok and we all survived, the trepidation soon forgotten. For me the best part was that you were effectively rafting a jungle river and that was certainly worth doing. The river at times seemed to have cut very deeply into the rock and it was lovely at calmer points to hear the noises of the jungle/forest.
We finished by going over a weir that is about a 5 meter drop, that part was a lot of fun.
We’d been rafting for a couple of hours now, Serge and I at this point were feeling rather peckish to say the least and were more than happy when our guide pointed along the path indicating the direction of the restaurant. “500 steps” he said. I took this affectionately as just another glitch in translation, in my mind he obviously meant 500 paces, and from my experience with Balinese distances, this could easily be as little as 200 paces, a cinch. Well little did i know that our guide was the Balinese equivalent of Rainman, as 500 twisting, turning, ever inconstant and all too literal ‘steps’ later we reached the top, wetter than when we’d been in the boat and very grateful for the showers provided.
After a welcome cold shower and practically wetting myself at the sight of a Huntsman spider in the toilet ( apparently a very small specimen according to my friends from the land down under ) i sat down to a meal of rice, crackers, curry and an undisclosed meat. Serge seemed confident it was chicken. I wasn’t so sure, unless that chicken had had a testosterone superfluity i couldn’t fathom why it would have so much hair. I decided it was Pork and enjoyed it much more afterwards.
November 30th 2013
November 1st-2nd 2013
November 4th 2013
Cambodia, Siam Reap, specificaly, Anchor Wat