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Part 8 - Bali

1US$ = 7500 -8000 Indonesian Rupiah

Kuta | Ubud | Kintamani/Besakih Tour | Lovina | Candidasa

Kuta (Sunday 20th / Monday 21st December)

We finally managed to book some accommodation in Bali. We're staying in Kuta for the first couple of nights and hoping to go to Ubud after that. All the accommodation listed in our South East Asia on a Shoestring guidebook seems to be between 8000 and 60,000 rupiah (1 pound = 12,500rp). On Thursday night we phoned a hotel which claimed to charge USD$35 on their web page and the person answering the phone claimed it was $350 ! Ten times as much ! The next day I tried to phone a couple of places from the Lonely Planet, but couldn't get through to any of them. Finally today at Cairns airport we got through. First I phoned the Sari Bali Bungalows and couldn't understand a word the woman was saying (she must have been speaking Indonesian). After that I phoned Sorga Cottages (Poppies Gang I) which was listed in the LP as 19,000/25,000 or 36,000/46,000 with air con. After repeating everything twice I managed to book a room for two nights. "How much ?", I asked.

"163,000rp ", he replied.
"63,000 ?", I asked.
"No 163,000", he replied.
"For two nights ?", I asked.
"No, one night.", he answered.

I took the room but was a tad surprised that the price was over three times what it said in the book. The exchange in April 1997 was 3625rp to the pound and now it is over 3 times that. Either all the budget places there are adjusting their prices with the US Dollar or we got ripped off because we phoned up (we can't say "Nope, don't like it" and go somewhere else because we're arriving so late). Whatever the reason I'm sure we'll find out soon enough.

We finally arrived at Denpasar airport in Bali at 2.30am and took a taxi to Kuta (15,000rp at the pre-paid taxi counter). Kuta is actually nearer to the airport than Denpasar istelf. The taxi driver was quite a character, chatting away, telling us he worked 16 hours a day and had a six month old baby and a wife who was not pretty but had a good heart ! He asked if Gav and I were on Honeymoon or if we were married. Gav replied "We're thinking about it", which is apparantly the thing to say. "No, not yet" is more appropriate than just plain "No". As the country is mainly Hindu, a lot of people don't understand if you don't want to get married (according to our phrasebook).

Our taxi driver told us the hotel we wanted was full, but since that was probably a cunning ploy of his to take us to his friend's hotel we told him to take us there anyway. He dropped us at the end of Poppies Gang I and we finally arrived at our hotel around 3am after wading through the floods. A Gang in Indonesia is a just a lane, but it seemed more like a maze to us ! If it hadn't been for a couple of English girls we met, we probably would have still been wandering around the next day. The fact that it was in complete darkness didn't help ! Our room is very nice with a toilet and (hot) shower, air conditioning and a nice balcony over looking the garden. We fell asleep very easily - it's been a long day.

Had a nice long lie in until 11am in the morning and went out to have a look at Kuta. Walking along the narrrow, congested streets, the roads packed with cars and motor bikes, we were continually asked "Do you want Transport ?", "Want to buy a watch ?", "Sarong ?" or jewellery, clothes, hats, food, massage etc etc. We were wishing we had a T-shirt with "NO I don't want to buy anything" written on it ! At first I didn't mind it and just thought "Wow, I'm in Asia for the first time", but after a while it became rather tedious.

We went for some lunch of veggie lasagne in a place called the Aroma Cafe which was nice. We've decided to "Go vegetarian" as much as possible while in Indonesia, as the main causes of food poisoning are chicken and fish. After lunch we changed a traveller's cheque and I'm sorry to say it, but despite us counting our money very carefully we were done. We changed a $50 traveller's cheque at a rate of $1=7790rp and we were given 308,000. I stood beside Gav saying "That's only $38 worth", but since the guy had a calculator in front of Gavin, he just took the guy's word for it. He must have had a dodgy program in his calculator, specially to rip off unsuspecting travellers. The next time we change money, we'll write the calculation on a piece of paper, then if they don't agree, we'll go elsewhere. We'll just put that one down to experience - very annoying ! All the money changers seem to be part of a shop and all have higher rates for cash. The bigger the US$ note, the better rate you get in some places ! After wandering round for a couple of hours we'd had enough of Kuta. Dirty, smelly, noisy and annoying are a few words that come to mind. We expected this from what we'd heard from other people, so we're not that surprised.

We spent a short while this afternoon sitting by our hotel pool - peace and quiet at last ! Unfortunately it started to rain a couple of minutes after we sat down , so we swam a few lengths and ran back up to our room for a wee siesta (a bit cheeky considering we'd only been up for 5 hours !)

Tonight we went out for some local cuisine. I had vegetable soup and Gado Gado (an Indonesian dish made with steamed rice, tofu, green vegetables, tempe with peanut sauce and a huge prawn cracker). Gav had the soup and some veggie noodles and we washed it down with a couple of large Bintang beers. It was very tasty and cheap at onlt 37,000rp in total which is around 3 pounds.

Off to Ubud (Tuesday 22nd December)

We got up today to find that a great breakfast is included in the price of our room (nobody told us !). If only we had known that yesterday we might have got up a bit earlier ! We caught the 11.30am tourist bus to Ubud (10,000rp) and arrived there at around 2.30pm - a bit late due to the waiting around and the mad mad traffic. Ubud is set in the hills, surrounded by rice fields and is so much nicer and more relaxed than Kuta. There are hundreds of shops selling arts, crafts and clothes (mainly sarongs), but apart from the occasional invitation to come into someone's shop, you can walk down the street in peace. "Trrraaaansport ?" and "Rrroom rroom ?" are still asked, but no where near as much as in Kuta. We're staying at Donald's Homestay for our first two nights. A guy on the street showed us some photos and said it was 30,000rp a night so we decided to have a look since we were a bit hot and lost ! The room is very basic with a ceiling fan, a couple of single beds, cold water shower and flush-it-yourself toilet (scoop water in from a bucket). There's a nice little garden outside and each "Bungalow" has its own patio with table and chairs. It's cleanish (a bit dusty) and very cheap, so we decided to stay. On Thursday it's Christmas Eve so we're treating ourselves to a couple of nights in a "posh" hotel.

For lunch I had another traditional Indonesian meal - Nasi Goreng (vegetarian) which is stir-fried rice with veggies and quite nice. Balinese Dancers We took a walk down to the Monkey Forest, which as its name suggests is full of monkeys. There's quite a lot of them and they all swing from tree to tree and eat bananas - quite entertaining. This evening we went to a Balinese Dance (15,000rp) which was really good. Beautiful, brightly coloured costumes, traditional music and dancing with an emphasis on hand/wrist and eye movements. It was very enjoyable (Gav liked it too). After that we had a lovely dinner at Miro's Restaurant. We started off with Prawn Crackers and dips of hummus, youghurt and cucumber and guacomole, then I had tempe satay with steamed rice which was delicious. I'm absolutely stuffed full now, but I feel good because it's all been healthy stuff.

Kintamani/Besakih Tour (Wednesday 23rd December)

- Goa Gajah : Elephant Cave Temple
- Tampaksing : The Holy Spring Temple
- Penelokan : Viewing of Mount Batur & Lake Batur
- Besakih : Biggest temple in Balih on slop of Mount Agung
- Bukit Jambul : Nice view of rice terrace
- Klungkung : Old Kurth Justice of Kingdom Klungkung

We've booked ourselves on an all day tour today as it seems the easiest way to see all these temples without our own public transport. There's no way I'd drive on these mad roads ! The owner of the place we are staying is pissed off with us because we didn't book the tour with him (we couldn't find him anywhere last night !), so we booked at the tourist office. But never mind - we booked the shadow puppets show with him tonight so that should keep him quiet !

I thought that today's tour would involve a tour guide somewhere along the line, or someone to give us a bit of background on the history of the temples. It was actually a rickety old mini bus and a driver who spoke little English, shunting us around the different places. For 40,000rp I can't complain too much ! We visited three Hindu temples in total, which were very interesting to look at but not as big and colourful as I imagined them to be. Everyone must wear a sarong in a temple or cover their legs (including men), but most of the temples lend you sarongs if you don't have them. Visiting the temples was enjoyable apart from the last one, Besakih, which is the largest temple in Bali. Our driver told us not to speak to anyone offering transport or local "guides" for the temple. Four little boys cornered the five of us as we were walking up to the temple, pretending to us that we weren't allowed in the temple grounds without a local. We knew that we were since we'd paid for ourselves, our cameras and were wearing appropriate dress. They started chasing us up the stairs to the temple calling us names, saying we were bad tourists, didn't respect their religion, we were evil etc etc, even spitting on the ground where we had walked. We all just ignored them and they eventually went away after fifteen minutes realising that we weren't going to give them any money. We knew that we weren't allowed to visit the inner courtyards of the temple as they are only for people who are worshipping, so we were only walking around the outer parts of the temple and knew that we weren't in the wrong. I think these boys were being more disrespectful of there own religion, by shouting, spitting and blatantly trying to get money for themselves in a religious place ! I guess that experience kind of spoiled our visit to that temple !

Later on we had a beautiful view of Lake Batur, surrounded by mountains, with all the lush green scenery and little villages dotted around, spoiled only by the lady persistantly trying to sell everyone (especially Gavin) some large spoons. She would not take no for an answer ! After that we were all shipped off to a large buffet restaurant which was OK, but definately not the nicest Balinese food we have tasted. We stopped at some rice terraces after lunch and the views were amazing, but I probably didn't manage to capture it all on my camera. Two workers in the rice fields - an old man and a young boy made signals to us the whole time to take their photos and give them money. Typical. Our last stop was the Kingdom of KlungKung to visit the Kherta Ghosa (Old Curth Justice). Local disputes which couldn't be settled locally were brought here. The ceiling is painted with pictures of wrong doers suffering in the after life. The town itself is very pleasant with interesting buildings so we had a bit of a wander around the streets. I don't think many tourists stay here, as we weren't hassled to buy anything until we took some photos and a little boy about a quarter of Gavin started shouting "Dollar for photo, Dollar for photo" ! The word dollar must be a child's first word here after Mummy and Daddy !

At the end of the trip we went for a few beers with Vanessa, an Australian girl who was on the tour with us and arranged to meet her tomorrow for dinner.

Tonight we went to a nice restaurant called Nomads where we had flowers put behind our ears as we arrived and excellent service. The food was good, medium priced (for Bali) and beautifully presented. Afterwards we went to see the Shadow Puppets which was really well done but admittedly I was a bit bored as I couldn't understand a word of it !

Christmas Eve (Tuesday 24th December)

We didn't do a lot today. Checked in to our nice hotel with the swimming pool (much to the annoyance of the owner of our homestay). It's called the Ubud Inn and it's on Monkey Forest Road. It has a nice swimming pool surrounded by gardens and the rooms are spacious and air conditioned with TV. We had a laze around and went for a swim, then walked round the shops and the market where I did my first spot of bargaining. It went a bit like this:
Me : "How much for this sarong ?"
Him : "45,000rp"
Me : "I'll give you 25,000"
Him : "35,000"
Me : "30,000"
Him : "OK"
Whether I got a good price or not, I'm not sure, but I really liked the sarong and it was much cheaper than at home so I'm happy ! It's all very new to me, this bargaining stuff, but I'll have to get used to it as you have to do it everywhere (except restaurants and fixed price shops like supermarkets and more up-market shops).

In the evening we met Vanessa and went for dinner at Miro's again - 3 courses, a load of beer and then back to the hotel to wait for Santa (Not).

Christmas Day (Friday 25th December)

It doesn't feel like Christmas at all today. We lazed about by the pool, swam, ate and generally did nothing - great ! This is the first Christmas I have not had turkey, not spent with my family and not watched TV. It's the first Christmas I've worn a bikini, sunbathed, ate vegetarian food only, stayed in a hotel and spent with Gavin ! Very strange.

Later we decided to phone home, which was not as easy as we thought. There are hardly any public telephones here. When we finally found one it wouldn't let us dial the 1800 number we had for using our calling card in Indonesia. The same happened with the next two telephones. We tried a Wartel after that and we weren't allowed to use our calling card there either. It cost 9500rp a minute to phone the UK, we didn't have enough cash on us and they didn't take credit cards, so it was back to the hotel where we could call home for 33,000 for three minutes (no calling cards !). It was good to speak to my mum, dad and Karen again - it's been a couple of weeks since I phoned home and nearly 4 months since I've spoken to Karen. As usual my dad spoke to me for less than a minute, then said "I'll let you speak to your mother then" !

Tonight we ate in a vegetarian restaurant called the Monkey Cafe. It was one of these places where you sit down cross legged on a cushion and very cheap and tasty (5000rp a main). Tomorrow we're checking out of luxury and taking the bus to Lovina. I've really enjoyed Ubud - it's a nice place, lots to do (Balinese dances, shopping, wandering about, tours etc), it's very cultural and arty, there's excellent restaurants and it's surrounded by nice countryside. The only downsides were the busy noisy traffic and the constant "Hello, Transport ?", "Tomorrow ?" from practically every local with a set of wheels ! Merry Christmas !

Off to Lovina (Saturday 26th December)

Today we took the "tourist bus" to Lovina. A 2.5 hour journey which was half an hour late and took nearly 4 hours. It was the usual falling apart, rickity old bus with tiny seats, no leg room, a leaky roof and a maximun speed of 20mph. It got us there eventually though and was pretty cheap (20,000), so I'm not too bothered. I've only been in Lovina for a couple of hours now and it seems very quiet and less touristy than Ubud or Kuta. The area we are staying in is called Kalibukbuk, which is the "centre" of Lovina. There's a black sand beach which we didn't stay long at as it was dirty and polluted and all the locals seemed to run towards us selling bananas, pineapples, wooded dolphins, sarongs, necklaces, dolphin spotting & snorkelling trips. We're staying at Taman Lily's for 60,000rp a night and the rooms are lovely and clean, very spacious and airy. It's on the first road going down to the beach (or more accurately the first muddy track !). We just changed a traveller's cheque and we got it all in 5000rp notes so we've got a huge wad of bills in our wallets - I'm sure that will change soon enough though ! I've no idea what we're going to do for the next 4 days, but I'm sure we'll find something !

A day in Lovina (Sunday 27th December)

We didn't do a lot today, probably because there's not a lot to do in Lovina. We booked a tour for tomorrow then went to an "Internet Cafe" to check our email. The connection was painfully slow, so the idea of updating our web pages went out the window. It took me 10 minutes just to get into my yahoo inbox. We had some lunch in a cafe by the beach which only had two veggie options on the menu, so it was Gado Gado again. I've grown quite fond of that dish, but this was definately the worst I've ever tasted ! Afterwards we lay on the beach for a little while and ended up buying a couple of paintings from an art student. They were quite good (not that I know much about art), but no doubt we paid too much for them ! The beach in Lovina isn't very nice at all - black sand, dirty and too many hawkers. The sun was hot hot hot so we only lasted about an hour then walked back to spend the rest of the afternoon reading in the shade of our veranda.

Another Tour (Monday 28th December)

Today we did another tour, with another speedy, mad, overtaking driver in a white mini bus. This time we were the only people on the tour. We visited the Pura Beji temple in Sangsit village, then a hilltop temple (the name I can't remember), then lunch in a wee cafe with great views of the steaming volcano at Lake Batur. The first two temples were quiet and pleasant, the second would have had great views if it hadn't been pouring with rain. After that we visited another temple in Kintamani, where there was a festival on - lots of people in traditional colourful dress, lots of offerings, incense burning and some guys chanting on a microphone. Our visit was jaded somewhat by the sash sellers who jumped us (practically) as we got out the bus. One woman grabbed my sarong out of my hand, wrapped it round me, tied a yellow sash round my waist and demanded 20,000rp for it. I laughed and took it off, she put it back on again and I noticed Gav was getting the same treatment. She told me I was not being respectful and I must wear a sash in the temple, to which I told her I knew this and I would rent one at the temple. "Ah", she said, "I rent for 5,000rp each!". I tried to escape once more, but Gav just gave them 10,000rp for 2 of them. No doubt he just wanted to shut them up and get away ! Right enough though, you can borrow a sash outside all the temples which require you to wear them, for free. I seem to be complaining a lot about all these people selling things, I guess it is beginning to annoy me. I don't mind the ones who ask politely if you want to buy something and accept your answer of "No" and I can understand that these people associate tourists with the "$" sign and are just trying to make a living. The thing that gets me is that some of them follow us, push things right under our noses and become more and more persistant and very unfriendly or even downright rude when we refuse.

After the temples we went to Yeh Saneh - fresh water swimming pools channelled into the sea (popular with the locals). We never went swimming as it didn't look very inviting, but we lay in the sun for a while on a wall by the sea, then it was back to the bus. Today has been OK, something to do, but not too exciting. The best bit for me was watching the countryside scenery and people in the villages from the bus. It's such a different way of life. Bali is not the paradise I was expecting, but most of the last week has been interesting and good fun - new experiences and all that !

From Lovina to Candidasa (Tuesday 29th - Thursday 31st December)

I've not really had the urge to write much in the last three days because it's not been very exciting and I've not been feeling too great. I started feeling a bit dodgy on Tuesday - nothing serious, just stomach cramps and a bit bloated and tired. We weren't sad to leave Lovina on Wednesday - I've not found it very interesting, the food wasn't very good (despite trying a different place every night) and the beach wasn't a pretty sight. The only nice thing was Taman Lily's, the place where we stayed, which was spotless, roomy and new.

The bus ride to Candidasa was around 3.5 hours and very very bumpy (due to the bus, not the roads !) I had visions of myself throwing up somewhere along the way, but I managed to last the journey. The scenery was lovely, but I was glad to get off the bus. We've been staying at Rama Bungalows for the last couple of days, which is OK, but not spectacular. We're moving somewhere different tomorrow because the room we have right now is too dirty for my liking. Everything's old and dusty, the floor needs a good sweep, it's hot and sweaty at night and the bathroom is open air and not very clean. The place we're going to tomorrow is much cleaner and only 10,000rp more expensive. Last night it poured with rain for hours. We went for dinner at Chez Lilly's which was showing the film Natural Magic. The film quality was very dodgy and I found a sharp piece of wire in my food (I put it in my mouth but luckily never swallowed it or it might have ripped my insides apart !) I couldn't bring myself to eat any more after that. I told the waitress about the wire but she didn't seem too concerned and I wasn't going to argue, because they probably wouldn't understand me. Not such a successful evening !

Today (Thursday) is Hogmany (New Year's Eve), but it doesn't really feel like it. I dreamt the other night that I was at Jo's Hogmany party (Jo's a friend from Uni, who has a great Hogmany party every year). Usually at this time in the evening I'd be getting ready to go round to someone's house for a few bevvies, out to the street party on Princes Street, off to meet Gav's friends at the Tron, then to Jo's party until the early hours. Here I am in a grotty homestay in Bali, feeling sick and sweating like a pig. Joy ! I wish I could go home for a week, but it 'aint gonna happen. I'll put it down to culture fatigue (the mild version of culture shock). Back to the point (if there ever was one). Candidasa is an OK place, better than Lovina and you can go snorkelling or diving or on the usual temple tours. We might do some snorkelling when I feel better, but I think I've seen enough of Bali's Hindu temples for now. We're in Candidasa for three more days, then it's off to Lombok for 10 days. Tonight will not be a traditional Hogmany for us. We're going out for a meal and Gav will have a few beers, but I probably won't as it's not going to help my Bali Belly. It will be the earliest I've gone to bed on this day in the last 10 years or so. Hopefully I'll feel better in 1999 !

Candidasa (Friday 1st - Sunday 3rd January 1999)

Happy New Year ! I'm feeling much better (and happier) now ! I think I was feeling a little homesick when I wrote my last entry. Candidasa is a pleasant place. We've just been chilling out for the last few days, taking it easy, reading, wandering, sleeping, trying all the restaurants, sitting by the sea, doing a bit of souvenir shopping etc. Statue in Lily Pond It's not really a beach resort or beach town, because there isn't really a beach - it's all been eroded away. There are lots of little T-shaped breakwater areas with little sandy bits to sit on, but you only have access to them if you're staying at a hotel with a gate on to it (I think). We're staying at Kelapa Mas Homestay right now which is a really nice place set in a pretty garden with a gate at the bottom leading down to the sea (price 70,000 including brekkie). Everywhere we've stayed so far has had breakfast included in the price and usually consists of fruit salad (always banana, pineapple and papaya), coffee or tea and toast/jaffle/pancake or omelette. Some places give you the same thing every day, some change it daily and others give you a choice. Anyway, that's enough on the subject of breakfast - it's just the fact that they seem to have a national fruit salad that gets to me !

Today is our last day in Candidasa, so we did a little souvenir shopping in a fixed price shop (for a change). There seems to be a lot of fixed price shops in Candidasa, they must have sussed out that most westerners are not used to haggling for goods and much prefer to walk round a shop, knowing how much everything is. I know I certainly prefer that. Maybe I'll get used to it that I'll start trying to bargain with shop keepers when I get home !

Tonight we ate at the Bukit Ciao restaurant for the second time - it's a really nice Italian restaurant with delicious bruchetta and lovely lovely chocolate cheesecake. There was an electrical fault which caused a fire while we were there and everyone started rushing about with buckets of water, luckily managing to put the fire out. Our meal turned into a candlelit one, with only pasta on the menu, but it was still very nice. Tomorrow we're off to Lombok !

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