Monday, November 27, 2006


After Ubud I continued North to Bedegul a small village which the bus pass through on the way to the North coast. I decided to spend a couple of nights, arriving around lunchtime on the first day I got of the bus at Strawberry Hill which looked like a nice guesthouse perched on the hills with extensive views across Bali. Only one problem, it was closed for renovation. Oh well, setting out on the road, about 1km with the backpack into town proper up and over the peak of the hill. Arriving sweatily into the main area I had another couple of choices and so settled in to have a look about. A couple of kilometres away lies Pura Ulun Danu Bratan, a Hindu Buddhist temple built on the edge of the lake. I jokingly crouched down and asked for “Anak” (Child) at the ticket office and the guy smiled and let me in for half-price. Though I noticed I didn’t actually get a ticket and the money went straight in his pocket, still they would be closing soon. The temple itself has a couple of small buildings with Buddhist style layered roof stacked on top of one another. Always an odd number of levels. In the pleasant gardens surronding the temple I came across a strange statue of a pig looking a bit out of place.

The next day the plan was to rise early and have a go at climbing the mountain beside the lake, but… Well I never was a morning person but I set out after breakfast (Yes, before lunch!) After skirting round the lakeside I passed the caves as mentioned in the guidebook and then that’s where problems started. The trail got fainter and fainter, merging into the beach, and then the beach merged into the forest, and soon there was nowhere left to go. I retraced my steps but couldn’t find a clear trail. Oh well I gave up, and never even got above lake-level! A guide has offered his services the day before but he wanted $30. Maybe it is a bring-your-own-machette-to-hack-your-way-through-the-jungle trek, rather than a clear path up that I anticipated. So I fell back on a hastily created plan B, I would take a bemo over to the next town and have a look about there. After a while I was bouncing along to Pancasari. However, it turned out to a tiny place no bigger than the village I was staying. There was a rather dirty looking market, a school and the bus stop. As well as a few houses and the omnipresent mobile phone shop. So I just strolled back into town, stopping off for a tasty strawberry milkshake as the area is the strawberry capital of Bali.

Off for some dinner in a an empty restaurant. I opted for some fish from the freshwater lake, ended up with a plate of gourami. These places here cater for the day trade, where people pass by on their way to somehwere else. Maybe a bus will stop and everybody will wolf down lunch before hopping back on the bus and zooming off. Rather strange when everybody else leaves making it feel a bit of a ghost town. Sitting at table for 12 people, and I seemed to be the only tourist in town. Still at least there was a bar tucked away in the corner of the market, but this caters only for lunchtime drinkers, as it was shut before sunset, not much of pub with hours like that! A quiet night then and then next day it was North again to the coastal town of Lovina.

Sunday, November 26, 2006


Arriving at Ubud I was met by some people touting business as I hadn’t planned anywhere to stay, I went along with one guy who had a homestay. Ubud is like a conglomeration of seven small villages. Still a small fairly quiet place, especially after Kuta. I headed down to Monkey Forest for a stroll along past the snatching monkeys. Somebody had their bottle of water nicked. Some people were feeding them bananas, which were quickly munched down. Some just look kinda bored. Among the shaded trees is a large real-size sculpture of two komodo dragons, you wouldn’t want to meet the real thing on a dark night, they are huge! One of the locals was telling me they have a poisonous bite, if bitten you have ten minutes to live! Not sure where legend meets fact here.

The owner of the guesthouse was one of the singers of the Kecak dance at night which I went along to see. Set in a small temple it plays out a story from the Mahabharata. Lots of singing and some dancing, some strange costumes, more chanting. A bad guy appeared looking strangely like the Grinch. Then after the story, a man did some firewalking, well sort of. More like kicking the fire apart! The fire was started with some coconut husks liberally doused in petrol and left to burn down. Then the guy came out riding a wooden horse, like a witch rides a broom. Strangely reminiscent of the Muslim ceremony I saw in Singapore, except this was Hindu. Seems to be in a trance, as at the end a couple of people rugby tackled him off the horse, and he flopped down on the ground sweating.

The next day I took a long walk between some of the villages in the outskirts of Ubud. Very nice scenery of green forest and lush paddy fields, terraced over the hills. I reached a small temple where a carved wall depicts Ganesh and some of his mates. An old lady quickly flicked water on me and then hand out for the 1000 rupiah for the blessing. Huh, what? Oh well I gave her the money and she let me take some photos and then she was all smiles. I clambered out the end of the temple and along a small stream and emerged in a rice terrace, I ascended up the ridges and then I came back to the road. Not quite the way I planned to continue but at least I was back on track for my next stop Elephant Cave. Not much of a cave, it must have been a fairly small elephant as the cave wasn’t that big! I had a chat with one of the people in the temple, she was learning Japanese so she could be a tour guide, and of course English too. Back on the road I nipped into a small museum where the curator/security guard showed me round as I was the only visitor. Of course a small donation was required at the end! But no entrance fee, so I just gave him a little and he seemed happy enough. Not that much to see here, a few archeological exhibits with some sarcophagus for the formerly important people.

Another day and it was off for nosy round the new botanical gardens. After a long walk I eventually reached it, seemed a lot further than the <2 km I had read. Anyway I went to the ticket office and it said it seemed expensive at 50,000 and instantly I got special price, out with the 40% discount stamp. Prices do seem very variable here, although sometime they have a take it or leave attitude, other times they are happy to barter. Like the geezers on the beach selling necklaces, pendants, watches, etc have their “sunset price” for the end of the day! Anyway I had a stroll round the gardens which were nicely set out although the tropical section had been closed due to flooding. Spotted a strange long-toed lizard with a yellow flash along the side. Eventually I managed to get my photo of it, before it disappeared into the undergrowth. After strolling around the gardens I again set out on foot up past a small village and round to the place where the herons sleep. I asked somebody at the gardens about it and they didn’t think there was that many birds, but they were wrong, hundreds if not thousands crowded the trees. Very distinctive with there white body and red spiky feathered head, like Punk birds with red mohicans!
Back into town, and after working up a thirst birdwatching it seemed like a good chance to try the Bali Hai beer. A bit on the smooth frothy side, I’ll stick to the Bintang which is crisper, yes I’m a lager connoisseur!

Wednesday, November 15, 2006


And so it was off across the Equator for the first time, no doubt I’m supposed to be tarred and feathered and hung overboard for Trident to devour should he wish, but I skipped this ritual by taking the plane. Arriving at Bali, Kuta is just a short taxi ride away. I got dropped off at the edge of Poppies 1, the small narrow lanes here are known as gangs. They are a bit small for cars to pass along mostly, although plenty do try. I navigated my way sucessfully to my guesthouse of choice (The Oberoi was full!), a minor miracle that I didn’t get lost. That however was not to last long, on the next days exploration I was lost quite a few times. Around here there are lots of small restaurants known as warungs, lots of tourists shops selling the usual clatter and lots of guesthouses. If you head the right way you will pop out at Kuta beach, a long curve of decent sands, with decent waves. Of course Bali is surfing land, people traipsing about with their boards talking about “barreling through tubes”, yeah like totally dude!

As you walk around Bali you will get assailed with cries of “Transport!”, guys with motorbikes or taxis looking to take you for a ride. If you don’t get used to ignoring them then half the your trip will be spent saying “No Thanks”. Although Indonesia is the world’s largest Muslim country, Bali itself is actually Hindu. Or a slight variation on traditonal Hinduism as they are allowed to eat beef. Good for steaks, bad for cows. Dotted around the ground all over Bali are offerings to the various Gods. These are small squares of banana leaf, colourfully filled with flowers, paper, maybe some fruit or rice and generally topped off with a Ritz biscuit! Back down on the beach a bit further north of Kuta at Seminyak, I encountered a ceremony, where people were decked in fancy clothes and had large parasols. I didn’t really know what was going on looked like some sort of ritual. They threw some food and a bird into the waves, and then turned around and left. The bird got thrown about a bit in the waves, but eventually made it back to calmer waters, looking somewhat worse for wear. One guy plucked it up from the waves and placed it on dry land, but it just keeled over backwards. Nobody else seemed interested in the fate of the bird, so it must of served its purpose.

As th suns drops down out the sky, Kuta beach has the perfect view for sunsets. The surfers are still out there, not much daylight left. A few locals have grouped together for an energitic game of volleyball. Further south, the beach is lined with makeshift football fields as the guys scamper around in the sand chasing a round ball of air. No jumpers for goalposts here, a couple of sticks or two mounds of wet sand will do.

I had chatted to a couple of people at lunchtime, a Swiss woman and her Balinese boyfriend who owns a bar, so I met back up at nightime. There was a small band playing some live music, who were pretty good. A few more people turned up and we headed out to some of the clubs. No cover charge here so people straggle from one club to another until one of the clubs gets busy. Anyway by the time I made it back I was near enough supposed to be getting up for my bus to Ubud the next day. Suffice to say I slept in a bit, still it was a good night and I managed to get the ticket changed so the day after I did head off to Ubud.