What is there to say? This place is truly amazing. And the dollar goes a long, long way. Arriving with no more than the name of the place that I was supposedly staying, my instructions were to find a cab and tell the driver to take me to the Bali Agung Village. No address, no phone number…..not even a clue as to what town the hotel was in. Having received these instructions from Jill, I was told not to worry about it. Since this was her & Mike’s third year running of spending some winter months here…..I didn’t question it. Once I got through customs and collecting my bags, I entered the gauntlet that would be the porters and taxi cab drivers all of which were trying to get you in their cab and have them carry your bags. Before I knew it I was trying to stow my travel bag in my large backpack when it was being picked up and taken to the customs counter. An over eager porter had picked the wrong bag. When I finally had him put the bag down I cleared customs and began the hunt for a cab. The ride should have cost about 60,000 Ruphia….just under $7 USD. After telling about a dozen drivers I had a ride and was looking for my friend……I found where you can buy a cab ticket. You pre pay so they don’t screw you.. How nice…..of course the taxi drivers don’t want to tell you that. One Cabbie told me for a cool 100k he would sort me out, when I laughed at him he said last year it was 60k, but now with gas as high as it is…….. But once you have the magic ticket….they’ll take you without issue. Of course my personal favorite was how they spelled “taksi” on ever car.
During the 20 minute cab death ride, I couldn’t help but notice how a short little ‘beep’ on the horn must have been a part of driver’s education. Everyone does it….and they do it all the time. It even replaced the use of the blinker…..you want to switch lanes…..no problem…..honk once and go for it! Don’t worry….they’ll let you squeeze in! More than likely it’s a group of scooters riding in a pack. The great thing about riding on a scooter here is that you can pass traffic on ANY side. You can even pass in any lane…..I can’t tell you how many times I had to swerve to avoid a scooter that had me in it’s sights in MY lane! Oh well…….as the saying goes in Bali….if you don’t like my driving, stay off the sidewalk! They weren’t kidding…..traffics backed up? No worries……take the sidewalk, the pedestrians will move. Once I met up with Mike and Jill from Skydive New England….they sorted me out with a motor scooter and off we went to try this for myself. I was the third wheel for the first 2 days running around with them and getting the lay of the land. Mike’s been getting into a little bit of importing so we ran to a few different furniture shops and sorted out last minute details like confirming that the container was going to be filled properly. When I saw the prices and what the furniture was like….I can see why he is shipping a container of it home. Huge, thick, solid, hand carved dinning room tables for $300 USD. Well worth the shipping and import tax. Maybe next year I’ll get a corner in that container as well….
We decided that since Jill & I had never been on a surf board now was our chance. After all we are in Bali. Running down to the beach we rented boards at the excruciating rate of $2 for the day. We proceeded to attempt to stand up and ‘catch a wave’. While I don’t think what I did could be classified as catching a wave, I did manage to get my feet under me if only for a short moment. The second time it happened I used the George Costanza method and decided to end on a high note and headed for the beach. It also wasn’t a hard decision to end at that point as when the winds are on shore in Bali from Java….they get the lucky distinction to have Java’s trash wash up on shore. So as you’re making your way out, you are constantly removing old potato chip bags from wrapping around your legs. After stepping on something and breaking the skin….I was very happy that I got all of my shots. Who knows what’s out there and that was enough for me….
One night we had dinner down on the beach at Jimbaran. This is where the fishermen get their catch during the day and then bring the boats in with the catch right on the beach. After the fish have been brought inside and sorted, tables are setup on the beach and dinner is served. The candle lit tables on the beach watching the sunset and eating fish that were merely hours old, is something that everyone who comes to Bali should do. I’m not a seafood fan and even I had to try. Unfortunately this beach is where the first of two terrorist bombings took place killing dozens. The second bombing, only back in 2005 was actually 2 bombs outside of a night club. The first went off and once everyone came out to see what was going on the second one went off. We drove by that area which was teaming with people and a memorial with more than 200 names on it. Why anyone would want to ruin this paradise is beyond me. Needless to say tourism was down a bit, but it is coming back, slowly but surely.
After Mike & Jill took off I headed up to Tanah Lot to check out the temple at sunset. At low tide you can walk out and up to the temple. However at high tide the temple becomes an island. I was lucky enough to stumble on a photo shoot for a newly married couple, as the tide was rolling in they were on the edge of the rocks getting shots of the waves crashing and covering them with water. The next day I hoped on the scooter and headed up to the monkey forest. Whatever you do….don’t buy the bananas. Just make sure someone else does so you can watch them as they get swarmed. These little guys will climb right up your leg and pull them out of your pocket. Very funny as long as it’s not you! Making my way up through Ubud and stopping at the rice terraces, I ended up at Mount Batur. Of course just my luck, it was pouring rain. Nonetheless, at 4:00 am there was a knock at my door. My guide Made’ had arrived and we were off to catch sunrise at 1717 meters from the top of a volcano. Hiking up the side of a volcano in the rain is not something that I would like to repeat. I was not prepared for the cold and the wet and ended up catching a little cold. And after all of that the only sunrise that we saw was when the clouds surrounding the mountain got brighter. However the clouds did part for a bit on the way back down so that we could see the lake between the two volcano. A nice sight, but not quite the reward as sunrise would have been. Oh well…..at that point I just wanted to get down and climb back into bed because I knew I was going to catch a cold. Of course my guide was really pushing the longer hike trying to milk some more money out of me. I found that was quite similar to the shops north of Denpansar as compared to Kuta where I was staying. Everyone was selling something, but up north they got in your face and could more accurately be described as beggars then peddlers selling their wears.
All in all Bali was a fun experience. Even if the last day was packed with wind storms that dropped 3 trees that I saw and as I was packing my things in the hotel….the roof in my bathroom decided that it was time to go. The obvious added bonus here is now you can use the facilities and get a sun tan with no tan lines at the same time! Now that I have seen Bali I know I can come back and have a fun relaxing time here, and do it for cheap. I’m on a flight now to Thailand which starts with a 7 day organized tour and then 6 days or so down on the beaches in the south. And all I can think about is that I am so happy that I quit my job! J