Saturday, December 31, 2016

Bali, Indonesia Adventures--Fall 2011

On September 25th I hailed a taxi in downtown Bangkok for an early morning ride to the new Bangkok airport.  The first driver asked for 400 Baht for the ride, I told him I wanted him to use the meter.  He declined, so I flagged down another taxi who did use     the meter which ended up costing 290 Baht including road tolls and tip.

I boarded the Air Asia flight to Bali, Indonesia, a 4 hour flight that cost $300 roundtrip.  Air Asia was trying to get you to buy flight insurance, checked bags, the better window or aisle seats, all the food and beverages served---even water and no freebies.
After clearing immigration, I had my taxi drop me off at south tourist area of Kuta.  The white sandy beaches contrasted with the hype of the tourist trade of souvenir shops, restaurants, hotels and hostels, dive shops, tattoo and massage parlors, bike, surf board, motor bike, and car rental shops.

As I was unpacking, I realized that I was missing the Canon Rebel camera that I had borrowed from my daughter.  I must have left it in the taxi I took to get to here from Kuta.  The hotel manager called the taxi company to see if it had been found, but no luck.  He told me where the police station was located so that I could get a police report.  I immediately went there, and the policeman was very helpful in getting me a police report which I needed to file a claim with Access America Insurance Company.  The camera cost my daughter about $700 and Access America  has a $500 limit on reimbursements for losses of electronics equipment.  I was able to get an exact replacement in Bangkok for $515.  See the value of this annual travel insurance that cost me $267 per year.

You don't go far in Bali without running into temples.  The local people make these beautiful arrangement offerings daily and leave them at holy places.

They all seemed to have touts out front trying to entice the tourists to enter their shops.  I relied on the "Lonely Planet Bali Guide" to check out accommodations and ended up at the north end in the Legian area at the Buwana Cottage Bungalows at $18 per night. 

The Buwana was a two story place with a central garden and decorative pool, with tile floors, balcony, a mosquito net covered bed, and cold water showers.  After two nights here, I moved to the other side of the island to Sanur which is quite a bit quieter than the Kuta area.


On the 27th, I booked into the Semawang Beach Hotel which cost $25 per night.  I stayed here for 5 nights while doing some tours in the area, shows and arts and crafts shops.  This hotel is a welcome change from the last place.  The Semawang has a refreshing dipping pool with comfortable lounge chairs, A/C, hot water showers, tile floors, and includes a full breakfast and just two blocks from the beach area.  At night I went to a nearby beachfront resort for their buffet and more modern show.

Sanur has a beachfront walkway that goes for miles where there are restaurants, activities shops, arts and crafts shops, massage parlors, museums and temples. I spent a couple of days walking up and down this walkway.

Along the walkway I found this museum where Jean Le Mayeur lived and painted.  His most favorite muse was his wife, the beautiful Legong dancer Ni Polok.  Here is a sample of his impressionist work.

On the 30th I began taking a series of tours and shows that the hotel staff was able to arrange for me. Mardi was my driver/guide who took me to a Barang dance and then we stopped at three jewelry shops/factories where I bought a pair of earrings. 

He then drove me up to Lake Batur stopping at the Pujong temple  and Gunning Kawi Hindu temple on the way.

Next stop was a wood carving factory where I bought two masks--Barong and Ganesh-- for my daughter who likes masks from around the world.

Returning through Ubud, we stopped for the Kecak and Fire Dance along with the Barong Dance.

I moved up to Ubud on Oct. 2nd to the Warsa's Garden Bungalows (cost $28) where I stayed for two nights in a family compound with a very clean tiled room withA/C, wifi,  hot showers.  After two nights there, I moved over to the Darta Homestay which was closer to the center of Ubud and cleaner and cheaper at $17 per night.

I hiked to the nearby Monkey Forest Trail and mistakenly bought a bunch of bananas.  Almost immediately a monkey climbed up my leg to get the bananas I had. I quickly tossed them away and that monkey hissed at me before chasing after the bunch of bananas that other monkeys were munching on.  While there, I met a woman who had a monkey pose on her shoulders and he bit her so she has been undergoing rabies shots.

There was another walking trail I took surrounding Ubud that took me through rice terraces and by temples.  I stopped at a temple that was lavishly decorated with flags, banners and tables loaded with food and other offerings.  I went inside and met the priest and his wife and family.  It turned out that the priest was getting ready to leave for his work on a cruise liner where he worked as a steward for six month every year.

This is just outside the local market where they sold meats--some alive--, clothing, fabrics, household goods and other items.  In the morning it was mostly a local market and in the afternoon it was transformed into a tourist market where I bought a scarves for my wife and daughter.

Near the public market and temple these vendors were selling flowers and other items which the locals used to make their offerings.

It rained all day on the 6th so I just hung around my cottage catching up on my clothes cleaning, reading and paperwork.  Fortunately the weather cleared for the tour I had scheduled to visit the Elephant Caves, Holy Springs Temple, Mt. Batur, the Agung Temple where I saw two large funeral ceremonies.

We then stopped for lunch by the overlook of the Rice Terraces that are part of a UNESCO heritage site.  We had weasel coffee at a nearby coffee plantation.

Postcard Perfect

Now on Oct. 8th,  it was time to head to the Gili Islands that were a short speedboat ride from the east side of Bali.   I arrived on the largest one: Gili Trawagan.  The speedboat backed up to the shore line and we had to disembark by walking through the gentle surf to the shore.  Once on shore, we were greeted by a flock of touts extolling the virtues of their guest houses.  Although this island is the largest it is only 3 km long and 2 km wide.  There were no gas or electric powered vehicles: only horse carts and bicycles.

All of the beaches were sugary sandy white with beautiful blue hues.  I settled on the Sunrise Podak for $17 per night.  It was very clean, but the shower was cold water only and rather salty so no need for hair gel.  This island had some delicious seafood choices for dinner so I selected mango covered fish and fried calamari with eggplant for dinner.

It took me about three hours to walk around this small island with occasional stops for fruit smoothies.  One smoothie was a combination of avocado and chocolate---surprisingly tasty. 

On the 11th I took a 3 island snorkel tour along with 8 other tourists where we would have four stops for snorkeling and lunch as well.  The snorkeling views were spectacular and each was different.  At one site, I saw turtles and a lobster getting eaten by a big eel.  On the way back, we encountered 5 foot waves that broke over the bow spraying us with seawater.  Now where did they store the life preservers?

After my last night in the Gili Islands, I boarded the speedboat for a very rough return to Bali with water constantly spraying over the top of the boat.  Once on Bali, I took the shuttle bus back to Ubud and the Darta Homestay cottage for the night.

On the 13th I headed to Lovina on the north side of Bali over a very twisty narrow road in a minivan to the Sartaya Hotel.  I had my own cottage in this compound.  It was very clean, new, had A/C and wifi.  I bargained down to $21 from $26 by offering to stay for 3 days.

I signed up for two tours, one snorkel tour and one dolphin tour.  

The snorkel tour took a one and one half hour drive to get to the boat, but the snorkeling was better than that on Gili Islands.  It was like swimming in an aquarium.  

During my stay in Lovina, I met the owner of the nearby juice bar/beer bar, Iona, who was trained as a teacher, but to be able to teach she said that she would be required to pay a 100 mil Rupiah--$7,600 USD--bribe to her sponsor.  She said corruption is rampant like the roots of a tree that grow throughout Indonesia.  She said that to get any government job that pays well, you need bribe money to get hired.  For example if you are hired as a police officer, then you collect money from people and foreigners to pay off your bribery loans.  Even after the loans are paid off, she said people then continue to want the extra money and the corruption continues.  As far as becoming a teacher, she said that she volunteers a day a week as a teacher in a small village but without pay.  Not only was she a college grad, but she also was fluent in French, Dutch, English, and two Indonesian languages.  This example of corruption saddened me to think of the missed opportunities Indonesia has by relying on corruption over merit.

The dolphin tour on the 15th was a sad disappointment because there were scores of motorboats like ours that chased the few dolphins that risked jumping out of the waters.  Apparently there were many more dolphins here, but with the onslaught of tourist boat chased away the dolphins.  I have seen more during my short visits to Mexico or Hawaii.

On the 16th, I took a van back over the mountains back to Sanur where I would stay again at the Sewang Beach Hotel for my two nights before moving over to Kuta to stay at the Bendesa Accommodations.  

The Bendesa Accommodations had A/C, hot showers, and wifi along with a pool.  It was near the 2002 Bombing Memorial where all of the night clubs, bars and restaurants were that catered to foreigners, especially Australians.

On my last day in Bali, I visited Tanah Lot where I left some of my brother's ashes as I have done on some of my other travels and then it was off to the airport for my return to Bangkok.

Cost of Trip
The total Bali cost was $2,064 for a daily average of $83.  Lodging costs for 25 nights was $537 or $21 per night.  Food costs was $808 or $32 per day. Travel and tour costs were $719 with $300 for the round trip air fare from Bangkok to Bali and $90 for the round trip bus and boat ride from Bali to Gili Islands.

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