Quick trip round Bali

Taman Ayun

Taman Ayun

Courtesy of the nice folk at MBA Travel (what seems to be the largest tour company based in Kuta), we booked a 3/4-day trip around the island. The trip we opted for was their Bedugul “Green” Tour at $30 per person.

They offer two timeslots – pickup at 8am or 11:00 with the latter offering a weather-permitting sunset at the Tanah Lot temple on the west coast. This was the one we opted for. Pickup was fairly prompt and we joined two guys (an Italian and a South African) for our little jaunt.

To do this trip by yourself by bike is definitely an option, for those preferring to do it on a budget. Most of the places we went only charge 1000 to 3000 entry/donation which is next to nothing. However, having the aircon and a fun driver helped, as did the fact that it required very little effort, no road map and slightly less risk of death in a traffic accident. Slightly less.

Ulun Danu Bratan

Ulun Danu Bratan

The first stop was at the 16th century Taman Ayun temple, surrounded by an artificial moat. This was the royal family’s temple back in the day and as far as Balinese temples go is pretty impressive. The style’s different from a lot I’ve seen but I’d say the “spires” (if you can call them that) have more of a Chinese feel, while the stonework is pretty unique.

I made friends with a cat by one of the monuments, tickling its chin until it actually seemed to pass out in my arms! The sun came out while we walked around which made for some good photographs and we mad euse of the included soft drinks when we got back to the minibus.

I'll have those...

I'll have those...

We passed through areas of rice fields on our way upwards to Pacung and Bedugul where we took lunch. Expensive lunch. The buffet was good, but it was 75,000IDR per person (plus taxes, service etc). So of course, we all crammed as much down our throats as we possibly could. The view up there is fantastic, very much reminiscent of Sapa in north Vietnam. Cascading rice paddies cut into the mountain sides, and quite a bit of low cloud.

Partway up one of the mountain roads, a man was offering photos with a huge iguana, a snake and some rather large and cold-looking fruit bats. All of us snapped the animals, but didn’t pay for any pictures with them – unless they’re in a zoo I tend to think they’re not being looked after too well.

Leah spotted a dilapidated hotel clinging to the hillside near the top. Everything was overgrown around it and it was quite a shame. A lovely big building with a fantastic view, but I guess this area just doesn’t attract tourists the way the coast does.

It's a finger, not a peanut!

It's a finger, not a peanut!

Next up was the “temple on the lake” at Ulun Danu Bratan which was lovely. Certainly a pretty place to build a temple with a wonderful view across the lake the the mountains behind. We dodged children selling postcards and took a few photos in the hot sun and then I played with a little puppy for a while. I think its mother was glad for the break.

Back downhill our next stopoff was the “monkey park” at Alas Kedaton. A very small temple that you can’t really see, but a gazillion monkeys that you simply can’t ignore. They’re all running wild, similarly to Kao Takiap near Hua Hin in Thailand, and they’re not shy. Hold out a clenched hand and they’ll gently pull your fingers back to get at the food they hope is inside. Expect at least one to jump up and sit on your shoulders – perhaps even groom your hair for little morsels! And ideal stop-off if your kids have head lice. Certainly more entertaining than the evil nit nurse.

Tanah Lot

Tanah Lot

Do watch out, though, as they can get aggressive especially if you approach the particularly one ones too closely, or act aggressively towards them yourself. One decided to have a munch on my fingertip, so it’s a good job they’re vegetarian as the teeth aren’t too sharp in the smaller ones. He gnawed at me for a minute before I got a little worried he’d eventually break the skin and “encouraged” him to get down.

There was one poor old soul with a horrible looking open wound in his backside, likely as the result of a territorial fight with another monkey. Proof that they can indeed cause damage when they want. They’re small, cute and wild – they are animals after all. This eldster seemed to be taking it in his simian stride, though, just picking bits of dead flesh out and eating them. Nice. I managed to rescue Leah’s sunglasses from another four-handed thief. If you don’t need it and it’s not firmly attached to your person, leave it in the car!

As the sky began to darken we escaped from our guide/shop-owner (“I give you special price!”) and took the trip down to Tanah Lot. The temple there is built on a rocky promontory and visitors can be blessed with a sprinkling of holy water underneath. The coastal views are spectacular and there are some very deep rock pools in the volcanic surface – so watch your step especially as the sun goes down.

Unfortunately due to the prevailing weather conditions and cloud, we didn’t get much of a sunset. None of the spectacular reds I’d have expected when I was in Bali during September last year, only a gradual darkening until the lights around were switched on. A shame, but that’s how it goes – although I guarantee at least one loud-mouthed tourist will have asked for a refund in the past.

And finally back to Kuta where we changed some ferry bookings, swapped some books, organised accommodation (elsewhere in Bali due to Kuta being crammed) and enjoyed a wonderful dinner in TJ’s Mexican restaurant on Poppies I. Definitely recommended, and not in the least pricey if you compare it to something similar back home.

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Delayed diving

I did finally get to go diving today, but not as much as I’d hoped and later than planned. Two of our divers decided to have a lie in so we left Kuta at 9:30 instead of 7am which pushed the rest of the day back and meant it was my turn to be late meeting David. It wasn’t revenge for last night, I promise!

Up at Tulamben we met a honeymooning couple – Putu is taking the hubbie through his Open Water while the wife is already an Instructor with quite a few dives under her belt. To split groups, I was to take her and the two Dutch chaps (father and son) while Putu again concenrated on the student diver.

However, the younger Dutch guy had a slight cold and was bunged up. He opted to give the first dive a try, but had to resurface after barely getting to 3m. He could equalise, but said the pressure behind his eyes was like a knife. A wise decision not to push it. Unfortunately, when I surfaced to make sure he was OK and send him back to the restaurant, I lost contact with the others.

I decided after waiting for five minutes not to chase after them as by that point I’d be pretty much diving solo until I found them. Before checking on the son, I’d made sure the other two had buddied up and they already have a couple of hundred dives between them. They also hooked up with Putu and our student so their dive went well. I’m just peeved at missing out on another chance at the Liberty wreck as it’s a very good dive.

After lunch, I led them around the Drop Off which went well. Plenty of life down there although visibility isn’t what it was back in September last year. Still, there is a lot to lookout for and we saw, amongst other things, plenty of pipe fish, a huge lion fish and an eel trying to hide in the rocks.

As I said, I was late back to meet David so we’ll try and sort something for later in the week. Right now I’m hoping to find a seat at a cheap restaurant for dinner before grabbing a shower then heading up to the airport to meet Leah on her flight in from Perth.

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A lazy day in Bali

Unfortunately, the custome I was supposed to be diving with this morning cancelled at the last minute and rescheduled for tomorrow. Hopefully they don’t do it again…

Instead I’m loafing in the 24-hour Minimart deli on the beachfront with it’s free wi-fi. Of course, I do this on a day when I have next to no email backlog! Bernhard was still asleep when I left the room (at 11:30) although he didn’t get in until 3:00 or something this morning. The annoying thing with the cancellation is that the early morning start for the dive is the reason I didn’t go out last night myself!

Still, I’m out for a quick beer this evening with @dconlisk from Twitter. However I can’t overdo it as – again – I must be up early to head for Tulamben in the morning, then try to make the room look presentable for Leah arriving late tomorrow night.

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Back to Bali

Singing in the street

Singing in the street

I’d had a long and tiring day on the 18th with the bus ride. I needed a good night’s sleep, but courtesy of three of the most selfish dorm-“mates” I’ve ever had the displeasure of encountering I didn’t get it.

A Dutch couple were in the opposite bunk and woke at 6:30am, chattering away as if there was nobody else in the room. Then the guy underneath me decided to pack all his luggage shortly after, throwing stuff around on the bed making it shake and rustling plastic bags for fun.

I gave up and just got out of bed for the free breakfast (a couple of rolls and a cup of tea – I guess I missed the deep-fried banana. After chatting to another couple I’d actually seen briefly in the hostel in Dili I did a quick email check at the bar then headed back to the hostel to pay up, grab my kit and head to the airport nice and early.

Only I couldn’t as the ****ing Dutch ****ers had locked the dorm door with the only key and gone out with it. It took the staff quarter of an hour to break into the room and remove the door from the frame so I could grab my rucksack. Fortunately I had time to spare and made it to the airport well before check-in and therefore with no worries about paying for my ticket and getting on the flight.

Our first "hotel"

Our first "hotel"

Ah. But I had reckoned without Merpati Airlines and their completely screwed up booking system which hadn’t actually booked me a ticket at all. See the related post for the full horror story.

I did make it onto the (scruffy, dilapidated) plane and on to Bali where I hooked up with Bernhard and Han (from Austria and Pakistan respectively). We haggled a taxi down to 25000 to get us to Poppies I and began our search for accommodation.

Almost five hours later, we gave up. Han headed for another part of the island. Bernhard and I left our luggage with the nice people at the bungalows I stayed at last year, then went out for the night. When the last club shut at 4am, we grabbed one last McD‘s and slept in a shop front around the corner.

The weather in Bali

The weather in Bali

Our original plan had been to crash on the beach, but I’m glad we didn’t as it chucked it down in the early hours. Still, we managed 2-3 hours’ kip before the staff had to open up (they’d actually told us earlier we could sleep there which was nice of them).

We had a nice breakfast in the Treetop Cafe on Poppies I, and started hunting again. The second place we tried – opposite where our luggage was – had a room for 66000 for two. Not as nice as last year’s abode, but it will suffice for a couple of nights.

So now it’s the 20th. Today’s been easy and will continue to be so! Email’s up to date, lunch about to be had and I’ve been up to Pro Dive to see the crew. I’m off up to Tulamben to do the wreck dive with a group of Open Water students and Putu tomorrow. Aces!

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Argh, what a morning

I got back to the bungalows around 1:30am. Not long after I redid all my packing, Valerie came home as she was too hot in the nearby nightclubs. Sweetheart that she is, she offered me the spare bed in her room so I could get some sleep before I was due to leave. Much more comfy than sitting on the tiles in the outdoor area. And less mosquitoes.

I woke at 3:30am and grabbed all my things to wait for my pre-arranged lift. And waited.

Then gave up and woke one of the other staff who said he’d take me to the airport himself. The other guy never showed. I guess he managed to get more sleep than me.

Fortunately, the airport is only fifteen minutes away on a clear road so my motorbike ride was short and swift. I waited through the usual queues of people complaining about being charged for their overweight baggage and ascended to the departure area.

Then walked back down the stairs to find an ATM as I hadn’t known there was a 150,000 Rupiah international departure tax. So a walk outside, and then a walk back in necessitating a second scan of all my hand luggage. Not as bad as Roz, a woman I got talking to who had to remover her belt and everything as well.

A note to Bali Airport authorities: either publicise the departure tax outside, put an ATM inside, or consider adding the fee to the ticket price to save all this messing about in the first place.

Nothing was open when we walked through into the departure area until a small café realised there was money to be made. I had a pot noodle which cost about a quid. Then tried to pay with Visa and was told that there was a minimum purchase of three times that. It would have been nice if their “We accept:” notice behind the counter had mentioned this.

I ended up paying for Roz’s food as well, and she gave me IDR50k. Annoying as I was hoping to leave with no indigenous currency. Ah well, I may be back sometime and it’s only three quid.

Fortunately, the flight left on time and I slept pretty deeply the whole way to Kuala Lumpur. I made about the shortest visit to a country of all time. Immigration was very quick, I grabbed my rucksack from baggage reclaim and waved goodbye to Roz. She works in KL now – good luck to her in her new job.

Straight out, turn left and into check-in for my connecting flight. The timing was perfect, with the desk opening only a minute before I walked up to it.

KL airport is fully wi-fi’d so I sat down and started uploading nonsense for you lot. All going to plan.

Until they announced that due to a “technical difficulty”, my flight was delayed from 11:30 to 13:40. So far. Updates as and when, but currently I’m enjoying a numb bottom on typical airport seating and realising that I’m getting hungry now. And I don’t want to give up my seat as it’s the only one in the entire area with an electrical socket by it.

Fortunately, TRSC (the people who did my laser surgery and who I have an appointment with this afternoon) have been typically wonderful and skewed all their appointments around my changed arrival time.

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