Our adventure in Bali did not start off very adventurously. Upon being met at the Denpasar airport by Putri (our guide) and Noman (our driver), we were taken to the travel agency’s Bali office because we had asked to pay for our last flight at their office since we’d booked it after paying for the rest of the trip. We’d also asked to use their phone to call our bank since they’d never received the wire transfer we’d made to pay them. However, a quick stop at their office turned into an all-day campout, as they decided that they wanted the issue resolved before we left that day (not possible) and basically wouldn’t let us leave again until 5pm when they decided they wanted to go home too. We finally checked into our (really nice) hotel in Ubud, the cultural center of Bali, with all these intentions of exploring the town… but never made it out of the room again except upstairs to the roof and downstairs to get dinner. Incidentally, Indonesia is clearly much less worried about lawsuits and more lax on building codes, as upstairs led to a flat rooftop covered with building materials and no railing, and I could very easily have fallen off. 🙂
The next morning, we were picked up by a company called The True Balinese Experience and taken to what you might refer to as the suburbs of Ubud, where we cycled through Carangsari Village and its surrounding rice paddies. Our guide pointed out the Hindu village temples, offerings left on the side of the road and various other places, a school, farms, and even took us to his own house, which he described as a typical middle-class Balinese home. His house has a separate building with living quarters for each generation of his family, a shared bathroom in back, and a shared living room/eating room in front, with a total of perhaps half a dozen separate buildings, along with a family temple (every family has one of these to supplement the communal village temple), and a covered stage-looking area for ceremonies. Our cycle journey ended at a Monkey Forest, where peanuts were placed in our hands and macaques climbed up our bodies to sit on our arms and eat the peanuts. After being served lunch, we were taken back to our hotel and wandered the downtown area of Ubud on our own, exploring its numerous boutique shops with locally-produced goods. Then our night ended at a restaurant for dinner whose food was delicious… if you could get over finding a dead mosquito in your soup (I could not).
We spent our last morning in Ubud exploring the shops in the other direction from our hotel, until we were picked up at noon by a new guide, Suija, and his driver Suda. They drove us to the south coast of Bali, to an area called Nusa Dua — Island #2. Nusa Dua is mostly beach resort hotels, to end our trip with some relaxation. On the way there, Suija taught us more in Bahasa, the national Indonesian language. Bahasa has no verb tenses and no singular and plural, making it very easy to start plastering words together into sentences. Once we arrived at our beach hotel (apparently full of Russians; even all the menus are in Russian too), we got lunch and then… went to the beach. It had water. And sand. And squishy watery sand. And green plants in the sand. And it was warm. We learned that Pamela likes jumping on waves and going splish-splash, and Ted likes digging in sand and pulling out pumice stones. Until it wasn’t so warm, and then we walked up the beach a bit and got in the pool. It was warmer. Until it wasn’t, and then we washed up and got dinner instead.
We arranged with Suija and Suda to have them pick us up the next day and show us some sights in Bali. They took us first to Tanah Lot Temple, a Hindu temple built on a cliff that is surrounded completely by water at high tide (we could only look at it across the water from another cliff). Then we went up, up, up to the jungley mountains inland where the villages mostly cultivate rice, and looked down on a valley full of rice terraces at Jatiluwih, which was quite an awesome sight. Unfortunately, the mountains were cold and rainy and we were dressed for beach weather… so we left the rice terraces soggy and chilled. Lunch at a restaurant with a view of the terraces we saw more as a place to binge on hot soup and hot chocolate, and our last stop, a “floating temple” which was built in the middle of a lake, we barely even looked at because we were quite wet and miserable. Besides, it was so foggy we couldn’t see much. There was, however, a ceremony going on. It warmed up a bit as we came down from the mountains, and we stopped at a wood-carving shop to look for a carving of a Komodo dragon (it was too expensive, but we got to watch a carver at work) and then at a market store with cheap souvenirs (which were weirdly priced quite high; the cheap wood carvings cost more than the fine quality ones), then got dropped off back in Nusa Dua, received word that our wire transfer had finally gone through and the tour agency would stop harassing us (yay!), and walked down to the “village” area where there were shops and restaurants. The restaurants were quite cheap compared to the hotel, and we got the best chicken sate that we’ve tried in Indonesia (the rest had been rather disappointing). The shops all seemed to basically sell the same goods; a seemingly incredibly popular good for them to sell was a wooden phallus bottle opener. Go figure.
On our final day in Indonesia, we actually had an omelet for breakfast, attempted to buy some wood carvings (which involved asking our guide to pick one up for us, finding the same one for cheaper at the hotel, telling our guide nevermind, and having him end up returning it…), and went on a photo safari, taking pictures in pretty places around around the resort before Suija and Suda picked us up to go to the Denpasar airport and begin the long journey home: domestic 1.5-hour flight to Jakarta; 4.5-hour layover; 7.5-hour flight to Tokyo; 7-hour layover in which we will (fail to) meet up with Ted’s brother for lunch; 9.5-hour flight to San Francisco; 1-hour drive to home. Selemat tinggal, Indonesia!