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Bali, Indonesia. Discovering the Denpasar area.
It’s Monday the 26th of June and we take the 4 hour flight from Bangkok tot Denpasar, the capital of Bali, Indonesia. Everything goes well and we arrive at our couchsurfing host Made by taxi around midday. He lives in Seminyak, a town next to Denpasar. Traffic here is a disaster. The many scooters overtake cars that are stuck in the traffic jam on the left, right or on the side walk, so even as a pedestrian you really have to be careful. Crossing the road can be a real challenge. Sometimes there are traffic controllers on the side walk with a whistle, who help pedestrians to cross or help parked cars to get into the road. So it can be very noisy with all the honking and whistling, but it’s different every time. At rush hour it’s always madness, but sometimes it’s ok during the day.
Our first impressions of Indonesia
Made gives us our own room with bathroom, within what looks like an apartment complex. He rents some rooms here and also lives here himself. He can answer basically any question we have, at least about Bali. For lunch we have a huge plate full of rice and vegetables (and chicken for Riny) for about 3 euros in total. Then we go look for the tattoo shop where a friend of Riny’s is being tattooed up right now. It’s a 3.8 kilometre walk, and on the way we already see a big part of this area. It’s very touristic with lots of little shops, but also sometimes surprisingly beautiful. Suddenly you walk past a very old temple, built in the middle of a street. The neighbourhood where the tattoo shop is located is even more touristic. Everything here is made for the Australian tourist. You can find any kind of Aussie food you can think of, which is very good news for me (timtam time!). For lunch and dinner, we stick to Indonesian food though, because it’s like 10 times cheaper.
The way back to Made we walk along the beach. In between the beach and the enormous, but also beautiful, resorts, there’s unfortunately a big, ugly wall. In between the wall and the resorts you can find an improvised motorbike parking every 50 meters, with a group of Indonesian teenagers who offer rides to tourists. “Need transport, yes?”, “Motorbike taxi?”. On the other side of the wall it’s one big party. The beach is filled with colourful, enlightened terraces, filled with tourists on brightly coloured bean bags, enjoying their Bintang beers and overpriced cocktails. Clearly, this is a well known hotspot on Bali. Every single terrace has live music, and it looks like the people are having a great time.
Today we didn’t see much of a sunset because of the many clouds, but luckily it’s still nice and warm at the beach after sundown. We slowly walk home, where Made advises us a place to go for dinner. I enjoy a vegan Gado Gado, with actual peanut sauce like it’s meant to be. Not anything like the thick, porridge-like stuff we have in the Netherlands. And, like most things here, it’s home made and super fresh. Riny tries the Bahmi Goreng (fried noodles), which of course also isn’t like anything we know. Fortunately! Because that’s one of the reasons we travel to the other side of the world.
We have a nice sleep in our air-conditioned room with practically no mosquitoes. At least we don’t have to worry about getting malaria disease here. Bali is the only island in Indonesia where these mosquitoes don’t come. I guess they don’t like the crowds, haha! Today we need to plan the rest of our time here in Indonesia. We rent a bike for the next 4 weeks, because that’s when our free visa expires and we have to leave the country. So we’re trying to find our where we want to go. Flying to Malaysia or Singapore seams the least pricy, but there’s probably cheaper ways to get to those countries when we go by boat from a nearby Indonesian island. So we might save that for later. We would love to go see the Phillipines, and this would require a flight anyway, no matter where we come from. After that we could go back to Indonesia to see Java and Sumatra, to go to Malaysia or Singapore from there.
For the very first time on our scooter through the busy streets
The next 4 weeks, we at least want to see Bali, Lombok and the Gili islands, and maybe the islands of Lembongan and Ceningan. If we have some time left, we could check out West Nusa and Komodo island. At the end of the afternoon we get our motorbike and we are ready to go exploring. We drive with our maps.me navigation to Tanah Lot, on the west coast of Bali. It’s quite an experience to drive around here. It’s very busy on the roads, especially in the villages. We overtake cars stuck in traffic on the left, right and over the sidewalk, we occasionally drive on the wrong side of the road (not even because we forgot that we have to drive on the left…), drive through a red traffic light and so on. All of this is quite normal here, and surprisingly, it all goes well. I’m pretty pleases that I only have to sit on the back, and don’t have to drive myself. Although sometimes it can be quite scary.
It seems to be a nice sunset tonight, so the temple at the coast is already full of tourists. Apparently this is a very popular spot. It’s a coincidence that we meet two other couchsurfers from Made in this crowd. It’s an American guy and a Ukrainian guy, who are both very nice people. Here there’s no entrance fee (yet), but the locals all have their ways to make money, by selling food and drinks or clothes and souvenirs. The temples are very nice from the outside, especially as a silhouette in front of the setting sun. The way back to our bikes we think to outsmart the crowd by walking through the golf course.
Unfortunately, after the golf course there’s a rice field with high, sharp plants, and this way is actually not short at all. After a few cuts in our legs, me almost losing my flipflop in the clay and being covered in clay, and a whole army of mosquitoes trying to get us, we finally reach civilization. We end up in the back yard of a fancy hotel, where there’s just a traditional dance going on. Great! I hope the guards at the entrance don’t notice that we haven’t paid…
In the evening, a guy from Java and a German Iranian guy join our little group, and we go out for a fancy dinner at Char Chars. It’s a very fun night with pretty luxury food for only 7 euros each. Well, that’s actually quite expensive here, although when you dine closer to the beach they will have western prices for the food. That why you won’t be seeing us there! We decide to go on a trip tomorrow all together. Now it’s off to bed.
A daytrip to Ubud and some traditional coffee
At 11 in the morning we leave with 3 motorbikes and 6 nice people for our first destination: the Kamp Lampo falls, south west of Ubud. A very nice touristic hotspot, where we have to pay 1 euro entrance fee. We do get a personal guide, who shows us the best way to move through the river and up the waterfalls. The brown water doesn’t look very appealing, but in this weather a swim is still quite welcome. Luckily for us, the water doesn’t smell the same way it looks.
After some lunch somewhere on the side of the road, we drive to the Satri coffee plantation. Here they grow all sorts of eatable/drinkable plants, like coffee, tobacco, cocoa, vanilla and so on. They tell us about the special Luwak coffee, made by a catlike animal. The wild luwak eats the fruits that contain the coffee beans. People collect their droppings, to collect the beans that are still intact. After cleaning, the beans get grinded, and this powdered coffee can be used as an instant coffee. After the free tasting of at least 20 kinds of different coffee and tea flavours, you can choose to try the luwak coffee for 50.000 rupia. This is about 3,30 euro. Quite expensive, but apparently in Australia they pay 20 dollars for this same cup of coffee! It’s really something exclusive, and worth more than gold. The taste is not that special though. It’s just coffee, with a muddy substance at the bottom. But at least we tried.
We go to a nearby temple, the Tirta Empul temple and Pura Pegulibgan. We have to pay an entrance fee again, but this includes the rent of a sarong you need to enter this area. There’s a special place for praying, which consists of 3 baths, with a total of 25 fountains. To be able to go into the baths, you need to rent a special sarong that can get wet. Of course Riny wants to do it. He needs to stand in line in the cold water. Some people bring offerings, like baskets filled with flowers, incense and empty jars to fill with the holy water. The ritual you need to perform consists of a different gratitude prayer at every fountain. Then you need to put your head under the fountain three times, before you can move to the next fountain. There are also 2 fountains for bad aura, where you shouldn’t go of course. Luckily for Riny, we have two Indonesian guys with us that can tell him all of this.
It’s almost sunset, but we still drive to the rice fields of Tegallalang for some dark pictures. I guess we need to come back some other time for better ones. In Ubud we finish our day at Umah Pizza and when the traffic gets a little better, we drive back home.
The southern coast of Bali
It’s Thursday the 29th of June and today we will explore the south coast of Bali. We jump on our scooter and slalom through the heavy traffic to get past the airport. The airport of Denpasar is located on the smallest part of the island, almost taking up all the space there. Only 2 ways to pass it, by using a toll road or a public road. Very inconvenient, because it’s very busy here.
After a nice ride passing a hilly landscape and massive rice fields we arrive at our destination, Nyang Nyang. A nice looking beach which can only be reached by taking a steep path down. On the remote beach there is an old man with a cooler filled with drinks, all overpriced of course but can you blame him? For us it’s time to take a swim in the ocean, to rinse of the sweat from the climb down. The sea is beautiful with light and dark parts. The light parts are sparkling blue and see through just as if it were glass. The dark parts on the other hand are sharp stones and coral like, not the best place to step on with your bare feet. So getting into the water is quite a challenge, but I do not give in so easily. If not for this beach, I will be swimming at the next!
We continue our path to Uluwatu, a temple on the shore in the southern tip of Bali. It’s about 90 minutes before sunset and packed with tourists. We pay for our parking and head on to the entrance. Again you need to pay for entering and rent a sarong because you are not allowed to visit the temple with bare legs. By this time I am getting quite fed up with the fact that you have to pay for everything and mandatory renting of clothing. This together with the huge crowd makes us decide to not go inside the temple but to continue our way to Blue Point. According to Maps.me this is a great viewpoint.
This point is located in the middle of a 5-star resort, but we just act as if we are guests there and walk straight in. The view is not the most spectacular, but it sure is a nice experience to be in such a luxurious resort for a change. For a minute we wonder if we should dive into the pool or not, but we decide not to because that might be overdoing it just a little.
Next stop: Padang Padang Beach. Once we get to the parking here, there is a man asking us for a voluntary contribution to maintain the roads and everything. Still cranky about all the payments, and driving on a road looking like every truck that passed it lost all his cargo here, we skipped our contribution part. We take the 175 steps down towards the beach and finally here’s my chance to take a swim. There are less rocks here and the sun is still out to dry me afterwards, so here it goes!
I walk in but soon I realize that it takes forever to reach deep water because of all the big rocks and plateau’s under water. Luckily I find a nice place to swim and manage to get out without scratching myself upon the rocks.
This turns out not to be the best point to watch the sunset, so we decide to head back towards Seminyak to have dinner on the beaches of Jimbaran. When we arrive here, we notice that this is a popular place to have dinner. The streets and parkings are packed with cars and scooters and there are people walking everywhere. Once we set foot on the beach we know why this is, a gorgeous view and a wonderful sunset with dining tables on the beach.
Monkey forest and an ‘abandoned’ temple
This morning we decided to take it easy. We still have some work to do to keep this blog up to date and we are not sure what else there is to see here in the vicinity. Luckily our host knows a nice little place so in the afternoon we take our scooters and go there together with our American couchsurfer.
We start off in Monkey Forest, Ubud, a small strip of rainforest in the middle of town, controlled by monkeys. We are advised to not bring any food inside and to keep your bags closed. You should even keep your hands out of your pockets otherwise a monkey might think that there is food in your pockets and jump you. We also heard a lot of stories of stolen food, mobile phones and even flip flops. Although it is not as bad as they sell it. During our visit Riny made a funny video of a monkey trying to climb on his phone and take it. When he fails to do see he leaves without getting agressive.
We continue our way to the Elephant Cave, an old temple inside a cave, surrounded by a big natural environment where you can walk. Nice to see but not very special. Maybe we should have taken a way too expensive guide to tell us the story of the area, but hey, we are on a tight budget so this was not really an option.
In the evening we decide to buy Made dinner in a nice fair trade place, Fair Warung Balé in Ubud. We take our seats (read sit on a pillow on the floor) on an elevated platform. The food, the atmosphere and the company are great, this is the good life. Tomorrow we head out to see 3 small islands just off the coast of Bali; Nusa Penida, Nusa Lembongan en Nusa Ceningan.