Ubud, Bali. Tuesday 4th October 2017
Those of you who’ve been following this tale will know that I spent Christmas 2015 in Ubud with my Aussie friends Phil and Trish. They weren’t around this time and with Dan gone, I was on my own. My plan was to spend a couple of days in Ubud then return to Nancy’s to take up her invite to stay for a few days. I rode into town on familiar roads with the advantage, for once, of actually knowing where I was going. Ubud is always busy, although it being the low season I was hopeful of finding a decent homestay at a good price. After riding round the streets near the centre I found a really nice place where I was able to talk the price down from IRP350k to only 200k, a real bargain for a very nice room. I’m sure the effect of the Mount Agung volcanic activity worked in my favour here. It was nice to walk around this atmospheric town again. The streets were very busy, as were the eateries, but I found a nice backstreet warung where I enjoyed Pepes Ikan, one of my favourites dishes.
When I was here last Phil and Trish had just divested themselves of a partnership in a yoga retreat and had acquired some land on which they planned to build their own. Phil had taken me to see it, when it was just a patch of trees and scrub. By this time it had been completed and operational for six months. I was very keen to see just what sort of job had been made of it. One thing I did know was that they both expended many hours of effort and heartache in the design and on decisions about decor and furnishings. Was it worth it? Yes, very much so.
One of the key features of this piece of land is that it backs on to a tree filled ravine with a river at the bottom. This has been cleverly incorporated into the design in that the yoga studio and spa area both overlook this feature, giving a sense of huge openness and space as you look out across it. Greenery and sky is all you can see, probably about as relaxing as you can get. There’s a swimming pool where the water flows out over one end in a waterfall, and is then collected and pumped back up to the pool again. So while you’re lying on the spa table, having your muscles pulled this way and that, you can listen to the calming waterfall and watch birds flying around the treetops. What could be nicer? The rest of the building is equally thoughtful and well designed. Beautiful bedrooms, a lovely lounge area and all with decor and furnishings of superb quality and taste. Yes, I was very impressed.
Phil and Trish have been great friends to me so although I don’t usually do this kind of thing, I’m going to give them a shameless plug. Trish is a very experienced yoga instructor and runs her own retreats there at various times of the year. They also hire it out to other people so they can run retreats of their own. If you want to attend, or run, a yoga retreat then contact them via their Facebook page: Villa Tana Shanti or Shake Your Buddha Yoga. I don’t believe you’ll regret it.
I spent the rest of the day trying to buy some things I needed, and failed, but walked a long way in the process. So when I got back to the centre of town and saw a place advertising a ‘hot stone massage’, it seemed like just what I needed. Apart from anything else, my back (which I wasn’t going to mention again) was still sore and I thought some heat treatment might help. It’s very nice to spend ninety minutes lying on a table while somebody oils you up and then manipulates every muscle, from neck to toe (excluding the middle). Then to have the hot stones placed onto various parts while their heat transfers into your muscles is exquisite indeed, provided they’re not too hot of course (definitely avoiding the middle!). Did it help? It’s hard to say but I enjoyed the attempt very much. Ubud is full of these kind of personal therapy places. It all ties in with the spiritual and new age ambience of the town.
There was no rush to get to Nancy’s next morning so I drifted over there about midday. Let me explain a bit about her. She came to Indonesia as a Peace Corps volunteer during the seventies after she’d finished college. Following that she became an employee of the World Health Organisation, mainly dealing with women’s health, especially reproduction. She’s acted as consultant on various projects and in effect spent most of her working life in the region. She bought this house in Bali about fifteen years ago and has built a guest house as well. That was where I’d be staying. It’s a source of income for the family that look after her and maintain her property, so I was therefore happy to pay my way.
Nancy was in Timor Leste at the time of the referendum, acting as an official observer. She said most westerners involved hoped that the people would decide to become an autonomous region within Indonesia and go for independence later. But given how they’d been treated during the occupation that was always unlikely. The country made some bad decisions, Nancy thought, especially in choosing Portuguese as the official language. They’d been governed and educated in Indonesian for the last twenty five years so they straight away put themselves at a disadvantage. The departing Indonesians damaged a lot of the infrastructure too so the new government bought a lot of ‘clapped out gear’ (Nancy’s description) from Portugal, such as communications equipment, when they could have got better for less elsewhere. Not a good start for a new country and it’s no surprise that progress seems slow.
Among other conversations we talked about crime in bigger towns, such as those in Java, the next island I’d be visiting. Nancy made the point that with a much more itinerant population in these places the ‘home village’ effect was greatly reduced. By this she meant the social pressure that falls upon people to be of good character so as not to shame their family. It’s not that anyone who’s living away from home will misbehave, but some do and that’s were the security risk arises. If you think about your own childhood, and your parents’ demands not to ‘show us up’ or ‘bring shame on the family’, this pressure is the same everywhere, to one degree or another. Having always felt safe in Asia from some of the kind of pressures that go with life in the west, I appreciated the warning.
One morning Nancy told me she was going to a funeral and invited me along. The deceased was a a relative of Abeen, who works for her, and was gong to be buried. Being a Hindu society, the desire is for a cremation but these are very expensive and also require a highly auspicious day. So families will bury their dead until they have enough money for the cremation, then disinter them ready for the ceremony, usually to be held alongside other families, and possibly years later. But the burial also requires an auspicious date so the body of the deceased could have been laid out in the family shrine for several weeks. It would have been embalmed and kept wrapped up, and the embalming helps preserve the body during its temporary rest in the ground.
We arrived and were made welcome. We were given some snacks and Nancy handed over her gift to the family. Gifts are always given and a note is made of who gave what so that proper reciprocation can take place when required. I was allowed to take photos of the body too, which was adorned with small gifts and clothes, useful in the afterlife. I wasn’t alone in this seemingly ghoulish activity. It is, in fact, perfectly normal, it being a celebration after all. This woman was sixty five when she died, which matches the average life expectancy in Bali. There was plenty of chatter going on, and mingling of people. Several people spoke to me too although we left before the actual burial. There were three taking place that morning.
Talking of auspicious dates, Nancy showed me a calendar which had been collated by the local spiritual leaders. It showed the best dates for many activities, including such things as buying a goat; planting rice; buying and knife and even a good date for sharpening it. Balinese life is full of ceremonies and I remember being told last time I was here that their cost is partly responsible for keeping poor people poor.
I mentioned to Nancy at one point that I’d seen a shop selling ‘fashionable hijabs’. She said that when she first arrived she very rarely saw them but thinks that there is now a baleful Saudi Arabian influence at work. They contribute money towards new mosques and not unnaturally probably expect something back by way of a closer acceptance of their version of Islam. It seemed to me to be the younger women who liked the hijab. I often saw mixed groups where the older women didn’t seem to be too bothered. As I may have mentioned before, I haven’t seen a face veil of any kind, which to me can only be a good thing.
So those few days with Nancy drew to a close. I’d had a great time talking to and learning from her and we shared common feelings on many things. Yes, we did discuss Trump, and she’s appalled by him, but as time goes by she feels more and more disconnected from her homeland, having lived away from it for so long. Meanwhile I’d spent some of my time making plans so it was time to get going once more and carry them through.
The area around the capital, Denpasar, can be both heaven and hell. The roads definitely fall into the latter category, being choked with traffic and its associated foul air, heat, dust and frustration. But some of them lead to nice places, so it’s often worth the fight. One such is the Le Meyeur museum, down by the beach at Samur. Adrien-Jean Le Mayeur was yet another European painter, Belgian this time, who came to Bali and fell in love. In his case as well as the island itself it was with a young dancer who was his model for many art works but whom he later married. And I don’t blame him for that as she certainly looks stunning, as do her two friends, who also modelled. The paintings reflect Balinean life as it was at that time. After Indonesian independence they were persuaded to sign over the house they shared by the beach to the government, so it could be a museum for his works, 80% of which are displayed there. After his death in 1958 Ni Pollock, his wife, carried on living there but on condition she accepted the presence of visitors. The house itself is significant enough to be worth preserving as it is furnished and crafted in a style representative of that period. He was one of many European artists attracted to the natural and unspoiled beauty of the island and to the unique culture practised there.
I rode a bit further round the coast, then inland a bit, to a place called Klungkung, where I wanted to have a look at the Taman Kertha Gosa. This 18th century pavilion was built by the local Rajah as a meeting place for him and his ministers where they could discuss justice. It was the courthouse too and it was in this regard that the ceiling and frieze were decorated with scenes from the story of Bhima Swarga, the main character in a Hindu epic. The story deals with various aspects of heaven, hell and justice, and is painted using very popular Balinean characters. It’s very gory, with stabbings, be-headings and beasts of all kinds, but the objective was to give those who were on trial an idea of the punishments they could face but also, if they looked up at the centre of the ceiling they could find consolation in the paintings of the gods. The paintings have been restored several times and while I was there I saw a guy drawing some designs on paper for transfer onto the ceiling later. He told me he was a descendant of the original artists and that it was common for this work to stay within families. There are two pavilions there, one smaller than the other, but both decorated in the same way. They were surrounded by water and very nice gardens, a common feature of significant Balinean buildings. Across on one side was a museum with some local artefacts in it, worth a look but nothing very special. But there was something fascinating about Kertha Gosa and how it represented this strange outpost of Hindu culture mixed with local custom, known as Bali.
The threatening clouds hovering above me started to deliver so I went looking for a bed. After a false start or two I came across a very cheap hotel, was able to put my bike in the foyer and settled in to easily the roughest room I’ve stayed in, and paid for,so far. But it had a bed, the bed had a mattress and pillow and there was a bathroom down the hall. As well as being dirty it was dirt cheap, so I didn’t mind. Just down the road was a food market where plenty of stalls sold a whole variety of dishes and I had a very nice Gado Gado for a very small price. To finish up the evening I walked over to the Cenotaph where stories are told of Balinese defenders battling against various invaders, including the Dutch. Unfortunately they were usually bringing knives to a gun fight so eventually lost, but the displays were great. Individual set pieces made up of models acting out the battle scenes, rather like what the local modelling society might display at the church fete, but better. They even had the information written in English too. Wonderful.
Crappy room or no, I still slept well and set off next morning for a busy day sightseeing. The temple complex of Pura Besakih was the first port of call, perched 1,000 metres up the slopes of Mount Agung. Now that name should have rung a bell but I hadn’t actually realised that was where I was heading. I still didn’t realise it when I rode through a town, passing some police vehicles and a large yellow sign with red writing on it, along with a no entry sign. But I began to get an inkling that something wasn’t quite right when I arrived in Besakih and found the place to be completely deserted. Now this really is unusual. All Indonesian towns are as busy as an ants nest and a bee hive combined. There’s always people buzzing around on their scooters, or in and out of shops. Add in that it’s a major tourist attraction too, and the streets should have been crammed. Instead – nothing! It made me think of Dodge City at High Noon. Eventually the penny dropped. The temple was inside the Mount Agung exclusion zone, set up because of the threatened eruption, and I’d ridden right into it. A local told me I might as well have a look at the temple while I was here, so I did just that. I couldn’t get inside it so I walked around the grounds and took photos.
I’d just got back to where I’d parked the bike when the aforementioned police vehicles turned up, like the Flying Squad arriving at a bank raid, complete with sunglasses, moustaches and AK47s. The boss man shook my hand and very politely enquired as to what I was doing, explaining that I was inside the risk area. I said I’d just come up to get some photos and apologised for my mistake. We chatted about where I was from and where I was going and he, assuming I’d just arrived there, said I could climb up the first set of steps and take a couple of pictures. I somehow failed to tell him I’d been there a while so fell in with that suggestion before thanking all these gun toting young men and made good my escape. It was a shame I couldn’t explore properly though as this is quite a spectacular place, as temples go. There’s twenty three of them, leading ever further up the mountainside. During the eruption of 1963 the lava flow only missed the complex by a few metres, which was considered a real miracle by the locals and a significant message from the spirits which occupy Mount Agung. You and I would probably just call it good luck.
Climbing further up into the hills, on permitted roads this time, I went to the Batur Lake viewpoint. A very busy place by contrast, crowded with school kids on a day out. The view is spectacular, looking right across the lake to Mount Batur, with its double caldera. It too is active. Last erupting in 2000. Despite the risk, there are four villages beneath it, enjoying the benefit of the super fertile soil and taking advantage of the tourist industry too. Sadly it was far too hazy for decent photos. Then, it was back down the mountain road, along the coast for a bit, then up into the hills again. Good riding, quiet roads and great scenery. The rain holding off too. I like this life on days like these.
My last port of call for the day was Taman Tirta Gangga. The name means ‘Water From the Ganges’, with an obvious cultural significance for Balinese Hindus. It was built in 1948 by the local Rajah, whose name was Anak Agung Agung Anglurah Ketut Karangasem. I know full well that you’ve read all the way through this blog post just to enjoy reading that name. This large complex, proudly rebuilt since its almost total destruction in the Mount Agung eruption of 1963, is a peaceful haven of fountains, ponds, plants and statues. There’s a pool in which to swim and the main pond has a network of stepping stones in it so you can get nice and close to the fish and fountains, if you want to. The main feature is an eleven tiered fountain, reminding me of a watery wedding cake, possibly suiting a king with almost as many names. I wandered around the many paths, just enjoying the ambience as the afternoon drew towards evening. The complex includes an expensive looking hotel, which may have been the former palace.
Such places are too rich for my pocket so I tried one of the homestays opposite the entrance, and found an excellent place. So nice, in fact, that I spent three nights there. Homestays are a great way of getting cheap accommodation and they’re invariably of good quality. Most of the time you’ll be in a small building of your own, with one or maybe two double beds and en suite bathroom. Usually with free wi-fi and also air conditioning. They don’t often have hot showers but that really doesn’t matter in such a warm climate. The price will reflect where it is and what’s nearby. This one was set in some beautiful gardens, clearly the pride and joy of the family that owned it, and the property included a nice, and cheap, warung. All this for RP100,000 – less than six GBP. A couple of times I’ve arrived at places later than intended and have had to search around for accommodation. The mapping apps on my phone can be very helpful here but can’t always be relied on. I’ve found myself knocking on the door of private houses sometimes, believing them to be guesthouses. Very embarrassing. But I’ve always been lucky in finding a place to stay at a reasonable price – so far.
A couple of days in this relaxing place enabled me to catch up on some writing and to enjoy a walk up in the hills, where rice paddies abound, alongside various other crops. The area is very fertile and well watered, and it shows. When on the bike, heading from one place to another, I rarely have reason to wander ‘off piste’. But while out walking I went down some of the back roads and was surprised to find how much activity there is around and about. Very small settlements of maybe a dozen houses but usually a shop and a tiny warung in among them. The shop would mostly be for the very essential cigarettes and also packeted junk food for the kids. I’ve honestly never been in a part of the world where the men smoke so much. It was very rare to see a woman smoking in public though.
After that relaxing sojourn it was time to get back on the tourist trail. I headed back down to the coast, now noticing several signs at various junctions warning of the Mount Agung exclusion zone. After a while I saw a sign telling of a waterfall so I thought I’d take a look. Pulling into the parking area I saw a couple of western guys there so I got chatting with them. Blue and Jimmy are both American but have lived in Bali for many years. I didn’t get to discover Blue’s back story but Jimmy told me he came here in 1991 and got involved in property development down in Semingyak. When he started building down there that hell hole of traffic and tourists was just paddy fields, he told me. He married a Balinese woman and now spends his time between Bali and Aspen, Colorado. He said he’s become fed up with the States, with all the friction between people, and that it’s become a dreadful place. They both told me the waterfall wasn’t really worth the thirty minute walk to see it and recommended another one, a short distance away, called Sekumpul. Twin falls, very spectacular. So I left there and headed off.
Now here’s one of those bike riding stories which always make me feel a bit foolish. Ever since Timor Leste I’d had a problem with my rear brake slowly applying itself until it stopped the bike – which is its job, after all. At first I thought it was a problem with a sticking valve in the master cylinder but eventually I realised it was the adjuster bolt for the brake pedal. It had lost its lock nut and was slowly winding itself out, thereby taking up the slack and eventually pushing the brake on. I’d replaced the adjuster nut but a couple of days previously had made an adjustment to the brake and had undone a retaining clip in the process. I’d obviously forgotten to replace the clip because when I’d had a look at it up at the waterfall car park, wondering why I had no back brake at all, I realised the pushrod that links the brake pedal to the cylinder wasn’t there. Well, that would explain the total absence of rear braking effect then. This was going to require some new parts and at the second bike repair shop I tried, the guy there had some new brake cylinders, which come with the pushrod included. Unfortunately he didn’t have one that fitted my rather obscure make of bike so in the end he took the pushrod from a new cylinder and we jury rigged it to fit. It works perfectly, and all for the princely sum of 4 GBP. Wonderful!
Much better now though. And with a helpful shop owner to thank.
Sekumpul waterfalls were as amazing as I’d been promised even though getting to them was a bit of an endurance test. I was directed into a car park, even though I could see there was a road going further towards them. “For locals only,” I was told. But, spookily, someone would take me down there, for a fee, on their scooter. I don’t play that game so I walked the 2kms down to the entrance, which had a perfectly good car park next to it, paid my fee and then went down what seemed to be endless steps to get to the bottom. I love to look at waterfalls. I just like the endless flow of water, which seems focussed on nothing more than falling over the cliff edge and foaming away downstream to who knows where. It’s both mesmerising and peaceful, despite the constant thunder of sound. I sometimes wonder what it’s all for but then realise it isn’t ‘for’ anything. It just ‘is’. Rivers carve up the land and one of the marks they leave as they go is a waterfall. Wonderful.
On the walk back towards those dreaded steps I was stopped by a group of lads for a chat. We talked for 10-15 minutes, with one of them videoing it all, probably as proof for their teacher, and many selfies were taken. They decided to accompany me back up the steps, which worked out well because they had scooters parked at the top and one of them gave me a lift back up to my bike. That saved me a long walk. Thanks lads, it’s always good to talk.
That evening was one of those where I had to wander around, from place to place, to find a room. Too expensive, full up or not open was the story until I finally found a hotel where I got an economy room. ‘Economy’ meant there was no shower, just a tank of water with a scoop, no bed covering and the wi-fi signal didn’t quite reach the room. Being a Friday the only place I could find open nearby was the Indonesian version of KFC, Jaya Fried Chicken. In Sanskrit ‘Jaya’ means ‘Victory’. Yes, it was just as bad as KFC but at least it was food.
The village of Candikuning is supposed to be some kind of special place. It’s nicely situated by a lake up in the hills, and spreads itself up the hillside, but the only thing to see of any note, apart from expensive looking restaurants, was the Botanic Gardens. And these were very nice indeed. The wide road up through the middle had some striking statues along it, based on Hindu legend, I’m guessing. I liked the giant ferns and the walk through the bamboo forest, but my favourite was the cactus house. There was a huge variety of types and sizes, some of which I would never have identified as cactus had they not been labelled. They were all set out in a very attractive way too.
Another local homestay that night, but this time with the free addition of two mosques nearby. I only mention them because the Muezzin seemed to be in competition with each other as to who can shout the loudest, and they were at it for over an hour. It seemed that the call to prayer had been extended to actually broadcasting the whole service over the loudspeakers. These things become normal background noise after you’ve been in a Muslim country for a while but even so, I was hoping they wouldn’t be quite so enthusiastic for the morning call at 4am.
The threatening rain didn’t appear as I headed back to the coast, aiming for temple complex of Uluwatu. Perched high on a cliff top, it had several Hindu temples and shrines, dating from the 11th century, located among nice gardens and walkways. Jimmy had opined that these temples are just piles of rock unless a ceremony is going on. This place brought that home to me as none of them were accessible. An unspectacular place in a spectacular cliff top location. What a shame. More interesting were the Macaque monkeys, especially one little beggar. He was on the ground so I stopped to take a photo. The clever little monkey promptly snatched my water bottle out of my hand and scampered up a nearby tree. It seems they do this hoping to get fruit off their victim, at which point they will give up what they took. This bartering system is a behaviour they’ve learned and is passed down through the generations. I didn’t know the rules so I just picked up a stone and threatened him with it. He snarled at me and I snarled back at him and eventually he dropped the bottle. Then after a bit more snarling he moved off and I retrieved my water. Geoff 1 – 0 Monkey.
On the recommendation of some people I met in the car park, I headed to a nearby backpacker hostel, where there were some English people staying. It was nice to be able to have a chat for a change. Being back in the tourist area the hostel was not all that cheap but when the young Balinese guy in charge learned about my travels he gave me RP20k back “because you’re so cool.”. I didn’t mind that at all.
As I walked down to the main road to get some food I passed by some kind of event taking place in a field. On closer inspection it turned out to be a cock fighting arena. Now rightly banned in the western world, it still seems to be legal here to the extent that the arenas are marked on mapping apps. Curiosity got the better of me and one of the guys near the fence said to come on in, so I did. It’s not at all a pretty sight, as you can imagine. The cockerels have a huge metal spur on their foot and wear a hood until the fight starts. There’s lots of betting of course. After all, that’s really what it’s all about. The owners squat on the edge of a square showing off their birds to the crowd. They stand up and walk around a bit, then squat back down again, then repeat. All to get the crowd going. It reminded me of nothing more than two posturing sumo wrestlers, although much slimmer and with no salt throwing. Eventually the hoods were removed and the fight began, with the two birds charging each other. In a flurry of screeching and feathers, it was all over within ten seconds. I didn’t see the coup de grace as someone got in the way, and I think I’m quite glad about it. Raising animals purely for the purpose of fighting is an appalling thing to do, it must be said, but I make no apologies for having a look. I left to continue my walk to the warung where I was careful to select a seafood dish.
My final temple visit was to Tanah Lot, the best known down in that area. This temple, Uluwatu and five others all form a chain along the south west coast. Each one is within sight of its neighbour although I don’t know whether there’s a particular reason for this. They’re all influenced by ancient Balinese culture as well as Hinduism. The rocky coastline makes a dramatic setting for the two temples here. One was built on a promontory of rock which has an arch through it where the sea ebbs and flows. That one was closed for safety reasons. The bigger one sits on a small rocky island, only accessible when the tide is at least partly out. Getting to them from the car park involves a walk through a maze of souvenir shops, selling all the usual tourist tempting rubbish. As usual, I was amazed by how all the clothes shops sell the same clothes, the trinket shops all the same trinkets etc. What is the point?
Down on the beach I walked across to the temple rock, went through the ritual hand and face washing in holy water you’re encouraged to do before entering some of these temples (for a small donation, of course), then found it to be closed. I wasn’t impressed. It had been Diwali that weekend, which may have had something to do with it, or it may have been for safety reasons. But I don’t know. So I had a walk along the rocky beach and took photos. There wasn’t much else to do really. I fancied taking some sunset pictures from the cliff above, where there was a long row of cafés and eateries, all overlooking the sea and situated there for that purpose. I got some tea and waited around until the sun set behind the clouds and disappeared over the horizon which I couldn’t see. Don’t get me wrong, it’s a lovely place, but I definitely came away disappointed.
Before going to the temple I’d found a nice homestay in a nearby village and decided to spend a couple of nights there, needing to make some plans. I’d pretty much seen all I wanted to in Bali and was going to Java next. I must admit to usually feeling a bit nervous before heading off to a new place. Even though it’s only a short ferry ride away, Java is very different to Bali and I wanted to feel prepared. The homestay owner, Kutan, put my bike in his garage where I spotted that he had his own collection of bikes, some of them clearly classics. Something to investigate tomorrow, was my thought. He gave me a lift down to a place called the Fat Hog, right next to the beach. Run by an Aussie/Indonesian couple, it had only just opened and was catering to the tourist trade. Prior to this they’d bought and sold land (that sounded familiar) but now wanted a steady income. The ambience was nice and the food was good so provided there’s no volcanic eruption I’m sure they’ll do well.
One of Kutan’s neighbours, a guy named Gapi, called round. He speaks very good English and is training to be a tour guide. We got on very well so decided to go back to the Fat Hog that evening. That was handy because he could give me a lift. It’s a bit of a walk down to there. Joking aside, it made a pleasant change to spend an evening in somebody else’s company and it was very enjoyable.
Before I left next morning I had a look at Kutan’s bike collection. He seems to like obscure European two stokes, the makes of which I can’t remember, and he also had a nicely customised small Honda, in a bright yellow. But the strangest of his machines was a trike, which had begun life as a scooter but which now had two more engine/rear wheel units added to it, one each side of the original. It must have been very strange to ride, especially with three rear wheels and three engines. I can honestly say I’ve never seen anything quite like it. The picture tells the story and it does look very neat. He said he’s a member of a club which takes part in vehicle parades.
Time to go, so I headed west along the south side of the island, a route renowned for its heavy traffic because it goes from Denpasar to the Java ferry. To avoid all that hassle I’d planned to ride north, across the island to the other coast, reckoned to be a much quieter road. And it all worked out well, despite the extremely heavy tropical rain I encountered as I crossed the mountains. But that didn’t worry me at all as I’d been enjoying the ride and continued to do so once I came down out of the rain clouds. Once down on the coast the main job was finding a place to stay, which I did after a couple of false starts.
Most hotels and homestays supply breakfast of some kind. Maybe just toast, perhaps a banana pancake or an omelette. This place did me proud with loads of fruit, a pancake and a doughnut too. It’s a great way to start the day. It had rained hard last night but the morning was warm and breezy, and the road was good. As I neared the port I stopped at a store and got chatting to a guy who worked for the tourist board. I’d had a question in my mind for a while, about Borneo and whether I could cross over from the Indonesian to the Malayan side of the island but then, most importantly, whether I could cross back again. I’d heard some stories about it not being too easy to get an Indonesian visa at that border. He assured me there would be no problem at all, so I headed off to the ferry feeling very relieved that my plans for the next few weeks were going to work out.
The ferry between Bali and Java is both fast and cheap and before long I was on the sixth island of my visit to the Indonesian archipelago. There’s about 13,600 of them altogether so there’s a few to go yet.
Reflections on Bali? It’s a beautiful place and is ideal for the western visitor because of the relaxed culture. Most people speak at least some English and there’s no issues surrounding the purchase of alcohol. Nice as it is, I do find Ubud somewhat hedonistic, but that’s what visitors want so that’s what they get. There is something special about it, as witnessed by the many European artists who’ve made Ubud their home. Denpasar is just hell and the nearby beaches are just tourist traps. It’s far better to go along the coast and find the quiet, secluded beaches, of which there’s plenty. Up in the hills lies as much natural beauty as you could ever want. I’d enjoyed my self very much.