Java, Part 1.

Probolingo, Java Timur. Thursday 19th October 2017.
I’ll state the obvious by saying that Java is very different to Bali! The first thing I noticed was a ‘proper’ truck. And by that I mean an articulated one, the first I’d seen since Australia. The second thing was that very little English is understood here, out in the countryside at least. I suppose I’d been spoiled by Bali in that respect, the knock on benefit of tourism. When I stopped for a cuppa I had to work hard to get my request understood, even in Indonesian. The road from the port was not in very good condition and was busy with trucks, which tended to hang about in gangs. But I was able to zip past them quite easily and once I’d overtaken the slow one at the front of the group I had a nice, empty road until I caught up with the next mob. Overtake, ride, repeat. The countryside was more open, with woodland containing mostly deciduous trees, as far as I could tell. Did an absence of rain forest signify an absence of rain? Only time would tell on that. Regardless, it was a very nice ride. Welcome to Java.
The town of Probolingo – these names are starting to sound more and more like those from Gulliver’s Travels – was only going to be an overnight stop. As I rode through town I spotted a sign saying ‘Housetel’. That was a new variation on the theme. I pulled in and found it to be closer to a motel than anything else, with two rows of six rooms facing each other across a covered parking area. And the room was cheap too.

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Both a house and a motel. A Housetel.

My first tourist visit was to be in Surabaya, the main city of East Java and a very busy port as well. It was, of course, another ‘hell on wheels’ kind of place, with endless traffic. On the way in I’d spotted a sign for a toll road but had ignored it. I pretty soon regretted that and the next time I saw one I headed to it. Massive fail! When I got to the toll booth it was made clear to me that motorcycles weren’t allowed on it and the official had to stop the traffic to get me across the lanes so I could get off again. It amused the truck drivers, if nothing else.

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From food stall to cigarette manufacturing. Mr and Mrs Sampoerna.

There is a cigarette factory in the city, which had come up high on the list of recommended places, and it sounded intriguing. The House Of Sampoerna began life as an orphanage in Dutch colonial times but was bought to house the factory at the beginning of the twentieth century. The building now only houses the museum and a small production facility for making special blends with no filter. Bigger factories are sited elsewhere. The business is now part of the Philip Morris empire but it began life as the brainchild of a Chinese immigrant. He had a small food stall but big ideas to go with it. Smoking had given him asthma and he found that medicating with cloves relieved the condition. So his big idea was to combine cloves with the tobacco, hoping that it would reduce the harmful effects. Kill and cure in the same packet. My museum guide, when I asked him, confirmed that it makes no difference health-wise, but people like the taste. Cloves are a local produce so there was always a plentiful supply. How did a poor immigrant manage to start a factory? The story goes that his wife had hidden some of the takings from the food stall in one of the bamboo supports so they had enough money to kick start the project and it grew. It remained a family business until Philip Morris bought it. There is a viewing area where I could watch the manufacturing process down below. Workers, mostly women, put the mix into a rolling machine, apply the paper and pull a handle to roll it. The mix can also contain sugar cane too. Their target is 325 per hour and they get a wage, then a bonus for beating it. The museum had all sorts of artefacts in it and it was all quite fascinating.

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Photography wasn’t allowed but I sneaked a photo of these ladies rolling up.

Now here I must mention a phenomenon that was both amusing and puzzling me. I was forever being asked to appear in selfies. Wherever I went, including at this factory, people wanted to take their photo with me. Young, old, male, female, it didn’t seem to matter. What was the reason? Was it being a westerner; my beard; my age; the bike; all of them? I couldn’t work it out. But as I travelled round I noticed a couple of large restaurants which advertised ‘selfie space’ and that was when the penny dropped. It wasn’t all that much to do with me really, it’s just the selfie craze that’s sweeping the world now. It’s bigger in Asia than anywhere else and I was just a more interesting subject that happened along. As I said, I didn’t mind it but I was glad that when I visited some of the tourist attractions there were other westerners there to help carry the load.

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Selfies and yet more selfies.

This large and busy city definitely had some features I hadn’t seen in Indonesia so far. A kebab shop, for one. Beggars for another. I was sitting at a street warung when a young lad came up to me holding a piece of wood with a piece of metal attached to the end. He clicked it a couple of times then held his hand out for money. I told him No! Another young guy came over holding a guitar. I waved him away before he’d even played a note. No aggression involved but different to previous experience. There was also a bit more edginess on these streets, with me getting some stares from people as I walked by.
Next morning, being in a double room, I was presented with two breakfasts. I was very good and ate only one before heading out of town nice and early. My eventual destination was the town of Batu and en route I called in to Malang to check out another Hindu temple, Candi Jago. Tucked away up a side street, it was quite unprepossessing if I’m honest. Built in the thirteenth century, none of the statues or carvings had survived. More enjoyable was the people I met. There was a crowd of school kids there, all sat up on the top level of the temple with their teacher trying to take a photo of them. I kept distracting them by waving at them but the teacher got his own back by bringing them over to where I was sitting and insisting on photos. I then got chatting to a couple of young students, both of them with good English, about their life there and their ambitions. They’ve both just graduated and hope to go abroad to study further. A pleasant little interlude, despite the disappointing temple, although the students did direct me to a much better one, in a nearby village.

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Distracting the schoolkids.

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Articulate and friendly students, especially the young woman.

Heading into Batu I found lots of road closures and as I was riding up a dual carriageway there was some kind of parade coming down the other way. I stopped for a look. Lots of dressing up and dancing, with some miming and pretending. Fun to watch but I had no idea what it was about. There was clearly something going on in town that weekend because there were coaches everywhere and nary a cheap bed to be found. I ended up in an expensive hotel, chosen for its proximity to the two places I wanted to visit.

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She looks as puzzled as I was about the dance and the parade.

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One man pretends to be three. Nope, I don’t know why either.

The first of these was the Batu Secret Zoo. A strange name, with no obvious reason for it. There is, quite rightly, lots of discussion about zoos and their role in conservation juxtaposed with animal cruelty. I’m a fairly neutral non-expert on the subject but I enjoyed this one very much. There were lots of primates, many of which were completely new to me. The focus was more on Asia than anywhere else, which wasn’t surprising really, but there were some African mammals too. Giraffes are incredible animals to see, and always look so elegant. There were a couple of elephants, with people having fun feeding them carrots. Watching those trunks at work is an amazing sight. I had to feel sorry for the smaller of the two, who struggled to reach across the barrier. There were various tigers too, including a rare White Tiger. All of the animals looked content except for one of the bears, which paced up and down continuously. There was a museum section with plenty of stuffed animals set up in tableau form and, best of all, a section with butterflies in it. Many of them were very big and some were truly beautiful. I wasn’t too impressed with the aquarium but other than that, it was a great visit. Being a weekend though, and a special one too in some way, it was very busy indeed. What with the zoo’s method of forcing visitors to follow a specific route, I was feeling plenty of sympathy for the animals by the end of it.

Reaching over the barrier was hard.                             But worth the effort.

A rare White Tiger.                                                                  A Phasma Reinwardtii.

That took up the morning and the afternoon was spent at Angkut Museum. This place is part transport museum and part film heritage museum. I really enjoyed the display of cars and bikes, mostly British and American. It really is amazing how many bike manufacturers there were in Britain between the wars. Quite incredible. Lots of big American cars too, all nicely restored. Up on the roof they’d created a mock airport terminal, dating from the seventies by the look of it. You could go on board the plane and be welcomed by a stewardess. A bit twee really but I’m sure kids liked it. The second section was themed on some Hollywood movie scenes and also various places around the world, such as Las Vegas, Buckingham Palace and so on. The vehicles and other objects all matched the age and place and they also had performers recreating movie scenes and getting the crowd involved too. I discovered a small theatre focussed on silent movies and watched Charlie Chaplin’s Modern Times, a film I’d never seen all the way through before. The last section housed the Indonesian Heritage display where a guide latched on to me and insisted on explaining every single thing on display there. He was very knowledgeable and I took in as much as I could, but I think I’d rather have walked around on my own if I’m honest. The floating food area enabled me to eat well before walking back to my hotel after a very busy day.

MV aren’t usually associated with two strokes.                         A very nice Mk VIII Jaguar.

These two places surprised me somewhat. My experience of Indonesia up to now had been of beautiful countryside, very busy towns and cities, some natural beauty spots and a variety of old temples. Plenty of tourists around too but my perception of Indonesians hadn’t led me to think they were likely to be heading off to the zoo very often. They always seemed too busy trying to earn a living. But this view is a bit patronising really, so I was quite pleased to have my eyes opened to the fact that there’s plenty of disposable income around, just like anywhere else, and that people enjoy spending it.
Another day, another Hindu temple to visit, this time at Tenatara. Supposedly another building of note, I really wasn’t all that impressed and have reached the conclusion that Jimmy’s comments hold true. They are just piles of stone unless something is actually happening there, such as a festival or celebration. Then, the statues and buildings are splendidly decorated with flowers and costumes, as are the people attending. The nearby museum was more interesting, with its display of artefacts and statuery, but no words in English to tell me what they were about.
But at least the ride out to there was very enjoyable, with hills to ride around and small towns nestling in the valleys. It was great to be out of the traffic and the feeling of openness uplifted my spirits. I didn’t travel far before I came to a town where a suitable hotel could be found. Some good English spoken there, which always helps. Sometimes these places are surprisingly cheap although this one was a bit dearer by Indonesian standards. A whole £10 per night. Shock, horror! And that got me a double room with hot water and air conditioning. I often pay only half of that but the room would then be rather basic. I don’t mind that. I’ve spent enough nights in a tent to be able to appreciate having facilities, whatever they may be like. But they’ll usually have a squat toilet and, if there’s a shower, it will be cold. More often there will just be a tank of water and a scoop, which you use to throw the water over yourself. And this, to my surprise, I found to be very refreshing, although I’m glad I don’t have long hair to wash.
Food can be found at amazingly cheap prices. If you’re happy with a nasi or mie goreng (fried rice or noodles) then you can eat for less than IRP10,000. To put that in perspective, if I then went to an Indomaret (convenience store) and bought a Magnum, it would cost more than the meal, at around IRP14,000, but which is still less than £1 (about IRP17,500 to £1).

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Rio with his blinged up Yamaha Max scooter.

After I’d been out I got a message that someone wanted to see me. Down in the lobby was a guy named Rio, who runs a local biker’s club. I use the word ‘bikers’ advisedly as they all ride Yamaha Max scooters. I’m guessing the reception staff rang him, knowing he’d be interested in meeting this foreign tourist passing through. I went with him up to his house for coffee, and met his family. He wanted me to come and meet the other club members that evening but I could sense a long night ahead of me so I cried off, agreeing to meet again in the morning.
Rain, and lots of it, was what greeted me when I came down. But Rio and his crew had turned up anyway, so we chatted and drank coffee until the rain stopped. These guys take their scooters seriously, with lots of bling. They all fit loads of LED lights, all wired up to control units which enable them to ride along with the lights flashing away, or with different coloured LEDs wired up to the brake lights. I’d seen a couple of groups like this already, riding along looking like mobile Christmas decorations. Very showy but also good fun. Many of the young lads do similar things to their bikes, with anodised aluminium wheel rims or brake levers, just to look a bit more individual.

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the BILTAR crew. A lovely bunch of guys.

We went for brunch at a warung across the street, then we rode down to a memorial centre dedicated to President Sukarno. Very much revered in Indonesia, he was the first elected President following the declaration of Independence, on the 17th August 1945, immediately after the Japanese had left. His trade was that of architect and he managed to build a new country by uniting all the disparate groups, religions and tribes into a new nation. The Dutch, reluctant to let their former colony go, fought a rearguard action but by 1949 Sukarno had sent them packing using both diplomatic and military means.
Sukarno developed his nationalist ideas as a young man and worked with the Japanese invaders during the war so as to be allowed to spread them across the country. When the Japanese left he was ready to put his ideas into practice and was able to win the election. He focussed on secularism, education and unification. Indonesia’s motto is ‘United in Diversity’. But by 1967 he’d been pushed aside, with help from the western powers, who didn’t like his tolerance of communism. At that point, General Suharto took over. Sukarno was kept under house arrest until he died in 1970. Looking at Indonesia now it’s clear that his efforts to unite the different peoples have paid off. Although nominally a Muslim country, all cultures and religions seem to live happily side by side, as far as I can see, although I know there have been some terrorist incidents in recent years. It seems the ‘do it my way or else’ mobsters get everywhere. The museum was full of photos, paintings and other memorabilia. One of the paintings had those eyes which seem to follow you around. ‘Sukarno is still watching over you’ seemed to be the message.
That is just a potted history and there is, as ever, lots more info here: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sukarno

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Those eyes follow you around. Museum staff, using an unknown gesture.

The rain had stopped and it was time to go. I had originally planned to visit Gunung Kelud, an occasionally active volcano which had a steaming lake inside its caldera. But Rio said the path up to it would be impassable after the rain, so I got him to lead me out to the edge of town headed off down the line.
And then one of those chance meetings happened, which on the face of it are just an opportunity to say ‘hello’ to a fellow traveller but which actually provided me with a solution to a problem which had been aggravating me for a couple of weeks. I was just overtaking a truck when I noticed that the bike following it wasn’t a local scooter but a big BMW. I pulled over and so did he. Deon Hubach is an Aussie from Fremantle and he’s travelling pretty much the same route as me before he ships across to South Africa. We stopped for a cuppa, where the locals thought they were in selfie heaven. Two bearded westerners, plus big bikes, in one place was just too much for them to resist. As Deon was leaving I noticed he had a small case on his handlebars with his phone inside it. He said it’s waterproof and enables him to use his phone as a GPS while riding. Now that was just what I needed! The GPS I’d used for the last eight years had finally succumbed to the rain and the spare I’d brought with me was also faulty. I’d tried, but failed, to make one good one out of the two. Navigating through busy and confusing towns, or out to small villages to visit a temple, is extremely difficult without some kind of electronic aid. All I could do was to stop from time to time, dig my phone out and check whether I was on route or off it. A right royal pain in the behind. So when I got to a town for the evening I found a phone shop – all towns have dozens of them – and bought one. It’s been a real boon ever since. So thanks Deon, and well met. Deon is supporting a charity with his ride, and also has a blog. Details here: https://www.rideforchange.net/

The next day went like this. I reached the small town of Wonsori within two hours, to be my base while I visited two nearby sites. So first it was a recce to locate Goa Jambang, a cave accessed by winch. It’s at the bottom of a very large hole in the ground. Even with my newly available phone mapping, it took a deal of finding. But it was worth the effort because I was able to check they could include me on a tour next morning and also know that I wouldn’t get lost and miss out by being late. The next visit was to the Prambanam Hindu Temple in Jojakarta, the biggest city in the region. This was also a very big temple. Despite being ‘just another pile of rocks’ its sheer size meant it was impressive and the quality of the bas relief carvings was excellent. But I still sneakily thought that a bit of paint wouldn’t go amiss, just to relieve the endless gray. It was built in the 9th century and has three main buildings dedicated to Brahmin, Shiva and Ganesh. They are very tall and had smaller temples around them, with lots more around the edge of the site still undergoing restoration. The government is paying for this following recent earthquakes. A broadly Muslim administration paying to restore Hindu temples. They clearly live up to their motto in Indonesia.

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This place is definitely BIG.

Meanwhile the whole site was full of schoolkids, so selfie mania was rife. But this was one of those places where there were lots of other westerners around to share the load. It’s clear these kids are tasked with talking to westerners to practice their English. I was cornered by one group of nine to ten year old lads who asked me questions off a prepared script. They did very well except that their spokesman kept calling me Madam. ‘Not with this beard I’m not sonny’ was my immediate thought.

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Let’s be fair, that’s an impressive bit of temple building.

The riding had been good once more. I passed by plenty of pastoral activity, with field surrounded by low, dry stone walls, and a huge variety of different crops. The fields all seemed to be worked by had still. I saw very little by way of agricultural machinery anywhere on my travels. Plenty of wheelbarrows, hand tools and people wearing those conical Chinese hats. The little motorbikes would often be pulling small trailers containing plant, of both kinds. Rural Indonesia clearly still does it ‘old school’.

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Getting ready for the drop.

There was a large group of people gathered for the caving adventure next morning. After tea/coffee we all got kitted out in a harness and hard hat and were lowered, two at a time, down the side of an enormous hole in the ground. It was about 100 metres across, with almost vertical sides, and full of trees and undergrowth. At the bottom we all walked down a very steep and slippery slope into a large cave (Goa Jambung). Across the other side was a fast flowing, and cold looking, river. Close by that, up in the very high roof of the cave was another vertical hole, about ten metres across and surrounded by trees and vegetation. We waited around a while and eventually the sun came round to the point where it was shining down through the hole, creating a magical effect as it illuminated the mist laden air and shone onto the rocks below. It was quite something, and worth all the effort. A honeymooning Japanese couple had gone to the trouble of bringing down some very smart clothes, and a professional photographer, and were having some rather special wedding photographs taken. With that golden cascade of light as a backdrop, they must have looked terrific.

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This is what we came to see.

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What a terrific backdrop for a wedding photo.

As well as in the cave, the walls of the hole itself were covered in stalactites, lurking among the vegetation, and something to look at as we were hauled slowly back up. At the meeting place there was a lunch to be eaten and experiences to be shared. I’d been chatting to Kirsten, a very tall German woman, who was on a three week holiday, trying to cram in as much as she could. Most of the other visitors were western as well.

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Borobudur is another massive work of worship.

I now only had one more place to visit in this area and, with regard to temples, I’d saved the best until last. Borobudur is a another 9th century building, but is Buddhist rather than Hindu. At about 120 metres across, it is a huge building, consisting of six square levels, and then three circular ones. On the top is a circular dome surrounded by seventy two perforated stupas, each with a Buddha statue inside. There are a total of five hundred and four Buddha statues. The edifice is designed so that pilgrims follow a particular path up and around the various levels. On the way they will pass 2,672 bas relief panels, all linked to the various levels of enlightenment that a Buddhist will attempt to pass through before reaching Nirvana. The detail on these panels is amazing and I’m sure the stories are quite easy to follow for someone with the relevant knowledge.

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These very detailed panels have survived over 1,000 years.

Java was ruled by Britain from 1811 to 1816 and it was the Governor, Sir Thomas Raffles, who first began the re-discovery of the temple. There had been local stories about it and he decided to follow them up. It had been hidden by volcanic ash and jungle for centuries. Raffles did little other than reveal it to the world and it was the Dutch colonists who finally uncovered it in the mid 19th century. Since then it has undergone much restoration effort and is finally available in all its glory. UNESCO helped with advice and funds during this period and it is now on their list of World Heritage Sites. Once again, it was the Indonesian government that funded and organised most of the restoration and it is the single most visited site in the country, with 80% of visitors being Indonesian. I was very impressed by it. Guess what? Lots more information here:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Borobudur

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Some of the stupas that surround the dome, each with its own Buddha statue inside..

My next port of call was a port. Semerang, to be precise, up on Central Java’s north coast. From here various ferries departed for various islands and I wanted to get to Borneo, or Kalimantan, as the Indonesians name their part of it. My newly developed GPS system got straight there so I parked up and entered the bear pit. Firstly though, I should explain that there are various ferry companies operating out of here. My research had shown that ASDP Ferries (Indonesia Ferries) was the cheapest by a long way, at around IRP500,000, for the 24 hour crossing. This company runs the ferries that I’d used to island hop across Indonesia up to now. So I went looking for their ticket office. Today was Friday, the ferry was due to leave from a town called Kendal at 12.00 Saturday. So why was I at Semerang, 30kms away? Because Google maps didn’t show a ferry terminal at Kendal, which isn’t quite on the coast, nor a ferry route leaving there, so I guessed it actually left from Semerang. Was I right? I didn’t get the chance to find out.
As soon as I walked into the building I was leapt on by this man, a ticket ‘agent’, who immediately started quoting me prices for me and my bike. And I foolishly let myself get drawn in. IRP1,250 million for both, on a ferry that left at 16.00 Saturday. So, right day, wrong time and definitely the wrong price. So why on earth did I meekly hand over the money? I said to him I wanted ASDP ferry but he kept saying no, and telling me about this other one run by a company called DLU. He departed with my cash and eventually returned with a ticket, which gave the price as one million. While I’d been waiting I’d been thinking about it all and realised that I’d been a bit stupid so when he returned I queried everything. He told me to follow him back to the ferry ticket office, a short distance away in the town, and once we got there I made a real song and dance about the price, seeing an opportunity to cancel this deal and get the one I’d hoped for. So after some very assertive talk from me (otherwise known as shouting) I got a refund from the ferry and my money back from the agent. It was now chucking it down with rain and I didn’t have the heart to go back to the terminal to find ASDP. So I set off for Kendal to see if there really was a terminal there.
Once I’d found a hotel I went back onto the ASDP website and noticed they had a Facebook page. I sent them a message asking where this ferry actually left from and was surprised to get a reply, fairly late on a Friday evening. But that reply puzzled me even more because it said that the ferry left from a town called Jepara, 70kms east of Semerang. I double checked the information with them and it made some sense in explaining the lack of knowledge about the ASDP ferry at the Semerang terminal. So, with plans laid for an early start on my two and a half hour ride to Jepara next morning, I got an early night.
So did it all work out? Oh no, not a bit of it. I had a good ride to Jepara, getting there in plenty of time for the 12.00 departure. But I was in the wrong place once more. The only ASDP ferry that left from there went to one of the other islands. With the help of a local who spoke good English I found that my ferry did leave from Semerang but it was now far too late to catch it.

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I’d asked someone if women were treated equally, i.e. could they join the police force. It seems so.

A slower ride back to Semerang got me there soon after midday and I found a ticket agency by the bus terminal who said he would organise my ticket for the DLU ferry. That all went wrong because he quoted the wrong price for my size of bike and didn’t take enough money off me. By the time he’d come back and got more money from me he was too late to get the ticket as the office had closed. I was now faced with not even getting that ferry, and the next one was Monday. Angry and despondent, I headed to the port and, avoiding the lurking and surprised original agent, found a different one who said he could still get me on the boat even though it was, at gone 14.00, theoretically too late to load my bike. He quoted me 1.1 million, a slight saving on yesterday’s price. I followed him through the terminal, out to where the ferry was docked. He spoke to one of the officials, got the nod, and took me back inside, where he issued me a passenger ticket. What about the ticket for the bike? Back to see the same official, where money changed hands, including an extra 100k from me, and I was able to load my bike onto the boat. I was both relieved and extremely fed up. I’d reached the conclusion the ASDP ferry didn’t really exist, that it was just trick to annoy weary travellers. But the saga of the ferry hadn’t ended yet. But more on that in the next blog.

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The cheerful 2nd Officer gets Trixie tucked nicely away.

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Even the lowliest of rides are entitled to a bit of bling.

Beautiful Bali – Again.

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.

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The sign by the front door.

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.

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As yoga studios go, this beats the local leisure centre any day.

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.

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A super relaxing ambiance.

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.

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Who is the subject of this statue, in the middle of one of Ubud’s busy junctions? I’ve no idea, but I love it.

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.

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There’s always colourful shrines around.

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.

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Nancy and one of her dogs.

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.

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Last resting place before burial.

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.

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A calendar filled with auspicious dates for everyday life.

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.

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Taman Kertha Gosa Halls of Justice.

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.

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Behave, or else!

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Fantastical figures and an amazing cutural work of art.

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.

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I probably should have taken more notice of this sign. If only I knew what it said.

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.

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Just the start of the temple complex. There’s lots more behind it.

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.

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Oops, it’s the Rozzers. Note the utterly deserted streets behind them.

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.

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Volcano and lake at Mount Batur viewpoint.

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.

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Designed for peaceful enjoyment.

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Fit for a king.

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.

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A beautiful garden to look at while I worked.

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.

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It’s no wonder my brake didn’t work. Vital parts, gone AWOL.

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.

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Sekumpul waterfalls. Nature doing its thing.

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.

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I’ve no idea what this represents but it’s quite a sttaue!

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.

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Inside the amazing cactus house. Pretty prickly.

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.

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He snarled, I snarled better.

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.

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Getting the crowd worked up ready for the fight.

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?

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Dramatic setting, but no access.

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.

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Them main temple out on the rock. Another dramatic setting but …..

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.

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Two obscure European two strokes. Nicely restored and readynfor parading.

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.

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A novel but very strange thing to do, to my mind. But very well executed.

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.

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Marching down the street, with drums and gongs a-banging. Part of one of the many Balinean ceremonies.

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.

 

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Things you see, Pt 1. Going gardening.

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Things you see Pt 2. Getting a ride home from school.