Beautiful Bountiful Bali
Endlessly Festive Bali
Time Travel in Bali
We flew into Bali around midnight only to find that a whole string of flights had arrived at the same time and there were huge queues at all the immigration desks to slowly process visas on arrival which cost $25 US each, so it was around 1 am when we finally caught a taxi to Kuta without any hotel reservation. The driver promptly tried to find us one he might get a tout fare from to no avail below 500,000 rupiahs, because it is the high season here, so after some debate we got him to drop us off in Gang Surga a little connecting lane between Poppies lanes 1 and 2 right in the centre of the losmen district.
Although the places were mostly full in the high season, within one minute and 20 metres, I was lucky enough to score the last free room in Rita's House, the first placed I came to, a reasonably priced (200,000 a night at 8,600 = $1 US) long-standing place, complete with air-con and an insane high-sided swimming pool that took out the entire ground floor foyer area, which no one seemed to be using. This was a great piece of good fortune, because otherwise we might have been wandering the lanes of Kuta all night, except that I did see one or tow other more remote places tucked away next day.
Kuta is still surprisingly unspoiled with a beach relatively clear of the maddening beach umbrellas that clutter beaches from Portugal to Phuket. Poppies lanes 1 and 2 are also still reasonably funky side lanes stocked with small restaurants, mini markets, internet cafes and travel shops with still some of the original third world charm of its first beginning.
Two panoramas of Kuta's still unspoiled appearance (compare with 1974)
From Kuta, we took a shuttle bus at 1.30 to Ubud after waiting 40 minutes for it to pick other people up from different parts of town. The ride was full of traffic, and fumes of two-strokes and diesels until the road began to enter the countryside north of Denpassar. Along the way was a profusion of roadside sculpture markets featuring the Hindu deities, Buddhas and other mythological and fantastic creatures. Eventually it wound upward and into the forests and rice paddies that are signature of the Ubud area.
Almost immediately we arrived in Ubud a Balinese guy called Ari appeared to invite us into a traditional Balinese family compound only 20 metres away, Argosoka Bungalows, for 180,000 R a night, complete with family shrines and offerings at sunset, only half the price of the place the bus took us to, with the only distinction of having another of those dubious swimming pools.
This placed us down the lower end of Monkey Forest Road, just above the Monkey Forest itself, whose indomitable cheeky primates, forest shrines and Indiana-Jones-like temple of the dead we visited on the first evening. The restaurants, although looking pricey, offered mains for 20,000 upwards - about $2.50 US.
Next day we had to secure a bus back to Kuta for the departure two days later which proved a problem because buses to the airport left only at 10.30 - too late to be sure of our 12.55 departure on Air Asia for Singapore, so I stumped a mile or so to the Perama shuttle office and scored a pick up at 8 am for the 8.30 bus to Kuta.
This proved to be a godsend because we had left Rohan's very special international adapter plug - the best design we have ever seen - on the hotel bed in Kuta and after phoning them the next day to tell them to check if it was still there, I managed to stump across Kuta as well when we reached there on our departure day to retrieve it.
There is a thing here which is notable about cellphone global roaming. Many countries have multiple networks and your cell phone can easily latch on to a network that won't actually service your texts or calls. It was only after Christine's phone found a different network that I realized why I couldn't initially get through to the Kuta hotel and why many Latin American countries may have not worked.
After that we wandered up Monkey Forest Road to the main intersection and looked at the market, the Ubud royal palace which houses a temple Puri Saren Agung and two Ubud temples Pura Desa Ubud the main temple for the Ubud community and Pura Taman Saraswati dedicated to Dewi Saraswati the goddess of wisdom and the arts clearly blessing Ubud as an artistic and cultural centre.
For Balinese religion see the next blog ...
We also got the notion to get a hire car next day, although all the places seemed booked up. I had been bitterly complaining that we should get a rental motor bike, as we did and traversed the island back in 1973, which Christine adamantly resisted saying I would fall off and where would we put the crutches but a car proved to get us much further afield than the two of us would have been able to this time on a small bike. Anyway first thing in the morning I asked Ari and he immediately arranged a rental jeep from the shop owner two doors along for 120,000 for the day - not bad compared with a 100 cc bike for 50,000!
Next morning we set off up to the top of the big volcano at Kintamani, on to the temple complex of Besakih on the slopes of Mt. Agung the current most active volcano in Bali and back to Ubud in a circle, which is the subject of the next blog.
The day after this trip we returned to Kuta and caught the plane back out to Singapore.