Thursday, February 26, 2009

Bali (continued)

FYI - pics are posted on facebook, have had issues getting them up on the blog, sorry!

Feb 19
Slept a little later than I was hoping to, but found just enough time to squeeze in some pineapple pancakes before I left the bungalow, and they were great! I had to run to the boat dock so I did not miss my boat back to Gili T (I ended up soaked in sweat b/c it was hot and my shoes were all wet with lake funk b/c the lake had flooded the trail and I had to wade through it b/c I didn't have time to go around). Once back on Gili T, I talk to my ping-pong friends to see if they can help me get a deal on the expensive speedboat back to Bali (1.5 hours versus about 6-7 hours). They were able to help me out and got me a $40 vs $60 fare, def worth the price of the tee shirt I gave up the day before. On the speedboat, we have dolphins swimming along with the boat, pretty cool!

Thoughts on Gili T:
- tropical paradise
- friendly people
- good nightlife
- secluded beaches and beachfront bungalows on Gili Meno
- very inexpensive

I get back to Bali on the speedboat, and jump back on my moto. I first explore a bat cave Temple which is interesting, then I head up through the village of Sideman with spectacular cascading rice fields everywhere, beautiful. I then drive around the peninsula through Amed - this drive ends up being on a very narrow road which was very windy and not in the best condition. The drive took considerably longer than expected, but was very pretty. Along the way, as I pass through villages all the kids yell HELLO to me and the boys want to slap me was like I was a celebrity - pretty funny but once again enjoying the great sense of happiness and friendliness of the Balinese people. I finally get around to Amed, and it is 5pm so I debate staying the night or moving on. I decide to go for it b/c I don't want to lose a day of travelling, but have a long way to go to get to the base of the Batur Volcano. I push hard and fast up the north coast, enjoying some great views. I then turn south and start to head up into the mountains with the sun setting, when I reach the top I am rewarded with a spectacular sunset!! Beautiful! Once the sun fully sets, true misery sets in. I have been on the moto for 6-7 hours, with rain through most of the day, and now the sun is down and it is very cold in the mountains, still raining some, and extremely misty providing terrible visibility on the moto. I am too close now to give up, throw on all the dry clothes I have with me (not many as I have is my small day pack), and push on. I finally arrive in the town close to 8:30pm, wiped out and cold, so I reward myself with a hot water shower room. I meet some of the local trekking guides, don't have the energy so shop around for prices, so I just negotiate hard with the dreaded HPPG trekking agency and book a trip for $30 for the long hike and breakfast on the top. I grab a quick dinner then enjoy a hot shower before hitting the sack.

Feb 20
I wake up at 3:30am to hike the Batur volcano and watch the sunrise. I am very tired but happy to get going, using a torch/flashlight to lead us up the mountain. Just 3 in the group plus the guide. It is looking to be a clear morning and starting to get some great views as we hike up the steep section of the red lava rock from previous eruptions. I push fast to the top, and am rewarded with spectacular views of the sun rising over the Agung Volcano and Batur lake, magnificent and powerful. The views are amazing, and I can see Lombok and beaches on the south side of Bali, very lucky to have such a clear and dry day in the rainy season. We enjoy the views, and then enjoy hard boiled eggs (that were cooked in the steam of the volcano) and a banana sandwich (a first but pretty good as I was very hungry from the trek up).The eggs take about 15 min to cook in the steam. It is very cold and windy up top and can see my breath. We continue our hike, and see hot steam rising everywhere along the top crater. While hiking around the top of the crater, we pass a section that the path is only ~2 feet wide, with huge drop offs on both sides. The woman in our group crawls across it, funny. After looping around the volcano, we head down and have this cool section of the "black lava slide." This is a section where the black lava sand is very fine and deep (like beach sand), and you leap your way down it like you are skiing, pretty fun. Our guide Bigong was great throughout the day, very enjoyable. Once we get back from the hike, I head out to the cultural center of Ubud. I get a room for $3.50, then visit a local market. I eat a late lunch at the famous Warung Iba Oku, specializing in the Balinese style roasted suckling pig. I then check out the town, and head to a Jegog (Bamboo Gamelon) show in nearby Bentuyung Village. The sound from the bamboo was amazing, the drummers were excellent, and the dancers were very skilled with amazing head, eye and hand movement. I really enjoy the show. I grab dinner at Norad, where they start you off with a flower in your ear and deliver an excellent meal. The reputation for food in Ubud is very high, and it is living up to it so far. When I get back to my room, there is a huge 3" long cockroach in my room...I think I will upgrade if I stay another night!

Here are a few stories I have forgotten about:
When in Cambodia at the Chinese New Years celebration, my lips were chapped from the bright sun, so I pulled out my chap stick and applied. Everyone started cracking up b/c men probably don't put anything on their lips (they probably thought it was lipstick). Note to self - no more chap stick applications in front of locals.
When in Chaing Mai, at the market with the cooking school, one of the Westerners in the class had gotten some star fruit and offered it up to all of us. I had a small piece (since it was a peeled fruit figured it would be ok) - bad idea!~ My throat started itching immediately. I got some water to ease the itching, and then my throat started closing up, making it difficult to talk. This is bad, I am thinking I am heading to a Thai hospital soon. After about 15 min, it eases up and I am ok. Phew! Note to self - no more weird fruit we don't have in the U.S.

Let me also tell you about driving the moto in Bali:
- there are no street signs
- there are way too many motos for the size of the roads
- 2 way streets are typically more narrow than a 1 way street in the U.S.
- I would normally fill up my gas from a street side stand, pouring gas from Absolute bottles.
- dogs believe they own the road, they do not move for anything (saw one get hit, many gave me a heart attack as I was driving by and they just run or walk into the road)
- speaking of dogs, I saw a guy on a moto with 2 dogs, impressive
- families normally use moto to get around, it is typical to see a mom, dad and 2 kids on one moto.
- merging lanes or streets on the moto is very scary, you just have to go for it and trust that others won't hit you

Feb 21
Today is a sad day, as my trip is half over and I am heading downhill now - bummer. 2 months is just not enough time to travel, I think 4 months would have been better! I enjoyed a great breakfast at a restaurant named Casa, then visited the Ubud Palace. Next I left for the Monkey Forest Sanctuary/Temple. I was very cautious of all the monkeys after my experience at Ulu Watu, but soon realized that these monkeys all seemed much nicer and less aggressive. I loved watching the monkeys, and did it for 3 hours, watching them play, fight, jump in a pond, race to fallen branches and fight over who got it and watched baby monkeys try to climb a tree for the first time - very cool! My foot is now at 80%, which is good, walking with shoes is much more comfortable. I drove through a few of the villages around Ubud, and stopped into some wood making shops to check out their cool wood products. It starts to rain, so I eat lunch at the much-hyped Indus, which had amazing river views but not very good food. The rain continued, so I stopped into Eve Spa and got a tremendous 2 hour traditional Mandi Lulur Javanese massage for $13. It included a 1 hour massage, exfoliating body scrub, yogurt covering to eliminate toxins and wrapped up with a flagrant blossom bath - pure relaxation! I then got a $3 haircut which included 15 min of shoulder/neck massage. While picking up my laundry that evening, I meet a local guy who is very helpful, finds me good lodging ($4.25 including breakfast at a homestay - staying in a room in a local persons complex), and we decide to meet up later in the evening. I head up to the Ubud Royal Palace for a Legong (traditional) Balinese dance show, and it is tremendous. I meet up with the local guy I met earlier and we go to a bar with a live local band cranking out cover tunes - fun times. On the moto ride home, there are tons of stray dogs in the streets running around, weird.

Feb 22
I enjoy a good free breakfast from the homestay, which included eggs, fruit and toast. It is raining again, so I decide to kill time with another [and my last cheap] massage at Eve Spa. This time I get a 1.5 hour massage, mud body mask and spice bath - best massage I have ever gotten, all for $13 - I will miss Bali! I stop at a local market and buy a really nice canvas painting, eat at a warung (Balinese cafe) for $1.25, then drive back to Seminyak (it finally stopped raining!). I meet up with Chun, clean up, then we head to KuDeTa for a drink on the beach watching the sun set, grab dinner and off to the airport where I catch the red-eye flight to Darwin, Australia.

Thoughts on Bali:
- very inexpensive
- magical
- friendliest people I have ever encountered travelling
- terrific, cheap restaurants
- amazing culture
- great, cheap spa's
- love it, miss it like crazy, want to go back!!


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