CONTENTS. Because there are over 150 pages here you might like to select what you will and won't read. This list of each day's contents might help you decide. The blue (or are they grey?) letters indicates a hyperlink that will take you directly there.
Page 6. The Decision.
Day 1 – Tuesday. Page 8.
Going there and back before we start.
The real flight.
The Bali Agung Village, Seminyak.
Money Changing – Money Changers – Money Cheats.
A little shopping.
Day 2 – Wednesday. Page 19.
Finding old friends but missing some.
Rescuing a Damsel in Distress.
Day 3 – Thursday. Page 24.
‘Oleh oleh’, ‘Kado’ and ‘Pemberian’. (Gifts)
Finding old friends in Tuban.
First Massage and Bra Frenzy.
Hope Children's Home.
Denpasar – A shopping entrée.
Day 4 – Friday. Page 32.
Dewi and breakfast at the Cin Cin.
’Aussie, Aussie, Aussie – Oi, Oi, Oi!’
Lunch at KFC. Why do we abuse ourselves so?
Sammi and Sussi’s bar on Legian Beach.
The Indo National Restaurant.
Day 5 – Saturday. Page 40.
Mimi and Andrew.
To Candi Dasa with Made Dera via -.
Gianyar and the market.
Klungkung and the Hall of Justice.
Kusamba and the salt works.
Padang Bai – Peace and beauty.
The Candi Dasa Beach Hotel.
The Dutch Girls next door.
Day 6 – Sunday. Page 48.
Exploring Candi Dasa.
The colours of the pool, the beach, the ocean and the sky.
Day 7 – Monday. Page 55.
Ikat, Double Ikat and Lontars.
Ngurah the House Keeper.
The Grand Natia discovered.
Day 8 - Second Tuesday. Page 62.
The Blue Lagoon.
Through the surf in a Jukung.
Day 9 – Second Wednesday. Page 71.
To Amed with Komang, via –
Bug Bug and Komang’s home.
Ababi and the rice terraces.
Amed and the disappointment.
Back to Candi Dasa and the Grand Natia.
Day 10 – Second Thursday. Page 82.
The Candi Dasa headland.
The long power cord.
The Great Chuppa Chup Dry.
The Temple Ceremony.
Reflexology? No more!
The East Bali Poverty Project.
Day 11 – Second Friday. Page 93.
The Garbage Men.
The German Bakery.
The Taps and other Water Matters.
To Pacung with Sudi –
The Balinese Hindu God(s).
Ubud. The market and the Palace.
The Moon of Pejeng.
The Feast in the roadside Forest.
The Pacung Indah. Not a good start.
Up the hill to the Fuji Shop with Carol.
Day 12 – Second Saturday. Page 106
A Bemo to Bedugul.
The Markets and the Temples.
Day 13 – Second Sunday. Page 117.
Spices and Customs.
She returns to Bedugul with spices on Her mind.
I brush with the Law.
To Tuban via Sukawati !
The old Holiday Inn is now the Balihai Resort but Made made us welcome.
She is crook and I have the International Roast.
Good old Moonface.
Day 14 – Second Monday. Page 128.
She is better but I am not.
Day 15 – Third Tuesday. Page 130.
Old friends and some shopping.
Dinner at the Pantai.
Day 16 – Third Wednesday. Page 135.
Ni Made and Shayesta.
Mr and Mrs Pat. The Boss Man.
Day 17 – Third Thursday. Page 142.
The Montessori School.
Let the massages begin.
Cool in the pool.
The Pantai again.
Day 18 – Third Friday. Page 148.
Yes. It’s really gone without us. What now?
Pak Leo and Balifotografi.
Day 18 + 1 – Third Saturday. Page 156.
Made’s place – Dijon Deli – HOG’s and –
- Sanur after 20+ years.
The Bali Magic Night.
Day 18 + 2 – Third Sunday. Page 165.
The Bukit and the BIG statue.
The old boat builder at Jimbaran.
The Pantai once more.
Day 18 + 3 – Third Monday. Page 175.
The last day. Really?
The packing starts but there’s still more stuff - -
And there’s a bit more shopping too.
We have offended Made Sukarja, the 2IC of the Balihai.
My last minute shopping.
Last massages and the final distributions.
My second International Barbeque Night and Her first.
Farewells. The Airport and it really is over.
Day 18 + 4 – Fourth Tuesday. Page 185.
A Rushed Trip To Bali – the trip was intended to be from 8.04.03 to 26.04.03, but as it turned out it went to 29.04.03.
This is the personal diary of my (our) trip to Bali beginning on 8.4.03.
It is written firstly for my reminiscences as dotage further overtakes me and I am unable to continue to travel to my favourite destination.
Secondly it is written for our family in the hope that one day they might be lead to the same love of Bali and its people that we have developed over the past 25 years.
Thirdly it’s for friends if they want to know the whole story, not just the isolated fragments that will be relayed in the excitement of our return and in the innumerable times we will slip it into otherwise civil, normal and boring dinner chit chat. That’s of course if they can raise the patience to wade through it all.
Fourthly it is for the friends and acquaintances we have made in Bali over the years and also in this trip alone.
People, from the GM of our favourite hotel in Tuban, to the driver who took us to Amed and back to Candi Dasa without saying, ‘I could have told you so’ on the way back; . . .
People from a Forum friend in Lovina whom we did not get to see to Wayan, our favourite beach massage lady; . . .
From Carol who is a West Australian ex-pat working for 2 years at the Montessori school in Seminyak and who befriended us in Pacung, to the school children who engaged us in conversation on a Bemo to Bedugul; . . .
People, from Andrew who has an unbelievable home in Seminyak and who was introduced to us on the beach by a Dachshund named Mimi, to all the kids who smiled so broadly when I gave them a 20 cent Chuppa Chup.
It is the people who graciously complement the island who have won our hearts. I want to recognise their help and kindness at frequent times, their friendship and indeed their existence in some cases, particularly those who will never read this because they have no access to the internet and maybe don’t even know what it is.
Last but not least it is for the friends whom I have come to know on the Bali Travel Forum, a source of daily satisfaction to me as my constant contact with the isles of Paradise when home-bound. For me the Forum is also a supply of current and cogent information from travellers and ex-pats alike, frank open and honest as they see it, not subscribing to bribery or coercion to garnish the facts (and running the risk of a public ‘outing’ if they try). Those recently addicted to the Forum should not read this diary expecting the usual delightful and welcome ‘Just Back Report’ that is common on that resource.
This diary will tax your time and patience if you just want to find out the latest prices for boardies or the cost of Nasi Goreng at the Pantai Restaurant. If you want a little bit more, some descriptions of things that catch my wandering eye and my admittedly peculiar curiosity, then give it a try, but don’t feel discouraged if you have to give it up as a poor task. Those who are long time addicts of the Forum will know from ‘The Bali Story – 2000’ what to expect and can only blame themselves if they tackle it and fail the course.
And please don’t bother to berate me for writing it – I have tried to warn you, and as I’m berated daily by an expert (or two or three) you are not going to change me one little bit.
If you’ve got this far you just might be the type who’ll reach the end.
If you’re going to print this off, and that might be a good thing to do if the boss is wondering why you’re looking at the monitor for so long but don’t appear to be working, it’ll take nearly 12 pages just for ‘THE DECISION’ and ‘DAY 1’.
THE DECISION -
It had been nearly three years since our last trip to Bali.
I had raised it fairly often with Higher Authority , at first sort of jokingly but, as time went by, more and more seriously. At first the problem was work. Not mine. I don’t any more, well I don’t if I can avoid it because no-one pays me now so it’s only family and friends for whom I idle away a little bit my time. No, the problem was Higher Authority’s work. There were things she wanted to finish, ‘because there might not be funding for this position next year and then it won’t get done and it needs to be done’.
It’s the curse of workaholic Scots ancestry.
Then there was the unexpected announcement of our first grandchild, from No. 2 daughter whom I still thought of as being a teenage tomboy even though she was over 30.
Now Higher Authority (‘HA’ in future) wasn’t going to miss out on this. Grandmother for sure, and given half a chance, I thought, mother too.
Even my efforts to use this as an unarguable reason to go to Bali (Think of all the shopping you can do for the poor little beggar!) didn’t work.
Eventually, of course, this grandchild stuff got to be a bit tired as an excuse not to go. I began raising the issue of a trip more and more often and with greater determination. I think I almost made the grade when No.1 daughter announced that she had sat on the same toilet seat and was expecting also. Grand child No2 was just a continuation from then first.
Back to square 1.
HA’s work changed and became more frustrating than satisfying, stress set in with the frustration and a change of scene became more obviously required and became more urgent.
Being the ever considerate person that I am I struck again and excuses melted away. I came home from a short shopping excursion to be confronted with the latest package prices from four travel agents. None excited me or suited my secret plans. I said I would look into things and, as soon as her back was turned began my own enquiries.
Now I am not a shopper. Never have been, never will be. So when I get a price I don’t argue, I don’t go back, I move on. I’m hopeless at bargaining in Bali, as you might expect with an attitude like this. It soon became obvious that Golden Bali Travel in Adelaide had the best price for the open itinerary that I wanted, and they were prepared to talk to me and share their wide experiences about things beyond the square parameters of what they could sell me.
Now came the task of revealing my secret plans to HA. It could not be avoided. I was not a little stunned to find that a circumnavigation of the island was not out of the question, as long as there was at least 4 days for shopping in the south at the end! That very afternoon a trip in to the Golden Bali office was arranged and the fine details were soon worked out and a whole lot of other information traded with Putu Les whom we immediately warmed to. The cash from the sale of my ‘bike was withdrawn and passed over as payment for the trip.
This sealed HA’s fate.
With about a week to go organisation became panic (in my case at least) with Duty Free shopping to be done at my favourite camera store, well really with my favourite camera salesman who happens to work at Diamonds in Adelaide at the moment – and I hope he stays there for a deal longer. My odd requirements were ordered with a new camera for HA and things were looking good. As things came to mind they were done immediately so they would not be forgotten.
A quick search of the medical advice on the net soon showed that any injections we might have wanted would not be effective in this short time frame so we put those thoughts from our minds.
A list of gifts and friends sizes were recorded in HA’s new note book bought just for this purpose. Its sheer volume spoke of the need for those four shopping days.
Additional weight was arranged with Garuda as we were taking stuff for an orphanage, dry dog food for the Bali Street Animal Rescue organisation and spectacles directed our way by the Forum’s ‘Helen’ and collected by Rotary.
Too soon the time for departure came.
Too soon in terms of organisation that is, not in terms of our desire to go.
DAY 1 – TUESDAY.
Inevitably things were overlooked in the rush. I suffered right up to the time we turned into the airport car park and I realised that I had left all of my money at home. Thankfully it was only 5 minutes back home to find Max sleeping on top of the secret wallet and the bum bag. He soon realised that we had not forgotten him nor had we come back to pick him up. The final disgrace for me, however, was to get through all the airport procedures and be well into the unpacking of the Duty Free stuff and then to discover that the camera tripod was also at home.
Just as well HA had decided to take the mobile to Bali to run a daily, sometimes hourly, check-up on the grandies. A quick phone call to No.1 daughter, who raced home, picked it up and delivered it to the door. Trouble was I wasn’t allowed to go back to the door and had to wait for a kind Customs guy to clear it and deliver it to me.
Another trouble was that No.1 got a $42 fine for getting out of the car at the door to the airport building and handing the tripod to the Customs guy.
Then there was the call to board – and if it wasn’t with us now it wasn’t going!
GOING THERE - AND BACK - BEFORE WE ARRIVED.
Garuda flies Air Industrie 330’s which, at this time, did an anti clockwise loop, Denpasar/Adelaide/Melbourne. I always find the Adelaide to Melbourne trip an absolute bore. Inevitably, once you turn over the gulf waters and climb across the Adelaide Hills, the cloud sets in below and you can’t see any of the country side you’re flying over. I’m an inveterate watcher and to have only the interior of the aircraft was limiting to say the least.
Adding insult to injury is the fact that we have to pay for this one hour flight to Melbourne, then spend two and a half hours in the Melbourne airport, then fly for another hour back past Adelaide to start the real trip to Denpasar. It all adds four and a half hours (and perhaps a hundred bucks I’d rather spend with the people of Bali) to the flight.
Worst of all it takes away those four and a half hours from our time in Bali. This is better than the twelve and a half hours of flying time we once had with an alternative carrier but not the great deal we had when Garuda flew direct from Adelaide to Denpasar in 5 hours.
Ah, well, next time we go, after June sometime, we are promised the good old scheme will be in place again. Direct flights, scheduled at times which give us the maximum Bali time for our bucks.
THE REAL FLIGHT.
We were given seats 38 A and B, five or six rows from the aft galley on the port (left) side.
I had had mental debates with myself about which side of the aircraft we should ask for seats. There was a desire to see the roads and salt lakes I had seen on our previous flight from the port seats, but a competing desire to see what could be seen from the starboard side seats.
In the end I couldn’t make up my mind and left the decision to fate.
Fate put us in the port seats again, but fate also decided that it was going to be cloudy for most of the trip so I couldn’t see that intersection of red dirt roads in the middle of the Great Sandy Desert anyway.
The aircraft takes nearly 300 passengers. There were 22 in the aft section with us where there were over 100 seats. There were no more in the centre section I think. The front Business class section had about 10 occupants. Needless to say with these numbers the usual efficient service we have come to associate with the Garuda cabin staff was nothing short of superb on this trip.
We left the drizzle of Melbourne behind after a short delay to ‘re-stock supplies’. Now I wouldn’t want them to run out of Bintang on the way over but I can only think that supplies must have been terrible if they couldn’t provide for such a small number of passengers.
The cloud began to break up after a while and our first visible landmark was the bend of the River Murray at Morgan in South Australia just a little north of our original departure point in Adelaide.
Lunch arrived as Morgan departed astern. Chicken and rice with a spicy sauce, not a bristling sauce but one that just jabbed gently at the taste buds. The vegetables were fresh and crisp with Masterfoods French Vinaigrette dressing in one of those nifty little squeeze packs.
Yes ! !
Even the little crusty roll which was thoughtfully provided to mop up the juices and the sauce was beyond reproach even in this company.
Along with this, dare I tell, came a beautiful French white wine. If it means anything to you it was ‘Provingnance 2001 Vin de Pays de l’herault Blanc Illazach – France’. Now I only understand ‘blanc’ and ‘France’ but if I ever see any on the booze shop shelves I shall be very tempted to depart with cash. There was an identical vintage and provenance red which I found very easy to sweet talk the hostesses into giving me a taste of, but it was not in the same class as the white I didn’t think. Perhaps it should have been an Aussie white, even a South Aussie, but believe me I’m not complaining too much. I have to admit to two following glasses - just to make sure I wasn’t mistaken you understand.
For me sweets were a Crème Caramel. A little on the solid side and the sauce had been slopped over the Gladwrap covering. Tasty I will not deny, but not Her own Crème Caramel, I told her. (Brownie points accumulating here.)
Bega Cheddar cheese and Arnott’s cracker biscuits were nice to finish (with another glass of that white wine) but why do you need a Ph D or heritage linked to Hulk Hogan to get the bloody package open?
Creamer powder is not the same as milk, and again packaged as though it was not to be opened before Christmas, but the resulting tea was refreshing and fresh, not stewed. The wet tissue for cleaning up was also refreshing and a surprise as I never really believe the propaganda written on the labels of these things.
I can never resist the hope of a trip into the cockpit of anything I fly in. I think my best efforts have worked 3 or 4 times in a lifetime, and the global situation of terrorists and the bomb, both real and imagined, left little hope of any tactic working this trip. Never the less I took my map of Oz and a pen up to the front cabin crew and asked if they would take it to the Navigator and ask him to mark our current position with a big cross.
This was a bit unusual and I had to repeat the request before the attendant was convinced that I really wanted the Nav to scribble all over my new map.
Off it went and shortly back it came. Although I scrutinised it with mock intensity there was no mark to be seen.
I looked up and the guy was a few paces in front of me beckoning me forward.
Can this be real?
It certainly was. I was ushered through that security door and found the Captain and co-pilot navigator looking at me with big smiles. Introductions over I expressed the opinion that given circumstances I never really expected to be here. Were they concerned at all about my presence? No, was the reply, the crew said I was very old and weak and looked harmless!
Keep your mouth closed now, I thought to myself.
My gaze was directed to the central radar screen where a line recorded our track across the map and the names and co-ordinates of the flight waypoints were spelled out.
In the gloom I had to squint and then realised that the gloom was caused by newspapers and magazines propped up against all forward and front side windows to keep out the glare of the sun. Now when you’re sitting comfortably back there in your seat sipping on a Bintang or something, you think that there is someone steering the plane and watching where the damn thing is going.
Not so I’m afraid I must inform you.
These guys could jump out and you’d never know until the probable hard landing at Ngurah Rai Airport. ‘George’, or whoever he is these days, is no doubt capable of all the work necessary to keep us going, and there is probably a proximity radar or two to go beep, beep, beep when something else gets too close.
Perhaps if they were looking and saw something ahead they could not shift this behemoth quickly enough to avoid hitting anything close enough to see anyway.
With a couple of papers removed I could see enough to recognise our position and was quite pleased to find that my guess was not too far off the mark for distance along the track but we were further north than I’d really anticipated. The guys explained that they were trying to get as far out of a headwind that was strongest to the south.
My gaze was drawn to the space between their legs eventually, not for the reason some of my ne’er-do-well friends might claim, but to look at the array of stuff that I expected to see on the control yokes. Bless my soul, no control column! How do they point this thing if they need to? I pointed at the empty space and looked quizzical. The co-pilot pointed to a little knob between his right knee and the side of their ‘office’. It was a tiny little control stick, obviously with electric/electronic connections to the control surfaces. It was about a quarter of the size of the smallest stick I ever saw in the single seat gliders that I once flew. After about 10 minutes I thanked them and took my leave. I sincerely hope that by writing this I don’t cause them strife but I wouldn’t have missed the opportunity for the world, and their assessment was right, I was ‘safe’ at least.
The track we had followed had taken us over Alice Springs in the red centre of Australia and at this time we were heading a little north of Derby on the West Australian north-central coast, but towards which we would track more as we progressed. I reckoned that this course was perhaps 800 km north of the track we followed on our 2000 flight when we had followed a quite direct course straight over Broome on the coast.
Have you ever wondered why the toilet pans in aircraft are matte black on the inside?
It can only be to disguise the lack of cleanliness, if indeed such a state does ever exist.
You couldn’t see Mt Agung stuck on the side of the pan unless it started to erupt. One just hopes that the flushing system is efficient at the least – a fact that I’ve never been quite game enough to check with the seat up so I could see what actually happened.
Has anyone ever tried this?
Did you get sucked halfway into the orifice? – or sprayed with high pressure water fed by a vent into the tank which faced forward into the 550 Kph airflow outside?
These are cold and draughty places too, although the draught is never quite enough to give you any real confidence that you’re not going to take that distinctive odour with you. Even if you use the deodorant supplied in the little bottle, this itself has an odour of its own that will be easily identified if it stays with you.
We had been flying over quite solid cloud all the way so far, a fairly even, dappled, grey and white. Only once when I looked was there any change. This was when a great circular depression appeared with streamers of the cloud visibly pouring over the top edge into the abyss under the hole, just like a great gaseous waterfall. Then, as I watched a canyon collapsed from one edge of this hole and began to run parallel to our path for some minutes eventually linking into the wall of a similar but much larger crater in the cloud carpet.
North of Mount Olga we were at an altitude of 12,200 meters or 40,000 feet. Our airspeed was 774 kph or 476 miles per hour. We were 2 hours and 56 minutes out of Denpasar with the outside temperature of -56 degrees C. or -67 degrees F. (A good reason for those pilots not to jump out I thought with relief. The family jewels would be very brittle by the time they landed.) Our ETA (estimated time of arrival) was 3.28 pm Denpasar time.
The cabin video screen showed our little aircraft approaching Derby when a sudden break up of the cloud barrier allowed a glimpse of tiny red roads in a pattern that resembled the lines on my map around Camballin, just off the Northern Highway a little east of Derby near Mount Anderson. Now one of my mates will race for his atlas to see if this hill was named after him I bet.
What is there at Camballin I wonder?
Chances are there’s a pub!
It’s marked on the map as a little yellow square rather than the less significant and slightly smaller yellow circle. Although it seems to be only about 10 km from the Highway there is no sign of a direct track between the two points. The line of red dashes goes south east for perhaps more than 50 km before turning north to the highway over 30 km away. Why not a direct link by the short route? What hill or gully or wash-away bars the direct path? (Maybe the pattern of roads I am looking at below is not even near Camballin.)
Does anyone know about Camballin?
Perhaps my holidaying friend Di, travelling with Trevor to this region, will have an answer when she reads this. That’s if she reads this.
Too soon the clouds close over again and then quite quickly rise up beyond the horizon we can see from the plane, even beyond the tops of the little winglets on the wing tip.
Our sense of place in the world, land, sea and almost the sky is engulfed; lost in the mists of these clouds, just as it was as we approached and departed from rainy Melbourne hours ago. I’m frustrated with curiosity. All that landscape I saw on the last trip and hoped to re-visit this time is hidden.
Where are we – exactly?
I resolve that next time we travel I will put my hand-held GPS into the camera bag and to hell with the laughter of the common man!
A gentle turn to the right suggests that we might now be over the direct line of our route and are heading more NW than W, straight to Denpasar.
This recently enveloping cloud soon begins to break up into clumps with things just identifiable on the ground though the gaps. Or is my identification just hope rather than reality? I’m sure that there is still land to be seen between those cotton balls far below. Red tracks, some doubling for a distance, perhaps to skirt a churned up bog?
Then, quite clearly I can see the broken outline of a coast, with white sand hills or beaches, grey cliffs, white surf and turquoise waters deepening to blue and indigo. A deeply indented bay, edged with black mangroves, reddish sand islands just offshore, and white breakers over azure reefs in the bay. Pale blue shallows lead to a distant cream coloured spit away on the horizon, such as we can see it or imagine it through the clouds. This can only be King Sound with Cape Leveque on the horizon and Derby hidden somewhere below us.
Over the Timor Sea the little bumps and joggles that have sometimes sent the surface of our drinks close to the edge of the glasses almost cease. The surge from side to side in the glass is replaced by the occasional circular ripple around the ice in my lemonade caused by a small stone in the road under our passing. Larger, open spaces begin to appear in the cloud sheet which has broken up into cotton balls again. I begin to wonder if a merchant ship or a small fishing boat could be seen from this height. There are white caps on the surface below but I have no idea if these are at the front of large storm driven seas or really only the wind blowing the tops off little crests. Right on cue a steamer appears crossing our path and heading sort of south east, towards nothing except the middle of the Indian Ocean as far as my map will tell me. The decks are red and the white wake fades to pale blue and then disappears back into the indigo ocean about twice the length of the ship astern, both make the ship stand out clearly.
The surface of the sea returns to a featureless plain. None of the white water or paler colours that could be seen before when we were over King Sound are to be seen out here. The little icon of the plane on the TV screen shows that we are aligned with the long axis of Timor to the north east of us. This means that we must be about the middle of the Timor Sea. I go to the other side of the cabin and peer out of one of the (many) vacant windows. Away on the horizon, right where I imagine Timor might be there appears a mountainous build up of new cloud. I can’t see any dark bottom near sea level that might suggest land and I wonder if the cloud means that I am about to loose the view that I have hoped for all trip?
I imagine the old Polynesian navigators who sailed these seas for centuries, relying on clouds to mark islands that were over the horizon and invisible to them from sea level, reading the size of the island from the passing of waves reflected back into the swells from the island’s cliffs. All of this information was recorded on open mesh twig and twine “dream catcher” type maps, where each intersection of twigs marked an island that they knew.
Back in my own seat (actually the one in front as HA is reading and I decline to disturb her or my thoughts with idle conversation) I look to the west where there is another of those towering white clouds just visible if I squint as far forward as possible with my eye close to the window. As far as my map tells me there is no island out there! Just when you think you’ve got it all worked out someone throws a spanner in your logic. As it comes more clearly into view it looks more like a snow covered mountain rising out of the sea than a cloud.
(Is there a new little volcano rising out of the deep down there, smoking and ready to cover us with steaming lava as we pass over? Why be constrained with facts when your imagination can keep you occupied for hours?)
This monster cloud has an anvil shaped top which is above the horizon and looks as though it’s going to rise above the wings of our plane again. That would be from sea level to nearly 12,500 meters or over 40,000 feet! Awe is still tingling at my nerve ends when the other side of this monster appears at the edge of the window. Like the front, this edge is almost sheer too, dropping down to the sea surface again.
What creates these titans of the ether you might ask? Well, it’s no good asking me, I only wonder about these things. Wonder is sometimes even better than knowing. Ralph will tell me. He’s the sort of bloke who told me how far it was to the visible horizon from 12,000 meters when I asked last time.
Then the cloud returns to cotton balls for as far as I can see.
Suddenly the roar of the engines that you’ve almost become used to drops quickly to a muted drone.
This can only mean one thing.
We’re at the apex of our flight and beginning to descend towards the corner of the Indian Ocean.
There can be only one target in front of our smoothly rounded nose – Bali!
The Island of the Gods.
The isle of smiles by the mile.
It’s 230 km away according to the TV screen. A long glide indeed. The screen immediately shows a change in altitude, down to 10,700 meters and the speed has slowed to 207 km per hour. Our ETA is now 3.31 pm, a change of only 5 or 6 minutes from the earliest estimate. Not bad Navigator – or should that be, not bad Computer?
Needlessly, the Captain announces that the weather in Bali is beautiful.
The pattern of the sea slowly becomes more visible. Slightly highlighted crests and shadowed troughs, row upon row to the edge of the world, like ripples on a sandy beach when the tide is out. Our course is north west and appears to parallel the wave crests so their movement must be either towards the north east or south west. As there is an easterly wind over Bali (from the TV screen again) I decide that they must be on a migration to the south west, moving away from under our plane from my side on the left.
Suddenly the first little fishing boat appears. Well, it’s not too little, its wake stretching astern towards us. There will be others soon I’m sure, perhaps the fishing fleet outside Kuta reef? They’ll be trolling for Tuna, Mackerel, Mahi Mahi and shark, not bottom bouncing for snapper or jigging for squid, and hoping for a good market tomorrow.
Then there are two more boats, these with no wake so they’ll either be drifting or at anchor and fishing on the bottom.
Another and two more.
Then they are in every window, but we are still 46 km from Bali. This is surely not the Jimbaran or Kuta fleets so far out. Then there is the unmistakable lightening of the sea colour to pale green as it shallows and eventually breaks the surface in a creamy slash of sand and coral. A tiny island in the middle of nowhere, fringed with boats in a variety of shapes and colours.
As fast as it appeared it disappears.
Then a Jukung. That most Balinese of boats with its hollowed log bottom topped with side planks, bamboo outriggers on each side, a carved swordfish-like bow with bulging eyes and painted ears. A solitary tooth on a long bottom jaw with the flared top bill standing up proudly at a steep angle. Three to five meters long with a triangular sail rising from the bow like an open crab claw, or, if progress has caught up with the owner – and in most cases it has – with a 15hp Yamaha outboard clamped to a blunt back end where the elegantly rounded stern has been cruelly sawn off to accommodate the motor.
20 km to Bali.
The Kuta reef appears, and, yes, the fishing boats are there.
The rumble of wheels on the ground.
The runway built out into Kuta Bay is under us. Boulders on the edge, green with seaweed flash by followed by the terminal buildings.
The roar of engines in reverse thrust and the push from the back as the aircraft slows and our bodies want to keep going, pressed hard against the seat belts.
We have arrived.
We are in Bali.
We turn off the runway onto the taxi strip that will take us back to the buildings. There is another aircraft already on the runway where we have just landed, ready to take off. The rows of coconut palms that I remember on the Jimbaran side of the strip are gone and there is now an open view across green fields to the rising land leading to the Bukit plateau beyond.
There are 8 or 9 aircraft lined up at the terminal, including the bright yellow tail insignia of the new carrier, Paradise Air Indonesia. It all looked fairly busy and I wondered if tourism had suddenly picked up from all the recent reports. The emptiness of our plane did not suggest a sudden upsurge, however.
We turned into the first air bridge closest to the beach we had just flown over and parked, the engines running down and the mad scramble beginning, to open overhead lockers, drag out gear and try to be first off.
Through the aerobridge eventually That mad rush is all to no avail. Travellers in the Business class go first and by then everyone in Tourist class is standing up clogging the aisles and you’re stuck anyway. Never the less it’s a driving urge and I’ll do it all again next time I arrive I’m sure. Through the new and impressive building with its closely fitted red brick and carved grey stone ‘candi bentar’ or split gateway, so traditional in Bali, then to Immigration and eventually Customs.
Here the nerves begin to sing, and here I’m caught again.
The emptiness of the Immigration hall belies the faint hope I had that Bali might be getting busy. I had to take a photo of the emptiness which I had not seen before, not even the time our flight arrive at almost 2 am and when there were still throngs here, but the photos later prove to be useless as the flash is not powerful enough to light up the length of the hall. Less than 50 people got off our flight, some going to the transit lounge, obviously headed for more distant shores, not Bali bound. This did not bode well for Customs.
Eventually the bags came out on the belt, all covered with chalk marks from the eagle eyes of the x-ray operators. But we are ready for this, armed with ‘Wet Ones’ in our bum bags.
Scrub, scrub. Scrub, scrub. Scrub, scrub.
The porters were off with a rush, HA going straight through. I had the dry dog food atop my load as camouflage, but it’s not good enough!
‘Good afternoon, Sir”.
‘Salamat soree’ I replied, trying to be cool and familiar.
Not good enough!
‘Would you open this bag sir?”
Now what can you do but open the bag, and there is all of HA’s pre-duty-free Chivas Regal and Gin.
Not good at all !
‘Would you come to the office please sir?’
OK. Let’s get this over with.
‘You have 7 litres and 750 centilitres of alcohol sir. You are only allowed 1 litre sir. You may accompany us to the back and observe the excess being destroyed or pay the tax sir.’
Ah, well now, how much is the tax I enquire, putting my bum bag on the desk and taking out my wallet displaying all the travellers’ cheques and just A$35 in notes in case he wanted a hint.
‘In the book sir, it says’ – fumble, fumble, fumble, - turning pages over and back again,
‘500% of the value sir.’
And how much is that I graciously enquire?
Out from the desk drawer came the calculator, click, click, click, clickety click.
‘$50 dollars sir.’
Gad! This guy is as good as a crook money changer. I’ve watched those fingers fly and I would never have guessed $50 - if I hadn’t been caught once before.
‘I only have $35’, I plead hopefully.
This is not good enough either.
‘It is $50 sir.’
‘I’ll have to get some money from my companion’, I reply.
‘Yes sir’ he says.
And, I comply, and so does she, and, with no further formality – and no receipt – I am through with Herself and off to the great outdoors.
All of the above proceedings can only have takes 5 minutes but the usually crowded pickup area outside is virtually empty.
Empty of not only of passengers but of transfer drivers and taxi drivers also.
That warm smell of Bali is not there to greet us, that mixture of humid air, clove cigarettes, floral perfumes, traffic fumes, rotting garbage. But the sweat is almost squirting out of my skin and soaking into my shirt and shorts so I know that I’m in Bali.
Jonni, the Golden Bali guy on the spot, is there waiting and quickly guides us across the road to the van. He goes through trip check points and time lines (to little effect as it is to turn out later) and we’re off along that familiar road, well familiar as far as the great statue of the God with the writhing coiled serpent, and then on the divided road to Seminyak which is new to us.
Our, well perhaps I should say my, first impressions of the Bali Agung Village were not too good, frankly. I should not have expected more, knowing that it was on the lower end of cheap, but you always hope to be pleasantly surprised. In fairness at this point I should say that by the end of our four days much of the initial disappointment had been dispelled and we really felt quite comfortable about the place. It is a close collection of Balinese style buildings, red brick and carved grey stone, with those dinky little double wooden doors, carved and painted, secured by a padlock between two iron rings on the outside and by a drop-in wooden rail on the inside. This is cute, but the head of the doorway is always too close to the ground for my head and they’re no barrier to any blood-lusting mosquitoes.
Our room was on the ground floor in a two storey block of four. As the others were not occupied while we were there I can’t comment on what the sound transference between the rooms might be.
There is a largish bedroom with two single beds and barely adequate storage places and a shower/bath/toilet off one corner.
Looking for somewhere to hang damp clothes, towels, night gear, hats and so on was a fruitless task.
There is mini-bar (Damn! These things are small.) which worked well except that the ice making compartment was mainly frosted up and there was only one small tray for making ice blocks. Ice for drinks however was available from Room Service and the service was prompt.
There was reliable hot water and a good air conditioning unit, the beds were large, flat, and comfortable and had clean sheets every day, with little flower arrangements on the pillows when you returned from dinner each night. The grounds were well planted with shrubs and flowers, perhaps too well planted as, with the walled enclosures around the central bungalows, it restricted your outlook too much for me. The lack of a view, unless you stood on tip toe and peered over the side wall of the property into the neighbouring rice fields, was a lasting impression, along with a pool that needed a good scrub and some repairs to the sharp edges around the tiles. The grounds were well maintained however, with gardeners out first thing every morning.
If I were in a position to change anything it would be the level of lighting. There were lights at each side of the bed, one over the dressing table mirror and one over the bathroom mirror. They were however not only dim but very low, in the case of the bed lights, or shrouded inside pelmets so the light only went down over the mirrors. Showers at night were consequently in the dark almost and shaving or make-up in the mirrors except during the day with the door and solid wooden window shutter open was a risky business. The wiring outside really did not inspire any confidence that the lighting levels could be upgraded without some major work.
Because it was part of the package deal, inseparably mixed in with the air fares, I really don’t know how much each night there costs. I’d guess that it might be around A$35-45 per night, and if I’m right it was a bargain compared with similar accommodation we were to turn down later at around $75-90 a night.
The acid test of any place however, is would I stay there again?
If I’m right about the price the answer is yes, without a lot of hesitation, and so would Herself I think.
Checked in and with bags stowed, the first task was to establish our bearings, change some TC’s for local cash and get some water and other essentials such as soda water, dry ginger ale, Bintang, nibbles, fruit and so on. Amidst all of this, of course, some shopping might (did I really key in ’might’?) take place. To get our bearings we walk. Out the little winding street to a sort of main road, Jalan (road) Abimanyu which runs east-west between the beach and the main north-south road, Jl Raya Seminyak, which changes it’s name to Legian which in turn changes to Kuta which in turn changes to Tuban at the other, southern, end.
Along Jl Abimanyu we turned away from the beach which seemed fairly close to the hotel, towards the top of the road which we had come down shortly before.
Just up the road our hearts lifted when we saw a sizeable Kodak shop. Sizeable it may have been but a money changer it was not. A little further still was one of those small money changers we always avoid like poison. Perhaps it was Her empty wallet and the sight of shops ahead, or that we were together to keep an eye on one another, or it might have been the poor innocents who came out as we passed and said that they had got a good deal at the better than average exchange rate being offered. (Warning sign No 1.) Whatever it was we decided to try it.
Have you got Rp100,000 bills? I questioned.
Oh yes, he assured us.
Herself put her (unsigned) $100 TC on the counter and I took out our own calculator to show that we knew which way was up, I thought, studiously ignoring his calculator after barely a passing it a glance. We waited until he began to count out the money in Rp20,000 bills.
We want Rp100,000 bills I reminded him. You said you had them. (Warning sign No 2.)
Yes of course he said rummaging around in the drawer at the top of his counter (Warning sign No 3) before finding one.
Sorry only got one, he said, continuing to count out 20’s. (Warning sign No 4.)
He finished his count. No small notes, he said, you got 5,000 to make change? (Warning sign No 5.)
No money at all she said, taking up the notes to count them.
Where you from one of his companions at the side of his counter asked me? (Warning sign No 6.)
Herself finished counting out the first Rp100,000 of 20’s and put it in a pile to one side before reaching for the second pile. Smarty pants picked up the first pile immediately and began to tap the pile on each edge. (Warning sign No 7.)
She smacked his hand lightly and took the bundle from him to count it again. He really should have given up here (and we should have given up several warning signs ago) but the charade of counting, picking up to shuffle, hand smacking and re-counting continued for three more rounds before she picked up her $100 TC, pushed his money back at him and told him exactly what she thought of him.
I left after her, with only three words to say and they were not, ‘See you later’.
Strangely, as we walked out, a passing group said with some vehemence, “Don’t use him, he’s a bloody cheat!’
His shop was between the Kodak shop and the Puri Bunga Cottages on the right hand side of Jl Abimanyu as you walk away from the beach. I hope this might warn off someone else who could be tempted.
Proceeding further up the street we checked on a number of restaurants that might be potential dining venues for tonight. Eventually we took a passing cab up to the end and turned right into Jl Raya Seminyak where my notes said we should find the Bintang Supermarket. Sure enough, shortly after we turned the corner there it was, and within sight, just a bit further along, was a Wartel (government telephoning shop) which was also a money changing facility. That was our first stop and, despite the recommendation in the notes about the reliable honesty of Wartels, we entered with some suspicion. Her $100 TC was produced once more and the procedure of completing their little form and showing a photocopy of the passport over, in short order she had the absolute right money in her hand and a receipt. Thus encouraged I put 5 TC’s on the counter and the procedure was completed once more.
These people had our business for the rest of our stay in Seminyak and about $5,000 crossed the counter before we left for the mysteries of the eastern provinces where we believed the exchange rate would not be so good.
Considerable business was completed at the Bintang Supermarket, including the first supply of Chuppa Chups. Back to the Village to unload the loot, unpack, shower (what bliss that was) and get ready for dinner.
Up the street a bit we eventually settled on the Puri Duyung Restaurant and hotel at No 15X Jl Abimanyu. My notes here are brief and reflect my sagging energy rather than casting any reflection on the restaurant. We were welcomed with a complimentary Arak and orange and followed this with Spring Rolls, Rp14,000 for three, less than $1 each. The Nasi Goreng Special was Rp32,000, Bakmi Goreng Rp28,000 a large Bintang Rp17,000. (Two were Rp34,000 would you believe?) A meal for 2 with drinks for A$21. The restaurant provided transport back to the Village afterwards. She rated the toilets 8/10.
We were a bit impressed with the surrounds and the adjoining hotel. The rooms there were Rp160,000 a night with Indonesian breakfast. This is about A$32for a twin or double Air Conditioned room with a huge bathroom, separate bath and shower and with toilet. The complex looked fairly new, the rooms and the pool clean.
Bargaining would bring this price down I’m sure.
DAY 2 – WEDNESDAY.
I woke up earlier than She did, or maybe she just wanted time to herself and a few more minutes in that land between alertness and slumber. This is a precious time in Bali I think. Your mind knows that you are there at last and then wanders over past adventures, fabricates new ones and new meetings, runs lightly over possible or planned activities for the day ahead and slowly releases you into reality.
I walk in the morning. If I don’t Max seems to make sure that I will feel guilty for the rest of the day. Even though he is not around now I find it fairly easy to keep to the pattern of the days. Dressing quietly is an art I have not mastered but she resists the temptation to tell me off and continues to slumber.
Off down the lane and turn right, it’s only a few minutes to the beach. The Seminyak beach is broad and flat, the sand is black, not volcanic I don’t think but from centuries of mixing with the silt coming down from several creeks, or they might be only storm water drains.
Even at 6.30 am there is plenty of activity. Hotel workers are putting out sun lounges and umbrellas, health conscious locals and visitors are walking or jogging or stretching and exercising with martial arts type moves and stances, fishermen are standing up to waist deep in the surf and casting between the waves in the hope of catching a feed. Most surprisingly, besides the ‘wild’ dogs there are a number of owners (or handlers employed by owners) exercising a wide variety of dogs.
As I was going down a small black Dachshund carrying a bright yellow tennis ball was coming up the street with his/her family. I was to be formally introduced to her in the next day or so.
A beautiful young male Doberman with a gleaming coat was kept on a short leash by an obviously proud young owner. He (the dog that is) treated all the local dogs with contempt and it was not until a friendly long haired Golden Retriever bounded up to say’ ‘hello’ that he decided his owner’s territory was being invaded. A bristling back and a few throaty barks convinced the Retriever that there was plenty of other beach to run in. I approached the pair and the dog trembled with excitement. A few words of admiration to the owner and the dog eagerly nuzzled the back of my outstretched hand. A brief chest rub followed and he could no longer contain himself, catching the owner by surprise he was instantly rolling on my feet with all four legs waving in the air. I hope he does not change as he ages, he was already head-high to my hips and I would guess still growing in both height and muscle.
The Retriever joined his owner and a Rottweiler tearing through the shallows, moving away up the beach.
This proliferation of domesticated dogs is a new Bali sight to me, and one I like.
Later we were to remark on the number of male dogs that had obviously been castrated, and looked much healthier either because of the quick snip or because someone was also caring for them. Again, this is good to see.
Later again we found the first of four Pet Shops. It caused great amusement and wonder to our drivers when we insisted on stopping, photographing and going in to talk to the owners or employees. Herself had promised to write an article for Her Dog Obedience Club when we returned home. Now it would be illustrated too.
North up the beach my walk came to a halt at one of the creeks flowing across the beach, deep and discoloured enough to discourage me from wading across and too wide to jump. Where this creek exited from the gap between two properties the water was cutting through a bank of sand that had built up to a bit less than a meter high. (It was a leafy and mysterious upstream of that cutting in the morning light which filtered through the overhanging tree branches and dappled the banks. I would have loved to have found the courage to wade in and explore.) Layered through the exposed face of the sand bank were strata upon strata of plastic, mostly film but also a few bottles, some fishing net, rope ends and the odd small container. Well, I hear you say, what’s so remarkable about that? This is so common on Bali you hardly notice it any more. You’re right about that of course. What caught my attention was the wheeled hand cart on the far bank and three young men standing in the outflow forking through the sandbank, pulling out the plastic debris, washing it in the flowing water and tossing it up on the far side, ready to join the other stuff already in the cart. On top of this were the obvious marks in the sand indicating that the beach for about 100 meters on my side of the outflow had been raked and all of the rubbish, ready to join the mess in the sand bank on the next high tide, had already been piled up.
As far as I could make out, and I stand to be corrected by anyone who might know better, there was a levy placed on the local hotels by the Desa Adit (local council) which was paying these young men.
I couldn’t resist, and fished out the Rp5,000 notes from my shirt pocket. The next day I took CC’s for them and I’m not sure which was the more popular reward.
Just a bit back on the beach, for the fishermen who were repairing their nets and throwing the off cuts of mesh and rope onto the beach, there was no handout.
Our plane over might have been fairly empty but our impression of Bali from here is that it is really vacant. At the fairly well known and prominently located restaurant where we ate last night we were at one of only three tables occupied. Perhaps a dozen other tables were vacant. This morning we walked up to and along Jl Raya Seminyak, the main road that runs through Seminyak, Legian, Kuta and Tuban. This is arguably the heart of the southern tourist areas in Bali. We did not see even one other person we could identify as a tourist in about 2 hours of exploration.
We changed more money at a Wartel (government telephone office) a little closer to the Bintang Supermarket, at 16A Jl Seminyak, again without any drama at all.
Absolute efficiency, absolute accuracy.
Chuppa Chups and big cheesy grins all round. Even the boss lady came out from the back room to get in on the act. For their children there were little clip-on kangaroos and koalas. Funny how they all seemed to have children!
We caught a taxi into Legian to re-establish our ties with the Bali we were more familiar with and to check on friends.
At Dolphin Leather in Sahadewa Street (also known as Garlic Lane by some visitors), between Melasti and Padma, we found that two of the old staff had left. The long thin man had gone back to Lovina and the shorter guy who did all the pencilling of measurements had both been replaced with one new staff member. Dolphins had had no orders at all this week. They would have lots of work when we returned tomorrow and even more when friends came in next Tuesday, on the first available plane arriving after the start of the school holidays.
We moved down two doors to have a very late breakfast at the Tekor Bali Qui Restaurant in Sahadewa. This, and the intervening Dolphins Restaurant, had been favourites in past trips and the Bali Qui did not disappoint this morning, although the all-you-could-eat-for-2-bucks offer had lapsed since our earlier visits.
While we were eating and sitting over a leisurely meal we counted tourists – only white faces which we felt we would not mistake. In well over an hour there were 5 who went past the restaurant.
From here we walked down Melasti to Kuta Beach. Along the way we approached a couple who looked and sounded Aussie. I asked if I could take their photo to remind us that we were not alone in Bali. They laughed and said that we were the first native English speakers they had met in 2 days. At their hotel there were Dutch and Japanese apart from themselves. This was their first trip to Bali and they could not believe that they were really in a popular tourist destination.
Down to the corner and left turn along the beach.
As we went the children and old people we met were offered Chuppa Chups and to the mothers who seemed to be without any means of earning a living, or who were sitting on their own crocheting bikinis and hats, we gave a Rp5,000 note that we always saved from any change that we got.
Now Rp5,000 is only a dollar in Oz money but without exception it was accepted with thanks, sometimes embarrassing hand clasping and bowing. It was only later that we found out what such a small sum of money did for them – and then we were even more embarrassed and frequently handed over two at a time. Only once was our offer refused and that was by a mother with child begging on the street outside the market at Sukawati. To this day I don’t understand why.
Along the length of Kuta beach as far as Poppies Lane I, which must have been something over a kilometre, we saw not one person we were sure was a tourist. This was about midday. I really didn’t believe what we were seeing and had to take a photo. When this story gets posted into our home pages I’ll include the photo, and one of Jl Legian, which is almost devoid of cars and with only a few motorbikes to be seen. Readers who remember Kuta Beach as a place where you had to watch every footfall to avoid treading on a bare boob roasting in the sand will be amazed.
We were a bit dehydrated by this time and flagged down a Blue Bird cab to take us around the corner to Matahari’s Department store for a reviver. From memory I don’t think the Rp4,000 flag fall on the meter changed before it was time to get out again and the cabbie welcomed the Rp10,000 note with the change waved back at him.
We bought a Bintang and an Anchor and sat on the steps near the cool overhead air blast at the store’s entry to drink them. If you think our Bintang consumption should be criticised as a means of avoiding dehydration let me explain that the beer was only to take the edge off our thirst before we shared a small Aqua as a chaser after each one.
We had only just begun to shop inside Matahari’s when a lovely young lass approached Herself and enquired if she was Australian. Naturally I thought that she had really meant to chat to me and that Herself had just accidentally stepped in the way, so I moved closer to be part of the action – I mean conversation don’t I. Joking soon departed as we realised that she was close to panic. She was from West Australia on her way to Amsterdam and, as there was a 6-hour stopover, she decided to get a transit pass, catch a cab and see something of Bali. The cabbie mentioned Kuta and as the name rang a bell, she said yes and he dropped her at Matahari’s front door. She had immediately been set upon by the sellers clustered there and had agreed to a manicure. As soon as she sat down the vultures landed and she had sunglasses thrust into her hand, a foot massage under way, wallets, CD’s, rings and several other things thrust at her. Not only did she get a simple manicure but flowers painted on every nail. Nothing she had been able to say stopped the action. In the end they demanded money – all that she had and more. Her bag was held with a demand that she leave it with them until she went and changed more money. At this point, as her bag held all of her money, her passport, transit pass and tickets, she panicked and snatched her bag back before fleeing into Matahari.
I could feel Herself growing in volume and bristling as the story unfolded.
Frankly, I found it hard to believe and only followed the two of them back to the entrance to pick up the pieces after the stoush ended.
The original vendor, who had taken the money for all the others, was identified and fronted. Now when Principal Herself fronts one there is no avoiding the issue. To my amazement, her concluding demand for the money to be returned and only a reasonable charge taken, was complied with without demur. The wad, and I use the word conservatively, came out of the blouse pocket to be handed over. Herself extracted a 50,000 note and a couple of 10’s I think, and passed those back as fair payment for everything done. ‘Right?’ she demanded and received a nodded response. The remainder of the notes were put into Stacey’s visibly trembling hands. The guilty one was berated (and anyone else within earshot who might have been even a little bit guilty about something, related or not) and Stacey, who looked as if she might fold up in a heap at any moment, was taken by the arm and guided to the nearby McDonalds for a wee sit down, a couple or three cigarettes and a cold drink.
As her trembling stopped there was nothing for it but to undertake shopping therapy to complete the revival process. This was duly undertaken in Matahari’s and across the road at the Art Markets, back through Matahari again and on to the restaurant with the street side tables about 2 doors from Matahari. A few beers and, for Stacey about 6 cigarettes, and an hour or three later we bundled her into a cab, with appropriate money in hand, and gave orders for the airport.
I can only hope that the rest of her trip to Amsterdam was totally uneventful.
Our shopping continued as though there had been no interruption of 4 or so hours, perhaps the pace was marginally quickened.
Eventually a cab was hailed to take us back to the Agung Village for a shower and those other prerequisites for dinner, and what an experience that would turn out to be!
Along the way our friendly money changer seemed to call us, and a brief detour was subsequently made into the Bintang Supermarket for a new pen, some bottled water, more Chuppa Chups (I think I’ll just refer to them as ‘CC’s’ from now on), fruit including those exquisite passion fruit, some salaks with the scaly snake skin, spiky skinned rambutans and purple mangosteens, juices, tissues, wrapping paper for our Oleh Oleh’s (gifts for friends on the morrow), sticky tape, nibbles – Oh, you’ll know the sort if thing if you’ve been to Bali, and if you haven’t then just imagine that we stopped shopping when She thought the cab would be full.
A little further on the Kodak shop called and films were deposited, some handicrafts were inspected along with a few kiddies clothes, a couple of restaurant menus a bit further down and just briefly the beach.
Back at the Village I had a quick swim while the shower was otherwise occupied and, in time, dripped back to our room to have one myself.
Brief discussion followed between the makeup mirror and the shower during which I learned that we were to dine at the Gateway of India Restaurant, just up the road at No 10 Jl Abimanyu in Seminyak, not far from the intersection with Jl Legian. If you’re looking for it at any time you’ll find it on the right as you head towards the beach and you won’t be sorry you found it.
Now if you decide to go there at any time I’d suggest that as you walk in you order an Aqua or a Bintang or an Iced Lemon Tea, or all three to keep you going. Not that the service is slow but the menu, at 9 pages closely printed on both sides, takes some mouth watering time to study.
We started with Vegetable Samousas (Rp8,000) that came with bowls of fruit chutney, mint dressing and pickles (or was it fruit pickle and chutney?). Without realising that these accompaniments were due I also ordered some Mango chutney (Rp9,500) to put on the warm bread that also arrived from the tandoor oven. This feast in itself was followed by Prawn Tika Makanwalla (my notes are much stained here and that could be an error in my interpretation of the written remnants) (Rp55,000), Akbari Kebabs (chicken, Rp27,000), Cucumber Raita (Rp10,000) and Indian Plain Steamed rice (Rp4,000).
All this came with a large bowl of cubed potatoes mixed with various fruit pieces and dressed with lemon and spices which was almost a main course in itself!
The prawns were submerged in a pot of red sauce which was spicy but mollified just nicely on the tongue by the Raita, or with the left over mint dressing from the entrée. Now, when I say the prawns were submerged I don’t mean to imply that the little beggars had slipped beneath the surface of a modest pool of something. What I mean is that the numerous, large and juicy beggars could not quite reach the surface of a mini cauldron of thick tomato, butter and cream accompaniment. Diving for them was a delight and I smiled slyly to myself when, at the last stir, I detected the final offering. If we had but suspected the volume of either main course we would have debated which one, and one only, we would order.
The Chicken kebabs were chicken breasts stuffed with finely diced and spiced mutton, grilled to a dark golden brown on the outside but still white, moist and of course creamy underneath. They were topped with fluffy egg white. Actually they were quite bland when compared with the prawns but with some of the sauces remaining in their pots, a succulent way to finish.
The very adequate Naan bread was a nice way to try to mop up all the sauces and juices, but in the end we had to admit utter defeat and leave on the table at least sufficient for a meal for a third person. We had totally misjudged the size of the servings and could only sit for some time waiting for stretched stomachs to adjust to the possibility of walking.
In the end we took a ride back to the Village.
The total cost, with Aquas and Bintangs, was Rp166,109 or A$32 for the two of us with tax and charges included.
The experience was not at all like our local Indian restaurant in South Oz.
We also happened to notice that they offer an Indian Buffet every Sunday at Rp45,000 (A$8.70) per person. What a way to destroy a Sunday! I think you’d be a mug to miss it if you were there. You need cash though, they don’t accept credit cards.
DAY 3 – THURSDAY.
We have just about finished our first kilo of passion fruit and nearly the same of salaks. The mangosteens are lagging behind somewhat. Despite saying, ‘only one of each before breakfast’ it has been hard to deny a second – and there are no rules for after breakfast.
My morning walk was down to the beach and along it as far as I could go in both directions which was only a few of kilometres even by the time I’d wandered up and down the expanse of firm sand to look at this and that.
The dogs and their owners were out again, testing the strength of their leads or bounding along the shore line, chasing the ripples as they broke and ran along the beach or sniffing here and there and in one case, much to the owners chagrin, rolling in a dead fish discarded from a past night’s catch and now a malodorous object of doggy delight.
The boys were again dredging plastic from the sand bank and relished the CC’s I offered them. I wondered about their cleanliness when they rinsed their hands in the outfall from that stream of turgid water before opening their treats.
This morning Mimi introduced me to her owner, Andrew. We had a pleasant conversation during which I learnt about the recent efforts by the Desa Adit to clear up the dog packs on the beach but how, over the past week, he had noticed that there were two new packs forming and the contest for leadership had come to a head in one group but was still hotly disputed by two rivals in the other.
Mimi, I learned was expecting her second litter, due in about 8 days.
On the way back to the village I looked in at the small restaurant, opening onto the roadside about halfway to the Village access lane. It looked OK and I resolved that, amongst the doggy stories, I must mention this to Higher Authority as a possible breakfast destination.
Our plan for the morning was to again catch up with more old friends. After finding yesterday that two friends from Dolphin Leather had returned to their villages, we should have been ready for some disappointments today also, but this reality of low tourist numbers and the resulting shift of locals back to the countryside, where survival and self sufficiency were more possible, has really not stuck in our minds.
Perhaps it’s just that we don’t want to recognise it as a new fact of life here.
We changed money at the Wartel again. I’m really wondering where it is all going and if the supply will last, but others of us have no obvious qualms.
From the Wartel we are drawn across the road to the Bintang for daily stocks. I also wanted to add a little Aussie flag to the windscreen of an old three wheel Tuktuk they have on display there, which has in large letters, ‘Bali Loves Peace’ across the glass. The person who arrived when I ask to see the manager and seek his/her permission, could not have been happier to have someone add to their message.
We are loaded up with koalas, kangaroos and little merino sheep (which we buy in Adelaide’s Central Market at $2 for a pack of 10);
- and with a big black plastic garbage bag full of donated, used, bras that HA has collected;
- with the Bintang’s remaining stock of CC’s;
- with three gift wrapped photos of our three favourite beach girls which we took three years ago, one for each of them;
- with a wrapped present for our favourite driver, the quiet, mild, gentle gentlemanly I. Made Dera, whom we always find in the drivers’ bale on the corner opposite the entrance to the Bali Hai Resort in Tuban;
- with a suitcase of clothes for kids at the orphanage;
- with cameras and the book of shopping lists;
- and more Aussie stick-on flags and Rp5,000 notes.
We hailed a Blue Bird cab and set out for Jl Wana Segara in Tuban, down towards the airport, intending to have breakfast at the Pantai Restaurant on the beachfront.
This is the day we did the count of whities along this stretch of the main road as far as Kuta markets and come to 23 in the whole length. This is unbelievable.
Just after we turn into Jl Wana Segara we leant out of the windows to wave to Yoyan in ENI Tailors shop (he’ll see more of us later I’m sure), yell out to Tony Marone in his watch counter next to the Fuji shop, wave to the old Holiday Inn (now Bali Hai Resort) at the far corner, stop to ask about Made at the drivers’ bale (he’s not in yet so we just say where we’re heading) and finally stagger into the Pantai, loaded with stuff. As we go towards the front Fransiskus, the manager, hears the unusual commotion and comes out to see what’s going on. After three years he recognises us instantly, as does the cashier, the bar waiter, and a couple of waitresses and cooks.
It’s home time again.
Hugs, with koalas and CC’s all round, a kangaroo for Ema, Franciskus’ daughter, and they all accompany us, with lots of chatter, to one of our favoured tables right at the front overlooking the creamy sand and the blue-green shallows.
Instantly the emptiness of the beach hits us right between the eyes.
It’s so obvious it can’t be ignored and we commiserate with them, saying, with hope, that next week will be different as it is school holidays in Oz. We do hope it will be different, but really we know that there are just not enough flights scheduled by the airlines any more to make a big difference.
We had no sooner ordered breakfast than the first of the sellers arrived. Our refusals were polite with the explanation that we were waiting for our friends, Wayan, Mistri and Adi. This brought the sad advice that they did not come to Tuban any more. Wayan was working at Kuta where she hoped to find more customers, taking the place of a friend who had died recently. After our walk along that deserted beach we doubted that she had found things any better. Adi’s daughter had recently had a child and Adi was at home helping to look after mother and child while Mistri was often at home. The seller’s offer to go and tell them of our arrival we declined as we were not sure how much of the story was fact and how much fiction, told in order to win a sale.
We settled down to wait for breakfast and absorb this news.
I had no sooner set up the camera onto the tripod to photograph the beach, taking maybe 5 minutes, than a breathless Adi arrived, without anything to sell which, looking back on it now, was astounding! After another round of hugs and squeezes, gentle touches on the arms, enquiries about when we had arrived, where we were staying, how long we would be in Bali, where we were going and dozens of other machine-gun questions she sat down next to us lightly resting the tips of her fingers on HA’s arm, obviously waiting for us to eat while telling us all the latest news and gossip.
Not more than another 5 minutes elapsed and I had just given Adi a Rp50,000 note to put into the new baby’s hand (for a prosperous life ahead) than a breathless Mistri arrived and the whole process was repeated. Mistri at least, had brought her massage mattress with her. Where she was and how she got the news of our arrival I still don’t know.
Equally of wonder was how word got to Wayan at Kuta, but within another 5 minutes, just as I had set up the camera for a shot on the empty beach (well it was empty just a short while ago but seemed to be filling up fast recently) she rolled in on a borrowed motor bike, complete with mattress, and the whole circus repeated itself once more.
Breakfast was a happening thing this morning.
The presents were quietly given out but only opened in one case after much urging from us. I could not understand this reticence but noticed it again later when Made, our driver, flatly refused to open his for the whole day we were with him. I tried to ask him why, hoping we had not offended him or something just as unintended, but he could not (or would not) explain his reason to us.
Breakfast over, or as much as we were going to be allowed, (and I’ve got no idea what it was), there was only one thing to do!
Off under the shade of the trees in the open block alongside the Pantai, next to a jukung pulled up way above high tide, the mattresses were spread out, sarongs spread over them, with potions, pumps of lotion and phials of oils extracted from little bags.
We stripped and prepared for that sublime and exotic luxury.
Wayan made it clear without ever saying anything that I was to be her meat for the morning. We never mention price these days, and have not for a number of visits now. Initially I think we bargained to a price of Rp35,000 for half an hour. This time was slowly lengthened and our little tip over the agreed price got larger. The massage got longer and the use of the potions on sore spots increased. Foot scrubs got included if you didn’t resist, along with hand holding and rubbing. Persistent efforts by others to sell their wares got less as the girls became more protective of us (well, of me actually) and learnt more about what we liked and what we didn’t. Their gifts of fruit from their own gardens, shells and other little favours became more common. The shells were a particular worry to us because we didn’t know how to refuse them without offence but knew we could not bring them home through Customs.
These days I usually part with Rp100,000. Yes I know that must be about the most expensive beach massage in all of Bali but it’s worth it to me. I think Herself parts with Rp50,000 but easily spends another 50 buying trinkets, sarongs, scarves, watches and just about anything else on offer, and it doesn’t matter if we need them or not.
You see that I just don’t understand shopping.
The flitting pattern of bright spots across the ground under the trees is a bit hypnotic, the warmth of the sand seems to radiate onto your flanks, the soft breeze off the beach ruffles the hairs across your shoulders until they are slicked down with a finger dab of potion and a squirt of aromatic lotion. (That’s my shoulders only I’m talking about people. I’m not into fashionable body waxes or all-over shaving. I should make it clear, while I’m still able to, that Herself does not have hairy shoulders.)
Rather than repeat myself here, if you want to know about the agony and the ecstasy of a massage, and what peculiar things it can do to your senses and perceptions, you can find out in the ‘Bali Story 2000’.
These things have not changed, even in 3 years.
Well over an hour later, over an hour and a half probably, the process of coming back to reality, of turning over, of sitting up, of getting your shorts on again, all are difficult. Their help is needed in some places and the smiles that go with the help I always think are smiles of self-satisfaction that they have, again, reduced you to rubber, and soft rubber at that. I find that the soles of my feet have been sanded by someone I never saw in action and have been totally unaware of. They are quite smooth as I wipe them across my calves to remove the sand before putting them into my thongs (“flip flops” in America?) again.
Normally I would resist the two-at-a-time job as I want to be totally absorbed in the massage and foot-tickling is a disturbance in the force and brings you back to reality all too soon and all too abruptly.
A good massage deserves dedication, total mental fixation and absorption.
Anything less should be punishable by flogging and keel-hauling all involved.
Herself, however, likes the multi-operator approach and at times will have a massage with a manicure, a pedicure and a hand pat, and still be able to have a chat about grandchildren and bargain for half a dozen scarves.
As I said before, I don’t just understand this shopping business.
Following the massage, the recovery and continuation of gossip, it was Bra-Frenzy time.
Gather round girls, She said, I have a present for you all. Dutifully everyone within earshot gathered round the now side-by-side mattresses and into the middle the big black bag was up-ended, dumping bra’s of every colour style and size imaginable to a mere male.
If there was any hesitation it was too brief for my old eyes. Into the pile went grasping talons from all sides. Bits of bra were separated from their other parts. Cups and straps seemed to move of their own accord to predestined corners of the fray.
The appearance of the ice cream bucket at a kid’s birthday party would be a staid event in comparison.
Quickly it was all over and the noise and action slowed. Everyone sat back and went through the pieces they had accumulated. Separated parts were reunited into wholes and grins were wide as trial fittings were undertaken.
Then the thing that never ceases to amaze me.
Those with more gave to those with less. Those who had come late, attracted only by the noise, who had formed a second circle outside that of the original sharks, had bras passed back to them without question or prompting.
In short order everyone there had something to take away as theirs.
Everyone was happy.
It was something for a westerner, from a grab-all-you-can world, to witness.
I smiled inside too.
I was later to see the same sharing ethic when a group of children were offered CC’s. Frequently they would be too shy to come forward and take the candy offering. With some urging one child could eventually be persuaded to come forward to claim their prize. Inevitably however, too often for it to be unusual, this child would take the candy back to the group and give it to another who was not so bold. Then, back again if another CC was offered. Accept and return to the group to again give the prize to another child.
This would be repeated until all of the shyer ones had a sweet, and the brave one would then claim one for themselves.
Such are the Balinese, by nature I believe.
In years in schools in Oz I have never seen any thing like this happen, or even thought it could happen.
Eventually we were able to remove ourselves from the gathering and wander back to the Bali Hai Resort corner where we would find Made, distribute little kangaroos and CC’c then load the remains of our pile and ourselves into his Kijang and head off to the Hope Children’s’ Home with the suitcase of clothes and toys.
North through the tourist districts of Kuta, Legian and Seminyak, north to and through the emerging tourist town of Kerobokan with its newly fashionable eateries and accommodations and just a little further on, well before I thought my map showed, Made saw the sign to the Hope Children’s Home on a right hand corner; and there it was, not 50 meters ahead.
My map problem was that I had seen ‘Sempidi’ in large letters but overlooked the more southerly village of Sempidi in smaller letters. It was the smaller lettered Sempidi, or more exactly the village of Untal Untal near the small lettered Sempidi, that we were looking for.
Anyone who has tried to follow the Bali system (?) of street numbering will not be surprised that there would be two Sempidis within about 5 kilometres of each other on the same road. It’s only about 16 kilometres from Kuta, and really a very quick trip.
Two children welcome us and another runs down the road to disappear into a house a little further down. Those welcoming us are really only children but they are assured in their role and beckon us inside before the arrival of the carer, whose name I forgot to ask. Through the rather crowded entry, partly blocked by a decrepit vehicle and several ancient children’s bicycles, we are ushered into a fairly large hall furnished with tables and chairs and with a curtained stage at the far end. News of our arrival certainly spread quickly and the arriving children were soon organised into a chorus group on the stage, welcoming us in song.
There was a sort of mixed reaction from the children. The younger ones are really enthusiastic, as young children can be, but on the stage it was obvious that some of the older ones did not really have their heart in the proceedings. This was not a surprise or a disappointment to us. We both have had a lifetime of interaction with young teenagers and know that there are emerging rebels in every class.
One young lad caught my eye particularly. He was obviously not singing and slowly but surely sidled along the back row towards the cover of the curtains at the side. I quietly slipped down the side of the assembly and up onto the stage from the wing, just managing to meet him as he was ready to escape. I grinned as widely as I could and held out my hand to shake his. He sort of smiled but shook my hand. In it he immediately found the Rp50,000 note and so adroitly removed it that to this day I wondered under what circumstance he might have learnt that skill.
His sort of smile quickly became a broad and genuine grin. He took my elbow and led me onto the end of the back line, standing next to me for the remainder of the performance. He did not sing and I resisted encouraging him to join in by singing myself. I did not want the whole group to stand and stare at me in wonder and awe.
We were happy to learn that the Carry For Kids “Shoe Box for Bali” programme had visited the orphanage a few days earlier and the representatives of that organisation had put an Aussie child’s, or an Aussie elderly person’s shoe box gift into the hands of every child here. We had seen this story from our end earlier, in the weekend newspapers, and it was good to find that the aims expressed in the comfort of Oz had really been carried out to finality in Bali.
At the end of the choral renditions I felt that they had certainly earned their small reward from us. We were not really prepared for the numbers who were there and I became concerned that we would not have enough stuff to go around. One intended gift, such as a packet of small, colourful hair scrunchies, quickly became six pairs for six children instead of the one as we had initially intended. At the end we had a pile of baby sized clothes which we left with the carer.
When all seemed to be over we had the chance to talk to those who hung around.
The “young teenager” I had ambushed at the edge of the stage was 22 years old. I suddenly had lots of sympathy for his feelings in the group of much younger children.
After leaving, we talked for quite a while in the isolation and security of the car.
Neither Herself nor I really retained our composure very well in a situation that we found challenging, as teachers and as new grandparents.
What next we wondered.
The difference between the Balinese accumulation of material goods and ours is an embarrassment I think, not at all eased by the differences between the demands of their life and society and ours. We both feel an urge to try to solve the social difficulties of these people but realise that our resources cannot do that for even one person here, certainly not those we call friends, not for the children of this orphanage, not for the children at the Tuka Orphanage we visited on our last trip and certainly not for all the children in all the orphanages in Bali.
Rightly or wrongly, but not easily, we come to the conclusion that all we can do is to do all we can do.
Frankly I am uneasy about some of the information contained in the brochure given to us at Hope.
To require a letter of guarantee from the parent or guardian of a child that the child seeking admittance to the institution will not be removed from the orphanage for 3 years does not give any recognition to the obvious fact that family and children’s circumstances can dramatically change in 3 weeks let alone 3 years. I am worried that this period has really been selected as an adequate time for Christian indoctrination of the young and, if so, I think it is a very un-Christian requirement.
To state as an aim that it is intended to build the children’s faith in the infallibility of the Bible, and to be baptised and receive the Holy Spirit, seems to repeat the worst of the blind missionary zeal that has been condemned as the curse of past missionary activity in those cultures where there has clearly been other beliefs.
Our resolve for the future is to focus on one place to receive whatever assistance we are able to give. We don’t feel that Hope will be that place for us however.
It was expressed to us at Hope, as it had been at Tuka before, that the real need is for funds for education costs of the children. The other needs can generally be met locally in a number of ways including self sufficiency and donations of food and clothing. We will still bring things for the kids of Bali because they won’t be wasted, but we will look at ways that we can raise or save money for them. The monthly educational cost figure of US$20 (A$40) is mentioned in the Hope literature. Previously we have seen per month figures of A$8 or US$4 (maybe 5 at May 2003 exchange rates) which includes an amount for excursions, uniforms and shoes. There is an obvious discrepancy here that we must look into more closely.
We drove with confused emotions and long silences to “pcMac” in Denpasar.
I had faxed them a week or so earlier advising of a list of programs for Apple computers that were on our shopping list for friends. (I have a real PC, not one of those wind-up varieties. Some of my friends however, despite their senior years, have a juvenile appreciation of technology.) My fax does not seem to have arrived, nor is it recalled at pcMac. I resist the temptation to suggest that they should upgrade their record keeping technology as I still want the programs. They have many on those on my list available and promise to have copies for me in a day or two. Since I am happy to pay a deposit they are happy to get them in and hold them until the unknown date of our return from the grand tour.
As far as I know there are no real options for Apple programs in Bali. Platinum carry a few but they are not very significant titles, and I have never seen any elsewhere.
At Platinum, which is our next stop, I picked up a few games for myself and friends, not really needing anything for my almost new machine.
Back to the Bali Agung Village, via a money launderer, oops, I mean money changer of course,
The Bintang Supermarket for Bintang, juice, fruit (well just passion fruit actually) Aqua, cheese, peanuts, soda water and a re-supply of CC’s.
It’s now shower, drinks, nibbles and discussion time about dinner. The notes are consulted and my suggestion of Wayan and Friends Restaurant in Jl Padma, Legian, receives Her approval.
My word, she has slipped into holiday mode and is obviously feeling benign.
It’s a fairly short ride to W & F, even though the driver seems very unsure of where Padma Street is. We get him to drop us off at the Jl Legian end of Padma and walk along this new stretch of shoppers delight. Thankfully (for me) it’s a short walk and a quick perusal of the menu on display convinces Her that She has made a wise decision in accepting my suggestion. Wayan & Friends serves breakfast, lunch and dinner from a western and Indonesian menu of three and a half pages printed on both sides. We decide on Spring rolls, Rp12,500, Calamari Rings and Tartare Sauce, Rp12,500, two Nasi Goreng with egg, Rp16,000 each, a large Bali Hai beer for starters at Rp12,500 (it comes very cold) and small Aquas over ice at Rp5,000 each. Later, for desert we decided to share a pancake and ice cream at Rp12,000 for a luscious dinner plate size serve.
The two Spring Rolls are a bit short of filling but there is a good quantity of mild but tasty sauce to dip them in. The calamari is not a big serve (I guess it’s an entrée after all) but it’s perfectly cooked (Can you say “al dente” about squid?) and comes with a thick Tartare sauce not the tainted mayonnaise that is too often substituted, and a plentiful supply of lime slices to be squeezed all over the lightly browned bread crumbs. The Nasi Goreng turned out to be a good pile of rice and vegetables, almost out to the edge of the plate and almost covered by the spread of the fried egg.
One of the things that she has drawn to my attention is the large size of eggs in Bali. How the diminutive chickens manage this minor miracle is beyond me. I remember however that an egg is almost a perfect shape for withstanding stress.
There is that typical suggestion of salad on one side of the plate.
I wonder why Bali salads are so often so small. Is it because so many patrons leave the salad, afraid that it may be contaminated by the use of non-bottled water in the preparation?
My own thoughts are that any restaurant in the tourist areas that used contaminated water would so quickly get such a bad reputation that it would not remain open for long in the competitive climate.
The taste of the dish is great despite the minimal salad.
Bagus, She says.
Her inspection of the toilet (singular) reveals a large vase of tuberoses growing in the corner and this immediately raises the score by one point.
I thought that the tiles were a terrible pink and I would not like to be there if I was feeling at all off colour.
There are 2 rolls of toilet paper, no hot water at the outside hand basin although there was liquid soap in the dispenser.
We differ about the total. She is carried away by the tuberoses and awards 9 but I will only go for 8. You’ll have to go yourself to decide that I’m right.
The total bill is Rp94,000 or A$18 for two.
Back at our room later we decide to try a bottle of the local Hatten Alexandria wine for a nightcap. Alexandria is a white, slightly fruity but with a dry finish. To our surprise we find it very palatable and one becomes two quite easily. It’s not in the class of, say, a Brown Brothers Orange Muscat and Flora which is a frequent visitor to our dinner table at dessert time, but very drinkable and we are to find ourselves having more and more as the holiday progresses.
DAY 4 – FRIDAY.
What I found out today: – In South Oz we have a fairly thick book called “Entertainment”.
It is offered annually for $50.
In it there are cut-price offers for restaurants, theatres, hotels, sports and so on.
I’ve no doubt that other states and perhaps even other countries have similar things which raise funds for charities and non-profit organisations. Towards the back in ours, on page G45 to be exact, there is a list of overseas hotels which offer 50% off their rack rate when you present the little tear-out coupon. Amongst the list are the Bali Hai, Tuban; The Nikko Bali in Nusa; both Sheratons in Nusa and the Raddison in Sanur.
What more reason would you want to go to Bali?
My walk on the beach this morning brought me to another Wayan. This is not really a surprise as naming children in Bali follows a sequence that is not often varied. The first child is usually named Wayan, and so it is without doubt the most common name in Bali. Stand on any street corner or on any beach and yell, “Ayo, WAYAN!” and you will find more than half of the people around will turn to look at you with questioning stares.
What makes this encounter so different is that Wayan is walking his Balinese dog on a lead. And when I say “Balinese” dog I mean that the animal has the characteristics of the average street dog in both build and shape. The basic breed is Anju I believe.
The really surprising thing, however, is that the dog has a shock of reddish-orange hair, apart from colour not unlike a well combed Pomeranian ready for the show ring. Apart from a slight weep from the corner of one eye the dog looks in excellent health and has obviously been recently washed and must have been combed that very morning. The dog is suspicious of me but is soon approachable with a few soothing words from Wayan, who seems familiar with the incredulous reactions of others, and very proud to go with it.
We fall into easy if stilted conversation. The dog has been through the vet process and has had all of the required medications during his early years. He (it?) is just over a year old and soon gambols around our legs in total ease, like the elegant Doberman I met yesterday and like the normal pup we westerners would expect at home. It is a wonderful example of the changes that seems to be happening to the Balinese and to the dogs of Bali. A little bit of care is all that it takes to let the real dog out from the confines of the usual mangy, cowering beast.
This idea seems to be supported by the existence of at least four pet shops and one full time vet that we became aware of in the area from Denpasar to Legian.
Our breakfast this morning is at the Cin Cin Restaurant just along the road between the beach and the lane leading to the Village. It is the one I looked at yesterday, part of the adjacent Puri Cendana Hotel. We are welcomed and served by the delightful Dewi (meaning “Goddess”, and she was), giving us her undivided attention. (Did I mention that we were the only customers there?) Dewi, I think, wanted to practise her considerable English language skills on a captive audience. We indulged both her and ourselves. When she asked where we were from we fell into an easy performance we had already done many times already this holiday. Before we left I had drawn a map of Oz with state borders and little squares for the capitals. Java, Bali Lombok, Timor and Irian Jaya/Papua New Guinea were also shown. I printed off copies of the map, which measured about 8 cm by7, and glued them into a small pad.
Do you know Australia? was the Jewish reply to her question.
The answers usually varied from a, No, to Sydney?
That was all we needed. Out from the bum bag came the map and a pen. Circling the outline of Oz with the pen I intoned, “Australia?”
“Ah, yes”, was the normal reply.
Point to Bali and intone, “Bali?”
Repeat for Java, Lombok etc and Dewi, like the others who would come later, soon began to recite the names as I pointed.
Then South Oz was shaded in with the pen and I wrote South Australia across it. A small arrow pointing to Adelaide was drawn and the name written in. That is where we live! It is the capital of South Oz!
Do you know capital?
So we would go through; Denpasar is the capital of Bali -
Jakarta is the capital of Java –
Mataram, the capital of Lombok – and so on.
“Ah.” “Syndeney?” (No, that’s not a typo error!)
Here is Sydney, and we would point, writing in only the S, and then through all the other capitals putting in the first letter only. I only missed out Canberra in case I was talking to a neophyte terrorist. Melbourne I gloss over lightly, describing it as a small village with a poor football team. Everyone understands “village” and “poor football”. (This is a pointed jibe that only followers of Aussie Rules football might understand – if they don’t come from Victoria.)
At the end the sheet would be torn off the pad and given to them.
Now, we would say, we will come and see you tomorrow and we will have a test!
If you don’t pass the test I will keep you in!
- short, silent pause –- then howls of laughter.
It never failed, even later with the retired teacher who tried to sell us a very poor lontar roll at the Palace in Denpasar while we were talking to the security guards. He saw the humour in our banter first and laughed. The security guys took a little longer to realise what was going on, then they laughed, at his laughter as much as the joke I think.
With the ice broken Dewi rested against the next table and we had a conversation all through breakfast. Before we can finish Dewi insists that we write our names on the back of the map and her surprise and pleasure are genuine I’m sure when we write down “Wayan” (first child) before Herself and “Made” (second child) before my name.
We both had the American Breakfast, with bacon because there are no sausages today. HA has mixed fresh fruit juice and mine is pineapple. Our two eggs are poached and there is that minimal salad on the side. A basket of fresh bread, rolls and chocolate croissants with packs of butter and jam follows, with a pot of tea for two. HA’s mixed fruit juice sounds a bit of a mess, a bland blend of nothing much I think, but it is fabulous; tart and refreshing, it cuts its way down the crevices of the throat, beautifully rinsing away the remnants of toothpaste. My pineapple is great but pales in comparison. The poached eggs are done eggactly right, oozing away into the toast in gleaming slow motion. I’ll leave you to just imagine the still oven-warm bread and croissants. I’ll only say that there are no left-overs to wrap up and take for morning tea or a rushed lunch.
HA gives the toilets only 6/10 but I’m sure that would not stop us from going back at some time.
The Café is open on the street side and at the garden end. A gentle cooling breeze wafts through and, as I found yesterday, it carries the scent of hot bread from the kitchen with it as well as cooling stuffed bodies.
The bill for two is Rp70,000. A$7.50 each.
Not the cheapest available but one that would be hard to beat.
You will understand that we recommend it.
We take a Kijang from the street just up from the Cin Cin Restaurant to go to the Wartel up on Jl Raya Seminyak to change more TC’s. They remember us and we are welcomed like old friends with smiles and grins. They show off their kangaroos and the Aussie flag is taped to a bracket of some sort on the wall.
As we walked across the street towards the Wartel the rate board at the front of the shop was being changed downwards. Through the door and the same was happening at the official board inside. The American rate had just been finished and Australia was next. The girl who was changing the figures looked at us and I grimaced to her. She smiled and continued changing the rates, but from the bottom of the board, and slowly.
The driver waited and took us to Matahari in Denpasar when we’d loaded our wallets once again. The fare was Rp15,000 or A$3.
We were in the habit of offering the little glittering stick-on Aussie flags to all of the drivers we used, to stick in the corner of their windscreen. The acceptance of this morning’s driver was very enthusiastic and he watched with undivided attention as I cleaned the corner of the screen with my handkerchief and made a great to-do of lining it up square and equidistant from the top edge and the side. We had bought a sheet of these at our Adelaide Market with the little stuffed toys. At the time I had not been too sure of their acceptance in Bali but the $2 cost was not much of a gamble.
So far we had not had one refusal, nor were we to have, right up until we left Pacung much later when we gave away the last one.
If I’d known how popular they would be I’d have got half a dozen sheets.
Because of his enthusiasm for the flag we decided to teach him the Aussie war cry – “Aussie, Aussie, Aussie! Oi! Oi! Oi!”
He soon caught on and we practised nearly all the way to Denpasar.
Aussie, Aussie, Aussie! we’d call and Oi! Oi! Oi! would be his response.
Aussie, Aussie, Aussie! - Oi! Oi! Oi! ,
- and a little later when we thought he wasn’t expecting it –
Aussie, Aussie, Aussie! - - Oi! Oi! Oi!
We all had a fit of laughter when we weren’t expecting it and he turned the tables on us calling – Aussie, Aussie, Aussie! himself and looking until we responded, Oi! Oi! Oi!
They have an innocent and beguiling sense of humour, and a sharp one at times too.
If you are in Bali and a driver yells out of his window, Aussie, Aussie, Aussie! and points at his windscreen, please respond, Oi! Oi! Oi! You’ll know that Filo was there.
This morning’s shopping was exploratory in nature (I thought), but many thousands of rupiah were being exchanged for cosmetics, a couple of belts for gifts, some tops (described as just incidentals), scarves, costume jewellery and so on.
In amongst all of this I got 6 pairs of jocks for Rp23,200, less than a A$1 a pair and they were amongst the dearer ones.
Much time was spent looking at rack after rack of kiddies clothes. It seemed endless, more so when She mistook for enthusiasm my presentation of several items I’d found.
I was only trying to accelerate the process actually, but it had no effect.
About 2 pm it seemed we had explored here sufficiently and I was lead down to KFC in the basement for “lunch”. Next to KFC there is a kids Time Zone and unless you’re deaf and can turn off your hearing aid, or you want to be deaf, or you’re under 10 years – don’t go here!
My spaghetti was even worse than expected, even with a modicum of the hot chilli sauce mixed in. A thing to behold here is the eating habit of the local youth. Any thing they buy is immediately covered with many pumps of both the tomato sauce and the chilli sauce. When I say many I mean more than a dozen combined. I’m not sure if this is a case of getting more value for your buck (the sauce is free) or if they also think the taste of this stuff is God-awful and must be covered up somehow.
What I did find down here however, through KFC and in the back corner of Time Zone, is a row of small serveries dishing out local type food. I’ve got to say some of it looked very attractive. I’m left to wonder if it is strictly for the locals who work there or if it’s somewhat sanitised for foreign taste and consumption.
I must seek an experienced and informed opinion.
For now it’s off to the Kuta Matahari with a short stop at Hero’s Department store on the way.
Alas, as we depart Matahari’s to hail a cab her eyes spot Robinsons Department store across the road. Well, it wouldn’t be fair not to go in and spread the shopping around a bit, would it?
Eventually we’re off again, with wallets almost intact I must say. We think Robinson’s is designed more for the local trade and not for tourists. It’s hard to find a sign in the whole place in English and that does make it a bit more difficult to shop with ease.
No sooner have we started again than the trip is interrupted by the sight of another pet shop. The article She is to write for the Dog Club magazine is getting bigger all the time. This time the photos are of the proud owner, with his Show Trophies in the background. Then there is the interruption of the Apricot Poodle which begins yapping from its cage in the corner. This is too much for Her and she has visions of Mad Max sitting at home. The rapport is immediate but the separation of Her and the dog takes some time.
I think it’s a good thing that we can’t get dogs back into Oz or Max would have a mate.
Eventually we start once more for Hero’s. I have high hopes of getting another pair of walking shoes at Hero’s. On my last visit I found, when all else had failed, a pair of white triple velcro’s were sitting on their shelf staring me in the face as soon as I walked in. I only brought one pair of walking shoes with me, intending to leave them behind when we left as they were pretty battered, and by now they’re almost ready to walk on their own.
Alas my hopes are to be dashed.
Hero’s has changed almost completely and there is not a single shoe of any description to be found.
Well, that ice cream looks good.
One for me, one for her and one for our driver. He reckons it’s alright too, judging by the way he devours it – and to hell with the traffic at times.
Kuta at last, but the to markets, not Matahari’s for a start.
She has broken a pair of shoes and needs a replacement pair.
Why buy one when we all know that things are cheaper by the dozen.
They’re not all for me, she protests, there’s . . . and . . . and . . . and of course . . .!
Of course there are and they will all appreciate their pair too I’m sure.
There is also the search for a grey “Osama Don’t Surf” tee shirt for a particular present. Stall holders run all over Kuta it seems, but there is not a grey one to be seen. Many are the calls of, “I have one Papa. Over here.”
But of course when you get there, there is not one at all but - “You look my stall!”
Much banter follows.
To Matahari’s of course. After all that’s where we’ve been heading all along.
We don’t quite make it in one go because there are all those stalls at the side (back?) entrance.
A watch or two to add to the collection of course, and an Aussie flag stuck on the top of one stall.
Two more Bintangs are required to mitigate against the omnipresent threat of dehydration. The steps of Matahari’s, under the draft machine that blows cool air across the entrance is an ideal place to drink it, except for the ever-present watch and CD sellers. Eventually some join us, another takes our photo and the rest find fresh targets. Into the store eventually, I forget what we collected this time but I hope it was worth all this.
Eventually we are off to the Bintang Supermarket for more Soda water for HA’s Chivas Regal etc etc.
Back at the Village we’re almost relaxed when we suddenly realise that this is our last night in Seminyak before the big trip – the start of the real circumnavigation.
We have to go to Sammi and Sussi’s Legian Beach Forum Bar before we go! (The Forum Bar is a myth as far as a bar goes. A couple of Legian locals, Sammi and Sussi go to the same place on the beach every afternoon. They have a red esky under an umbrella and sell soft drinks and small beers. It has been a gathering place for Forumites for ages, a place where the addicted meet face to face rather than eyeball to screen.)
How many and who will be there?
It’s an agonisingly long trip full of anticipation at putting faces to names and names to faces even perhaps.
We arrive to an empty Bar.
The Lifeguard’s tower is there, the red esky is there, under the umbrella with the plastic stools and eventually Sussi comes over from a group of her friends. The anticipation of one of the fabled nights of carousing and revelry that we know so often follow from a few drinks at “the bar” fly out of the window.
We should have been expecting this; it’s been all around us for four days on the streets, why shouldn’t it be here at this most famed spot on the beach too?
But all is not lost. “David_UK” comes from off the beach somewhere and introduces himself. A kindred spirit. After a couple of dehydration drops and the swapping of travel stories we arrange to meet at the Indo National Restaurant for dinner later that night. The Indo National is a place that was high on our list of things-to-do-places-to-see, a fairly new place in Bali, started and run by a pair of Forumites, the “Gunnas”.
“GunnaLiveThere” was a common name on the Forum as Milton and Kerry publicly planned their escape from Oz to Bali, not just for a holiday but to live. I confess that at the time I thought. “Here’s another dreamer”, and got to the point where I didn’t read their posts any more. But they followed their dream and did it, and they’ve survived, carving out a niche not only for the restaurant but as we were to find out, a niche in the life of Bali and the Balinese as well.
David_UK, I found out later, was barred from his office for two weeks after arriving back in the UK. The problem was a stopover his plane made in Singapore on the way home. Although he did not leave the plane, the fear of SARS infection at the time was enough to put his boss on high alert and give him an extended holiday he hadn’t expected.
But I get ahead of the story.
Back to the Bali Agung Village to shower the days sweat away, have a serious drink and some nibbles before retracing our steps a bit and finding the Indo National Restaurant.
It’s just along Sahadewa Street (known by some as Garlic Lane) from Dolphins Leather, the Tekor Bali Qui restaurant, Dede’s Bali Gong CD/DVD shop, and towards the opposite end to Agung Ulan Utari at 6B in the Art Markets. Quite a collection of who and what’s important in Bali.
It was a bit of a shock to walk in and be approached by a stranger who greeted me by name, well as “Filo” anyway. The stranger introduced himself as Milton and a most pleasant night was underway.
David_UK is already there with a friend from the hotel where he was staying, Bernd from Germany. David is the secret of Milton’s apparent crystal-ball gazing. He’s already told them we’d be coming and there is a table under a helicopter (ceiling fan) that seems saved for us. A nice thought but it’s too near the orchestra (a nice 3 piece combo really) for my ears so we move to one near the back and near to the glass-walled kitchen.
The advertising for the restaurant claims “Aussie hygiene” and Herself wants to see this. As a long-time Home Economics teacher (that’s cookin’ ‘n sewin’ to furriners) she can spot any thing out of place in a kitchen with her eyes closed. I’m a bit surprised that she gives it the OK after a more than casual but secret (we don’t want to get thrown out just yet) once over.
The restaurant is open fronted as is common and sensible here in Bali, unless you’re going all out with the air con. The décor of the place is different and refreshing to my visual senses, although it may not be to all tastes. The colours are shades of blue and white right up to the airbrushed sky and clouds in the lofty ceiling. Around the walls between the columns, similarly rendered, are scenes with international themes. Now you really should expect something like that in a restaurant named the Indo National shouldn’t you. I recognised the Sydney Harbour Bridge (I hope Aussies from other states will forgive me for mentioning this) and another was Rottenest Island so Herself scornfully informed me.
I’ll leave you to discover the others when you visit, as I think you should.
The menu is very well presented in a black cover with white lettering. They may be too new yet to be soiled by sticky fingers and spilled beer or dripped sauce, or maybe in keeping with the rest of what we can see, they’ve just been kept clean or replaced when that’s become necessary. It should be no secret that a tidy menu gives an immediate impression of the quality of a place so it’s surprising how often this is overlooked, even in the classier places in Bali. Other sure signs of things being a bit different were the cold hand towels we were offered as we sat down and the clean cotton checked table cloths.
I wondered if we were being given different treatment because the Gunnas knew who we were (we try to make sure that no-one does, at least until we’ve paid the bill), and that we would be writing this. I closely watched as others came and went and I can assure you that everyone was treated the same. The content of the menu is not extensive but the breadth of offerings should give suitable options for some fairly divergent tastes. We found that our varied tastes could be satisfied without serious searching. Although I’ve often commented here on the size of the menus we’ve come across, a goodly number if options is of little value if the cooks can not do an equally good job of presenting them to the satisfaction of the customers.
For myself I’d rather have a good feed of Bangers and Mash than a crook Chateau Briand.
Our cold Aquas on ice, with slices of lime or lemon to squeeze in them, arrived promptly and we settled down to study the offerings.
When we were ready our orders were taken quickly and accurately.
Am I wrapping this place up too much?
Believe me I don’t intend to do it any more credit than it deserves. If there are any warts here they will be included quite bluntly because they are as important as the roses, or the tuberoses in the toots.
Ok, I’ll prove it too you.
So far I had been concerned to find that my nice clean cork coaster became soggy under my icy Aqua and stuck to the bottom of the glass.
There, you’ve got it.
Right between the eyes.
This was in stark contrast to the treatment given to Herself, who didn’t get a coaster of any sort so she could pick up her glass without having the coaster slide off and drop down inside the front of her shirt.
Now that’s what I call discrimination.
Enough! Let’s cut to the chase.
Does this place serve food?
Indeed it does.
HA ordered Prawn Cocktail for an entrée. The prawns were plentiful and crisp without being cold on the teeth. The sauce was also plentiful, thickish and clingy, mildly spicy without being, “Agggh, where’s the ice water?” hot.
My Me Kiah soup (vegetable and noodles) was brimming in the bowl. If you ever go there and it’s not then tell them you want a Filo-size serve. Brimming but not sloshing because the solid content of vegetables sort of held it in place. I had to put some salt in it but then I’m like that. It was both tasty and filling.
Let me diverge a bit now that I’ve mentioned salt. In Bali it’s hard to get salt on your meal, and pepper too, despite the fact that bags full of the best sea salt are made all over the island.
Why is it so I hear you ask?
Well, the reason is simple. The humidity tries very hard to re-liquefy it in the salt cellars and consequently it won’t come out no matter how hard you shake it or bang it or how many times you slap it on the bed post or how much rice is put into the cellar to keep it dry.
So, how come I got salt on my soup in the Indo National?
Tupperware dispensers, that’s how. These nifty little jobs, that we have not seen anywhere before, have press tops that pop up to expose the holes, and snap down to seal the contents and keep them dry when you’ve finished.
Kerry’s little secret revealed.
HA’s main course was the snapper with salad and chips (fries for the Americans). It was a fish that I would like to catch some day. She made no comment about it really but I was not offered any. You might think that such a comment is damning with faint praise but I can assure you that she knows which side is up when it comes to fish and if it had not been just right there would have been things said, and not quietly.
I know the chips were crisp because I could hear that they were.
My Cap Cay with pork was fantastic. Spicy as you come to expect in Bali but not hot as some restaurants will try on to mask a nothing taste. Plentiful on the vegetable side of the mix and they weren’t overcooked and soft. Plentiful in general terms too. In fact, after a Bintang and a glass or two of the Wine of the Gods there was no thought of dessert.
The bill was Rp 146,000 for two – A$28 or A$14 each.
I had managed to liberate a bottle of champagne from HA which I wanted to share with Milton and Kerry as some sort of penance for my earlier ill thoughts about their sanity. They have proven me wrong and I’m glad to be able to say that. They are good hosts, watchful but not overbearing or solicitous towards their customers.
Their staff are efficient and unobtrusive but there when they are needed, such as when your coaster slips down your shirt.
David_UK joined us over the champagne and we got to talking about the sins and beauties of Bali. K & M’s insights, formed from local knowledge, gelled some of my own impressions. I was surprised to find that not only had they established a business and set up a home but had joined and started networks for the assistance of needy Balinese. They seemed to be realistic about the needs of the poorer Balinese and my eyes were opened by some of the tales they had to tell of their findings when distributing gifts to the local orphanages. No doubt Kerry’s background in Child Care in Oz has given her a down-to-earth and realistic approach and an ability to see things around corners almost, things we wouldn’t think of looking for probably.
If anyone visiting Bali wants to really help in a practical way, and to help where help is really needed, I can only suggest that you get in touch with them.
All good things must end and we eventually ended up back at the Agung Village for our last night there.
Tomorrow morning I would have to say goodbye to Mimi (AKA Haci von Lembang), Poppy the Retriever and Aduh the Rottweiler,
DAY 5 – SATURDAY
Those who know me will perhaps wonder why I have not been reeling off all of the wondrous photos that we, and me in particular, have been taking. Sad to relate that, although there have been some fine opportunities and I have tried to take advantage of them, the results have been less than spectacular. The colours are thin and the overall impression is that the shots are washed out. If it wasn’t for one or two notable exceptions, a sunset that She took with her new camera at Legian Beach being one, I would have said that the film we had especially bought at home was out of date. In the back of my mind I knew that this was not so, but any other reason eluded me. This disappointment stayed with me right up until the middle of our stay in Candi Dasa. For the time being I tweaked every knob on the little black box, but the results did not improve. Later I was to reject whole sets of prints, and a number of the re-done ones.
I have mentioned before that my morning walks have brought me into contact with several four-legged friends on the Seminyak beach. My acquaintance with Mimi, an almost terminally pregnant little black Dachshund has blossomed into a regular report for HA when I return to the Village. This morning She has said that She intends to accompany me to meet this young lady and the others I have described to Her, particularly the handsome young Doberman, all gleaming black with touches of tan in just the right places.
Ah, well, it’s going to be a late start I think.
I’m more than a bit surprised when She springs up (springs?) at my first sounds and it’s really not too long before we’re off down the lane to Jl Abimanyu and thence to the beach. We’re almost too late for Mimi however, and meet her almost as she is entering her home. She introduces HA to Andrew, whom she takes on her morning walks and, as part of the conversation, he invites us in to see Mimi’s home. “It’s that 2 story one just over there through the trees”, he says. As we still want to see the others on the beach we defer the invitation until our return and walk on.
The Doberman was not to be seen but Poppy and Aduh are at the top of the steps that lead down onto the beach and introduce themselves in a restrained sort of way. Poppy is a Golden Retriever and Aduh is a Rottweiler. Both are beautifully presented, Aduh by his minder who works for Aduh’s boss and Poppy by her Oh-So-Proud Balinese owner who looks as though he might be in his late teens or early 20’s so he’s probably about 30. Poppy’s coat is long and fluffy. When I stroke her not a hair comes out of that golden coat, a sure sign of regular grooming. Her owner almost falls over himself to tell of the morning ritual of cleaning and brushing before they show themselves to the world. Aduh’s black coat just glows in the soft morning light under the shade of the trees. He is a little disdainful of any attention and alert to any movement on the beach. They are completely at ease with one another and the world around them, particularly Poppy. Their morning walks have socialised them to each other and to their surroundings, including strangers such as us, and given them a confidence not found in the street dogs of Bali.
Our walk along the beach is a great way to start the day. It’s cool and peaceful here, enough activity to provide interest but certainly not crowded. The morning sun is just high enough to top the trees growing along the front of the hotels along the shore. It casts shadows across most of the sand but lights up the green tops of the waves as they break in a continuous line of sparkling white that races north up the coast until it hits a deeper gutter by the creek outfall where the plastic is being collected. Thunderous clouds climb into the deep blue sky making a dramatic backdrop to the calm of the beach.
Back to Mimi’s home to meet her again, and Andrew. We are a bit confused because the two story house we thought we were looking for now appears to be a three story place. But the entrance through the garage looks right so we ring the bell. The door opens and Mimi greets us, closely followed by Andrew. Once inside and through the garage it is apparent that not only is the house on 3 levels but it also consists of three distinct buildings linked by covered walkways passing along and through ponds and a meandering swimming pool complete with waterfall and a miniature island of Bali showing all the major temples. All this in grounds about the size of a soccer (football) pitch, complete with small orchard and a house temple. The buildings are flooded with natural light coming in through glass panels in the verandas and roofs as well as the open “walls”. The columns which support each level are covered with deeply carved teak panels. The open stairway that leads up to the floors above, the second (bedroom and guest suite) and third (open living area), is also old growth teak in huge slabs with the outer edges still as they came from the tree, “waney” it is called in boatbuilding lingo, not sawn straight. All of the timbers, including the floors of Bali Pine (?), are clear finished. One wall of the third level is virtually covered by a huge painting that Andrew has commissioned from the artist of a smaller version he saw in a gallery. Above all of this is a “widow’s walk” on the roof that overlooks the surrounding land. We can clearly see the Bali Agung Village from here and further, across the rice fields to the north.
It is a fantastic house which Andrew shows with justified pride. Mimi lives in grandeur which we had not be guessed at from outside the high walls.
Later in our stay, having spent a brief time observing at the Montessori School in Seminyak, I am tempted to suggest a re-visit but Herself was suffering and instead we pushed on. Mimi later sent us an E-mail at home to announce the news of the arrival of her new family, one black boy, two black girls and two brown girls.
Back to our room and HA started the packing. I had the task of E-mailing friends about our movements and doings, and advising them of progress towards completion of their material orders as well as checking for anything in-coming that might warrant more than a passing thought.
The Village Desk Manager phoned Made for us and arranged a pick-up time while we settled the bill and began to move gross amounts of stuff from our room towards the lobby before welcome help arrived. Made drove in and somehow all the stuff was packed into the back of the Kijang. It is at this stage that the unarguable fact emerges that, despite giving away stuff at a good rate, we are accumulating it faster.
I am quite happy to admit that my 6 pairs of jocks have added to the accumulation!
Off at last, via the moneychangers at the Wartel, where quantities of TC’s are changed as a hedge against the anticipated lower exchange rates in the country. This is a concern which didn’t seem to eventuate in Candi Dasa at least. The fresh bread shop near the doors of the Bintang Supermarket provide breakfast for us and a mid morning snack.
Barely 2 hours has passed since we arrived back from the beach. A minor miracle has occurred.
“ . to Candi Dasa . “ is quick to say, and if you’re simply going there and not stopping or trying to stop along the way it would probably take less than 2 hours to cover the 60 or so kilometres. There are, however, side tracks to be explored as well as the places that are really along our path. Our trip will take just about all of the rest of the day.
From Seminyak we go across the southern edge of Denpasar and through Sanur, which brings back memories of our first trip 25 years ago. Not that there’s anything we can see that we recognise from that time. It is just another big town to us now. Just going through however raises our curiosity, particularly when we see the sign to the Grand Bali Beach Hotel, which was simply the Bali Beach Hotel when we stayed there. We agree that we must go back for a day to look and walk around when we come back south in a week or so.
We travel north from Sanur, along the eastern edges of Denpasar, which we have skirted by going through Sanur, turn to the right and head north east along the coast road. Along this road there are tantalising glimpses of the ocean and coast but no avenue that I can see to access the shore. My map shows a proposal to build a road right along this coast but it only goes a short distance yet, perhaps 10 or 12 kilometres from our turn-off. When or if, finished it will perhaps isolate the larger inland towns a bit but might instead provide some interesting scenery and real estate developments. By the time I realise that we have travelled on this new section of completed road it is too late to turn off through Sukawati as I had hoped, or to see the Moon of Pejeng a little west of the town of Gianyar.
Sukawati is a shopper’s delight, a market where the re-sellers along the tourist beaches buy their wares. If you can’t find a bargain in Sukawati you just aren’t looking.
The Moon of Pejeng is an enormous cast bronze drum, dated to 300 to 400BC. Although there is no argument about the age there is great debate about how and where such a single piece casting could have been made, Where the technology for making the mould (probably from stone) and melting such a quantity of metal came from is a mystery. It is the largest of its kind to be found within Asia. Later, as we finally left Candi Dasa and went to Pacung, I would again have a second chance to see it.
When the section of new road ends we turn north, inland again to Gianyar, only a local centre now, and a very busy one, but once the capital of the Gianyar region and site of a palace. We are satisfied with a stop at the local market and nearby shopping area. Now Gianyar is not a common tourist centre and the local market would probably not be on the agenda of any tourist who did stop here. Our appearance seemed to cause a bit of a stir initially but life soon went on around us. Only some silly old bloke wandering around handing out CC’c to all and sundry stirred the force occasionally. The stirring occurred particularly around the two Muslim women at their brassiere stall and the kids who were bemused by the hand holding a CC which seemed to appear mysteriously from out of the racks of clothes. While I am in the flower section, looking closely at the baskets of marigolds that are popular for temple offerings as their colour very closely approaches that of the local gold alloy, HA is managing to acquire a couple of watches, a pair of little shoes with squeakers in the soles for the Declan and a tiny apricot and white dress from amongst the hundreds (in fact thousands even) on the racks and piles for Eloise for about $3. On our way back to Bedugul/Pacung a week or so later we were to visit one of several spinning and weaving factories on the outskirts of the town. It is a real eye-opener.
To Klungkung which is only about 15 k’s and less than half an hour from Gianyar.
The old palace and its present use as a museum were both uninspiring. The alleged guides are less than uninspiring, even after you’ve paid the admittedly small entry fee. The very poorly organised museum could be an attraction with a bit of organisation and some more information in a form of English that is more understandable than the weird style currently in use. The adjacent Court of Justice is thankfully self explanatory almost, decorated with paintings of all the punishments fitted to the crimes of the times, and a gruesome warning they must have been to any accused who happened to look up during their trial. Frankly the depictions of heads being opened with double handed saws, or being boiled alive or roasted would have been enough to keep me on the straight and narrow – I think. Being condemned to pull a cart, like a water buffalo would have been preferable but the conclusion of this form of torture was not clear and may have been just as bad as the others.
The so-called port of Kusamba was our next stop. Kusamba is really only an open beach, with a bit of surf running on this day. There was still a boat to be loaded however. The boats are wooden, about 20 meters long, high prowed and broadly flared at the decks, with two or three outboard motors on the stern. The motors did not look very large, perhaps 40-50 HP, but I suppose that these ferries are not intended to travel at high speed, especially when fully laden and pushing into these seas. The boats approach the surf line and drop an anchor some distance off shore. As the boat begins to swing to the anchor and the bow turns towards the incoming waves, the anchor rode is payed out until the boat’s stern is just off the beach, then belayed hard to ensure there is no slippage that would put the boat ashore. Swinging lines are then run from the bow of the boat to large posts driven or buried in the black sand beach. The boat is then secure, with its bow held in the surf but the stern free to swing to the angle of the waves as they approach.
All of this might secure the boat, but none of it provides security for the loading hands who load all of the cargo from the mountainous pile on the beach onto their shoulders and wade out through the surf to the swinging stern where the load is humped up to others on the stern quarter deck. If the boat swings at the wrong time it is likely to at least knock the loaders off their feet, and if they’re dead unlucky it seems that they could even be caught under the boat, between the keel and the bottom. The deck hands only concerns, I would imagine, are to save the cargo from a drenching, and to hope the loader will get to his feet quickly so the loading is not delayed.
We watched this for over half an hour while things were carried out varying from three 25 kg sacks of rice at a time on their shoulders to a pile of those woven cane chook cages balanced on their heads, to 40 litre plastic bottles of fuel with a layer or two of plastic film tied over the necks to drums of lubricating oil, huge baskets of eggs, bundles of cloth bound in sacking, and anything else that has to be transported to the offshore islands around Nusa Penida, went aboard without incident.
The boat is loaded at the bow first, way up under the steeply raked cabin front, slowly moving aft as the spaces become full. This method of loading puts the bow down in the water first, with waves often sweeping over the foredeck. Hand pumping was being done continuously with a pipe pump into which goes a rod handle about the size of a broom stick. I suppose that this is to keep the level of water in the boat below the bottom layer of cargo. As the bow goes down the stern rises making things even more difficult for the loaders as they have to hump their load higher.
I cannot see a Union representative anywhere on the beach.
A little way down the beach is a salt works. I was nosing about in the coconut plantation at the edge of the beach, looking at the boats and the fishing gear being repaired and painted, when an old bloke with six teeth asked me if I wanted to buy the wreck of a hull that I was peering into. I really only wanted to look at the construction I told him. I guess he didn’t understand but he asked if I wanted to see the salt works, he could give me an ”eggs-plan-asheeon complit” if I wanted. Well I wanted, and he led me along the beach past what must have been over a hundred jukungs drawn up three deep on the crest of the beach. At the far end was “the house”, a tin roofed shed with two and a half walls, fronted by a flat area of sand about a tennis court in size and packed hard under a loose surface. This is where the process has begun for how many centuries I don’t know. The sand used the previous day is thrown onto the surface which is then re-levelled each morning starting at “pipe tirty” (5.30 am) if I remember it right. Once levelled, sea water is collected in buckets slung from a beam carried across the shoulders, in timeless fashion. The water is carried up the beach and splashed onto the levelled sand area. This continues until about “ayye tirty” am, when the sun is getting higher in the sky and strong enough to begin to evaporate water from the surface of the black sand, drawing more salty water up from deeper layers saturated with salt from years of use and concentrating salt in the layers near the surface. At about “poor tirty” pm these surface layers are scraped up and dumped into a huge hollow log, like a big fat canoe, under the edge of the house roof. At the lower end of this log is a small round hole and, as sand is tipped into the log and more water splashed over it, a very strong solution of salt trickles out of the hole into hollow log drums. It is allowed to stand in these drums until the next day, after the flat area has been topped up with the used sand, levelled and splashed anew with sea water. It is then transferred outside into shallow evaporation trays of either palm trunks hollowed lengthways and resting on trestles or broad strips of rubber or plastic draped between two bamboo poles supported horizontally on trestles. Here I could see the grains of salt settling out of the strong solution (which is about 25mm or 1 inch deep) and sitting on the bottom of the trays. Crystals or flakes could be picked up between the finger tips and the taste was total salt, enough to make the insides of my cheeks draw in. From here it was sacked and taken to market, more strong solution being added to the trays each day to replace evaporation losses and re-charge the salt content.
Well, the ”eggs-plan-asheeon” was “ complit” and immediately followed by the polite request that I could perhaps pay him for his service? Of course I could, and I did, laughing with him at my offer of Rp1,000 before eventually agreeing to 50,000 which must have pleased him immensely judging by his wide and toothy smile. Just about this time I saw the other two approaching. His 50 disappeared in a flash and the request instantly changed to some payment for his friends whom I shall remember always as two tooth and four tooth. Guessing that these were the real salt workers I gave him two twenties for them and left them all arguing about how much each would get. It seems he wanted a share of their 20’s on top of his hidden 50. I almost turned around and told them about his 50 but I thought, No! they’re friends, they’ll sort it out! - and left as fast as I could without breaking into a n undignified run.
Really I find the process fascinating in its apparent ageless and primitive nature, its strict time schedule especially with the processing of the previous day’s product fitted into the otherwise slack evaporation time and in its obvious success.
From Kusamba to Padang Bai.
Just let those two names roll off your tongue a few times.
Say them aloud.
“Kusamba” pronounced as you see it, Padang Bai the same, linger a little on the “g”, with an emphasis on the “Bye” – for bay.
Say them slowly.
Kusamba and Padang Bai.
Add Amlapura and Tulumben. Slowly, don’t rush.
Kusamba and Padang Bai and Amlapura and Tulumben.
Don’t they just roll off the tongue?
Are they the sound and the very taste of romance and exotic adventure?
Kusamba and Padang Bai. Amlapura and Tulumben.
The hair on the back of my neck almost stands up still.
Padang Bai is a real sea port, modern, dirty, smelly and really un-romantic.
Not at all like Kusamba where you would not be surprised if the Persian hordes galloped over the sand dunes at any time.
The southern end of Padang Bai is steel piles topped with steel decking, streaks of rust and spilled paint.
Flaking hulls on ships of unfamiliar shape.
Ferries and barges and top heavy catamarans rolling at anchor in the roads just off the end of the piers.
Vehicle ferries dock here, disgorging trucks, cars, passengers and busses before departing again for distant shores; Lombok, Surabaya, Sumbawa, Nusa Penida.
Romantic names again, as long as they stay within your mind and you don’t go searching out the realities. Then they might become places like Padang Bai.
At the northern end of the bay is a different Padang Bai however.
Padang Bai of the white sand beach, the green tinted waters deepening to indigo blue. Padang Bai of the colourful jukungs used for fishing at night and for snorkelling, diving and surfing tourists through the day.
Padang Bai of the little houses and warungs, of beach cafes, of dive shops, of back-packers homestays.
Padang Bai of peace and quiet.
In amongst the houses, past the cemetery that seems to be a part of every small and ancient coastal port, I found a jukung being made. Well, my nose found it first. The unmistakable smell of fibreglass resin! A “modern” jukung sitting under a lean-to roof next to a mould that will probably fashion dozens more. The three brothers have been working on the mould and hull for 4 months and are now putting the finishing touches to the hull. The traditional bent timber and bamboo floats will complete this hybrid. At my raised eyebrows when the bamboo floats are mentioned they shrug their shoulders. What else? It's so cheap; it costs nothing if they harvest it themselves and there is plenty.
Indeed, what else?
Off we go, around Teluk Amuk, Amuk Bay, to Candi Dasa on the opposite point of the bay, 10 or 12 km away, to begin the search for a hotel to book into. As we approach the town we begin to look at some of the hotels as they appear along or off the road. As we get closer to the town we discount the last one in favour of a new one closer to our points of interest.
We eventually settle on the Candi Dasa Beach Hotel Bungalows and Restaurant almost in the centre of town and fronting right onto the beach. The rooms in the 2 storey blocks are a bit decrepit and musty from being closed up too long, in fact the whole place needs some TLC, but it’s not likely to get it in the present climate. The owner is in Java and doesn’t care too much I am told, he has too much money! The bungalows however attract us, particularly the large entrance area which is really an extra room, the proximity to the pools and the beach and the much larger than usual fridge add to the interest. The place is clean but tired and has obviously been shut up for some time. The tiles and grout in the bathroom show their age first I think, then the furniture and the carpets. The plastic shower screen on the edge of the bath is hard and almost brittle with a band of mould along the bottom edge but the bath is not chipped or scummy. The window screens are sound and the curtains clean and working.
I think I’ve blown it when my final offer of Rp225,000 per night for the bungalow is at first refused but quickly accepted when we reach the office doorway to leave. This is about a quarter of the advertised rate of US$90 or about Rp900,000 per night, a rate which is really a bit of a joke considering the present state of the facility.
From memory we paid Made Rp200,000, and he disappeared back along the road we have come.
There are no telephones, not even an internal system, two light globes do not work, there are only Indonesian programmes on the TV, no ice cube trays in the fridge which is not turned on. Later we discover no ice is available from the kitchen or the bar, but they will go and get a bag from the supermarket if we wish to buy it!
Those problems that can be fixed are immediately attended to by a staff that we were to find still dedicated to the place and to their work.
We discover later that there are only three of the bungalows occupied and none of the rooms in either of the two 2 storey blocks. This number drops to two the next day.
Besides the entry room in our bungalow there is a quite large bedroom with a king size bed and a large bathroom. There is a load of storage space in both main rooms, a low table and lounge chairs with a large double wardrobe in the entry room and a similar wardrobe plus a dressing table and tall chest of drawers topped by the TV in the bedroom. Although there are two A/C units one does not work. The other proves to be very adequate however.
Later we meet our adjoining neighbours a pair of Dutch ladies who sip gin and tonics on their veranda each evening, at the edge of what is now an almost private pool on this side of the property.
We shortly join them in this pleasant pastime.
Caroline and Ankie, both from Rotterdam, turn out to be Candi Dasa regulars, finding it to be all that Bali offers in a conveniently small package. They invite us to join them for dinner that evening and we are happy to accept their offer and recommendation, not having anything else in mind.
A swim for me, in a pool that inspires a lot more confidence than the one at the Bali Agung Village, followed by a shower, a shave and a change of clothes from the skin out (or is it vice versa?) before tramping the streets for food, to be followed by a needed rest in that big bed.
Our destination is Queens Café on the beach side of the main street. It is not hard to find, even on this poorly lit street with the typical Bali up-and-down-gutters-sprinkled-with-holes.
Why is it that local councils, even in Oz, always plant street trees under street lights? It’s not as though the light will make any significant difference to the growth of the tree but the tree certainly makes a difference to the light.
From the Candi Dasa Beach Hotel we turn right and head along the main street. Past the village temple with its imposing candi bentar, (The traditional Balinese entry to important places it is a gateway of red brick and carved grey stone with no joining structure across the top of the twin portals, a “split gate” in other words.) past a number of quite empty restaurants many of which tried very hard to attract our custom, past the lagoon which is having a deserved clean out of all the dead lilies and lotus which are piled in a heap on one side of the road, on just a little bit further and there it is, clearly signed and simply welcoming.
It is what I think a Café should be, small, intimate and unpretentious. Not trying to be a restaurant, great or small, but serving the casual diner with good food in a friendly enen warm atmosphere. The front is open to the street as is part of one side wall, the remaining part making a back wall to the bar. There are tables of two sizes I think, able to be arranged to seat various sized parties probably to a maximum of about 30 diners. At the back is the kitchen, some living quarters for the staff I believe and the toilet – about which more later.
Along the wall opposite the bar is a small stage area where we were later to be entertained by a couple of the local children in their ornately decorated traditional costumes, performing segments from the popular classical dances. These performances are amazing in their detailed movements, appearing to have no discernable sequence to our untrained eyes and ignorance of the story line in any detail. The dancers have been well trained it would appear. Even at their early age their movements are fluid and without any discernable hesitation. At other times, here on the stage or less formally around the bar, there are frequently spontaneous performances of song and/or music from talented locals.
There seems to be almost one waiter to each diner tonight. The crowd is not large, as might be expected, and as might also be expected, the attention of the waiters is very close if a little unexpected at times. We think that they are not particularly trained but are enthusiastic locals trying to do the best they can, and learn in the process.
The lighting in the café is just nice. Not glaring so that you cannot comfortably see your surroundings but (only) just bright enough to read the menu and to see the food when it is placed in front of you.
We are welcomed with an Arak and orange, a nice custom made even nicer because it has not been abandoned here despite what must be very hard times. This one was even nicer than the usual drink because it has a dash of Grenadine to lift the taste. Very cold, very nice, possibly very addictive!
We ordered Aqua, as is becoming our habit at the start of a meal, and when it arrived it was so cold there was ice in the bottle. It came with a small bowl of ice in case you wanted to really freeze the tonsils and a platter of nice thick lime slices.
Just brilliant. Bagus! And bloody good too.
I noticed that the paper serviettes had been cut in halves, a practise I deplore but one which is common in Bali. I’d like to think that it is a diminishing practise but I’m not sure. If you don’t need a full paper serviette then you don’t need a serviette at all.
HA’s Seafood Soup (RP8,500) came very promptly after our order was taken. The bowl was brimming, the contents hot and spicy, full of fishy flavour. There was a generous number of small prawns that I would call shrimps, but perhaps that’s the way they come here. Despite the abundance of waiters my Lumpia a la Queens (a crispy pancake roll stuffed with vegetables and with a sweet and sour dipping sauce) somehow was overlooked and I had to be content to suck on HA’s soup, of which there was plenty. I should have twigged when it didn’t arrive with her soup, or shortly after, but by the time I realised that it probably wasn’t coming I thought I really didn’t need it anyway, and the waiters, trying so hard to be helpful, didn’t need the hassle.
My Gado Gado made up for the missed entrée. It was just superb. There was enough on the plate to make a meal on its own and as I was coming to expect, the vegetables (and you might gather I am fond of my vegetables) were done just to perfection. I guess that if you can’t get a great Gado Gado in Indonesia where will you get one? The sauce flavour lingered with me through at least half a glass of Bintang after the last morsel was devoured and then traces slowly seeped out to my taste buds again from the peanut pieces stuck in my teeth. I should also mention that the Prawn Crackers that accompany this dish also had taste. They were not the fluffy cardboard I have had at times.
HA’s Mixed Satay only briefly passed my lips as she seemed determined not to part with any more that absolutely necessary. I can therefore only judge it OK on my own brief account and She must have thought at least the same as there was none left on Her plate.
My Gado Gado was Rp13,000, the Lumpia would have been Rp12,000. HA’s Satays were Rp18,500.
HA’s excursion to the toilet resulted in the report that it is a squat, but a fully tiled one, clean and with toilet paper as well as the mandi pool and dipper for the locals’ ablutions. The dipper is worth at least a casual mention, it is candy pink plastic and heart shaped! Functional and a work of art to boot! There is a toilet brush too, the first I have seen in Bali – a clear message to leave it as you found it. I’m not sure if the bristles were soft, hard or medium, but if you’re not intending to clean your teeth does it matter? The hand basin is outside the toilet, sensible to help cater for rush hours, with cold water only, no soap but a clean towel. As it stands (or as it squats if you like) she thinks it is worth at least a 5/10, probably a 6. Some living growth would have made the 6 a certainty and a 7 possible, but the lack of soap is a drawback. If your back and thigh muscles will stand (is that the best word I could use?) a squat it is probably as good as they come.
To make up for the Lumpia I am allowed to order a coconut pancake with Ice cream. She decides on a Banana Split. I think she is trying re-live her misspent youth in Sigalas’s Milk Bar, a notorious den and teen-age hang-out of half a century ago. Dessert follows her return and I find the plate sized pancake a little pale for my liking, as though the pan was not quite as hot as it might have been when the mixture first hit it. The coconut seems to be fresh as well as being liberal. Nice. The vanilla ice cream has run out. What the hell - the strawberry adds colour. HA’s Banana Split disappears much more quickly than my pancake and I am allowed only a tiny taste, so again I can only judge it to be OK, although I remember the banana flavour was as you would expect when there is probably a banana tree growing within the range of a tossed empty Bintang bottle from the back door. The sweets were Rp8,000 and 8,500 respectively.
I forgot to mention that our second Bintang came courtesy of the management, perhaps in appreciation of the real Aussie flag and the sparkling stick-on duplicate we offered for their bar decorations when we came in.
The menu is not extensive but obviously well within the skills of the cook(s) and wide enough to satisfy a range of tastes. Like a good bathing suit it covers the essentials and generates interest. What more do you need?
A few locals have wandered in to patronise the bar. Lively and noisy greetings are exchanged after which the discussions seem to become earnest and more subdued, so that these old ears can hear the table conversation again. The popularity of the establishment with the locals, and the life that they generate, speaks loudly for the value offered by the place.
The bill is Rp86,350 including 10% tax. A$16.60 for the two of us.
We will return we think.
As we left it to go back to the hotel it seemed to us that Queens was about the only place still open and with customers, and it’s a happening little cafe too.
DAY 6 – SUNDAY.
This is our first day in Candi Dasa. The weather is beautiful. Yes, it is humid but at the CD Beach Hotel our bungalow (number 124 I think) is just the second one back from the pool which itself is right on the beach. And I mean right on. There is a path around the pool and the edge of this path is a concrete wall that drops straight down onto the beach, sand and broken coral at low tide, about half a meter of sea water at high tide. Perhaps a kilometre back on the other side of the town rise the local hills, steep and green with trees, peanuts, rice and maybe vegetables. It is an area that I will explore in future. If the breeze is off the sea it comes straight to us. If it is off the land it comes down the hillsides, seemingly cooled by the cultivated land and forests.
Just after first light I take some photos of the front pools, the tall coconut palms and the four small islands just offshore, maybe a kilometre, with the shadow of Nusa Penida (Penida Island) on the horizon. Just to the left of the pool and ending right on that wall which keeps the sea at bay is an open eating area, just a roof really, with a hand-rail at the end to stop revellers walking out into the open air over the beach. It is a great spot to eat in solitude and to write, with a Bintang nearby. On the further side of this area is another pool. Along the beach there are ‘T” shaped concrete groynes and breakwaters at regular intervals. These protect the shore line structures from the attacks of the sea.
The disastrous results of these attempts at photography remind me, again, of a lesson I should have remembered from similarly timed attempts at the Bali Agung Village, indeed should have remembered from futile attempts on previous trips. The lesson is simple really; if your camera has been in a cool air-conditioned atmosphere all night, the lens will immediately fog up, the very instant it is exposed to warm, moist outside air. Because it was so early in the morning I was using automatic settings and took only a quick glimpse through the viewfinder to compose the picture before locking up the tripod. As a consequence I did not notice the thin film of moisture across the lens and, even as it started to disperse from the outside edge towards the centre, the pictures were only of use as good examples of the problem. I can’t blame the camera or the film for this mess.
To the right of the hotel pools, around the sweep of the bay, is a fuel plant, right on the bay shore with docking facilities running offshore and moorings scattered around this part of the bay. At night the tankers, moored and mooring here, provide a show of fairy lights around the horizon. Also across this side of the bay is the Blue Lagoon, a well known snorkelling spot we are to visit later.
Around town every young bloke you come across, and most of the older ones too, want to engage you in conversation, and they usually do so in one of the dozens of ways that they have developed over the years. Inevitably they want to sell you transport, breakfast, sailing, fishing, snorkelling, cloth, sunglasses, watches (even here), but they are not as persistent as are their southern cousins. In a short time it is easy to slip into a normal conversation, about their families, their work, what they are doing today – all of the questions that they ask you are good conversation starters when you ask them.
In due course of the morning we get around to choosing somewhere for breakfast, and our choice this morning is the pleasant Kubu Bali Bungalows Bar and Restaurant. We are the only ones there and although that makes me feel a little uncomfortable about getting fresh food there really is no other choice, every place we look into is quite empty. The Kubu Bali is on the hills side of the street, set back a little from the noise of the road behind a lotus pond which is fully into flower. The exotic blooms are at all stages of their development, from a green bud with a soft purple tip (and it really seems a shame that this wonderful blend of shading must be split asunder) to the elegant, fully opened candy-pink petalled flowers with their brilliant yellow pollen sacs waving on the end of ivory stalks. Inevitably there is at least one bee in residence, testament to the richness within, complementing the richness without. The final stage is a dull lettuce-green seed pod varying from the smallest with salt-cellar size holes in the flat top to the fully grown ones of almost tea-cup size where the holes have become enlarged to pencil sharpener size. On the edge of the pond is a bougainvillea which has been trained up a steel pole about three times the height of a netball goal post. The plant covers the pole and the plant itself is covered with deep pink flowers. This huge plant is flanked on each side by two smaller ones, a white and a purple. It is a nice outlook from the bale in which we are seated, open sided and constructed of timber without any finish on the surface. The supporting posts each rise to the roof from a short carved grey stone plinth just above which the post is wrapped in the common black and white cheque cloth.
The gentle sea breeze coming through or over the shops and houses on the other side of the street is cooling but we know that by the time we leave it will be sweat-time again. The peace is shattered only occasionally by some crazy youths on a motorbike which has the mother of all straight-through pong boxes.
Maybe life was not meant to be easy as Malcolm said, but in a place like this it certainly isn’t hard.
Our request for tea while we go through the menu and make our choices is quickly met and I’m surprised but not disappointed to find that the milk for mine is evaporated, not fresh. The taste is a nice change.
Our mixed fresh fruit juice arrives soon after (Astute readers will have noticed the “our” there. I am a fast learner about some things.) and they are just as good as the one She had at the Cin Cin – was it only yesterday? There is moisture condensing on the sides of the glasses already and the morning sun just hitting the edge of the table makes the beads sparkle as they run down the side. The contents are a pale mustard colour and so thick that the pristine white straw stands rigidly to attention in the centre. I have to abandon any pretence at propriety by using the straw, enough just will not come through it for a good mouthful. The taste is indefinite. Think of a fruit and you think you can taste it. Think of another and you can taste that too. Melons, pineapple, apple, lime, papaya (Oh yes! Papaya.) banana, even orange came firmly into my head at one time. Strange to us and refreshing.
I decide on Lumpia this morning as I missed out last night. They come as a pair, about the size of a spring roll but flattened on each end rather than squared off by folding in the pastry as it is wrapped as you expect your spring rolls to come. The pastry itself is a single thickness and therefore not flaky and crisp but nice and firm, certainly not soggy with soaked-up oil from the pan. They sit on a bed of shredded lettuce with a slice of tomato and another of cucumber on one side. They are accompanied by tomato sambal sauce rather than the soy/sweet and sour that comes with rolls.
The toast is only warmed bread really. It has none of the browned colour that I look for in proper toast and which speaks of crispness. The jam is “run out” so we have to make do with those little peel-top packs of Knotts Berry Farm Honey, all the way from California, USA, made, I read, from a blend of US and Mexican honeys. It is sweet and thin. I look back to the lotus pond and at the bees in those flowers and wonder about those far off bees that produced this drop. The butter is a bit more exciting (Oh, come on Filo, I can hear the critics mutter. Exciting butter? Give ‘em something to talk about I say.) It’s Elle and Vire Beurre de France, unsalted and unremarkable. But consider for a moment, all the circumstances that came together to put stuff from Mexico, America and France in front of an Australian eating breakfast in Bali!
Is that not remarkable? OK. It’s not exciting.
HA reports that the toilet is VERY clean, a flushed variety in western style, (No, it’s not blushing with embarrassment nor is it wearing spurs or a 10 gallon hat.) sitting on a tiled floor with natural stone walls around. Yes, there is paper too. Outside there are hand basins with only cold water but with soap and – wait for it She exclaims – an electric hand dryer! 9/10 She insists. This I have to see, and I find the male version identical with the addition of a piddler on the wall. Not the sparkling cleanliness She insists She found (I decline the offer to verify the facts.) but very adequate and a pleasure to be in. I would say 8/10 but you can go and make up your own mind.
Our bill is Rp122,000, about A$21.50. Certainly not the cheapest but good food if not good value. The tax of 20% does not help I suppose. Again I have to ask why tax is 20 % here but at other places it is only 10, or 7 or even 5%? Does it include an unannounced service charge? And if so who gets this?
Ready to face the remainder of the day we set out down street where we stumbled last night. How different things look in the light of day. The softly lit lagoon of the night before was really an almost dry swamp being dredged of dead vegetation and plastic mainly. Perhaps it will look Venetian again when the water is readmitted. The redeeming feature, if there was one, was in the far corner where the cleaned up remains of both lotus and water lilies slump, unsupported but still with vibrant blooms. It’s easy to slip into a critique of rubbish when you find it in a third world country, in the middle of period of depressed economy, exactly where you expect to find it. But it’s not any more difficult to remember the downstream end of our own Torrens Lake, down by the weir that creates it from a trickling stream. It’s in the heart of Adelaide, right on the doorstep of two of our better restaurants and certainly clearly in view from their posh balconies over the lake’s edge. It is regularly be-fouled in similar if not worse manner, possibly with dead animals and birds not too far under the surface. All our authorities seem to be able to do it clean it up every so often – and that’s just what is happening here too.
Immediately we are reminded that what is not so easily dismissed or excused however, are the footpaths. Although not as bad as Kuta perhaps, but that really depends on where you go in Kuta, they are still up and down at angles of 45 degrees at every property entry. The footpaths are about 300 mm (a foot) above the road surface so a step up of this size, time after time is not easy, and it’s very unwise to try to step onto the 45 degree surface as they become slippery with either rain or windblown dust, and a quick kiss of the footpath is not what you want on a holiday in Bali. The surface of the footpaths is often broken, with cracked cement slabs or missing bricks or tiles, leaving a hole to wrench an ankle if not break a leg. In Bali, the cautious tourist, even the careless one too, soon learn to walk on the road whenever possible, with at least one eye cast downwards for safety.
You don’t see a lot of scenery walking like this.
Much of the damage appears to be caused by the property owners. If they want to put in a drain or another entry or a tree, they simply dig up whatever they want to, but accept no obvious responsibility for fixing the damage. I think that the first village Banjar that really tackles this well known problem will be rewarded with an upsurge in tourist numbers.
We walk on.
When midday comes we are forcefully reminded of “mad dogs and Englishmen” under the sun. The dogs are asleep, the attendant at the Internet shop is asleep (At least she’s in air conditioned comfort.) The roosters in their cane cages are asleep as are the pet birds that hang under verandas and trees. The drivers in their cars are asleep, although with one eye half open it seems, as we are frequently assailed with, “Transport Boss?” as we walk past.
Back to the bungalow with a couple of Bintangs in a black plastic bag. (What else?) Our pool is warm but the one on the other side of the bale is a little in the shade down one side and therefore cooler. We migrate to the coolest corner and hang with our chins tucked over the edge and our eyes half closed.
Soto Ayam for two. Very hot Chicken soup with an egg cracked into the centre to cook in the heat of the liquid and a bread roll. Rp25,300 including the tax and service charge. This is about 5 Aussie dollars. Not too bad for a hotel. With a couple of Bintangs from our fridge it makes lunch.
We decide it is time to try the beach ladies for a massage. Actually they are not beach ladies as the beach is to temporary for good business and they use a corner of the hotel grounds for 10% of their take. Nyoman (a third child), one of the young lads I have been talking to still wants to take me sailing, or fishing? Or to the islands? Or snorkelling? You dive Boss? I will go sometime somewhere, out of curiosity as much as for the chance to sail a jukung again and for a chance to look back onto this coast with its hilly (mountainous?) backdrop. When and where, we just don’t seem to be able to decide yet.
The massage lady I attach myself to turns out to have a death grip like Attila the Hun. I was used to the rather gentle Wayan from Tuban. Gentler is a very comparative term as I use it here. Wayan has made me flinch but this girl made me yelp and flinch on more than one occasion. Sore? she enquired after each episode. It’s not that she’s deliberately rough I don’t think but she has a thumb like Sean Connery in that well known film when he was an American Major or some such. Why do I find these well known films forgettable? The base of her index finger is also a force to be reckoned with and should be registered as an offensive weapon. I’m sure it could poke the eye out of an elephant. Together, or between the two of them really I suppose, in compression at the end of a long sweeping stroke she had a pinch that New Scotland Yard would expect to see in the media headlines the next day. I frequently go to sleep under the hands of Wayan and have difficulty in coordinating the necessary muscles to sit up or turn over. Not so here. The price was Rp50,000 and we did not attempt to bargain. These girls had changed each day and we had not seen them use their skills in the time we had been here so far. Who were they going to work on if not us?
The massage is on top of the wall that keeps the sea from invading the pool, maybe 3 meters high and less than half that from the sea at the time. Out of the corner of your eyes here you seem to be ready to drop into the breaking waves over the reef or floating along the cloud line over Nusa Penida on the horizon. It’s an eerie feeling and not a comfortable one.
We have so far had two films developed here, at the Kodak counter of the supermarket across the road from the Hotel. The young man there has charge of a fairly recent machine and seems to clean it daily about 8.30 when he opens. He’s certainly not busy and is able to get the developing and printing done in half a day without problems. Some of the results are not too disappointing and I risk a couple of enlargements but they’re not really good. There is a Fuji shop a bit further down the road but I have not yet seen it open and fear that the lack of tourists has had the ultimate effect. The shades of blue and turquoise along this shore just demand my continued efforts to capture them but I am beginning to get frustrated. I even resort to reading the camera instruction book again. Now that’s proof of desperation!
I looked long and hard at these colours again while I was trying to take my mind off the massage.
Looking down over the edge of the wall into the shallows the water was almost transparent, just the faintest tinge of blue, lighter even than HA’s Blue Sapphire Gin. Now there’s a world-wide definitive colour chip of light blue. Between the swells the blue begins to take on a tinge of green over the weed growing on the rocks and coral. Over the clear sand patches and dead, white coral the blue just deepens. A little further out these colours deepen more, alternating in bands that reflect the nature of the bottom. Where the sun light reflects off pale sand the blue persists but darkens. Where there’s weed growth the green shows more and more, darker and darker until it’s just black. The whole sea across these shallows, until the depths on the other side of the breakwaters and reef, is a patchwork of alternating colours that move in harmony with the swells.
As you look higher the purple of Nusa Penida on the horizon seems just a lightening of the sea colours and above the island the purple merges into the blues of the sky and these in turn become the greys and white of the clouds, repeating the pale transparency of the shallows under the wall in front of me.
If you’re lucky enough to have been here, or to come at some time, you’ll know how inadequate my description is. One of the reasons I want good pictures of this shore is to show people what it’s really like.
I know that at some time I am going to be in trouble with some of the local fishermen. One or two seem to be the husbands of these massage girls. (Can you use that word to describe these female humans with four children? One, who laughs like an imp, looks a teenager so she’s probably well into her 20’s, and could probably put a stranglehold on Hulk Hogan given half a head start. I’m willing to bet that their husbands don’t misbehave.) I know that I am going to be in trouble because there are now three who assure me I promised to go in their boats. Despite putting them off so far the hour will come when one will be happy and two will be sure I’ve done them wrong. I have not really promised any of them but saying that will not really change their stories. Such is the way of things in Bali and the present difficult times only intensify their efforts to earn some money.
One promise we have made is to the man who cleans our room. He offered to act as our guide to the Bali Aga village of Tenganan just north of Candi Dasa – “maybe tomorrow”. (The present Aga are recognised as the descendants of the original Balinese, sometimes called the Bali Aboriginals.) There are several such villages where the inhabitants have taken a decision to live by their ancient traditions. Such is their determination that the young people must marry another member of the village or leave. Severing ties with one’s village in Bali leaves you an outcast in society, separated from your religious roots and therefore separated from an integral part of your heredity and your life. Apart from my interest in their history and the consequences of their marriage strictures HA is enthused by stories of Ikat and Double Ikat weaving which is common in and unique to the villages. Our intended guide tells us we should not try to compare this cloth to the machine made material from Java or the second quality work from Lombok. We have some Lombok Ikat which She is very proud of and to have it referred to a second quality only doubles her curiosity. I must take a break with the notes here as I have been summonsed next door for drinkies with the Dutch ladies and if I don’t get some clothes on I will cause quite a stir.
Drinkies with the ladies is at the very end table of the open seating area between the two pools, right on the edge of that drop to the beach. It is cool here, peaceful (until the conversation picks up at about the second G & T), relaxing and in the present company it is entertaining too. Much of the entertainment comes from a string of fairly childish jokes and the cultural differences that emerge from perhaps a single word of the punch line. For some reason (it might be the G & T) the kiddies question, asking for the name of a blind deer – answer; No idea! (“No eyed deer”, if you’re slow this morning) causes great hilarity and becomes essential re-telling as every friend drops past. A really forgettable joke (?) about the name of a quadriplegic swimmer reveals that in Holland a “Bob” is the person who does not drink at a night’s revelry but has to drive everyone home –what we’d call the designated driver in Oz.
It all seemed funny at the time but does not re-tell well.
We open a bottle of that champagne and also some smoked oysters, pistachios, cheese, dips and crackers. They have been here a long time and have not had such fare for a while. For some reason they have not discovered the supplies that are available in the larger supermarkets or, as we were to discover later, at that most excellent establishment near the airport, the Dijon Delicatessen. They are a gay couple, in the old-fashioned sense of the word, and the hour passes too quickly. The table is eventually cleared and we each make our preparations for dinner.
Our selection for tonight is the restaurant at the Pondok Bamboo Sea Side Bungalo (sic), chosen from our notes as being worth a look. It’s on the seafront again and only about a 5 minute walk from our bungalow. The outside is very unimpressive, so much so that we walked right past it the first time and had to retrace our steps in confusion. The restaurant is called the Sea Side and it really is, with a large semi-circular extension of the main dining area seeming to hang over the water below. The menu displayed outside shows that they offer more than seafood (which is not high on my list of stuff I could eat every night) so we take the plunge. I’m really a bit surprised that we do, as the inside is quite dark and not at all inviting. Perhaps they were trying to save on the cost of electricity. It is with some trepidation and a great deal of care that we follow the hostess down the long passage between the” bungalo’s” but at the end we are rewarded by the sight of a sparkling kitchen, flashing with polished stainless steel this and that, and overlooking a large seating area around what might have been a stage at one time but now holds the round marble table-over-the-waters which is offered to us alone although it could easily seat 6 or 8 diners. We are not alone tonight, there being two other tables occupied, perhaps by residents of the bungalows. The lighting is a bit dim but the addition of a couple of candles to the table allows the menu to be perused in relative ease. Later when we had almost finished I blew these out and the vista over the sea seemed to leap into life with the fairy lights of the moored fuel tankers sparkling along the horizon to our right.
HA latches onto the avocado dishes on the main course list, but the crab and the squid and the snapper are not on tonight we are informed. Bugger, She says. Not to be deterred She adds Grilled Local Fish to her entrée of Avocado Shrimp. I decide to test the Spring Rolls; I think for the first time this trip, to be followed by Grilled Pork and Mushrooms, not magic ones the waiter assures me. The Aqua with ice arrives, accompanied by the dish of lime slices that we both relish, and the mandatory Bintang which I seem to remember was really Anchor, and which is not really cold by the time it has chilled the warm glasses. The settings at the table are arranged on a large, closely woven fibre or grass mat and a real, deep red, folded and ironed, cotton serviette. In the reflected candle light the full range of eating irons, all in order, sparkle as they are set out according to our individual orders. A touch of class that’s nice every so often and is often reflected in the final bill too. It’s an impressive start and we begin to be glad that we re-traced our steps in the street and came in through that “haunted house” entrance.
The arrival of Her full bowl of Avocado Shrimps is impressive too. Not the usual 5 or 6 here, they must number closer to a dozen. They sit on a lettuce leaf lining the bowl and which is held down closely to it by the weight of the beasts, not floating up in the air to make the dish appear full but really with a chasm of nothing underneath. My Spring Rolls are a threesome of largess with that suggestion of salad. The dish looks great but the heart stopper I find is the plunge pool of sweet and sour sauce. Sweet and sour indeed, with largish chopped pieces of red and green capsicum, white onion and yellow pineapple sitting in it, and thick enough to cling to the roll. Beyond the appearance and the taste of the sauce the rolls themselves are disappointing. Fat, yes, but not crispy, the wrapping is more like a pancake than a shattering, splintering, brittle, real roll wrapping. Are they just a variation of this morning’s Lumpia I wonder? They are hot, hot, hot in temperature but a bit oily; they sag and dump their contents into the clinging sauce after the first bite. HA has no complaints and avocado and shrimp alike disappear with alacrity while I am distracted, trying to rescue the middle of my rolls from the sauce bowl.
The owner’s dog, “Snoopy” has rights that no other dog would be allowed, and unashamedly begs from each table in turn. He is a sort of a long haired Corgi, his hair glowing red.
The setting reminds us of the Pantai in Tuban (where Cha Cha, the restaurant dog is larger and sleepier), looking down onto the beach and the slowly rolling waves glowing in the moonlight, with the ships’ lights out in the blackness, the air warm but the soft breeze cool. The lights from the terminal are very bright. With the lights from the tankers they reflect an angel’s ladder down the tops of the waves towards us.
Another Bintang/Anchor arrives but it’s still not cold
The main courses arrive; a tall cone of rice on a separate plate is a change from the rounded bowl dump we have become used to. The serves are not large. What I at first took to be a soup-bowl sized dish of pork and mushroom turned out to be deceptive with only the bottom covered with bite sized pieces. The pork tasted like pork and was not overwhelmed by vegetables or slippery mushroom sauce. The sauce was there but in a moderate quantity, the mushrooms by far the greater quantity. Her fish is firm and white, tasty, in bite size pieces like my pork, cosseted on all sides with a nice fresh salad and soon consumed. It must be said that quality made up for quantity and both meals were tasty and hot.
My Aqua was still colder than the beer. We decided on dessert, a result of the smallish serves as much as anything else, Her deciding on a Dadar Guleng (a thin pancake containing grated coconut and filled with palm sugar) at Rp12,500 and myself the Black Rice pudding at Rp12,000. There are three pancakes, green coloured wraps dripping palm sugar, and with thick and sweet shavings of coconut inside. My rice pudding really was a generous serving (was someone looking over my shoulder as I was writing these notes?) with a spiral of snowy white coconut milk making a stark contrast against the almost black sheen of the hot rice.
The service has been attentive and precise but not in your face or pushy about anything. Just nice and relaxed. With 3 waitresses, and three cooks to attend to three tables I suppose it should have been good. In the face of the great emptiness everyone seems to be trying hard to please. By the time of the bill we are alone, the kitchen had been scrubbed. One of the cooks had gone home to see his mother or someone else and the waitresses were hunkered down behind their desk yacking away as only young girls can.
Snoopy was in bed.
The appetisers were Rp 14,000 and 20,000. Rp24,000 for my pork and Her Ikan Pepes, the fish grilled in banana leaves with Balinese spices, Rp27,500. The small Aquas were Rp6,500 each, large beers Rp15,000. To the total is added 16% service charge and Tax. Rp177,480, in all, a bit over A$34 for the two of us. Not bad by home standards but just a little disappointing by Bali norms.
We followed Snoopy’s lead.
DAY 7 – MONDAY.
A little bit of sleeping in this morning.
Are we relaxing at last?
For a holiday that was supposed to be simply R & R (That’s rest and recreation, Ralph. Not riot and rum tiddly um tum tum as I’m sure you’re thinking.) it seems to have gone at the usual hectic pace so far – and we haven’t even been to Sukawati yet.
Today is the day, we agree, for Tenganan village, one of the Bali Aga villages and famed source of single and double Ikat cloth weaving. Now for the life of me, I could never get a simple answer that I could understand, that clearly explained the difference between single and double. I was shown one piece that was lighter and thinner than another and told that it was double Ikat. Now that was the opposite of what I would expect. Something that is double would be thicker, denser, whatever, wouldn’t it?
I Am Konfused ! What? You don’t spell “Konfused” with a “k” ?
Well, there you are. You can see just how Konfused I am.
Just a bit of geriatric mental exercise. Don’t let it worry you – until you start doing it yourself.
For a while I thought that in single Ikat weaving only the cross threads were tie-dyed whereas in double Ikat weaving both the long and the cross threads are tie-dyed.
Then I thought that in single Ikat the cross threads went under (or over) each individual long threads, one at a time. This would be in contrast to double Ikat where the cross threads went over two threads and under one.
Now I know only one thing – and that is that I don’t know.
We found our guide, or rather he found us, and he had his brother driving the car. Now guys, before we go let’s get the payment thing sorted out. Who do I pay when we get back? They looked at each other and at me and at each other and at HA and at each other, and as it went on we all started to smile, then to grin and finally laugh. I nominated our hotel friend to get the payment and he would pay his brother, OK?
And we headed off.
Back down the road towards Kuta we went, but only until we came to the beginning of the town which was marked by the traditional candi bentar. Then we turned right, inland, up the road which had the “German Bakery” sign, up the hills. At the bakery we stopped and selected from their remaining stocks of this mornings bake, enough of this and that for breakfast for all four of us, and a bit more for luck.
Tenganan is not far and we soon pull into the car park. This looks highly organised for an ancient village I think. I think so again when we are directed to the ticket office to make a donation. Through the gate in the village wall, a wall which seems to surround it, and there is our first glimpse of the Aga enclosure. The whole place seems to be about 100 metres wide but it runs up the foothills in regular steps of flat ground separated by quite steep ramps of stone pressed into the earth. Each flat area forms roughly a square with the houses along the outer, walled sides and community buildings or trees in the centre. The result is three rows of buildings with two “roads” running up between the rows as far as I can see. Signs at the front of most of the housed advertise Ikat cloth making or music lessons or something else.
In the areas near the gate, where there are no houses, men sit at tables making lontars. Lontars are booklets made of rectangular palm leaf pages about 250 mm by 40 mm (10 inches by 1.5) held together by interwoven strings. The pages, perhaps up to a dozen in those that we saw, open downwards, a bit like the folds of a concertina, and not unlike what we call a Venetian blind. Each book has a front and back “cover” (or is it a top and bottom cover) made from split bamboo just a little larger than the pages. To make the lontar the surface of the palm leaf is finely cut with the very sharp point of a knife or chisel. At this stage not a thing can be seen until you get up very close, and then I could only make out a sort of mild roughening of the leaf surface. The magic bit comes when a macadamia nut is used to rub stain onto and into the surface. Immediately the intricacies of the work leap into sight. Lines, lettering, drawings, the finest of shadings – sometimes in two slightly different colours, have become indelibly infused into the leaf surface. The permanence of the marks is demonstrated by rubbing vigorously with a cloth which has no effect. The process might be as old as Bali itself, and was originally used to keep court and district records; who did what, who owned what, and so on. In the museum at Singaraja I believe, there is a display of some of these records which go back hundreds of years. The leaf pages and the inscriptions are still clear and bright. Some years back, before the historical significance of the historical lontars was recognised, colonists and tourists were buying relics from the era before the Dutch occupation for a few dollars each. The loss was stopped by President Sukarno I understand.
The lontars we were shown were of three qualities. With unerring accuracy She (OK, we) coveted the most expensive. The one we badly wanted was an illustrated synopsis of the Kecak Dance, commonly known as the fable of the Ramayana, an epic tale of princes and princesses, of love foiled by evil forces and eventually of good triumphing over evil.
Now these things are expensive, after all there was 3 months work involved, or so we were told, but even Higher Authority, who frequently throws Rp100,000 notes around like she was dealing in a Bridge game, visibly blanched when Rp900,000 was the opening price. Nearly A$180. The pause in proceedings was interminable while she gathered her composure. An event such as this was certainly a challenge and an inadequate response could disturb the cosmos to such an extent that the clocks at Greenwich might need to be adjusted.
This was simply money we had not brought with us (a saving intervention by the Gods I still believe to this day) so some tough talking was about to happen I could tell. The lesser qualities were inspected, and the differences were obvious when they were pointed out to us. The prices of these gave some perspective to the oncoming proceedings I think and there was much to-ing and fro-ing. It was all too fast for me to record or remember but in the end we did not get to first base.
We cast envious eyes over the lesser quality ones again, but even at the prices he was now offering them they would not have satisfied our lust.
Taking our regretful leave we proceeded up the ramps along the roadways, looking at incredibly old frangipani trees, red, pink, yellow and blue dyed chickens (just for fun, I was told when I asked why.) ancient but still solid buildings.
I confess that I was more than a little curious to observe the folk who had set their course so close to what could be an inbreeding disaster. If there were such problems they were hidden and defied discovery. Certainly the young man who would not succumb to Her bargaining wiles was not one dime short of a dollar! All in all they looked and behaved like Balinese to my eyes.
Eventually we accepted an invitation to inspect the weaving and the finished Ikat cloth in one of the houses. The process begins with the cotton thread being wound into skeins of the precise length for the threads that go across the cloth. These are then tie-dyed at exact intervals for the pattern that is to be woven. The initial dying of the best quality fabric is done with indigo, a process which alone takes three months. Subsequently lighter colours can be added to the parts initially left un-dyed under the tight ties and this alone determines the final pattern. We (She) did not ask a price but that did not seem to matter to the woman who patiently explained the process to us. The family sat a little further back in the open house and were quite happy for me to photograph them, or anything else I wanted to. Perhaps the Chuppa Chups all round earlier had helped. One particularly old man I wanted to photograph and, with great dignity and tolerance he allowed me to twiddle to my hearts content, looking in whichever direction I indicated by signs that I wanted.
Back towards the car park eventually and as we pass the lontar man engages us in conversation once more. He knows that he’s got us hooked; it’s only a matter of how much we’ll pay. Well, as She explains to him by opening my money bag, it’s really a matter of how much we have with us. In short order all the notes are counted out and a deal is struck for Rp180,000, Chuppa Chups for him and his friends who have gathered round to see the struggle, and an empty wallet for me. For about A$35 we must have the bargain of the year, and a treasure to hang by our much loved painting from the ’99 trip.
As the noonday gun will soon be fired we decline the invitation of our guide and driver to continue along the road (where my map tells me no road exists) to Amlapura and beyond. Back to our room it is, to the pool and siesta.
When we return it is to find that the room has been beautifully cleaned in our absence. Across the pillows of the bed are arranged white frangipanis which have had tiny blood-red flowers inserted into their central hollows. There is a wonderful mixture of flowers in a vase on the dressing table and a floral perfume has been sprayed around which so far at least, has defied the efforts of the air conditioner to overcome. It is such a welcome home that we both remark on it and go in search of any more surprises that may have been left behind. Obviously this is not the first time the room has been cleaned during our stay but it is so different from the others that we have to find out who did it and let them know that we appreciate their efforts. Off to the lobby to find out who has done this. After some initial concern, that maybe some thing has gone missing and I want to know who to turn upside down and shake until the missing treasure falls out, our explanation that we think the room is very nice, is accepted and the receptionist checks her roster, giving me the name. Concerned that I might forget it I ask her to write it down, which she does on an envelope.
Still here, I ask.
Yes, cleaning bungalow next to yours.
Out of sight I put aRp100,000 note in the envelope and seal it down. Back along the path and I round a corner to bump into the short, Budda-like guy I have seen before doing some gardening. Ah, I question. Ngurah?
Yes, he says.
Where? I ask, looking for the lovely lady over his shoulder.
Yes he says again.
This lady, I say, pointing to the name on the envelope.
Yes, he said again.
Where is she? I ask again, feeling a bit foolish in this circular conversation and looking for Herself to help me out.
Yes, he said again.
This lady Ngurah? I ask, pointing again to the name on the envelope.
Me, he says.
Well! I am taken aback and I guess it must have shown.
You cleaned our room this morning? I asked, pointing to our bungalow across the path.
Yes, he said. It is OK?
It is bloody beautiful I reply. So good. So nice. Or something equally inane.
We are very happy. For you, I said as I gave him the envelope.
I am happy, he said with a little bow.
We shook hands and parted.
Later I saw him in the garden again and smiled and waved. He smiled and waved back. If someone had told me that he was an all-in wrestler I would have believed them, but a careful and sensitive flower arranger too - - - ?
These wonderful and gentle people continue to find new ways of getting under my skin. I’ll remember him next time we go to Candi Dasa, and I think he’ll probably remember me too, not for the money but because that’s the way people are in Bali.
If you ever go to stay at the Candi Dasa Beach Hotel, ask for Ngurah Adit to clean your room. You won’t be disappointed.
I’ve mentioned my wonderment at the electrical system at the Bali Agung Village but I don’t think that I mentioned the complete contrast that we found at Andrew’s wondrous house close by. During the construction of the house Andrew had an electrician who was obviously not a local to do his electrical work. The result stands supreme in its own room, of not inconsiderable size, and consists of a double steel doored cabinet, taller than me and even wider. On the doors are volt meters, other gauges, switches and Lord knows what else. Within the doors there are neatly parcelled looms of wires about the same diameter as a pencil. It is either a discard from a large factory or the ship for which it was designed sank before installation. I think that Andrew himself is bemused by its bulk.
At Candi Dasa I was again confronted by the casual attention given to electricity.
Around the pools at the hotel there were a number of very tall coconut palms reaching for the sky. Many of these had a flood light nailed to the trunk just above the level of the lawn in which they were growing, and pointing upwards towards the crown of the tree. I had earlier marvelled at the visual effect of these at night, particularly when you were in the right place to see their reflections in the rippled surface of the pools. Today as I hung on the side of the pool I was confronted by the connections between the supply cables that popped up out of the lawn and the short wires that came out of the flood lights. The ends of each were bared and simply twisted together, then covered with a round or two of sticky tape. The electrician obviously had some concern for the possibility of an electrical short between these connections as they were bent outwards slightly, away from each other. To overcome any risk of danger if they became wet, being so close to the edge of the pool, a small Coca Cola bottle had been cut in halves and the bottom half slipped over the connections.
That’s it. There it sat, right by the pool, right at ground level without any form of security from either big or little fingers dripping with pool water. Obviously the electrical authorities in other countries are far too concerned with regulations and rules to see how simply electrical connections can be made!
Later, in Legian Street I watched briefly as a new light was fixed to a pole outside a restaurant or bar, I forget which. The electrician had propped his extension ladder against the pole but it was obviously just a little short. Not to be beaten by such a small problem he had climbed up beyond the very top rung and was standing on the ends of the vertical sides of the ladder. Now in case you think that this was a little precarious let me hasten to assure you that he was quite safe as his offsider had climbed up behind him and was standing on about the second to top rung with his arms wrapped around the electricians legs and the top of the pole to keep him secure. The whole arrangement was waving around a bit more than I would have liked, and by chance I looked down to see that the pole was also very new and so was the hole it stood in and so was the cement that had not yet set but was surging from one side of the hole to the other side as the pole waved from side to side.
I’m afraid of heights, especially things that fall from great heights, so I left.
At the pool a couple of glasses finished off the remains of the Hatten’s Alexandria. We wonder if it is made from the same grape that is used to make Muscat of Alexandria that we have memorably sampled from our own Southern Vale wine district. There are similarities although the Hattens is not as thick and fruity as those wines. It is easy to drink, refreshing and gets the juices flowing sufficiently for her to ask about lunch, late though it may be. What do you fancy I dutifully enquire? Pizza She says, in a way that suggests no alternatives will be considered.
Just what I was thinking, I lied.
Her word is my command as always.
Down the street we find the Grand Natia Bungalows and Restaurant.
The entrance is not imposing, even in daylight, giving the appearance of being just a bar. Through the bar area however, down a narrow path between the bungalows, a little to the left of a beautiful blue pool with three dolphins endlessly circling and chasing their tails tiled into the bottom there is a small, narrow bale ending right on the edge of the beach, as so many do on this side of the road.
The menu on the edge of the footpath said “Pizza” and this as the only reason, probably, that we were to enter and find this little oasis. Like a number of restaurants on this side of the road, from the entry you can’t see the good parts that are right at the other end of the property. The menu of thirteen A5 sized pages will take some getting through so we ordered iced lemon teas to replace the fluid lost in our 5 minute walk to get here.
The view from the very end corner of the bale is distracting to say the least. The sparkling pool, ruffled across the surface by the mid afternoon breeze, seems to make the tiled dolphins alive. It is one of those infinity pools where the overflow washes over the very edge of the pool on the ocean side. We haven’t got our cosies with us of course but from flat on my stomach (I can hear Her now – You call that flat? - With your stomach!) on the grass by the small plunge pool at the end, I can get the same picture a swimmer would. Water into water into sky. Blue into blue into infinity. I have some photos to prove the illusion. They are a great view. Back off the flat of my stomach and seated my attention is diverted again, this time to the beach which seems just under our feet. Just out from the end of the bale, across a swimming pool of sea inside the reef, are two concrete breakwaters. They are the tops of a “T”, anchored to the beach at the bottom of the stem. As the waves come over the reef they are flattened of course, but the remnant comes to the breakwater at a bit of an angle and, as it hits, a curtain of spray begins at the right hand end and travels quite quickly along the concrete to the other end. Here it subsides into the opening between the two breakwaters momentarily before rising again at the end of the next one and running along again. It’s sort of like a musical fountain without the music. It goes on and on, always the same but not quite the same. Some sprays are a little bit higher than others, some spray less than others as the run off from the previous wave dampens the energy of the next. They all sparkle in the bright sunlight.
While we are waiting we were shown into one of the bungalows. The entry door is in on the corner, leading off a little veranda which has 2 chairs and a small drinks/nibbles table. By the door is a shoe rack (the floors inside are polished timber) and drying rack for bathers and towels which I was also to find useful for shirts later on. The door opens into the main room, a large bedroom with a dressing table and another table and 2 chairs for breakfast (and writing). This area looks out through glazed concertina doors into a small, walled pool and garden. Over the king size bed is a timber false ceiling. I guess this prevents any little lizards from falling on you in the night. The ceiling over the rest of the room vaults upwards to the peak of the pyramid which is the roof. Just to the side of the entry door is the door to the bathroom which is long, with an enormous hand basin, quite adequate for bathing the baby, a bath with shower over (Damn. Why not do things properly?), and beyond is a small garden at the side of the bath. The ceiling finishes just beyond the far edge of the bath and the treetops and the sky begin. It’s open in appearance but discrete too. This area has a pebbled floor with plants growing up the wall to the open sky above. The floor tiling is very attractive with bands of feature tiles defining the area by the bath and being repeated around the lower part of the wall. The quality of the tiling is so much better than one commonly finds in Bali bathrooms that you just can’t overlook it.
In all, it is most attractive. The asking rate is Rp300,000 per night but we are immediately invited to make an offer. We decline because we are not then in a position to take up any offer that might be accepted, and it is inappropriate to enter into a negotiation that you do not intend to accept. There is also a cheaper option at the Grand Natia, the same accommodation but without air conditioning on mini bar fridge. These units are also further from the beach and pool. The cost of these is Rp225,000. Later over lunch we discussed the bungalow offer and felt that if it could be bargained down to Rp225,000, which is what we are paying at the larger but older Candi Dasa Beach Hotel, then it would indeed be a bargain.
That pool is SOOOOOO inviting.
Maybe next time. Next time? I’ll have to break that possibility to Herself gently.
The iced teas are very iced and the big glasses are too. They are Rp4,000 each. That’s about 76 cents Australian. Before we have finished them our orders arrive; a Spaghetti Bolognaise (Rp15,000) and a Bali Pizza which has chicken, pak choy, bean sprouts, peanuts and a Balinese sauce (Rp30,000), accompanied, naturally, by the first big Bintang, frosting the bottle with it’s chill.
Komeng, who is one of the waiters and who showed us the accommodation, wants to practise his English and hovers close during lunch. He has tried very hard to sell us on the property. Is he the manager I ask? He laughs and the waitress who is his sister also laughs. The barman is told of the question and he laughs. I begin to wonder what the joke is. He is the gardener he tells us when he catches his breath. I tell him that he is very good and that when things pick up in Candi Dasa he might well be made the boss.
Our food arrives, a lot quicker that you have been able to read this I think. The pizza is about a 10 incher (250 mm), only just confining itself within the boundaries of the dish. It is piled high over the pastry base. Tomato drips over the edge and I pick it up on the tip of my finger. The taste is just the start of what is to come. The tops of the cheese are just browned and the pieces of peanut provide a surprising change in texture, one I have not experienced before. Overall it is a delicious and different pizza; not at all like those that some people buy from Pizza Hut. Bagus.
The spaghetti bolognaise came in a large sized soup bowl. The large size bowl is full, with lots of meat in the pasta and the sauce which is covered with a thick layer of parmesan cheese. In addition there is a side plate of green salad, lettuce, onion rings and cucumber dressed with low cholesterol vinaigrette dressing and with a little dip of a finely chopped relish.
Baik, baik, which is like a double Bagus.
It is a lunch worthy of well trained taste buds and a bargain at 6 bucks for the pizza and 3 bucks for the spag bolly.
Certainly one for the recommended list.
The dishes are served on matching plates, white and red with a mottled green edge decoration dotted with black. It is called “Palung” and is from “ligne Hortesse, Sango Ceramics”, if that means anything to anyone. The bill is Rp72,000 with 11% tax and includes the iced teas and a large beer. Not quite A$14 for two.
Thoughts of this accommodation and the food are to come back to our minds in a day or two.
As we leave I asked Komeng how many guests they had at the moment. There are none he replied. We had two last week but they have gone to Amed now.
We are their first customers since last Friday! What a shame that such a delightful little gem is so deserted.
Back to our room, via the supermarket where the Chuppa Chups are running low, the Kodak shop and the Internet shop where the delightful and helpful assistant has begun to look out for us each day. Or is it the CC’s that she looks out for?
A dip in the pool followed by a massage for HA, a swim in the sea for me, followed by some photos of the Hotel from the end of the breakwater for me.
This evening we have been invited to a smorgasbord dinner with our Dutch neighbours. It is to celebrate the arrival of their friends, passing through from Holland to Oz, and a birthday. The night is loud and cheerful, with entertainment provided by the children dancing segments from a traditional tale and much older children at the bar singing and playing. One of their obvious favourites is a lilting tune in which one singer takes the lead and the others form a chorus to respond to his song. It reminds me of the music of the Hawaiians and the Polynesian Islanders with a dance that would not be out of place on Maori New Zealand or any of the islands of the Pacific. A strong, haunting, soulful event.
As guests for the night we are given a hefty slug of Arak and required to down it in one gulp. This is no problem for HA who is the drinker of this duo, but my effort generates the (hoped for) mirth amongst those more accustomed to Arak. HA decided that retaliation was required and got a ride back to the hotel on the back of a motor bike, a sight to behold. On her return she had a bottle of Chivas Regal scotch and the locals were invited to demonstrate their skill in return. This they did to a man, some licking their lips afterwards, some stoic and showing no reaction at all, one unable to control his emotions needed two gulps, gasped and reached for the Aqua.
Early tomorrow morning we are to sail (or motor if there is no wind) to the Blue Lagoon so we say our goodnights fairly early and leave the revellers revelling. As we walk down the main road their singing follows us becoming even more haunting as the lights in the streets and many of the restaurants and bars begin to go out.
That is Candi Dasa.
There is life after dark but you need to look for it – or make it yourself.
DAY 8 – SECOND TUESDAY.
Yesterday we noticed the Fuji shop open. It was a little further along the main road than the supermarket opposite the Candi Dasa Hotel, and the Kodak shop that is part of it. This morning I have a film to be processed but it is closed again at 7.30 am. It seems that the operator lives in Amlapura, further to the north east of here, and rides his small motor bike in each morning. It is close to 10 by the time he gets here. I suppose he would be earlier if there was work to do but it’s so quiet there really seems no point in hurrying. The lady in the very small library/bookshop/tailors shop next door is happy to tell me all of this while I am buying a couple of Aquas just before we are due to go sailing down the coast to the Blue Lagoon. It really does open and is not permanently “Tut Up” as I had believed. The lady agrees to give him the film that I have, and I write down on a piece of paper that she finds, all the details that I think are essential. On the bottom I write, “Only you best work please. A fussy old bugger owns these.” I wonder if he will know “f – o – b” and so I try this out on the librarian/tailor. She smiles broadly and nods. I guess he will get the message. I will see him later on in the day I tell her.
On the way out of the shop I cast a passing glance at the books she has in the new section. They are all wrapped up in plastic to protect against the dust and humidity I guess, not because they are X rated or anything like that. Amongst the titles are all the well known classics about Bali; Two of the three volumes by Eisemann, “Bali, Sekala and Niskala”; “A Little Bit One O’clock” by Ingram, the account of an American couple who come to Bali and decide to live there; a book of Balinese Fairy Tales that I’m sure HA will want for Declan and Eloise who will enjoy them one day. There are also different Bahasa-English-Bahasa dictionaries. I am reminded of a promise we made to Tony Marone, the watch seller in Jl Wana Segara in Tuban. In 2000 we were talking to him and a small group of his friends in the street late one night. Those of you who remember the “Bali Story 2000” will know of this night. They were all lamenting the fact that their life would be easier (that is they could earn more money) if they were more confident with foreign languages, particularly English which they would have learnt if they went to school for longer. I’m not sure if they are “drop outs” or if circumstances forced them to leave before they might have wanted to. On our way back to our hotel we decided that we would get them a dictionary before we came back again. We didn’t, not for want of trying but there was just nothing that we saw that seemed to suit their needs. In the haste of our departure for this trip, which left many things undone, it had completely slipped my mind but I probably could have made the time to look again if I had thought of it. Now, here they were. A fairly large volume that would surely have all of the words they might come across, and a pocket sized book with smaller print and probably a smaller range of words but which could be easily accessed by coloured letters incised into the edges of the pages. We would have one of each I told the lady, would she keep them for me until this afternoon. She smiled and said that she would not sell them before I came back. After just a moments thought I smiled too.
The Blue Lagoon is about 40 minutes away by sail or motor, down along the shore of the bay past the fuel terminal towards Padang Bai. (I still get a tingle when I say Padang Bai to myself as I type this.) This morning, as I was writing up my notes on the bale by the beach at the hotel, I Nyoman Widana came to greet me. He is one of the several boatmen who claim to have my dying promise that we will go sailing with them. He was nowhere to be found yesterday afternoon when we decided that we would go this morning and made a real promise to Agus. Now he is upset because we are not going with him. Despite my attempts to assure him that we tried to find him yesterday, and that I had really not promised him, all was to no avail. He really is a personable young man and I would actually prefer to go with him but he was not around and now I really have made a promise. I’m not sure if he was really upset or if he was trying to make me feel guilty and would therefore go with him somewhere later. Whatever, the die is cast and he seems to recognise that eventually. Perhaps the promise that his name would appear in “my book” is a deciding factor –and there it is, just up there a few lines. Next time I can show him.
“Agus”is waiting down by his boat. His boat? Who knows really.
Agus. – Yes, but Agus who? – Nothing Who, just Agus. You tell your prenzz to ask for Agus. There is only me.
The sea is about as calm as it gets I think but I am still excited at the thought of being part of the exit from, and re-entry to – well I hope we re-enter - the sheltered water on the beach side of the breakwater. Through the gap there is a really vicious little cross sea already, and it’s going to grow as the wind comes up later in the morning. We are fitted with flippers, masks and snorkels by Agus’ friends by the boats, followed by a short debate about how much they will cost. Not my problem, I said, all in price from Agus. He will pay you. Agus looks a little pained but eventually settles a price with the owners and we are ready to board. I check the camera, wrapped in a towel in a plastic bag inside another plastic bag wrapped up in another towel. I don’t tell HA but my towel is the one inside the bags and her towel is the one on the outside. There will be time enough later to let her know this if it is necessary.
As we circle in the sheltered water Agus tells me to hold the camera up high above my head if a big wave comes as we are going out. As I have offered Her the front seat I am not too concerned about this but slip it into the back of my mind just in case. In case she ducks lower than I think she can, that is. Never go sailing with a skinny woman is a good maxim for life. I’m surprised that someone notable in history has not said that at some time.
Getting out through the small surf is just a matter of patience I find. Forward and reverse a few times, judging the sets of waves, which Agus obviously does better than me because I’m still judging when full throttle is applied and the Jukung surges forward. He has picked his moment and all I can do is sit and watch. Sure enough a little monster of a wave comes and as the spray flies over the bow and gets caught in the breeze. It seems to me to be more prudent to duck behind Herself instead if standing up with the camera above my head. When things settle down again She turns to catch me just rising, dry, from the bilges behind her and I know that I will catch something else later. One of these days she may stop trusting and think about these surprising, even startling and certainly uncharacteristically gentlemanly offers I make for Her to take the seat where she will see most.
From the boat the view back to the built up shore and the coconut grove behind is real picture-book stuff. My decision to leave the telephoto lens behind is instantly regretted, and the only consolation is that worse things could have happened if I’d tried to take too much stuff. Behind the coconuts the foothills rise to the really steep slopes of the hills. On many of the steepest slopes there are very narrow terraces with high walls between each, so narrow that I’ve got to wonder if it’s really practical to grow rice in such a confined area, in fact so narrow that I wonder if there is room for the water. Agus sets me straight. Not rice, he says, peanuts. Peanuts don’t need the same wet feet that rice thrives in and these terraces are really dry steps cut down the slopes and held in place by those two essentials of terracing, either wet or dry, they are that sticky soil and the deep rooted grass that holds it all up under the pressure of the water and the soil above.
Now there’s another thing to go and see sometime.
As we pass a small but clearly defined crater with the seaward side blown out in some past eruption, Gunung Agung, the navel of the world and the Mother Mountain, 3142 meters high, comes in to view in the distance. The small crater near the coast is lush with verdant growth but Agung in the distance is a blur of purple shrouded in cloud at the top. As our trip progresses we are to get tantalising glimpses of the saw-tooth summit, gone behind cloud again by the time I get the camera out. In the next day or so the same thing is to happen time and time again, the only thing changing was to be the shape of the top; saw-toothed at times, flat at others, and quite pointed from the other side as we go towards Pacung in the central highlands.
As we approach the terminal we pass through a number of tankers, freighters and ferries at anchor. Two are berthed at the concrete piers and another two are anchored very close. Others are scattered along the coast, one seemingly only just outside the surf breaking over the reef that still runs along the shore here. Too close for my liking, but you’ve got to believe that the captain has done it before, so it must be all right. A catamaran car ferry, with many chairs for the human cargo on the second of four decks, is rolling like a pig in mud. This boat is so obviously overburdened, even before loading, that it is not surprising that there are stories of them turning over every so often. The angle through which she sweeps is enormous and I have to wonder to Herself how many unfortunates on the first deck have been “christened” by vomiting passengers above them. The swell here is long and deceptive, deceiving the eye when trying to judge their height. It is not until a fairly large ferry only about 2 swells away disappears from sight that I realise we are almost on the edge of the very deep Lombok Strait and these swells are the wash split off from the side of that current by the islands of Penida, Lembongan and Ceningan.
Past the very fancy, and very expensive Serai Hotel ambling down the slope of a ridge that runs down to the shore, the dwelling roofs amongst what appears to be virgin forest. A little further on a broken cliff runs down to a cream coloured sandy beach, lined with coconut palms. How typical of the image of these tropical islands. If I listen really hard will I hear Rossano Brazzi singing to Mitzi Gaynor those songs from South Pacific? This beach is the shore of the Blue lagoon, a shallow reef area renowned for the colour of the water, the underwater growth and the fish. Today is not the right day to be here. As we slip over the side into the water which is only just below body temperature, just enough to generate a little shiver as you first slip under, we can see that the water is turbid, so murky that it is impossible to see the bottom a little over a couple of meters (6 feet) below. Eventually we swim together towards the shore and shallower water, holding hands, squeezing and pointing whenever either of us sees a fish. There are some small fish with black and white vertical stripes not much bigger than a matchbox, some light yellowish and some brown, merging into the murk of the deeper gutters that run between the shallow banks of soft coral and seaweeds. There are the remnants of a seaweed farm near the shore. Ropes supported by plastic bottles are strung along the shore line and from these are suspended a curtain of more short ropes. It is on these that the seaweed should, and does grow. Does or would, that is, except for the weed eating fish that seem to have migrated to the cove in large numbers and constantly crop the weed before its long enough for the farmers to harvest. After 20 minutes or half an hour we give up the struggle and paddle back to the Jukung again.
Agus hooks a simple ladder over the side and we take off our gear and climb back on board. He starts the motor, unties the mooring we had used and drops the buoy off the bow. I marvelled at his balance as he walked down the edge of the hull to the stern, and we were off.
Have you ever sailed in a Jukung? They are a very stable boat, as you might imagine from the distance between the floats, but what is not so obvious unless you get down and look along the waterline, is that they are sleek and move through the water in a very slippery way. Cutting back through the swells this morning it was obvious that this boat was really moving easily. The boats here are kept up on Y shaped posts standing up in pairs on the beaches. This is intended primarily to keep them up above high tide on these narrow stretches of sand where they cannot be pulled up high enough to be safe, but it also keeps the bottoms free of speed-robbing weed growth. The outboard on the back was only 8 hp and the boat was running at probably its best hull speed with no more than half throttle. I have seen boats kept on moorings at Tuban with 20 hp motors to overcome the drag of the weed that grows on the bottom of the hull. When these boats are being thrashed along the bow rises, the stern squats, and the waves coming from the hull are quite large. Silhouetted against the setting sun on a warm evening the noise adds to the appearance of great speed but they’re probably not going much faster than Agus’ boat is now, and they’re using a lot more fuel to make those waves. The normal sail for those that are still sailed, and they are here in Candi Dasa, is quite small but still big enough for these easily driven boats to go fishing at night way out into the middle of the Lombok Strait and still get back by the morning. At Jimbaran Bay later in this trip we found an old boat builder working on a half completed hull. It was a fascinating half hour I spent there watching him, but with a great disappointment at the end.
But I’m ahead of myself again.
On the way back to Candi Dasa Agus trolled a fishing line astern, as he had done on the way over. Maybe lucky, he said, but better out there, pointing behind him in the direction of Nusa Penida and Lombok, beyond Penida, away over the horizon.
It is an uneventful trip back, a few shots with the camera are to prove largely a waste with only the short lens, but I tried. When we arrive back off the breakwaters at Candi D it is obvious that this morning’s relatively calm waters have become a little ruffled. Nothing enormous but going with the waves the boat is likely to be picked up and surf down the face of the waves. I have my doubts about the ability of this craft to surf in a straight line. If the bow does not dig in and bury one of the floats surely will, dragging us across the face of the wave and getting us very wet even if we do not roll over. Agus has obviously done this before and shows a great deal more patience even than he did this morning when we were coming out. For well over 5 minutes we go backwards and forwards, circling when we get a little too close to the breaking waves for his liking. Eventually things look good to him and almost without warning the throttle is opened and the boat surges forward until it just matches the speed of the waves. There’s not much to see down here in the hollow between the crests, nothing except the green swell building up behind us and the white surf ahead. All goes according to plan until the very last moment, just when I think we are through a cross swell catches us from astern and a little white water comes aboard again. Herself has put me into the front seat for the ride back and I am happy to accept her direction. She’s not going to get splashed in the face this time! And of course she doesn’t – she gets splashed all over the back. I’m just doing what I was told to do, sitting up the front, but that does not protect me from her glare as I rise up from the bilge, again quite dry behind the dear lady’s shelter.
I repeat my advice, Gentlemen. Never go boating with a skinny woman – and know where to sit!
Off to lunch after our successful landing. The Santiloka Restaurant catches our attention today. Its menu offers Indian, Chinese, Balinese, European dishes – and pizza.
A broad range indeed but – the quality?
We shall see She decides.
We both decide on Spring Rolls with a Baked potato for me and a Club sandwich for her. Rp6,000, 7,000 and 7,000. A large aqua with two glasses is Rp3,500 and a large beer is Rp11,000.
The menu is a little booklet enclosed in patterned blue covers with a darker blue binding. It has 19 A5 sized pages with each page devoted to particular items – drinks, Indian, pizza and so on. There are between 6 to over a dozen options on each page. The front of their menu says, “We always use pre-boiled water”. Statements such as this, or with pure water or safe water or something similar, if true, would ease the minds of many new travellers in Bali. One of the first things new travellers learn if they do any research before going is that you will die a most horrible death if you somehow ingest even one drop of local reticulated water and evil will befall your heirs for generations to come. Well, not quite but there is always a warning to keep your mouth closed in the shower and don’t rinse your razor under the tap before you use it.
Our orders are pretty ordinary for a place with such a broad offering. On the Indian page of the menu I see that you can order from a wide choice of vegetarian dishes, each spicy, medium or non-spicy. “Up To You!” which is a comforting thought for my delicate intestines.
While we are waiting we are engaged in conversation by a young New Zealander who seems like a well travelled bloke, particularly within south east Asia. He is passing through here from Java where he didn’t feel comfortable at all and got to be nervous in crowds. He was also more than a little annoyed by a local habit there of having “no change” even when paying a bill that required large denominations in the change. Somehow our conversation turned to the pests in New Zealand. These included the Stoat and some sort of hybrid ferret which was now rampant in his part of the country. The hybrid ferret is the size of an average dog and was originally bred for the fur trade. When the trade collapsed many were simply released into the wild and are now devastating the native life that he was trying to protect on the property which he owned. It’s a strange fact of life, recognised by the old saying, “The grass is greener - - “. He has a passion for red wines from our Padthaway district and we like the fruity wines from New Zealand’s Cloudy Bay. We must both be snobs in our own ways.
The Spring Rolls are large and come in threes, the wrapping as near to crispy as we have come across but still a little drippy from the wok. They come with a tray of four different sauces from which to choose. I am tempted first by the Sambal Asli but soon water it down with a large dose of tomato ketchup. The Kecap Asin and Kecap Manis seem to be more like the traditional sauces for spring rolls and that’s where I end up for rolls number 2 and 3. The rolls are quite tasty but if they’d been rolled in some absorbent towel to dry off some of the oil they would have been so much better. I tried number three after giving it a gentle squeeze in a couple of those half-serviettes and wished that I’d done that right from the start. I must remember this in future.
My baked potato turns out to be a side plate of fries (about a medium sized spud I would guess), looking like escapees from a McDonalds or Burger King or such like, sliced very thin and “baked” until they were very, very crisp. At least they weren’t soggy. I’m sure that kids would think they were just tops and line up for more. Her Club Sandwich is very also thin, well toasted at least, with an egg in it somewhere under a slice of un-melted cheese, two slices of tomato and granules of either chicken or pork, we can’t decide. Obviously the bread has been toasted and the egg scrambled with the meat, then the whole thing has been assembled cold. I am offered a half share which I gallantly accept, wondering later if it would have been wiser to decline. In return however she shares my fries which are heavily salted because the salt cellar is delicately poised between the “single solid” and liquid states. She breaks into it with a knife and tries with minimal success to sprinkle the grains, which range between the size of wheat grains and green peas, over the chips.
My initial enquiry about the coldness of the beer glasses leaves the waitress bemused if not befuddled but at least confused. Never the less she pops two into the large chest freezer standing in the corner, and when the beer comes they are nicely chilled. The salt on the fries requires a second in short order. The bill is Rp40,000 or about 8 bucks in real Aussie terms. I really can’t recommend the place unless the kids are into crispy fries.
Off to the internet shop on the way to the hotel. Perhaps more than one machine is working today? Perhaps the A/C is working? Perhaps, perhaps - - Well, things are looking up a bit. There is no queue for the sole working machine and the A/C is a little better for the fewer bodies in the small shop. E-mails received and sent (Why Bob needs to tell me the Crows have beaten Sydney is beyond me. It’s predictable but of no real interest to me.) I have a brief glance at the Bali Travel Forum so that I can gloat, for once in what has been a long time, about those poor posters who want to be where I am. The Fuji shop over the road from the internet shop is open and our film from this morning should be ready. They are indeed and I am more than happy with the results for a change. The colours bright and dense, what I would expect, and what I had hoped all along they would have been. There are little dust spots on two consecutive prints towards the end of the roll which I point out to him.
“Fussy old bugger” I remind him. He looks at me and laughs. He did get the message this morning and understood it.
Without any delay he picks up that section of the negatives and turns back to the enclosure where his machine is standing.
Five minutes! OK?
I notice that he looks at the two negatives through his lupe over the light table and cleans them with an antistatic cloth before placing them back into the feeder. True to his word, in 5 minutes I have two new prints, sans dust spots. He then does me the honour of taking the set of prints and selecting two others as he shuffles through them. “Good” he says. Needless to say I shall now return to have a man of such discerning taste do my next prints, and without a word I give him the film I shot this morning on the boat trip.
Why the sudden difference in results? He cannot be getting any more work to do than the Kodak operator down the street, and out here they both are certainly getting less work than those in Seminyak and Tuban. Does he change the solutions in the machine more frequently, or have I been lucky enough to arrive after he has just had a scheduled change? Better temperature control of the solutions maybe? I don’t really know but the difference has to be in the care with which he did the work. I’m not sure if “Fussy old bugger” had anything to do with the results but similar cautions before did not work.
He deserves his Chuppa Chup and the change that I slide back across the counter to him.
A call into the supermarket opposite the bungalows is needed. The stocks of soda water, tonic, dry ginger and Aqua needs to be refreshed, and a couple of Bintangs just in case we run out sometime. More Chuppa Chups are also added to the depleting stock and there, on the bottom shelf where it has been overlooked before is a new supply of Hatten’s Alexandria. Two more to be added to the basket. This time we also find some Mr P packaged nuts that have been recommended to us by an old, balding friend and corpulent consumer on the Forum. We tried others in Seminyak before these and were instant converts. “Es Crem” lollies (Ice Cream candy) are also to be added to HA’s bag to compete with my CC’s I think.
Eventually back to our bungalow to chill off and re-hydrate, then Herself to the massage table which is really a pool-side sun lounge, and myself to that comfortable corner of the bale overlooking that wonderful view, to catch up with my notes of this morning’s trip. Only the splash of the waves on the breakwater and the call of a lone swimmer to an unseen friend disturb the solitude. It’s shaded, cool on the tiles underfoot, there is a beautiful breeze over the little body, and Bali is Bagus again.
Some time later Hassel and Ploen, the friends of our Dutch neighbours arrive for a late lunch and we talk about Bali and Oz for a while until their food comes and I take my leave. It is interesting to hear a Dutch couple talk about their views of the Dutch occupation of Bali, and of their quick abandonment when the Japanese arrived. Interesting because they can only know of it from their own Dutch-sourced reading, or perhaps from school history lessons yet it coincides with what I have come to believe myself.
I also find it interesting, particularly early in our holidays, to read the Jakarta Post, a well known and respected English language newspaper within Indonesia. There are slight but often notable differences between the stories here and the reporting of the same events in the Australian press before we have left home. It leaves me frequently wondering if I am really reading about the same event.
My train of thought has been destroyed so I briefly join HA at the massage table before heading down to the beach and along a little way to investigate the system used on the Jukungs to mount and turn the rudder. It turns out to be deceptively simple, not done with mirrors but with knotted cords and a smooth, well-worn groove in the aft cross beam.
As we had promised last night we shared a Blue Sapphire gin with the Dutchies when they all congregated by the pool this evening. The gins were followed by a beer or two before shower time called and we said our goodnights.
For our last dinner in Candi Dasa, before we return on our next holiday sometime in the future, HA decides that we will again go to that lovely little bale overlooking the delightful pool at the Grand Natia Bungalows and Restaurant. We start with two iced lemon teas – they are so good. The tea taste is firm and the lemon tang very refreshing. Ice blocks which float on the top weaken the gripping nature of the strong tea as they melt and dilute the brew. Ahhh! A straw is too thin to get a good mouthful first up. If you roll it around your gums before it goes down it stays with you for minutes. For an appetiser I decide on a Thousand Island Papaya Platter, prawns and papaya pieces on a bed of lettuce with, of course, Thousand Island Dressing. It is Rp12,500. HA chooses Dungness Crabs but it is off so the Avocado Vinaigrette is the second choice. It is fresh avocado, onion rings and vinaigrette sauce. Rp12,000.
Damn! The Thousand Island Papaya has just gone the way of the Dungness Crabs. Prawn Cocktail, “Sama sama” she says. You guessed it, the same – it’s the same as the Prawn Cocktail but without the papaya and it’s the same price. For the main courses, if nothing else is off, I will have Fu Yung Hai which is not the dreaded and evil enemy of Sherlock Holmes but a meat and vegetable omelette with sweet and sour sauce. HA’s choice is Gurami Goreng Saus Mentego. What, no idea? Gurami is a fresh water fish. It’s to be fried whole with garlic and lemon butter sauce. Mine is Rp11,000 and Her’s is Rp 25,000. Two plain rices to go with that please, a large Bintang and two glasses from the very back of the freezer – or else!
With the Bintang comes a bowl of fresh popcorn. This seems to be a fairly common offering locally but we have not come across it before in Bali. HA likes the habit and, liberally sprinkled with salt as it is, it hastens the arrival of the next Bintang so I can’t complain. The rices are Rp5,000 each and the Bintangs will be Rp12,000 (a bit over A$2). The popcorn is included in the price of the beer. Tax is 11%.
The air is still now, but cool here by the sea. The heat and humidity of the day have gone. The tankers, freighters and ferries are lit up in tints of yellow, blue and green lights, which flash and flicker as they reflect off the waves rolling in towards us. Across the horizon but on this side of Nusa Penida, the lights of another ship move surprisingly fast. It may be closer to shore than I think, and if it is it could be a tanker from that terminal around the bay a bit. Another passes it, heading in the opposite direction and going more slowly towards Padang Bai. When I look back to the table there are 4 pieces of popcorn left. I manage to grab three in my one chance, but the last one eludes me.
The cocktail comes in the normal stemmed glass with shredded lettuce on a cupped lettuce leaf bed, a slice of tomato and one of hard boiled egg. There are, however, only two medium size prawns. With a squeeze from the generous slice of lime over them they are tasty but not really satisfying. HA’s vinaigrette has disappeared by the time I look up from the search that I hope might reveal another prawn lurking in the lettuce. It must have been good as her only complaint is the lack of sufficient lime to squeeze over it. There must have been a more generous quantity on Her plate than I found in mine.
The pool draws my gaze again. It looks different but no less attractive under lights. Their glow reflects blue from the tiles and casts a light shadow on to top of the seat ledge which goes all around, about half way up the sides. The tiles on the top edge are either black or very dark blue and on the seaward side they blur the dividing line between the pool and the dark sea and the black sky. Only the white crests of the waves, the reflections of the ship’s lights, a star or two and a few small clouds indistinctly define these different areas. Occasionally a ripple from the pool will splash over the edge of that infinity and others will bounce off the sides sending more ripples across the reflections of the lights which glow under the plants around the pool. The sea waves are still sending up that racing spray along the breakwaters. Under the light that they catch they remind me of a part of the fireworks display at the “Symphony Under the Stars” which we went to on the banks of the Torrens Lake only a few weeks before we left on this holiday. Only the music is missing.
My omelette comes with the same reddish sweet and sour sauce that I’ve had before. It has little chunks of red capsicum, white onion and yellow pineapple floating in it. The omelette has little chunks of meat, too large to be mince but certainly not so large that one is a mouthful. The vegetables are of similar size and with or without the sauce it is moist and tasty – “more-ish”.
Her Goreme is about 200 mm (8 inches) long, deep in the body, perhaps more so than a trout, and broader too. The flesh is firm and white on a bone structure that is on the heavy side and not likely to be accidentally swallowed. The taste is declared to be not unlike flounder. An offering of salad is on the side, perhaps a smidgen more than a modicum in quantity.
In the background the lifting and lilting gongs of a gamelan orchestra is reeling softly through the tape deck. I don’t think I could be anywhere but in Bali – and the world, from here, is Bagus.
The steamed rice just nicely soaks up the remaining sweet and sour sauce around the edges of my plate. The plates go back to the kitchen without any remnants to satisfy a searching cat, dog or God tonight.
At the other table at the end of the bale are a Dutch family. There are mainly Dutch tourists in Candi Dasa it seems. It may in fact be the same all over the island now, without the usual numbers of Aussies, Brits and Yanks. The Dutch of course have a long association with Bali and those other “spice islands” of old in these waters, as occupiers of their sometimes bloodily defeated colonies before the Japanese invasion of the Second World War. There is an unmistakable influence of their culture and civilisation all around, perhaps most noticeable in the buildings and shops of the older towns and in the steel arched bridges so common along the roads. They three and we two are the sole customers tonight and when they leave the staff certainly outnumbers us. The service is attentive but not intrusive. They do not retreat behind their desks or into the kitchen but wait patiently in dim corners to appear cheerfully when needed.
Bali at this time reminds me of the deserted Sydney portrayed in the book and film, “On the Beach”. It is an eerie feeling to be so alone where we have been so used to crowds before. The empty streets so soon after darkness falls is not the Bali we know and really not a Bali I feel comfortable in. It is not that there is any reason that I can see to be afraid for our personal safety; there is no outward change in the smiling, welcoming, friendly, outgoing sociability of the locals that we like coming back to. It’s just the quietness, both day and night.
The humidity is beginning to rise again as we ask for the bill. There are clouds appearing in the sky to the west and south although overhead and east along the coast there are still many stars bright in the sky. Perhaps it will rain later. It has been dry since the drive up a few days ago, and then there was only a brief shower of those heavy tropical drops that splat like little mud balls on the ground and the windscreens of the cars. The heaviest rain we have seen was during our second night in Seminyak. Although only about 15 – 20 minutes in duration it caused creeks to begin to flow under fences and the lowest part of Jl Abimanyu became a lake, just over the top of the footpaths in the deepest section. Not that anything changes as a result of the little flood. The taxis still drove through it, so did the motorbikes, trailing steam from hot exhausts at times and the riders with their feet held up high like we used to do when we were kids and found a puddle in the streets. The shopkeepers seemed to cope with the water at their doors on the low side of the street. Perhaps this is why so many shop floors are tiled? Pedestrians and potential diners found it inconvenient but a little amusing. Slip off your thongs (flip flops) and just carry on in bare feet.
If you don’t splash me I won’t splash you. But this didn’t seem to apply to the taxis at times.
The bill is Rp101,565 for the two of us; A$19.55. Even given the disappointment of the prawn cocktail there is no reason to complain and we would happily return – and indeed we are to do so – quite unexpectedly.
Back to the bungalow, where the Hatten’s Alexandria will be a cold and refreshing nightcap. The juices begin to flow at the thought.
If we find a driver on the walk back we will engage him for the trip to Amed tomorrow. If not it will be my task to locate one in the morning while Herself packs the bags ready for checkout.
I will be a little sad to leave Candi Dasa, There seems to be so much more to find out about it yet. However, my long held desire to explore Amed more than makes up for this disappointment.
Amed, and places along the road, like Bugbug, Jasri, Amlapura, Padangkerta, Abang and Culik are more of those magical and mysterious names that draw you like a magnet.
Say them aloud. Say them softly.
DAY 9 – SECOND WEDNESDAY.
Tall coconut palms are really the most elegant of trees. With their crown silhouetted against the morning sky they are the epitome of tropical paradise. In my more vulgar moments they bring to mind a wood borer’s view of a ballet dancer in her green tutu. The timber is highly decorative with broad rays running across the grain like the trees in the oak family. Clear finished, particularly I think in small areas against “Philippine Mahogany” now known and at times reviled as Meranti, it takes on an unusual beauty. I walk past those tall specimens by the pool this morning, down the steps and put the first footprints of the day on the smooth washed sand of the beach although it is not really early in the fishermen’s’ terms. One has returned with mackerel and red snapper which I don’t think are at all related to the Aussie variety as they are a quite different shape, more like the fish we know as the red emperor. He is happy with his catch although it is not large. He returned early as he has duties at the temple this morning. His fellow fishermen are just beginning to appear on the horizon and around the ends of the island, their characteristic triangular and usually blue sails are clear on the horizon as the sun is behind those coming from the east and the shaded side of the sail is black against the blue sky. The morning air is clear and not distorted by the heat haze that will soon develop. Another day has begun in this island paradise.
Some things I learnt this morning:-
I have come down to the beach to photograph the bow of this fisherman’s boat. It is not that his is different from the others; indeed, except for the general colour of the hulls all of the traditional boats are remarkably alike. Most Bali travellers will be familiar with the long swordfish-like beak that rises from the bow at an angle of at least 45 degrees on the boats that retain the more traditional form. As the old traditions disappear this is probably the first thing that goes. (The second thing to go is the smoothly rounded stern which is crudely cut off square with a chain saw. A flat stern is then fitted into the gap so that an outboard motor can be used instead of the sail.) The raised beak is a symbol of the fighting spirit of the fish they seek to catch. It is the fisherman’s sign of respect for his adversary. To the casual eye the beak is just a tapered piece of wood, usually painted white. This boat I can see now that I am close, has a more elaborate shape, not only tapering in its vertical dimensions from the bow of the boat to a smaller squared end. It also tapers the opposite way, in width. At the bow it is fairly narrow, maybe a bit less than 40 mm (about 1.75inches) but at the tip it has gracefully grown to 50 to 55 mm (a little over 2 inches). I bet that in any “civilised” country of the world a replica that might be built would have a beak cut simply from standard 35 mm thick timber, constant throughout its length. The difference of maybe 10 -15 mm in a length of about a meter (3 feet) is really not significant to a casual view but it is so common here that it must be seen as an artistic enhancement of the craft. “Vive le difference” as the French might say. (Or something similar.)
The bottom part of the beak, which runs parallel to the waterline and in fact is just above the level of the water when the boat is at rest, has a single square tooth standing up from it. Wayan, who owned this boat, could give me no reason for this feature except to say, it is right, which I took to mean that it looked right as it had traditionally been done. Wayan is proud of his artistic handiwork on the boat and welcomes my interest in it, but he probably thinks that I’m a “crazy bule” because I want to photograph it. His friend who had joined us said that the tongue, which I took to be the lower part of the beak, was to taste the water so that the boat would find fish and the tooth was to fight off any predators like sharks that might take the fisherman’s catch.
Only a little less obvious on the traditional boats is the bulging and colourful eye on each side. How would the boat find the fish or come back to shore if it could not see? was Wayan’s explanation.
The least obvious feature on the bow of these craft is the pointed tip ear, delicately painted with great care in lines of varying width, just behind the eye. It is an intricate design that does not seem to vary much from village to village as far as I could see. It reminds me a little of a bat’s pointed ear, which seems to have no connection to the sea or fish, except perhaps that the bat might be seen to have very keen hearing. It is to hear the fish and the winds, Wayan’s friend told me, particularly the wind of a still distant storm. I was fascinated to see, on a fishing trip out from Tuban many years ago, that the boat was allowed to loose way and was headed into the waves to reduce the noise of the water against the hull. When there was absolute stillness, or as much as was possible in the prevailing conditions, the skipper lay down in the bottom of the boat with his ear pressed against the wood. Eventually he decided that we were in a favourable position and the anchor was lowered slowly over the side. He explained that he could hear fish on the bottom as they scraped weed from the reef or crushed shellfish in their jaws. I didn’t test his claim but we did catch some fish.
My morning walk today took me to the left as I left the Hotel. There are places I have not explored. The Water Garden Hotel and Restaurant, Kafe TJ’s, another smaller supermarket and a sort of general store all in one with a lot of weaving and carving, a Wartel/Internet shop /Money Changer (which we have not needed to use yet), the Italian Ciao Restorante, the Pandan Beach Bar which has seafood and Chinese cuisine, the Puri Pandan Bungalows and Restoran, the Iguana Café, another book shop full of second-hand paperbacks, the Melati Temple Café and Seaside Cottages, the Segara Wangi Homestay, the Bank of Bali office where the exchange rate is not good, and so on and on. Yes, there is much more to discover in Candi Dasa. We will have to come back again.
But there are no cars with their drivers waiting for hire. Am I too early? Will we catch a small local Bemo? I don’t think so, not with our luggage, it would probably tip up on its back wheels! HA has finished packing so the only thing left to do while we’re waiting is to buy some more watches. This attracts a pack of sellers so I wander of and leave her to satisfy their needs. They must think Christmas has come. I ask some idling locals about drivers but they can only suggest that there is a temple ceremony on that they’ve all gone to. A passing hopeful stops but gives me a price that suggests it would be cheaper to buy his vehicle. He’s not interested in bargaining either which I find strange.
We decide to have breakfast while we wait to see what develops as time goes by and the word gets around a bit. We settle into a corner of Kafé TJ’s opposite the gushing waterfall. HA selects American, poached eggs and bacon, and a lemon juice. I decide on a Continental Breakfast with the Fruit Platter and coffee. Hers is Rp34,000 and mine is Rp26,000. Iced teas lead the way. Tax is 10%.
From where we are sitting His and Hers are over a footbridge covering the fish pond. They are western style with a welcoming entrance. Two frangipani flowers, very fresh, sit on the cistern and speak of attention this morning. They flank a small vase of tuberoses and the whole is quite fragrant – in a nice way. There is only cold water at the hand basin, where there are more frangipani, but there is soap and a supply of paper hand towels fanned out in a basket. At the side there is a swing-top disposal bin. The bowl is a bit stained but overall a seven; fine to use at any time and particularly welcome when it’s really needed.
The iced teas wash around large chunks of ice that fill the glasses. The taste of lime juice is strong and cutting, overwhelming the taste of the tea. I remark on this to Herself who tells me to try stirring it. I do. It’s different – lemon tea again.
Copies of Bali and Indonesian papers hang in a rack close at hand while we’re waiting. I like the Jakarta Post. It’s in English so I can do more with it than just look at the pictures. The gamelan music is loud but as soon as I catch the waiter’s eye and make a rotating motion with my fingers he understands and in seconds the music is mute but still listenable. I nod. He gives the thumbs up. Instant and silent communication. When I reach the bottom of my glass the taste changed again. The lime taste disappears completely and it’s now pure tea. I should be a wake up to these things but everyone does things a little differently. If I’d only blown a few bubbles down the straw it would have mixed completely. Towards the end of our holiday we were served lemon tea with a little jug of water on the side. When I’d finished the tea I poured a mouthful of the water into the glass and had a long sip. It was liquid sugar, instantly dissolvable in iced tea if you were smart enough to recognise it before the tea was finished. Herself likes the layering of the flavours, strong though they are.
My large bowl of fruit arrives and it is chockers, right to the top and the topmost pieces threatening to fall over. Watermelon, a yellow melon that I have seen for sale on the roadside but which I don’t know the name of, pineapple, rambutan pieces, papaya, banana, topped with two halves of lime to squeeze all over if that’s your thing. The flavour of the banana and pineapple particularly just burst into your mouth as you bite down on them, the tang of the lime juice biting and fresh along the side of your tongue. There is enough here for both of us. She declares the rambutans to be perfect and the waitress smiles on her way past, to return in a minute with more pieces on a fork.
Her poached eggs are divine I hear, when broken they rush down the sides of the whites to seep instantly into the browned, crisp toast underneath. There are three large bacon pieces, one of which I take with alacrity when it is offered and two tomato halves. On a side plate there are four pieces of nice toast, two bowls of butter and two of jam.
It is silent for a long time as peace descends around us.
One of the two jam pots contains marmalade. It is chunky with fruit peel and so very tasty. It seems years since I had a marmalade that I liked more than my all time favourite, Roses Lime or Roses Orange. My coffee is thick and strong, so strong that it still looks almost black with a teaspoon of milk in it. (YES, I know that true coffee lovers will cringe at the thought of someone putting milk in good Bali coffee buy I’m still a baby at heart.) The croissants are still warm and very flaky with lots of spaces to squeeze the jam into. I still can’t manage to keep it off my fingers though.
All of the plates that this feast of a breakfast are served on sit on another plate with a carefully cut disc of banana palm leaf in between the two. I suppose in practical terms it might cut out the rattle if you’ve got a hangover but it’s just a sign of a little extra care. The whole presentation is exquisite. Perhaps it’s more noticeable because the breakfasts I’m used to are really just a bowl and a glass of juice in front of the computer in a dark corner. The look matches the tastes and the service.
We sent our compliments to the cooks after the fruit bowl but the rest is just so good I have to go and find them. This is not a problem as we are the only ones there. They are three blushing ladies. They simply burst into laughter and hang on to one another as I solemnly present them with a CC each. This is the best breakfast we have had in Bali, and if you know of the breakfasts at the Holiday Inn Bali Hai in Tuban, or the Bali Hai Resort and spa as it is now, then you will know the competition that these ladies have surpassed.
The bill is Rp83,000 including the tax and Rp16,000 for the iced teas. That’s about A$8. Not cheap but not the most expensive either – but the value for the bucks has got to be unbeatable.
Don’t bother to go back and look for the name of this place, its Kafé TJ’s and it’s in wonderful Candi Dasa.
Today is to be a day of surprises, of highs and lows. Breakfast is the first of the highs.
Now we’ve still got the problem of getting a car and driver. On our walk back to the Candi Dasa Beach Hotel we let it be known that we still wanted a driver and we are just about to go in through the entrance when Komang Godogan turns up. He’s a nice young man, easy to understand, almost a local as he lives a bit up the road just outside the village of Bugbug and up front he offers his services at what we think is a reasonable price to take us to Amed. When we tell him that we expect to have a number of stops along the way he does not want to bargain further so we know that we will add to his fee as we go. If anyone wants to get in touch with him at the end of today’s story his boss’s phone number in Bali is 0363 41 631 and his e-mail is firstname.lastname@example.org.
Our hotel bill is Rp936,800 for four nights and includes some restaurant charges. That’s about A$180 for the two of us or A$22.50 each per night. Our bags are brought up to the lobby and Komang soon has them loaded into the back of the Kijang although he has to open up again and I have to burrow in and find the map and the camera bag which he has put in while my back is turned. He is happy to have an Aussie flag stuck onto his windscreen and to have a koala clipped to the rear view mirror. The koala probably wont stay there very long as it will become a gift for a child in the family somewhere. We all get in and before we leave we explain that we want to take photographs and to explore some of the villages and towns along the way. If this is OK with him we will give him an extra Rp10,000 for every photo stop and Rp20,000 for each town stop. This extra will be for him and he does not have to give his boss a cut if he does not want to. This is certainly OK with him as he is desperate to get some funds for his baby daughter’s three-month ceremony that is due in 8 days time. We can’t help ourselves and put Rp50,000 into the ashtray for his daughter before a wheel has turned. Part of the Balinese belief is that a gift of money put into a babies hand will ensure a prosperous life. It’s a nice belief and one we have not been able to resist on several occasions during this trip. I trace along our track on the map for him to point out the places I think we want to stop and ask him if he can suggest any more, which he does without difficulty.
The first stop I want to make is to the headland just to the east of the town. It’s a tall cliff visible from all the beaches and sea shore restaurants. I have read that there is a spectacular view of the town and the bay all the way round to the south western point near Padang Bai. (I just couldn’t resist saying Padang Bai as I keyed it in. Say it aloud just one more time – Padang Bai.) In the other direction I hope that the view will extend along the remaining coast towards another of those wonderfully named towns, Kusambi. I really would like to get a series of photos from up there and see if I can paste them all together into a panorama. What I didn’t know at the time was that there is no road right up there and from the bottom, where the road ends, it is a bit of a hike up a goat track on the edge of the cliff. Well, it’s a cow track really. I’m sure of that because I was to meet one half way up much later.
But I get ahead of myself again.
Not that any of this mattered today because by the time I realised that Komang is not trying to find a road up the back of the headland but has forgotten, or not really understood that I want to go up there, we are many kilometres along the way to Bugbug; too far to turn back we think. A second prize looks as though it has turned up however, a few kilometres further on. The road began to climb quite steeply as soon as we left Candi Dasa and by the time we have driven to the top of these hills we are at quite an altitude. Suddenly as we crest the climb there is a viewing stop on the edge of the road. A small square, roofed enclosure with bench seats around three sides is perched right on the edge of the drop down to the broad flat expanse between this ridge and the next one. It looks as though it was designed and built for photo-nuts like me. It’s not to be however. With probably all of the best intentions at the start of the project, no-one has provided for the means of keeping the forest at bay and now branches overhang all of the best views. Even climbing down a short flight of steps and a bit of a steep dirt path is to no avail as that only brings a set of massive black power lines across the scenery. Never the less the first 10,000 note goes into Komang’s ashtray, an operation that he watches closely, perhaps not quite believing that it’s going to happen all day.
At Bugbug (pronounced Boog-Boog, not like the insect ‘Bug’) an opportunity arises to photograph the view at low level. Bugbug is on the plain between these ridges and at an intersection leading down towards the coast there is a view across the rice fields to the sea with the two ridges closing down onto the horizon leaving a ‘V’ shaped wedge of blue sky and white clouds contrasting against the bright greens of the rice and the light purple of the distant hills. Nice but not as outstanding as the view from the top of the ridge. The second 10,000 note goes into the ashtray, again watched by Komang who can’t resist tucking it right in with his finger.
A few Km’s further on, and a couple more uneventful stops including one at a petrol station where I see that the price of super grade petrol is Rp1,800 per litre. (That’s about Rp8,200 for a UK gallon or about Rp6,800 for a US gallon.)This is about 34 cents Australian. Komang has to meet this cost from his share of the income from the trip.
As we left with a half full tank Komang asked if we would like to stop for a few minutes at his home which is just ahead. Opportunities like this do not come every day and we quickly accept. A bumpy turn off to the left a bit further on comes to an end about 100 meters (near enough to 100 yards) and his home is there in the middle of the forest. All is quiet as we step out of the car, not even the sounds of the road get in this far. Members of his family respond to a couple of toots on the horn, coming out to welcome him, and us. The house is two rooms I think, with a veranda across the back and a shed almost attached to the house. The shed holds the rice store, chickens that are trying to get the rice, gardening tools, a long bamboo ladder and drying wood and coconut husks. Chairs in great variety are arranged on the veranda for every one to sit on while I take a formal photo for them, and then several of the new baby.
Yes, a drink of coconut milk would be nice indeed, She says. There is no move to a refrigerator or a jug or anything we might expect, but instead, into the shed for the ladder and a wicked looking sickle-shaped thing with a longish handle. Come, Komang says, and heads off into the forest on the other side of the shed. A suitable tree is selected. The rickety ladder is propped against the trunk but it is obvious that it is far too short. With the sickle tucked into the back of his sarong and its hem tucked up somewhere between his thighs, Komang casually ascends to the top of the ladder and, without hesitation continues at the same rate up the trunk. The soles of his feet are turned inwards to an impossible angle to grip the trunk. His hands are wrapped around the back of the trunk and hands and feet work alternately as he just seems to walk upwards. In the brief moment that I take to set the shutter speed of my camera he disappears. From somewhere above me I can hear his activities but there is nothing I can see. Go back, he calls, and a few seconds later the first of four coconuts crash through the intertwined leaves of several trees and thud into the soft earth just a few meters in front of us. We are still looking at them in some sort of stunned disbelief when Komang seems to be instantly beside us, picking them up and offering us one each.
Back to the house and for the first time I am able to see a coconut stripped naked at close range. A fairly sharply pointed piece of wood is buried in the ground at the side of the house. The coconut is slammed down onto this, the fibrous husk is penetrated and, with a quick twist, half of the husk is hanging off the shell. Three more blows down onto the stake, none as hard as the first, followed by that quick twist again and the shell is exposed with only a few whiskers of fibre still attached. The husks are put into the shed to dry and become fuel for the cooking fire. The next trick I have seen before but it is still a wonder to witness. The nut is held on the palm of the left hand and the back of the sickle taps at the middle of the nut on one of the seam lines that run from the “north pole” to the “south pole”. If there is no result a little toss repositions the nut with the next of the segment lines upper most. A few taps here and the whole thing cracks, the clear milk flowing out. The others are opened in a more conventional way, by slicing of pieces of the husk around the top until the nut is exposed. One final slice with the sickle takes enough off the nut to expose the eyes which are tapped in with the back of the sickle and the milk poured out into glasses. The milk is clear, not white, and cool. The taste is as you would expect from a coconut and quenches a thirst. Best of all is the still soft flesh inside the nut. This can be scraped off with a spoon and it is creamy rather than crisp and chewy as we are more familiar with it, with a positive flavour of coconut. After CC’s all round we say goodbye and head off again.
Along the way we teach him the Aussie War cry and for and for minutes the car rings to “Aussie, Aussie, Aussie – Oi, Oi, Oi!” Periodically throughout the day the call re-echoes.
Eventually we reach Amlapura where we want to see the market. Amlapura was once known as Karangasem and was the capital of the Karangasem regency which encompasses most of the eastern end of Bali. The name was changed to try to hide the town from the evil spirits that caused so much destruction when mount Agung erupts. It is still the capital of Karangasem and, although it is the largest town in the area and once ruled over not only east Bali but Lombok also, its days of glory are mainly in the past. Besides the residential palace, Puri Kanginan, there are at least two water palaces, the best being Tirtagangga (the ”water of the Ganges” a link of course that reflects the Indian Hindu heritage of the Balinese) which is on the way to Amed and Tulumben on the road that goes right around this coast to Singaraja in the north of the island. There must be many days of exploration to be undertaken in the town and the district, but there does not seem to be any decent accommodation if you’re looking for something above home stay standards. If that statement attracts correction from readers I would be glad to hear because I’d like to spend time in Amlapura, and while Candi Dasa is nice and only 12 – 15 Km distant it’s not a quick trip over the hills and dales.
We took a good hour to walk past the little shops that line the street bordering one side of the market. The street is characteristically Dutch I think, shops on the ground floor and living quarters above in unbroken blocks. Eventually we went across the street and into the market, despite the aroma that strongly suggested abstinence would be a wiser choice. We were immediately reminded of the Denpasar market of 20 odd years ago, and if you think it’s a bit ripe these days you should have known it then! I will not attempt to describe the chicken stalls, or the meat butchery, in case I do them justice and all my readers depart. Suffice to say I was not to kindly view chicken on a menu for the rest of the holiday. Herself, who has seen more of these things than I have, and is unquestionably stronger about them in all ways, took a deep breath and plunged in. We bought some fruit, mangosteens and salaks, on the outskirts first and then worked our way around the aisles for maybe 10 – 15 minutes. It was an endurance trial and I will always be quietly proud of the fact that She was the first to say, OK, let’s go.
The little shops around the bordering streets still fascinate us and eventually we found a little store that had supplies of “Teh Ta Yau Gin”, a potion for the cure of cuts and scratches. I showed the lady the careful lettering in my note book and looked at her with raised eyebrows. She studied the scrip intently and at length, pointing at each word in turn with her fingernail, eventually nods and turns towards the tall glass doored cabinets along the wall behind her. The same finger runs up and down the shelves, then along and up and down again until it stops in the middle of a shelf stacked with immaculately ordered rows of little cardboard boxes and the glass door silently slides open. I’m ready to turn down what is obviously going to be some sort of substitute after this show but the bottle flicked out of the stack with that multi-purpose finger and put in front of me clearly says, (in the middle of a lot of marks which are not at all clear), Teh Ta Yau Gin.
The cost is Rp5,000 exactly. None of this Rp4,999 rubbish here.
One of the remarkable properties of this healing potion is that it can be applied in total darkness. You just rub it somewhere around the lacerated area and when it starts to sting unbelievably you know you’re in the right spot. Bleeding stops almost immediately (I think the blood rushes to the farthest side of the body in sheer fear) and in a few hours you could probably walk through all the markets in Bali without fear of infections, coughs, colds, sore holes or pimples on your wherever. I don’t believe in these alternative medicines at all usually but – “when in Rome – “, and this stuff works. The pain is worse than that infection you’ll almost certainly get later I always tell myself.
Of again, up the hills again and on to royal bathing pools at Tirtagangga. There is a small village at the entrance to the pools, or at least a village of shops for the visitor. The entrance to the complex is up a few steps and through the expected candi bentar. From the top of the steps there is a vista of pools of all sizes and shapes. These are open for public use, with changing rooms at the far edge. Children are enjoying the whole complex, as only children can with loud noises and much splashing. In absolute contrast a group of Japanese ladies, in cosies that are almost neck to knee, delicately dabble their toes between the mini tsunamis created by the children’s bombs from the edges before slowly subsiding into chaste invisibility below the surface. Up the slope of the hill on the far side is what must be the biggest Banyan tree in all of Bali. I think it must be well over 30 meters (120 feet) high and the spread of the branches even more. As I climb the steps to put my hands on this enormous trunk a group of boys comes down the path from the royal quarters. I offer CC’s as they pass and suddenly they are not passing at all and we are in deep conversation about who we are and – where I come from! Into the bum bag, out with the little map - - - and at the end where they are to be kept in if they don’t pass the test there is such silence that you could hear the gasp of the spirits in the branches above.
Then come the gales of laughter.
Before I can leave they all have to have a look through the camera and zoom the lens backwards and forwards. Eventually we all shake hands with great solemnity and they all pose in a formal arrangement so that I can take their photo.
I can’t help wondering if they have show and tell in the schools here. Their story would be a bit different from the norm if they do I think.
Beyond Tirtagangga, at the village of Ababi, there is a sharp right hand corner into a T junction. As we turn into the village it is apparent that they have had a ceremony of some sort recently. Lining the road on both sides about 20 meters apart there are those tall bamboo poles with the decoratively cut and coiled leaves all the way up the stem to the down curved tip from which hangs a dangling tassel that waves in the breeze. The road dips a little before rising further up into the hills and the perspective up the road brings the poles closer together as they run away up the road. Just as they appear to meet the road rises and the tassels begin to appear again above the centre of the road and above the poles in the middle distance.
From Ababi there is an almost endless panorama of the most spectacular rice terraces. Steep and narrow on the slopes at the edge of the road they slowly broaden as they reach down to the flatter bottom of the valley before running up the slopes on the other side, far into the distance. The road itself curves around to follow the ridges and valleys in a steady but meandering climb. Around each blind bend there is a new panorama and the road then follows around the valley to the other side providing a 180 degree view of each scene. We have to stop of course, several times, and each time there are so many photo options that I become forgetful of what I have taken. Later I find several scenes re-done several frames along on the film.
I thought that I had seen spectacular rice terracing in the area north of Ubud, and they are, but these are spectacular in different ways. In their scope for a start. Each valley is much wider than those near Ubud, where they are narrow but perhaps steeper. Some of the valleys here are so far across that the detail of individual fields is lost in the distance. Here, looking down on the scene, the glint of the sun on the water surface of various terraces running down towards the coast, seen occasionally away in the distance, makes a kaleidoscope of unimaginably different shapes and shades of brilliant green. Here and there are little shelters, known as kubu, that the farmers use to rest in during the day and to tug on the strings that run across the fields when the rice is ripe, jangling the tins and rustling the plastic bags tied onto them to scare the birds.
Are these works hundreds or thousands of years old? How were they made? How were the edges of each padi defined initially? Who said that the wall between two levels should be here and not a meter further away? What kept the walls stable before the grass grew down into the soil and held it together? If the paddies were built and presumably compacted in some way before water was let into them, how were the levels set with such accuracy that water now flows along them for hundreds of meters from one end to another before seeping over the edge or running through a bamboo pipe to the lower level? How do the experts in these matters compare them to the Egyptian pyramids in the scale of human endeavours?
It would be easy to say that there are surprises and more questions around every corner but there are so many corners the claim would be as hard to prove as it would be to deny.
On towards Amed which I have imagined as a small fishing and farming village just north of the eastern-most point of Bali. As we come from Candi Dasa the first inkling of Amed is a sharp right hand turn and the open farmlands close up and become typical rural Balinese buildings lining each side of the road. Just as I imagined I smile to myself – but there are to be more surprises.
I am not sure if these buildings are really part of Amed because we seemed to drive forever further, up the ridges running from Mount Agung to the coast and down the other side of the ridges again. My impression is of small clusters of houses and huts pressed against the small beaches where the floors of these valleys run to the sea. Through many of them run little creeks, obviously from the wash-aways on the road not always little creeks but at times destructive torrents. In several places the creeks were not flowing and still pools of water lay trapped between road and beach. Mosquitos I wondered? This sort of development continues for kilometres with the roadside beset with signs alluring the traveller ever onwards to this resort or that. Komang seemed to know where he was going but I confess that I was getting anxious to stop and have a look at some of these enclaves; the fishermen’s huts, the fleets of jukungs that clustered float to float all along these little sandy stretches the more substantial buildings that I took to be places to stay.
The road still continues between the hills on the right and the beach on the left, narrow, winding, undercut by streams in places and forever up and down until eventually we go down a steep driveway and come to a stop. It turns out to be a sort of up-market home stay and it’s not long before we’re off along the road again. The next stop is in a curving driveway where we are told that the resort is full.
On again, the ups and downs continuing, getting steeper in my imagination at least. I become convinced that goats or cattle would find a flatter track than this road. The further we go the steeper the terrain becomes. The locals, who were obviously here first, settled all of the flat land in this area, and they must have been a bit bemused when the developers eventually followed and built up and down the ridges, often a long way from the beaches.
We begin to stop at places with names that I have written in my notes and we are familiar with from travellers’ reports in the Forum. The further we go the nicer the properties become but this terrain is not for her football knee or my bedroom back.
The other disturbing thing is that there seems to be an agreement between all of the properties that they will readily offer a 30% discount from their standard charge but there will be no more bargaining. Even with the 30% discount the rates are enormous compared with those that we have just left behind inn Candi Dasa. Prices asked are around US$90. (Why do they do that when the local currency is rupiah? If the US dollar was still a stable currency there may be a reason but I don’t see the sense of it at this time.) We mentally convert this to about A150 which is Rp780,000 a night. Even with the 30% discount offered that is still about Rp490,000, half a million rupiah! We simply cannot see what Amed offers that would warrant such a steep increase over the Rp225,000 we had been paying for equivalent or in some cases better accommodation.
HA has seen no supermarkets of roadside stalls to indulge in retail therapy, nor good looking restaurants or cafes outside of the hotels/bungalows. We like to walk, we are not ones to be trapped in any one place, but I can’t see how we will get around Amed except in a car, and where would we go anyway? Even walking from the reception area to inspect a room or bungalow on offer is a trial at some of these places.
My world is crumbling before my eyes. Eventually, after perhaps a dozen inspections and only one invitation to bargain below the 30% discount norm, we have a council of war. What to do? We both agree that we will not stay in Amed but discussion with Komang quickly reveals that to go on will be many hours drive, and we don’t know if we will find anything to our liking further around the island, and by the time we get anywhere it will probably be too dark to see anything.
There is a long silence.
In the end I have to suggest that we go back to Candi Dasa even though I feel that this means abandoning our aim of travelling all around the coast road.
Nothing is said but we get back into the car. Komang follows, unsure of what is happening I think. He looks at me and I say, back to Candi.
The decision is out loud. It is now made with finality.
Secretly I hope that HA will say, No. Let’s - - - - ! Or that Komang will say, What about looking at - - - - ?
But nothing like that happens. What Komang did say was, Yes, I think so.
It was a quiet trip back to Candi Dasa for most of the way. We went through the same spectacular scenery, perhaps even more spectacular now with the lower angle of the light revealing all of the contours through the hills and across the flats, in almost total silence.
We were through Amlapura and Bugbug before Komang asked if we would go back to the CD Beach Hotel. It did not take long to decide that we would try the Grand Natia before we got to the Beach Hotel. If we could get a bungalow there for the same price as the Beach Hotel we would happily take it.
Not much chance, She said.
Ah, I responded, I think you can do it!
And she did.
The bungalow at the front; right by that beautiful little pool; with the kitchen just around the corner and that cool bale right next to it.
I sensed a lightening of our step and conversation as we walk down the corridor between the bungalows.
Little unpacking was done, the pool was plunged into, the last bottle of the Hatten’s Alexandria was breached and it was soon decision time for dinner.
The Candi Dasa Café won the race.
We are not going to be easily satisfied after the trauma of the day although knowing that we were secure in the Grand Natia for at least a few days has mellowed our temper a bit and has been a big help to our equilibrium, although the bottle Hatten’s in the warm pool may have offset that.
My choice is the seasonal Mixed Salad with Tomato Bruschetta. (Perhaps to remind me of my usual lunch with the old fogies that I missed out on yesterday, although when I thought about that later I realised that with daylight savings now gone the home-made soups would be back on the menu at the little Nile Street café in Glenelg.) The Bruschetta is to be followed by Grilled Pork Spare Ribs with Oriental sauces. (Rp21,500) Would you believe it is off the menu! OK. Pork Steak with either Black Pepper or Garlic Butter sauces is a second choice for Rp22,500.
HA decides to try the Lumpia at Rp 10,000 and one of the Red Snapper we are shown will be grilled to perfection for her. You might gather that I search the whole island (and a lot of Oz too) for the perfect Spring Roll while She is becomes a total Fish-o-phile after any more than a days abstinence.
Our Iced Tea is just that, with no hint of lemon or lime tonight. I suppose I should have asked for it but it doesn’t really matter. It is cold and tasty. A good entrée for a Bintang (Rp14,000) to follow. There is only one other customer in the place and he seems to be using it as a bar rather than a café in which to eat. Our desire for food may have offended him because he soon left which left us all alone to be pampered by the Waiter.
Occasionally a Bemo or van, with the thankfully rare appearance of that super noisy motorbike broke the silence of the evening in this end of the town, silence that is except for the quiet tones of a gamelan orchestra on the tape player.
My salad is a ring of alternating slices of tomato and cucumber arranged all around the edge of the plate. Within the ring are bean sprouts, sliced carrot and shredded lettuce topped by a dressing of salad oil, vinegar, garlic and salt and pepper, all run through the blender to make a fairly thick liquid, not unlike mayonnaise. On a side plate is a diagonally cut slice of thick, fresh bread. In all it is nice to look at before I start on it, fresh, crisp and tasty, particularly the dressing.
HA’s Lumpia is declared better than we have had before, not greasy or oily, crisp with hot vegetables inside, holding together and not falling into the dipping sauce which has just the right amount of chilli in it for her, so I decline to have a taste. Her fish comes on a long fish platter, head and tail just touching the ends of the plate. The body of the fish is sliced diagonally and covered with a dressing She says is just a little bit spicy for the taste of the fish. If She says it’s a bit spicy ordinary mortals would probably cringe in gut-wrenching fear. There is that suggestion of salad on one side and there are two side plates for rice and slices of fresh lime. If you ever have the chance or misfortune of eating fish with Herself I should advise you to avert your eyes, or drop something on the floor, when the top half of the flesh is consumed. There is surgical skill in the way the skeleton is removed from the remainder and each and every bone scanned minutely for any remnant of flesh. The result of this finger food is a disaster for any local wildlife hoping to share the remnants as they are reduced to a dry, smooth and shiny framework.
It’s not a pretty sight. At the end of the meal the empty eyes in an equally empty head stare at me from amid a neat mound of bones. The waiter shows a rare sense of humour when he peers at her plate and asks if She is finished.
My Pork Steak is of good size with enough room on the plate for the usual up-ended bowl of steamed rice and a suggestion of salad which is identical to Hers. The pork is covered with caramelised onion rings and chopped green and white spring onions. The rice is good. It seems to have a flavour I don’t get in rice at home. I suppose that you should expect good rice in Bali, or throughout Indonesia for that matter. The garlic butter is hot and thin, soon migrating to the bottom of the plate where it soaks upwards into the bottom of the rice and slowly climbs up the grains into the mound. A bit off the top and a bit off the bottom suits my taste buds just fine. The pork is cooked through, just as I prefer it, a little crunchy in places around the edges. It is very tender, almost melt-in-your-mouth.
The second Bintang is destroyed while the bill is being prepared. She heads off to scan the toilets. (How come I have all the fun? She asks.) My reply is the same as when She gets the wet seat in the boat – Just born lucky I think, Dear.
The toilet has no light; there is no handle on the tap to facilitate hand washing, no toilet paper and the once-white-towel-is-no-longer. Her 4/10 seems generous to me.
The bill is Rp128,225 including 15% tax. I still don’t know why the tax seems to vary from zero to 30% from place to place. Perhaps some aspects of the mysterious East will forever remain mysterious.
And so to bed, although the thought of unpacking slows our steps just a little, but then the need for a useable toilet also hastens them a bit.
DAY 10 – SECOND THURSDAY.
Some scraps of information I picked up yesterday and will probably forget by tomorrow if I don’t write them down:
* “Bensin” – benzene – petrol;
* Super grade bensin has an octane rating of 86 and costs Rp1,800/litre – about 34 cents Australian;
* “Kijang” – the name of the common small van used in Bali. It is the name of a mule deer (now I have to find out what a mule deer is);
* “Um-um” is eating, which Balinese don’t usually do by the clock but whenever they really feel hungry, hence the frequency of “kaki lima” or food carts around the streets;
* At markets, on a rough average, the fruits of Bali cost about A$1/kilogram. This includes passion fruit, salaks, mangosteen, rambutans. At Supermarkets the cost is higher of course.
This morning I decided to walk to the headland at the eastern end of Candi Dasa, that headland that I had hoped to get to yesterday as we were leaving with Komang in his Kijang – well, his bosses Kijang really. Down the main road, past the temple, past the lagoon (now looking much better following its clean-up), past the Queens Restaurant and straight on to the corner at the end of the town. This corner is where the road to Bugbug and Amlapura turns to the left but my path to the headland I believe goes straight on. Down a bit of a slope the now very narrow road leads into a coconut plantation where a large group of locals have gathered for some reason. There is a unison of calls for “Transport Boss?” from all sides, so many that it must have seemed a bit funny to them as well as to me. My usual reply which seems generally accepted is, “Jalan Jalan”; walking. This morning I smiled and responded, “Jalan, Jalan, Jalan, Jalan”, roughly, walking a bloody long way, hunching my shoulders and changing to a laboured walk with heavy foot steps. Little did I know then! They must have been in a really good mood because this resulted in more laughter.
The road turned one way and then another, past small hotels, home stays and houses that I would never have thought existed down here, and which tourists would never have seen if they stayed on the main road. There certainly is more to discover here. Past a fairly large hotel (and I confess that I can’t remember its name) I turned off this road onto a wide track that went towards the beach. Along the way I had caught tantalising glimpses of jukung masts and sails through the trunks of the plantation trees. This little track took a few twists and turns before eventually becoming no more than a path through a thicket of bamboos, a few little huts and a warung. The path opened out onto the beach in the middle of a great number of jukungs pulled up high onto the ridge of sand that bordered the plantation that I had been walking through. This beach is without doubt the widest and sandiest I have seen anywhere along the tourist end of the Candi Dasa beaches. It is sort of a bay at the end of the bay, a little hollow in the otherwise smooth sweep of the beach, tucked up against the headland cliffs at its farthest end. I had never imagined that I would find anything like this this morning. There are none of those concrete breakwaters here and it seems that this is what all of the beaches would have been like before the reef was mined and burnt for lime to make mortar for the hotels that were being constructed, and of course before the resulting erosion started. There are still more pieces of white coral than sand on the minute beaches that appear to be building up in the corners of these new breakwaters by the hotels.
The boats here, and the sails, are obviously in regular use, still wet from their recent work of last night. There are well over 20 or 30 here already and more are coming out at sea, probably heading for this cove where there are still vacant spaces which have clear grooves where hulls have been dragged across the sand. The fishermen, smoking and talking in small groups look at me with curiosity as I pass, nodding a ‘Pagee’ reply to my greeting, ‘Salamat pagee’ - Good Morning.
I guess not many crazy bules come this way.
From the beach I turned once again into the plantation, scrambling up some steep changes of level as I went, watched by ruminating cows, stared at by pigs and piglets that I disturb as they rummage in the fallen fronds and mounds of plastic, startling squawking hens with chickens as fallen branches break under my feet, and glared at by polished roosters as they stomp about the floors of their little woven bamboo cages, waiting for their minute of glory in the fighting ring.
Eventually I can climb through one of those living stock fences you occasionally find in Bali. They seem to be created by driving into the ground closely spaced, fresh cut branches of a particular tree. The branches take root and grow fairly quickly. The resulting shrubby growth forms a decent sort of a fence and a wind break. Finally (I hope) there is a last undignified scramble up onto the road again at the start of a row of cottages. These soon end at a small walled temple and just past this the road also ends and a narrow path begins, climbing up the headland proper, between trees, shrubs and little clumps of cactus.
It’s quite rocky with coarse grasses growing in the loose soil between the rocks, and quite steep and getting steeper. I pause briefly to contemplate the wisdom of continuing.
Strange things often spur us on when prudence might dictate otherwise. There, hanging in great loops from branch to branch to low shrub and back to branch again is, unmistakeably, a white plastic power cord! It’s the sort that most blokes will have in their shed to take a drill down to the back fence, and probably lots of wives have also to connect the sewing machine or the vacuum cleaner to the power point that always seems to be a bit too far away. This one is different however. It’s at least a hundred meters (yards) long over just the stretch that I can see, and it disappears up ahead along the rocky path, still going from branch to branch as far as I can see.
Well, I’ve got to find out where it goes. Right?
And as it goes up the headland. so also do I.
Occasionally I lose sight of it as it seems to fall down the cliff to my right while I am still on the path, separated from the cliff edge by a thin row of vegetation; and the cliff on the other side of that vegetation seems to drop straight down from a sharp, distinct and crumbly looking edge.
Angels would not tread there and neither do I.
A few deep breaths, hoist up the shorts again, take another deep breath and lift one foot after another again.
Each time I lose sight of that electric cable it comes back into view after a few more laboured steps. Eventually, around a corner about half way up the headland, half a kilometre at least so far, there appears a very rough hut on the left side of the path. The cliff is still on the right with only that meagre row of vegetation keeping me from certain eternity at this height. Hanging from a branch opposite the door of the hut is a small fluorescent tube.
A street light!
Well, a path light I suppose it should be called.
Right up here on the side of the cliff!
If that’s not strange enough then ask yourself why you would not run this mother of all extension cords into your hut to provide light? If it did go into the hut it was well hidden. While not trying to be too much of a sticky beak around someone’s home (there was a bicycle under an extension of the roof by the back/front door so someone must live there I reasoned) I did try to have a good look for it.
Do you, like me, wonder about that bicycle?
Let me tell you it would be impossible to ride up this steep track – too steep – too rough – too many corners – surface too loose in parts - too damn dangerous totally.
But, WOW ! ! ! ! What a ride down. I think I’d want to check the brakes first though.
Onwards and upwards –still.
I reckon that I was about half way up at the hut. The path does not change in any way but after the extension cord ends the trees and shrubs between the path and the edge of the cliff slowly thin out until near the top they disappeared altogether and the full visual effect of the drop to the rocks and white water below became all too obvious, and all too close, particularly when a cow surprises me (or vice versa) around a little corner. I’m glad she did not challenge my right to the path because I could not have leapt up the slope to the very top of the narrow ridge as she did.
With the summit in sight I can see a bright yellow temple umbrella and the flashing of red and gold through the branches of a small shrub. It turns out to be from cloth draped over the small and obviously temporary altar of a shrine right at the end of the ridge. Under the shade of the umbrella which is firmly tied down to a bamboo stake driven into the ground there are offerings on the altar, fresh and recent from a visit before me this morning I guess. I have to sit down on the rounded top of a large stone partly buried in the grass to stretch my legs and catch my breath.
The shrine is under construction. Steel rods driven into the ground, obviously with some difficulty as they are at varying distances from the corners to avoid buried rocks, carry string lines to mark out its perimeter and to keep the cement blocks straight. Construction had started on the northern side with about 2 courses already in place on top of what seems to be a simple mortar foundation. Within the four walls marked out by the string the whole thing might have been a bit bigger than a large bed. The altar is at the end which is uppermost on the crest of the ridge and the length of it points to the largest of those little islands just off the shore. The rock I am sitting on is just outside that lower end and just short of the very point of the ridge which is only a few meters wide.
It suddenly occurs to me what an undertaking this little construction really is, and perhaps why it is so small, apart from the fact that there is not much room to make it larger. All of the materials that I can see must have been carried up that stony path that has not only winded me but scared the living **** out of me at times also. On someone’s back or on someone’s head – bricks, cement, sand, tools, water the wooden altar top which is covered with black and white check cloth held down by stones in each corner – the lot!
Is there a projected finishing date for this construction, or is there simply joy and satisfaction in the doing and not the completing?
(Like our bathroom? Herself asks.)
Is it a shrine especially for the passing fishermen and their deities or is the site one that spectacularly demands that it becomes a place for recognising the whole range of Gods?
The view up here really is astonishing – and of course I have not got my camera with me so I won’t be able to show anyone what it’s like. They’ll all have to come up here themselves I suppose. I guess that the builders might be connected with the temple below at the end of the road. If they left a pile of bricks at the bottom would every curious visitor to this place carry two bricks up with them I wonder? Perhaps I’ll suggest that to someone if I ever get down from here with enough breath left to speak to anyone.
But the view –
To about the direction of north west I look back down the path and the cliff with all those fallen rocks at the base. (Did I just feel a tremor of movement in this rock I am sitting on?) A little to the left the row of jukungs are lined up on the beach at the edge of the coconut plantation, with small thatch roofs visible here and there between the crowns. Further to the left is the tourist foreshore of Candi Dasa proper, the restaurants, hotels and bungalows. Further left still is the deserted stretch of tree-lined foreshore that leads to the fuel piers in the distance and beyond that is the far point of the bay where I know there are the Blue Lagoon, the seaweed farm, the village beneath the palms, and Padang Bai around the other side of that point. (Did you say Padang Bail softly to yourself?)
Further left again is the sweep of the ocean, Selat Lombok really, the Lombok Strait, between this shore and the large outline of Nusa Penida beyond which, over the horizon is the neighbouring island of Lombok. Yet further to the left, past the three or four little islands just off the coast here, through much more than 180 degrees, is the other side of the cliff which continues north eastwards past Seraya and towards Kusambi (not the open beach port of Kusamba) on the eastern-most tip of Bali.
It is spectacular and one day I will return with my camera and a roll of film.
From the direction of Lombok there is a procession of jukungs approaching the shore here. Perhaps a dozen that I can see clearly, others possibly lost in the distance and the mist of the seas. The closest one is just below me off the point of this cliff, about 3-400 meters offshore. As I look down I can see the face of the fisherman turned upwards towards me. Is he looking at me or is he paying respect to the shrine that he probably knows is up here? I lift a hand in recognition and give a little wave. He immediately waves back. He certainly was looking exactly up here, but why?
I watch as he steers his boat, so tiny from this height, around the point and in towards the beach where the others are already ashore. Through a break in the white waves probably marking a deeper channel, then bearing off to the left a little before coming back to the right again and onto the beach, all done under sail alone. I can see other figures walking down the beach towards the boat which shortly begins to move up the beach to become just another one in the long double line.
Hunger overcomes other feelings eventually. Reluctantly breakfast calls and I face the descent of my own Everest. It’s really no easier going down. The grass is a bit slippery and not to be trusted, the soft soil is even worse and stepping from rock to rock jars a bit and when one tears out of the soil and rolls away in front of me I think it wise to sit and contemplate alternatives. There are none that I can come up with so I begin again, with caution and slow small steps rather than long bold strides, looking for hand-holds that might save me if I need to grab at something. Each step is a long way from where the other foot is already planted. At least coming up each foot was placed only just in front of the other and there were really no balancing difficulties. In the back of my mind is the thought that no one knows I’m up here so caution is better than incapacitation.
The bottom comes up to meet me eventually and I am relieved to have made the safety of the road again. As I reach the row of houses tucked safely behind thick and tall stone walls a gate suddenly opens on my left. Out comes a bicycle followed by a tall, straight bule (fair skinned person is about the politest interpretation I have heard for bule) with grizzled hair that speaks of an age that the bearing denies. I parrot my ‘Salamat pagee’ to which he replies in almost perfect English with just a hint of an accent, ‘Good morning Sir’.
Feeling a bit foolish I pause and ask, to instantly feel even more foolish, ‘Do you speak English?’
From such a suspicious start we begin what turns out to be an interesting conversation, although a bit one sided. He is Dutch (which no longer surprises me) and 75 years old, going off to the village to do some shopping. I take another surreptitious look up the hill that starts this road and at his ancient bicycle, quickly realising why he looks so fit. He is a retired sea Captain who first visited Bali as a fresh deck hand on a sailing vessel. His subsequent promotions and transfers to other ships repeatedly brought him back to Bali at regular intervals right up to the height of Dutch rule, and he realised that this was where he would live when he finally had to drop his anchor. He has a 3 year visa which has to be re-authorised every 12 months and which has been on-going for the past 15 years. He has become a Hindu and 70% of his pension from Holland is spent on supporting the education of local children, most of the remaining 30% going for the rent of this house and a housekeeper who comes in every morning to clean and prepare the basics of his meals. He also teaches English language to any children and adults who want to come to his classes. In return the villagers give him food and help with anything he can’t accomplish on his own. If his costs go up his food purchases go down and he relies more on what he can grow or catch and what the villagers provide.
The Balinese look after their own, and it seems that he has become one of them. He has children living in Holland but he has no need to see them. They know where he is and it’s the same distance from Holland to Bali as it is from Bali to Holland he says. I take it that if they want to see him then they can come here. When he dies his fellow Hindus will take care of whatever has to be done and a prepared letter will be sent to his children. He has nothing to leave anyone, his housekeeper will tidy things up and nature will take its course. He seems, happy, at peace and fulfilled.
Perhaps he has found more meaning to his life than anyone else I know.
His name is Bob Land. Bob, not Robert. Bob. Simple, straightforward and positive.
I reluctantly decline his offer to inspect his house as I am now late even by my own standards, but express the hope that the offer will be open if I return at some time in the future with my friend. Of course, he says.
I hope we do sometime, and I hope he will still be there.
There is an art to beginning the peeling process of the softly spiky, red skinned rambutan. It is an art which I have not learned, much to my frustration. Once I have made the initial mess the removal of the remaining soft fruit is dead easy, everything pops out in one piece. Well, most times it does. It’s so simple even monkeys can do it. To watch a local is a frustrating business. They just seem to make a tear in the skin with their finger nails and the fruit is offered to you in their hand in one fluid movement that is too quick for me to see. So far they’ve enjoyed my frustration too much to do it slowly while I look.
Why I have made this note in my diary at this point I have no idea, so don’t bother asking and trying to embarrass me.
Breakfast slips by somewhere I think but I’ve got no idea where or when. Somehow my next recollection is when we are at Go Go’s Silver bargaining for some hand made jewellery; bracelets for the grandies and friend, brooches, rings, ear rings, pendants, the list goes on almost as long as the accumulation of pieces on the shelves of the shop.
The process does not go well.
The jeweller is I W Pasek and he is away at the temple ceremony of his village – not back for 4 days says his brother who is looking after the shop and does not want to bargain.
We have tried earlier at CNI, a little money changer where Pasek’s work is also sold at the other end of town, but without much success. I can see it’s frustrating her but I know that she has set her mind on some of this work and therefore there is only one possible conclusion.
Go Go’s is next to Rajahs Restaurant and Bar so we head there for lunch and refreshments in the hope that brother will have a change of heart and enter into the fun of bargaining with Herself. If not we will head back to CNI to try again, even though we both know that this will be a fruitless task because our return will only indicate that we will buy even if they don’t drop the price further.
Two iced teas begin lunch. They are freshly brewed, the bottom of the glass still warm where the ice blocks have yet to spread their chill. There is the smell of lime juice on the top of the tea and the first sip draws in my cheeks. A soft blow into the straw now that the level is down a bit and the bubbles begin the mixing process. Rp4,000 each for an Aussie schooner (middy for foreigners across the borders) sized glass. This is a bit less than half a litre.
The large size Supreme Pizza is Rp26,000 (A$5) a large and icy Bintang is Rp15,000, I have already noted the handle glasses in the freezer, if we have one.
If we have one?
Do crows fly north in winter? Does the Pope wear a beanie? Are your mother-in-laws kisses cold?
Of course we’ll have one - initially.
Later we may have another one!
Before the pizza arrives Herself has borrowed a series of Rp100,000 notes from me and has gone back to seek out the silversmith’s brother to wave them in front of him. It was always inevitable.
Who will win this test of strength and endurance?
If I was cruel I would keep you in suspense until tomorrow.
She returns smiling and without my notes. She has not lost them I’m sure.
He is cleaning them for me she says. We will pick them up after lunch.
Who won I am foolish enough to ask? We both did She responds and I am smart enough to leave it at that.
The pizza arrives right on cue.
I can smell it as it comes up from behind me, before it hits the table. It is hot and the cheese topping pulls out in long un-broken threads as the first slice is lifted up. Slices of ham, mushrooms, slices of onion, green pepper pieces and black olives sliced thick. The tomato sauce hangs thick onto the deep crisp base.
The Bintang’s not bad either.
The silence is suddenly broken by a long line of open trucks filled with people. It’s not that each truck is particularly noisy but that there are well over a dozen of them followed by a fleet of Bemo’s, little inter town shuttle busses that buzz back and forth along this road, from Padang Bai (Did you?) up to Amlapura and beyond no doubt. These are followed by Kijangs, cars and motorbikes. Everyone is dressed in reds and golds and blues and yellows and pinks and white and black – shimmering in the bright sun. On the heads of the women are those similarly coloured offerings piled high on platters. The tail-enders stop near Rajahs, the leaders have obviously stopped at the temple up the road a bit I think. It’s got to be a ceremony of some sort. This is not at all unusual in Bali where dozens of ceremonies are held every day all over the island and on one day in the Balinese calendar, Nyepi – the day of silence, the whole island comes to a stop. Not even the international airport is exempt on Nyepi Day. No passengers arrive to stay or depart, through passengers are exempt but they stay on their planes. Life and religion are one and the same in Bali. Each day begins with an offering at the family’s house shrine and the same applies at a work place, even if that is on the beach where an offering is placed on the sand before anything else is done. A ceremony on a weekday attracting this number of people is not so strange that it will cause a stir amongst those not involved. These are the gentle, caring, laughing, sensitive, sharing people whose lives were shattered and in some cases ended by the bombing at the Sari nightclub in Kuta. If you talk to them and listen to them they will ask you why, and they hope for an answer because they really don’t know why.
Why the Balinese?
Why their friends, as tourists really are?
They understand religion, and they are tolerant of all religions, but they don’t understand fanatics. The causes of fanatics are not the causes of the Balinese, why did they bring their anger to Bali.
We feel frustrated because we don’t have an answer. We can’t see why anyone would deliberately harm the Balinese either. The best answer we can find is to be here and to try to be as we have been before, to holiday as though nothing has happened. For a short period of time, some times, things are as they always were. But it’s only for a time. Then the emptiness intrudes again.
Water, Chuppa Chups, tonic water, peanuts, pen (again), internet.
We caught a Bemo to get here, just from one end of town to the supermarket in the middle of town. Just for the fun and for old times sake. The last time we caught a Bemo was 20+ years ago in Sanur, on our first holiday here. It’s still fun and we will do it again later in this holiday. The vehicles have changed but not the crush or the friendly atmosphere as everyone shuffles around to make room for you, smiles and says ‘Salamat siang’. A mother with children will push them aboard, passing up a baby for someone, anyone, to hold as she gets on. And someone will hold the baby until the mother is ready to take it back which might be when she is ready to get off. People are trusted here and they honour that trust.
The bill at Rajahs is Rp58,650 including 15% tax. A$11.25 for the two of us.
She needs money. I am not surprised. There is an ATM somewhere but it does not like Her card one little bit. Before any money is delivered it times out every time she tries. Ah well, off to the Wartel/money changer/internet shop with a Traveller’s Cheque. They’ll be happy to see Her. We still need Tonic Water, Soda, Bintang, more Hattens Alexandria, crackers, another pen, peanuts and Chuppa Chups.
I bought a pen yesterday but it only wrote about two and a half pages before becoming so feint that I had to read the impressions that I had made in the paper surface. I borrowed one of Hers but it was an ink type with a fine bamboo nib. It wrote all right, in fact it was great as the nib slipped across the paper with the utmost ease, but as soon as the book became a bit damp the ink started to run and soaked through the paper. It was almost impossible to read then as the writing from both sides became visible.
The need for Chuppa Chups causes a bit of a stir in their morning. I have to take the lid and the container under it to the counter and up-end it. They are now both empty.
You will have to get some more.
Yes, I can see that. More in stock out the back?
You will get more please?
But you can get more?
But I will have to leave Candi Dasa then. I must have Chuppa Chups.
This afternoon – later.
I have to say that when I threatened to leave Candi Dasa if there were no more Chuppa Chups the three girls looked at each other and I could easily have thought that they wished I would – and soon. Before I gave the place a bad name maybe. This craziness might be catching! But they still smile when I give them one each.
Films from the Fuji shop. We, Mr Fuji and myself that is, go through them one by one. He stands along side of me, passing them to me one at a time. Suddenly he takes one before I have a chance to look at it. He has an assistant today. The assistant is called over and finger stabbing at the print is undertaken. The assistant picks up the packet of negatives and goes back to the machine.
5 minutes, Mr Fuji says as we continue to look at the rest of the prints. The next one is taken too, and he has a close look at the one after it before it is passed to me. Instructions are called to the assistant who bends over the machine again. By the time we have finished three new prints are ready to look at. White dust spots I guess. The third print is one of a pair that I took of the bow of the jukung; the second one was one ‘f’ stop less than the first because I wasn’t exactly convinced that I was getting the best exposure of the white hull against the dark blue background. He was not sure which one needed to be re-printed as his machine did not put numbers on the backs of the prints, so both were done.
Two films of 24 exposures printed 3R size (a little smaller than postcard size) wereRp50,000. That’s about A$10.
We thought that an Es Krem (ice cream) would be nice after lunch so we wandered back to the supermarket and had a Monster, chocolate coated with a little paddle pop stick in the bottom so you can hold it. It was just like the ones I am not allowed to have at home because they whack my cholesterol about too much. But it’s OK here because I’m on holidays and almost anything goes when you’re on holidays.
At the Wartel/money changer/internet shop I notice that the exchange rate was Rp5,300 to the Aussie dollar. This is as good as we got in Seminyak before we left and it seems to contradict my belief that away from the tourist areas in the south of the island the rate would be lower. I am curious to see what it is in Tuban when we get back there in a few days time.
I had noticed that the rate at the local branch of the Bank of Bali was only Rp5,000 to the dollar yesterday morning when I went to re-stock my pocket clip of Rp5,000 notes. This is not surprising as it seems to be commonly accepted that the worst places to change money are the hotels and the banks.
Coming back to the hotel after the late breakfast/lunch we fell into conversation with a group of guys sitting about on the steps doing nothing much. Doing nothing much is an art form that is often seen being practised in Bali. There appears to be an almost un-ending search for perfection of the art by some apprentices. Anyway, we wonder about the number of people who have come back to the village temple for the ceremony, those who came in the trucks and cars now almost filling the parking spaces on both sides of the road.
And why are these guys not at the temple for the ceremony too?
Ah, but it is not a temple ceremony, it is a wedding, up behind the house across the road and the people are now going to the temple. There is the bride and groom, undistinguishable from all the guests in their finery. This is why a number of shops have been closed but others are open, and why not everyone is at the temple. They were not invited, and there is just a hint of sour grapes as they tell us this story.
Yesterday was a full moon and there were parties and celebrations. Today is a propitious day in the Balinese 210 day calendar and a particularly good day for weddings. There will be two here today, this is just the first one.
When we moved into our bungalow here a local looking guy approached us from the pool. He held out a very creased piece of paper which turned out to be a certificate in reflexology and asked if we wanted a massage. Well we weren’t at the time but said we would later. I guess I’m a little curious but very ignorant about this stuff and Herself is in for a massage at any time under any name.
What we didn’t know then was that the massage ladies (and one man) here were on 1 day in 3 work because of the lack of customers. It was a few days therefore it was his turn again, and this was the day. Rp40,000 for an hour which was about the going rate before bargaining started and we weren’t often into bargaining over 50,000 anyway.
Herself lined up first and I did the rounds of the pool a few times while avoiding dehydration with a quick Bintang before settling down with a glass of Hattens. When Her turn finished she looked particularly happy and although this might have been the results of the Chivas scotch she had been sipping with long draughts each time she was allowed to sit up I thought it must have been a good rub up.
My turn and I dried off and settled down on the sun lounge. Frankly I thought it was pretty ordinary until he settled in by my feet. From half consciousness I sat bolt upright with the first spear of intense agony that shot through my whole body from the sole of my foot to a spot right between my eyes. I’ve had crystals in my urinary tract twice in my life and never want to have what is often called male childbirth pain ever again – nor will I ever indulge my curiosity about reflexology ever again. It appears, so they both told me afterwards, that every ailment of the body can be reached through pressure points in the foot – around the sole, instep, heel ankle and, excruciatingly in my case, between the toes.
Now I have suffered pain with Wayan when she undoes the reef knots in my neck and the Fisherman’s Bend that ties up my shoulder, even the Truckies Hitch in my calf, but this was beyond pain. How many words are there to describe pain I wonder? Dozens I bet, and today I can add another one.
How people enjoy sex with agony is quite beyond my understanding.
How people enjoy reflexology goes over my head at an equal height.
‘No pain no gain’, I heard Her mocking words over my shoulder, ‘it feels very good when he stops!’
Ever one to rise to a dare I settled back. ‘Settled’ is a very relative term as I use it here you must understand.
But She was right. It was very good when he stopped.
A very large brandy and dry was called for and I limped away to console myself, and to offer self congratulations that I had survived. I actually had two B and D’s, one was just not enough.
The tide tonight is as low as I have seen it here, due to the effect of the full moon I dare say. From the end of the bale I can look down on the expanse of the bare reef between the breakwaters and the groynes below me. It is not a flat reef but lumps of weed on coral jut up from deeper, sandy rivers that wind in and out, joining up frequently and the longer strands of weed surging with the thrust of the waves pushing in through the gaps between the breakwaters. In the corners where the sand build up is deeper and with fewer lumps of broken coral, the beach-ettes are larger and the jukungs are now well above their natural element, very high and dry. The flood tide should be as high as this one now is low. I must try to remember to look tonight, although it will be a minor miracle if I am still awake.
The wind seems to have been from the south east mainly and it is still from that quarter tonight, cool fresh and refreshing at the end of the day. Strangely one of the tankers at anchor in the roads seems to be swinging way around across the wind. She’s beam on while I am watching although the others are head-to as would be expected. She is either powering around on her anchor, readying to lift her tackle and steam away, or she is in a local eddy of wind off the surrounding hills or in a current sweeping around the Padang Bai/Blue Lagoon point. (Did you?)
A young couple, perhaps locals as there are so few visitors here, walk along the shallows pretending to study the reef but so obviously conscious only of each other although at pains not to get too close where they might be tempted to touch. He leads, with the obligatory cigarette cupped in one hand; she dutifully and coyly follows 2 or 3 steps behind. As they are about to pass from sight behind the overhanging palms she looks up briefly, sees me watching and smiles quickly. A second or two later his head re-appears from behind the palms and studies me closely. Apparently seeing no danger he too smiles, broadly.
Perhaps they are a little embarrassed at being seen out, alone except for each other?
Do such innocent feelings still exist in Bali – or anywhere else in the world?
It’s Kafé TJ’s for dinner I eventually discover.
This was always a distinct probability following that earlier and notable breakfast there.
Despite a good decoy made by reading and even praising the menu at the Temple Café as we passed on the way down the street, then sitting at a table, it’s only a brief diversion and we are soon up again, across the road and settling down under the helicopter in TJ’s.
It all happened almost before I could catch my breath anywhere.
Her selection of Avocado Shrimp Cocktail was equally unsurprising. Nasi Campur was to follow; steamed rice with spicy shredded chicken, curried vegetables, beef rending, sate, sweet & spicy tempe, vegetables with coconut and crisp melinjo chips! Now that’s surprising. What more could you throw into that mix? Rp20,000.
My entrée is Thai Fish Cakes with a sweet and sour cucumber relish for Rp14,000. It turns out to be three fish cakes of very moderate size, nicely cooked to a golden colour with crispy brown edges. The relish is a daunting sight with numerous red shreds through what seems to be a very small amount of cucumber. A tentative taste assures me that the red pieces are not chilli as I feared so they must be red capsicum (peppers). It is superb. The fish cakes are speckled with chopped coriander leaves rounding off a spectacular presentation on a large white plate. Perhaps it is the size of the plate that makes the cakes look small? Whatever, they turn out to be satisfying but I can’t resist sipping up the remaining relish in the small dish, it really was that tasty and clings around my teeth and gums until I wash it away with cleansing ale.
Equally appealing to the eye is my main course, Twice Baked Potatoes filled with bacon, onion and chives with a salad on a side plate. Rp25,000. The potato is cooked, scooped out of the half skin shell, mashed, mixed with the other ingredients and then replaced into the skin. It is then baked again with a cheese topping surmounted by a slice of green capsicum. The two halves are placed to one side of the plate and a salad occupies the other. The salad sits on a shell of lettuce leaves. It is torn lettuce with shredded carrot on one side and diced red beetroot on the other. The edges of the part of the salad are outlined with a row of very crisp and shining croutons with wedges of tomato standing between them. Around this is a row of cucumber and capsicum slices. There is a sheen over the top from a light vinaigrette dressing.
The plate, as you might imagine, is larger than normal.
It is a complete picture of the cook’s art and his or her care.
The potato is delicious with a variety of textures in the mouth, soft, creamy potato and crispy capsicum and chives. The salad is cold, fresh, moist and crisp, a total contrast to the potato.
It is a good size main course, more than making up for what I thought was a smallish entrée, and at a bit over A$5, maybe close to $6 by the time tax is added, I thought good value.
Her Nasi Campur is presented on a disc of banana leaf which covers the bottom and sides of the woven basket it comes in. The mound of rice has all of the other ingredients neatly arranged around it. A small taste of each confirms their freshness and gentle cooking.
We wonder if the cooks tonight are the same as those who prepared our breakfast earlier. If not then the Café has access to a number of extraordinary cooks in this small town who all show their concern not only for the quality of the food but also the way it looks when it’s put before you.
We also wonder if Kafé TJ’s is listed in the gourmet pages of Bali Eats, the gourmet’s guide to good eating in Bali.
Tonight we lash out into desserts. Well HA does. I settle for a scoop of ice cream which is not really dessert of course. She elects the Pandanus Pancake which has a filling of candied coconut topped with caramel sauce and turmeric. It is Rp11,000.
The Bintang here is icy cold and the glasses frosted from the freezer when they hit the table
We also notice that the Kafe is collecting donations of unused medications for distribution to local doctors in their free treatment of poor patients in nearby villages. This is known as the East Bali Poverty Project and seems to be a very worthy cause. Sustagen Mama and Combantrin seem to be particularly needed and can be bought locally or donations left to allow the Kafe staff to buy them. Check out the web site at www.eastbalipovertyproject.org.
The Project aims to alleviate poverty wherever they can, set up schools in 19 remote villages and address such local issues as iodine and nutritional deficiencies in both mother’s and children’s diet in these villages. They also teach sustainable organic gardening in the poor, generally thin volcanic soils of the higher regions.
They’re worth a thought we think.
They have a bank account set up for off-shore donations through your local bank although you might consider asking a traveller to take your donation over and save the not inconsiderable bank fees and charges.
Their account details if you are interested are –
Bank: BNI Copem Kambaja
A/C number: 302.000.160.038.001
Marked: Attention: Yayasan Ekoturisme Indonesia.
My Es Krem is very rich in flavour, and sweet, with large chunks of fruit. Her pancake is a green wrapper enclosing quantities of luscious golden brown coconut, dripping with the thick sauce.
Our bill is Rp133,100 (A$25.60) for a three course meal with drinks for two.
We are sated in the nicest way and eventually stagger off to bed – or so I think. Not quite so as on the way we need to pause and inspect the offerings at the shop in the front of the Water Garden Hotel and Bungalows, the ‘Taman Air’. TJ’s Kafe is their restaurant and the property looks as though it would match the excellence of the food. A quick glance at their accommodation suggests that any guest should be well pleased. The costs range from a standard room for US$70/night to US$160 for a two bedroom suite. These are before discounts or bargaining options which seems to be produce great saving in Bali at this time. Remember to add 21% tax to these prices.
Day 11 – SECOND FRIDAY
This morning I decided my walk would be to the German Bakery on the road that goes off to the left, up the hills to Tenganan from the start of Candi Dasa. I think it’s a short walk of no more than 2 Km each way with only a gentle hill to climb on the way there. I’m looking for an easy way out this morning I think. I’m just a bit stiff from yesterday still.
Down the main street I notice that the garbage is being emptied.
Frankly you’d have to be deaf, blind and nasally deprived to miss it.
Along the sides of the street are large steel boxes on stumpy pipe legs, open at the top and some with a hinged door at one end. These bins collect all of the rubbish generated in the town, including at times the excess vegetation that grows along the road which would otherwise be burnt in very smoky fires. The service seems to be for the town only and most houses and businesses appear to use it.
The collection goes into large, high sided trucks, collected, carried and lifted by half an army of men in various head wear, from plastic motor cycle helmets to coiled-up towels or sarongs. The collection is probably not frequent but with tourist numbers down as they are now it seems very adequate. Two of the luckier members of the half army get to jump into the bin, or go in through the swing door at the end if it’s not too rusted up or the bin’s not too full. Large open weave baskets are thrown up to them and the rubbish is scooped into these before they are lifted onto the edge of the bin where the other half army put them on their heads and carry them to the truck. Over the side of the truck where invisible muscles evidently empty them and then send the baskets sailing back over the edge onto the ground for the cycle to start again.
And why are those two in the bin the lucky ones you might ask? Well, they get first pick of anything that’s good in the bin!
The only thing similar to our rubbish collection back home is the truck driver, he who sits steadfastly in reverent isolation behind the wheel smoking a Kretek. It seems that nothing touches him until the bang on the side of the truck signals that it’s OK to drive on to the next pick-up.
The whole thing reminds me a bit of the process required to purchase something in the large supermarkets. There too there is an army of workers, each apparently designated a particular small phase of the process, and therefore each employed, and that is the important thing in this land of no hand-outs from the government.
At the bakery I am already too late to get things straight out of the oven. I begin to think that there is really nothing left at all as the display case is empty and being cleaned. At my entry however a large tray is brought out, heaped with the remains of the morning’s work for my selection. What remains is still warm, fresh and smelling as only bakeries do at this time of the day. The decision is too hard and I eventually have piled up 2 croissants plain, and 2 chocolate. 2 pineapple filled tarts and 2 jam filled ones. 2 ‘snakes’, coiled buns with sultanas in between the coils and a length of twisted bread which can easily be torn asunder into small pieces about the size of little buns.
The bill is Rp33,000 (A$6.35) and as I pocket the change she gives me two rolls and two iced cup-cakes.
Why, you ask? It’s because I am so handsome of course!
A large Aqua and a tall glass filled with ice to keep my moisture content up is another Rp6,000. I enjoy one of the cup cakes with a glass of water at one of the little tables on the roadside. The jam filling is thick, sweet and fruity.
The aroma around the bakery is good. The view across the road into the rice fields is green and peaceful. Further still, into the palm trees, it is a different darker, cooler green. Small piles of rice straw are being burnt and little threads of grey-white smoke drift up from the lower row of banana palms and then blow slowly along the tops of the taller coconut plantation beyond.
The air is not yet too hot and although I know that I still have to walk back with this load of goodies, I also know that it is downhill all the way.
I sit for a while and soak up the view and the feeling.
From here the world is bagus.
Why do we keep coming back to Bali? Why indeed!
As I get back to the centre of town I notice that the small group of people who were gathered by the supermarket when I left has grown into a regular rent-a-crowd, most in their best dress. Best dress for many of the men included wicked looking Kris (traditional daggers) in the back of their waistbands. For women it was shimmering silks, alluring see-through tops with those colour matched moulded ‘cast iron’ bra’s that are so common (I wonder if common is really the right word to use here?) in markets and department stores. They (the people that is, not the bra’s.) filled the restaurant opposite, flowed out onto the footpath and partly across the road, leaving only the narrowest of openings for passing traffic, and there were some beginning to take up positions on the footpath on this side as well. Further along the street there are the busses, Kijangs, Bemos, double ranked motor cycles and cars just like the crowd yesterday.
My conversation with one who was obviously not an invited guest confirmed that this was another wedding. The crowd had already been to a ceremony in the temple of a small village nearby and were now gathered at the home of a relative of the happy couple – an obviously inadequate venue in size. There was a fairly defined in and out track from the restaurant and the street, down a narrow lane to the back of the house. This was where the happy couple were and, in case you didn’t really want to see them, it was where the food was also. The next part of the ceremony would be at the large Candi Dasa temple just down the road and piles of brightly coloured temple food sat on platters on the roofs and bonnets of the Kijangs and cars ready for this coming event.
It was a colourful, vibrant, noisy, agitated scene, not too unlike a country wedding at home with the reception at the local Institute Hall, bar-b-que and barrel(s) out the back, birds on one side and blokes by the door.
Back at the bungalow I arranged the spread on the little table by the doors next to the fish pond and garden. It was filled. Herself is most impressed. So impressed that She whips out her camera and zeros in on the feast. With these little zoom cameras it is almost impossible to judge the breadth of the things that are in the view finder. I leant back as far as possible to get out of the way, not realising that I could have fallen over backward and She would still have ensured that I would be in the photo.
My fore-part is not a pretty sight at any time. Bared to the world in an effort to cool it after its recent exertion, and pointing skyward like Mount Agung which it appears to be trying to emulate, it is gross. She, of course, would use bigger words, saying that the word must match the object.
This is Her revenge for that innocent little prank when we went sailing no doubt.
It is a photo that will never see the darkness of the ether.
Naturally all of this is unknown to me at the time and I innocently begin to tuck in and enjoy breakfast. She picks delicately at the crumbs that fall from my fists. (She insists that I write that.) In reality it is one-for-me and one-for-you, which is of course why I bought two of everything.
She is much taken with the remaining little cup cake which is chocolate, not the jam that I thought. Thus tempted, which I would not have been otherwise of course, I try the larger chocolate croissant. It is indeed marvellous. The thick, soft chocolate is sticky but still fluid enough to run down the wrist. Sweet and in copious quantities. In self defence I am forced to break it in halves so that I can handle it better. Out of the corner of my eye I observe her testing the reserve half with the tip of a delicate finger.
When next I looked for it, it was gone. Yes, they were nice.
While I am cleaning my teeth I am reminded that I must tell you about the taps in Bali.
Bali is an island liberally endowed with water. There is a good rainfall, lakes and streams in plenty, springs of prodigious outflow gush up out of the ground in many places. Water is a part of Balinese life from the opulent water temples and water palaces of past rulers to the sprinkling of water drops onto a million offerings a day. Huge rice fields are terraced down almost sheer hillsides and across broad flat plains – all filled and emptied with perfectly controlled running water two or three times a year depending on the type of rice being grown.
All over the island (except for the Bukit, a dry limestone plateau which is the dot almost falling off at the bottom of a map of the island) past and present Balinese have tapped, harvested, controlled and generally handled this bounty of water with what seems to be an almost casual aplomb.
Yet in this land, against this background and history, the western ways with water seem to be an insoluble mystery and there always seems to be a story to tell. I should not have been surprised when, in the Bali Hilton a few years back, our bathroom, beautifully tiled with polished marble across the floor and up the walls had a shower where the floor drain was at the highest corner of the cubicle. And, lest the Hilton should be too embarrassed, let me say that this is only one of many similar examples that I’m sure travellers could cite.
Here in Candi Dasa I came across another most curious example, well perhaps it is only curious to my twisted mind but I will tell you anyway, despite the scorn my critics might heap upon it.
They won’t heap anything if you don’t get on with it She mutters.
OK, so this is it. In your first or second world country, even for Eskimo Girl in her far off arctic home, I’ll bet that you have a bathroom where the taps turn on clockwise and off anti clockwise. I know I haven’t inspected them all and I may be wrong, but if I am I’ll bet that exactly the opposite is true, So what, that’s what anyone would expect isn’t it. There are conventions with water, from the simple convention of using taps to control reticulated water supplies to the not so obvious convention of having the hot tap always on the left side of a pair, a convention which is mirrored in the modern mixer taps which, universally, give you hot water if you turn the handle to the left.
This is what you have come to expect from a life-long use of taps. You don’t usually think about it, in fact if you do think about it you probably wind up a bit confused.
So what do you do when you’re going to have a shower? You turn on the hot water, wait for it to warm up a bit and slowly turn on the cold until you get your ideal temperature, and this is what I did at Candi Dasa.
But, when I turned on the hot water tap it was already on!
But there was no water.
I’m not sure why but I turned on the cold water tap and – out came water.
So what was wrong with the hot water tap? There was no isolating valve anywhere under the sink or on the walls. A quick peek over the end wall where there was no roof revealed just the plain pipes that you’d expect coming into the bungalow but no valves. I reasoned that there must be an isolating valve up by the office somewhere and that it had been turned off because there were no guests or because someone was repairing the system somewhere.
OK. Ring the office and find out how long it will be before we can have hot water.
First turn off the cold water that is still running, and, without thinking about it, turn off the hot water tap too.
Momentarily the water stops as I turn off the cold – and then starts again as I turn off the hot!!!
Pause, not for dramatic effect but to let this peculiarity become apparent.
I had turned the hot tap ‘off’ and water flowed. I had to go through it all again to make sure I was not hallucinating. But there it was. I could do it over and over again. You will by now have come to the same conclusion that I did, a conclusion that was unmistakeable. The manufacturers of these taps and the mixing pipe buried in the wall with it’s bath spout protruding and the shower outlet running up the wall, had actually made two different taps, one ‘right handed’ and the other one ‘left handed’ if you like to think of it in that way.
Now it is a fairly straightforward matter for a machining shop to make a normal tap. All the thread cutting tools and machines required are readily available for ‘normal’ threads. For ‘left handed’ threads however, most machine shops would have to buy in the required tools, providing they could find a manufacturer who made them. If indeed, as the owner or production manager of the tap making factory, you went to all the trouble and cost involved in setting up to make a ‘left hand’ tap, why not make both of them left handed? Why make one of each and have to set up two different machines and have two sets of tools?
I do not understand the logic nor am I impressed with the potential dangers inherent in this unique system.
I inspect the plumbing closely. Underneath the outlet spout is a small inscription.
With my glasses on I can just make out “Made in Indonesia”.
The system over the hand basin is exactly the same.
I hope the manufacturers are not hoping to expand internationally.
The reason that I have bought up big at the bakery is that we have decided that it is time to leave Candi Dasa again and go to Bedugul in the central highlands of the island. Well, to Pacung actually, just a short way from Bedugul. The bakery produce will not only provide a quick breakfast on the move but also lunch on the move if we get to be short of time. We could just as easily have stayed in this little haven in candi Dasa, with its nice warm climate, its marvellous food and magical pool, but on the list of ‘things to do this trip’ I have written Pacung Indah Hotel; Bedugul; Singaraja and Lovina where I am curious to meet the owner of a well known name from the Forum, Ringo.
The Pacung Indah will be our target. It is a fairly long drive from here, all the longer because we have to skirt the intervening Mount Agung and either go around the steep and deep river valleys that cross the path or go on the straighter path and find places where we can cross by going down one side and up the other. Our exact route will be in the hands of the driver who should know the byways that my map probably does not show.
At Pacung we will re-evaluate our hope of completing what we can of the circumnavigation. There is still this option to go on but time is getting limited as we have been here in Candi Dasa twice as long as we originally planned. The alternative, which I do not like, is to go back south from Pacung and Bedugul to Tuban/Kuta and get on with the real shopping. This is an idea that finds some support in the party I must admit.
Settle the bill and find a driver.
HA is packing – has packed - and we are committed to go.
Komang is not to be seen but Sudi makes no bones about taking us on the trip and his fee will be Rp125,000.
The price is less than I would have hoped to bargain down to. We cannot argue with it and we do not. I think that the price is an indication that he has not had work for some time and probably has no other real prospect for work today if we do not hire him. Conversation later in the Kijang confirms that we are his first passengers for over a week. We let him know that we are not in a hurry and like to drive easily so we can see things as we go along. If we are happy at the end of the trip we will have an extra gift for him. His eyes light up and he gives us his absolute promise that we will have a gentle and most enjoyable ride. If we are happy then he is happy.
We make a final call at the supermarket for nibbles and Aqua and decide to have an Es Krem also. We get one for Sudi too. He smiles slightly and I am not sure if he likes it – but it disappears so it couldn’t have been too bad. He is a talkative driver, needing only a little encouragement to talk about his life and his country.
Our path initially takes us back along the way we came a week or so ago.
We pass the turn-off to Padang Bai (!) and pass the short turn off to the open beach port of Kusamba.
Before we get to the old capital of Klungkung I have learned many things.
The little shelter in the rice fields is a kubu.
The Balinese Hindu god has 3 forms – Brahma the creator – Wisnu the protector of all things – Siwa the destroyer. Between the three of them they have the whole of life covered.
Brahma the creator is usually signified by the colour red, the colour of birth – Wisnu the protector by yellow, associated with the protection offered by their religion and seen always in temples and on shrines, it is the colour of ripe rice – the colour of Siwa the destroyer is black, the colour of death.
Hati means take care, slow down, exercise caution.
Hati Hati means take special care, slow right down.
I’m not sure if there is a Hati Hati Hati.
Tut-up is of course closed. What else?
Buka is not a thing you can read but you won’t read much if it is not – open.
At Gianyar we are anxious to see silk weaving for which the area is noted. The factory that we stop at is a bit of a disappointment. There are only a few workers here (it’s another of those temple ceremony days) and there is no silk being woven. Never the less the cotton weaving gave us the idea of the process and the almost empty mill allowed us to ramble around freely and in relative quiet and safety. As might be imagined the machinery is quite primitive but it works and employs human labour rather than enormous electric motors and supervisors. That old cartoonist who produced drawings of intricate and improbable if not impossible and useless machines, Heath Robinson, would be in his element at the incredible use of old bicycle wheels, bent wire coat hangers, pieces of rope and twine and, not surprisingly, cotton reels. The visit also gave us another chance to look at Ikat weaving, in this case single ikat where the warp threads, those that run the length of the cloth, were all uniformly dyed dark blue and the weft threads, running across the cloth, had been tie-dyed blue, leaving white areas of varying lengths and position under the ties. For the dying process the weft threads are coiled into a skein or loop of threads the length of the skein being related to the width of the cloth and the un-dyed sections being the parts that create the pattern. There are more secrets to it than this of course, but exactly what they are is beyond me so far.
Just another good reason to return.
To watch the shuttle fly both backwards and forwards, so fast that it was just a blur, at the tug of a rope would have been unbelievable if it was not happening right there before your eyes. The simple mechanism of knots, wooden levers, nail pivots, foot pedals and cotton reel rollers really has to be seen to be believed. It must represent a peak in the history of human ingenuity.
By Gianyar I have learnt a few more things, temporarily at least.
Sampi jumpa – See you later. An informal goodbye.
Sampi jumpa lage is a little more specific – see you some day.
The banyan tree, the timber is sometimes called monkey pod and was popular for kitchen ware such as bowls and platters in days gone by, is the house of demons. It is almost always found near cemeteries and temples. If you cut a branch from a banyan you might destroy a demon’s home and when he seeks another he may follow you to yours and take up residence there. If you cut down a whole tree you will surely be in trouble. If it becomes necessary a priest can identify branches which are safe to cut, but it’s a bit of a risky business still.
From Gianyar our next stop is Ubud at the markets. We parked across the road from the markets, outside the Royal Palace, part of which is open to the public; in fact you can stay there if you want to. The accommodation that we saw is more aligned to back-packers than regal guests but the lavishness of some areas again has to be seen to be believed. Although decadent in its richness amongst such poverty it is strangely satisfying to see that it is being very well maintained so that it can be admired by the curious and appreciative future generations. The gold painting (Or is it gold leaf?) on the wood carvings, the painting and the paintings, the glassware, ceramics and stone work are all as superb as you would expect. The furniture is highly decorated and highly polished but nothing gleams as much as that gold work.
Part of the complex is still occupied by members of the last royal family and at one stage I think I might have wandered too far in the wrong direction. I looked up from the viewfinder of the camera to compare the scene I’d selected with the wider vista to find my activities being scrutinised by an old and regal looking lady seated at the back of a bale on my right. We exchanged nods and smiles (I’ve been brought up proper, despite the ugly exterior, and know when it’s advisable to tug the forelock in preference to being thrown out.) and I unobtrusively, I hope, fired the shutter with the cable release before packing up and departing the way I had come.
Near the entrance/exit gateway I sat on the edge of a bale to change the film in the camera. A couple of the security guards stopped to watch and sat down next to me. Conversation started of course and before long another gentleman joined us. He introduced himself as a retired teacher so of course we had an immediate rapport. He didn’t have to tell me he was hard up for a dollar, but when he tried to sell me a very poor lontar at a very good price I felt a little insulted, sufficiently so to tell him that I had been to Tenganan and had seen the good stuff. We reached a truce on the lontar and settled into conversation about our careers. It was not long of course before he asked me where I came from and, quicker than a speeding bullet I pulled out the little printed map and began the story that ended with the presentation of the map to him and the warning that I would keep him in if he didn’t pass the test tomorrow when I returned. He had a sense of humour and immediately burst out laughing. The security guards evidently didn’t follow closely enough to share in the laughter so he had to explain it to them. There was a brief moment of silence and then we all shared the fun.
It’s good to see that the Balinese still have their sense of humour and can still laugh with you over simple and innocent things despite their difficult times.
The Ubud markets are quite a contrast to the palace. They still look and smell the same as I remember them over many visits. The sellers begin with as much aggression as ever, perhaps more so as they have fewer targets, but they do not have the persistence that I remember. I only counted seven tourists in the hour or so that we were there. HA picked up some goodies, amongst them a few pairs of sandals to replace the ones that she has torn on the footpaths in Candi and a few watches, maybe a dozen, perhaps two – dozen that is.
They have different ones here, she says. I confess that the difference escapes me.
A good idea that we got from our travelling companions in years past is to always take one of those little insulated, soft bags with a zip top cover and carry handles. They screw up to nothing much when you have to pack and weigh next to nothing. Their value comes at times of day trips. We actually have two, one just large enough to hold about half a dozen small Aqua bottles (or two Aqua and four Bintangs) the other about cabin bag size that will hold quite a bit more, enough for a full day even with a Hattens and a Bintang inside. Overnight we always have at least a couple of bottles of Aqua in the freezer compartment of the refrigerator. By morning of course they are solid ice and serve as the ice blocks to keep anything else in the bag cool. In the morning a couple of fresh bottles are put into the bag with them and in half an hour they are cool enough to drink well. By late afternoon the frozen bottles are thawed enough to drink. Today we have all the usual, including a Bintang and a Hattens as well as the bakery left overs. They prove to be nice to nibble on later as we drive.
Between Gianyar and Ubud we have a chance to stop at the temple we missed on the way up to Candi Dasa so many days ago. It is in the village of Pejeng, about midway between the two and is known as Pura Panataran Sasih, the Temple of the Moon. It houses the Moon of Pejeng, an enormous cast bronze drum, an ancient relic of unknown origins, believed to be about 3-400 years old. Where it was made and how it was made are puzzles with unknown answers. It may have come, somehow, from lands and civilisations north west of Bali where Bronze Age casting is known to have been done, and ancient hollow stone moulds have been found. The drum is a single-piece casting and how the mass of metal needed to pour this particular drum was melted is also a bit of a mystery. The drum now rests on its side atop a tall shrine, closely covered by a dark roof. The cylindrical body of the drum is about 2 meters long (6-7 feet) and about 1 meter in diameter (about 3 feet). A large piece of the hollow body has been broken off the bottom edge. We were told this happened when it fell from the tree it hung in. The piece is now lost. The guide said that he had hit the drum with his knuckles and it simply went ‘donk’, no longer capable of the booming echo it must have made in days gone by. Just under the top, which I suppose can be called the drum skin, there are three, maybe four large rings cast into the body. These were the suspension points when it was hung up, either in a tree or in a supporting frame. In the collar which links these rings around the body of the drum simple human faces can be seen, a bit like the ‘smiley’ :-) that is so often used in these days of E-mail. To see this you would need to be allowed to climb up into the adjacent building and have very sharp eyes. To photograph them well you would need a bigger flash gun than mine or a large reflecting mirror.
The rest of the temple, while large is not really very spectacular but there are a number of buildings containing relics of particular eras posed next to more recent reproductions. The Moon building is at one end of a row of about half a dozen and at the other end of this row are the crumbled remains of the original entry on the opposite side of the enclosure from the present gateway. Only the large base of what must have been a large candi bentar is left.
From Ubud we begin to wander out along the Sayan River ridge, running roughly south from Mount Batur I think towards Denpasar/Sanur. The river is noted for its white water rafting excursions and the ridge for some fabulous hotels and restaurants with spectacular scenery.
I quickly lose my way trying to follow the map and when we stop and I ask Sudi to show me where we have been he can only point to a few villages but the roads shown leave him confused. I think that we have travelled on many local roads that are too small to be shown on the map. Sangeh is one village I remember because of the monkey forest there and Patung another because we made a stop there on the side of the road. We had been talking about fruit and spices and Sudi asked if we had seen coffee trees or cocoa trees. Indeed we had not and he simply pointed out of the window at the forest we were driving through. There – There – There, he would say. Where? We would echo.
On a straight stretch he stopped where a woman was picking up something from the ground around the trees just at the edge of the road. In the stretch of road no more than about 20 meters (yards) long we marvelled at the often quoted ‘bounty of the forest’. It was remarkable indeed.
The woman was picking up red and black coffee beans that had fallen from the trees and her sons were cutting coconuts, one up the tree so far we could not see him despite the conversation she had with him. There were cocoa trees with their large purple pods, enormous rambutan trees covered with ripening fruit, vanilla, banana, salaks, cloves ready to be picked and spread on the side of the road to dry as we had seen earlier, a succulent bush with large leaves, similar to one we know as elephant ears and with both green and purple stems which are used as a green vegetable, avocados in all stages of ripeness from pale green to almost black.
An absolute bounty of food for the picking.
Asked if we would like a coconut (having passed out the necessary CC’s) Herself opted for no more than two to take with us. Sudi was our interpreter as the conversation flowed too fast for me to pick up any familiar words at all, and for him the price was Rp500 each, Rp1,000 for two. Now this is money of such small value that we usually give the coins or crumpled reddish notes to the first children that we see (Rp500 is less than 10 cents). It’s OK though because we have a Rp5,000 note which is very acceptable. Would we like more?
Here again I see the sickle-shaped knives used to slash the tops off the nuts just exposing the eyes in the top. When I picked one up to look at it closely Sudi warned me to take care; Sharp! I have been around sharp edges on tools all my life and can hone an edge that will shave an arm or a leg with no effort and no pain. When I say that the edges of these knives were sharp you can believe that I know what I’m talking about. The sons watched me closely as I tested along the edge with the ball of my thumb from one end to the other. Satisfied that I passed the safety test they settled down to their CC’s with no more concern.
How do you get this so sharp I asked? Sudi relayed the question and was a bit puzzled by the answer so he asked again and a brief conversation followed.
Norton was the answer.
Norton, an American company, like the better known 3M, manufactures grits and makes abrasive papers, stones, belts and so on. Their sharpening system was not fine river sand spread on a teak board smeared with animal fat or some other primitive and unique system as I had hoped to discover. Instead they had been overtaken by modern technology and used Norton hone sticks.
A little past Patung we certainly got onto some minor roads. Narrow, twisting, descending at alarming angles, splashing across shallow fords thick with bamboo and forest trees, then climbing again at equally alarming angles around hairpin bends right and left.
All the way along this road people were walking or just sitting, catching their breath I would think. As we passed it was easy to slow a little more and pass out CC’s. It was along this road, between stops or slow passages to pass out the last of the CC’s, Sudi told me about their belief in the two Bali’s. There have been weighty and learned tomes written about this, the most popular with students being the three volumes by Eiseman, Bali; Sekala and Niskala. Sekala is the Bali that can be seen, the beaches the fields, mountains, trees, rivers birds and so on. More mysterious but none the less believed by the Balinese is Niskala, the unseen Bali, the black magic, the powers of the priests and healers, the forces of nature and the supernatural.
Trying out this new knowledge later I was to ask our friend and driver Made if it concerned him that he had run over an offering placed in the middle of the entry drive to a small group of shops. He obviously did not know that he had done so and actually did look worried, OK, I said, Niskala – not seen! It took a moment for this to register and for the first time I saw Made burst out into loud laughter. He was either greatly relieved that his misdemeanour would remain secret or I had greatly misinterpreted the meaning of niskala.
Cemeteries in Bali are more commonly Christian or oriental than Hindu Balinese. The Balinese traditionally burry their dead for up to a year before the remains are dug up for a cremation on an auspicious date. The ashes from the cremation are consigned to the flowing waters of rivers or creeks to eventual deposit into the sea. In coastal areas ashes are often put directly into the sea or if the family is rich enough ashes will be carried long distances to the sea.
Through the countryside near Pacung there are large fields of flowers for offerings and temple ceremonies. Many of those we saw were marigolds in yellow and orange. Particularly prized are those that come closest to the colour of Balinese gold, a reddish orange gold colour, sometimes referred to as Chinese gold or Chinese alloy. Huge woven cane baskets of the flowers are often seen in the country markets for sale.
Late in the afternoon we arrive at the Pacung Indah Hotel, perched atop a ridge which runs from the central mountains to the north towards Denpasar in the south. Pacung (pronounced Pa-choong) is really a small village which is on the main north south road about 8 kilometres south of the better known town of Bedugul which is on the edge of Lake Brattan. This is fruit and vegetable growing country and the sides of the ridge to the right and left of the road have the usual serried ranks of paddi but here they are lush with vegetables of all types as well as rice.
It is a relief to arrive a bit after 5pm and I feel as though we are getting back to the track of our original hope of driving around the whole island.
The lobby of the Pacung Indah is a low rambling structure which shows signs of having just grown, like Topsy in the old fable, rather than of being designed from the start. Back from the reception desk the dining room, on two levels, looks directly down the long straight valley on the eastern side of the road ridge. The view is spectacular and right under your nose. If you have a fear of heights I would not recommend a window seat. Our reception is a bit muddled, there seems to be more concern for the manager’s monkeys that have escaped from their cage and disappeared into the surrounding forest. I have some sympathy for the manager, even more for the monkeys, but really I want to have a look at the accommodation that they can offer and to arrive at a price so that I can stretch my back out flat for a while and then have a hot shower, or vice versa.
There are two levels of accommodation available and we are eventually shown each.
The suite, there seems to be only one, has a double bed and is air conditioned, with a small refrigerator in an additional small sitting room overlooking the edge of that valley next to the dining rooms. There is a partly enclosed courtyard outside which also looks down the valley. The other options have single beds, no A/C or ‘fridge, are only two rooms and, inexplicably they have a high wall around them which completely shuts out the spectacular scenery. The suite is Rp425,000 per night and the smaller rooms (they are actually more like the all-inclusive bungalows we have been in at Candi Dasa) are Rp233,000 per night.
We are a bit stunned to be told that the (high) prices are not open to negotiation nor is there any discount offered. At least there was this option in Amed.
Take it or leave it is the clear attitude.
Here we were, for better or worse. Sudi seemed to sense our disappointment and offered to take us further if we wished; his time is our time until we say so. This time however we really are stuck where we would now rather not be as it is too late to go elsewhere, even if we knew where we could go to find something we would be happier with. The suite wins out mainly because of the view but also because of the extra room and the refrigerator. The quality of the construction is not improved by its age and lack of past maintenance. I think that I have done some embarrassing damage when I tried to open the sliding window that gave the view down the valley and it momentarily stuck before falling out of the frame into my arms. A quick look revealed that the wood on the bottom of the frame was rotting and had allowed the window slide to come off the track. It was simple to ease it back in at the point where it came out and slide it open by lifting it rather than just sliding it.
We were never tempted to try closing it while we were there.
Sudi unloads our bags and cases. I pay him our agreed fee and more for our stops and for his company and conversation as much as anything else. HA digs into the bags and finds a pair of jeans for his wife and some clothes for his children. I’m sure that he eventually left a happy man and if we wanted transport to leave later we should phone him and he would be happy to come from Candi Dasa to pick us up.
His phone number if you want a friendly and informative, safe driver in Candi Dasa is 0363 41090 and he has an E-mail at email@example.com.
A little unpacking was done before HA decided it was her shower time first and I stretched out on the bed with my lower legs hanging over the end. I could feel the bones separating down my back when I was distracted by a howl of anguish from the shower.
The water had stopped!
To the rescue, without my white charger.
Nowhere could I find an isolating valve and, mindful of the strange experiences at Candi Dasa as well as the so far mild invective echoing down my ear canals, I hot-footed it back up to the office. No phone you see.
I had some difficulty conveying my message. The manager could not be found but someone eventually turned up to hear the problem again. Off we went with me close to his heels to learn the secret in case I needed to use it again later.
Up behind the rooms to the monkey cage and there was a big black tap on a big black pipe.
Turn the tap – Water now OK Sir!
And it was. By the time I got back to the room water was running and the shower was under way.
My time in the shower came and I discovered that there was no soap. Well, there was liquid soap but I’m old fashioned about these things and prefer the stuff that doesn’t run through my fingers. This time it was Her turn to track up to the office.
No soap but they would send out for some. Not exactly the answer I was hoping for but it could have been worse, so I waited. While I was waiting I just had to wonder what they used to was their hands in the kitchen.
It turned out to be worth the wait. In time not one but two cakes of soap arrived and, surprise of surprises they took me back more years than I really want to remember, to my youth.
If you grew up in Oz at about the time that I did you had a choice of soaps. You could use Velvet for washing the clothes and you could use Lifebouy for your little body. These two cakes of soap were Lifebouy! The wrapper looked similar to the one I remembered but the bright pink of the original was here a faded pink in one cake, the other cake was white.
How simple things crop up in your life and transport you to another time and place.
Even the name Lifebouy had not crossed my mind for all the intervening years I’m sure. Its place in the market was soon usurped by a well advertised ‘Johnny Come Lately’ called Palmolive Gold.
This was my first experience of the power of advertising as Lifebouy quickly disappeared off the shelves.
I think we both began hope that the rest of our stay would be much more uneventful than the first hour or so had been.
We have film from the day’s trip to be developed and were directed to the Fuji shop further up the hill. Up the hill was a hike that I was to take often in the next couple of days. On the way we met the most unlikely named Phillip, the local policeman. He had parked his shiny black motor bike outside a warung and I stopped to look at it as we passed. The maker of the bike is Sanex, a name I’ve never heard of before. It is a 250 cc twin cylinder with most of the police stuff you might see on a bike at home. While I was walking around it Phillip came out of the warung, not in uniform but obviously curious to know why I was showing such interest in his bike. I ask him about it in general terms, establishing I hoped that I know a bit about bikes. I tell him that I have one at home (Well, I almost did have one at home until I had to pay for this trip to Bali – then it went.) He is impressed with the 750 cc engine size of mine and eventually relaxes enough to be happy to point out parts of his bike and let me touch it. Eventually he has no problems when I ask if I can sit on it. He may be just a little nervous but relaxes when I mount from the right side (which is the left side) with the hand brake applied, and stand astride holding it up between my knees and thighs and giving it a bit of a waggle from side to side. It really is a comfortable bike, very light and I imagine very manoeuvrable which would make it ideal for the often tightly packed traffic common in Bali.
As we left to carry on up the hill to the Fuji shop we fell into conversation with a young lady walking in the same direction. She was not a local as I had hoped, able to give us clearer directions to the shop, but a visitor like us although not on holiday. Carol is an Aussie who has a two year contract with the Montessori school in Seminyak and had come to Pacung for some peace and quiet to write a paper for a conference she was to attend in the coming week. Our chance meeting I think thwarted her plans as we were to become almost constant companions for the rest of our stay here and would eventually travel back south together, sharing the cost of a car and driver.
Carol was staying at the Pacung Mountain Resort and Spa just on the opposite side of the road to the Indah and was out for a little exercise before eating and settling in for the night to get her work started. It was getting a bit dark and the remaining walk was not easy, the footpath disappearing into a grass verge here and there with deep (and I mean over my head deep) drains only a mis-step away. The lights from oncoming cars often dazzled us and we stood rooted to a spot for a while until they passed and we had some chance of seeing again. Needless to say there were no street lights to ease our concern.
The Fuji shop is shut when we eventually arrive, the roller door down and locked. In the drive at the far side of the shop a man is washing his car and I ask if he owns the shop and if he has a machine to make photographs here. He doesn’t own the shop but points out a bell on the gate at the other side. I’m a bit reluctant but he assures me it is OK and I reason that if you didn’t want anyone to ring the bell you wouldn’t put it there – so I rang it. A little while later a young lad (I think it was Kade, the second son of the Fuji man) popped his head over the gate and I asked if I could leave a film with him and pick it up later tomorrow morning. His head disappears and we are just about to leave when the roller door began rattling up. I had not meant to have the shop opened and would have been happy just to give him the film. All of the family seemed to be there for the grand opening. I remember the father, two sons and their beautiful daughter and sister arrived a bit later to find out what the unusual activity was about.
I was more than a bit stunned when I realised that I was being asked if I would wait for the photos or come back in about half an hour. Not only were they opening the shop for me but they were prepared to do the developing and printing there and then! I protested that this was not at all necessary and that I would be more than happy to come back tomorrow morning and collect the prints.
I’m not sure but I think that they were a little disappointed that they were not going to have a different night tonight. Maybe they had already. There were CC’s all round, I explained that I was a fussy old bugger (again) and number one son, Putu, who works as a software engineer at the nearby development group at Bali Camp, explained my dementia to his father who nodded and smiled. I wonder to this day what they really thought but I wondered then what sort of results I would get here. I noticed on the walls of the shop, formal portrait enlargements of the children in grand frames. Kade indicated with some pride that these were his father’s work and I began to feel more at ease about the results that I would see tomorrow if his father was also a real photographer.
The portraits I think also interested Carol who wanted a few portraits of herself to send to friends and relatives. When she asked they were only too happy to arrange for a sitting tomorrow in their little studio and she could not quite believe how little this would cost.
Salamat malam (it was well after 6 pm by this time) and Sampai jumpa echoed up and down the road as we left, a little stunned and bemused by the turn of events.
On the return walk it was agreed that we would have dinner with Carol at the Resort tonight and reverse the order tomorrow night. We had only met an hour or so ago and already we were planning joint and future activities. I think we were enjoying the contact with a kindred Aussie and teacher with whom we shared common interests and with whom we could converse easily. The future planning would continue over dinner.
The dining room at the Resort is about on road level and very presentable to the eye as we entered. Carol was waiting for us at a window table. It was right on the steep edge of the valley on this side of the road but the view was limited to the range of the lights along the paths leading to the rooms on the slope below. More isolated lights were scattered across the valley and up the other side giving the idea that the scale of the valley here matched that which we had seen from our room on the other side.
The menu is not extensive being one A3 sheet folded in halves and printed on all four surfaces. Herself and I both selected the Soto Ayam soup for entrée (Rp11,750) and I decide on Cap Cay Special with rice (Rp24,500) and Herself a Nasi Goreng Special (Rp19,750) for main course.
Their iced tea is freshly made with a covering of ice blocks and a liberal squeeze of lemon or lime juice, also freshly squeezed if the little cells of the fruit floating around the edge are any indication. The initial suck on the straw is very much tea, as I am coming to expect, and the sweetness of sugar. A little blow down the straw (very discretely in case Carol finds out too soon that I am uncouth) mixes the contents into a beautiful blend that will quench my thirst ready for a Bintang. The teas are Rp9,000 each and small Aquas are Rp9,5000.
The Soto Ayam is a full bowl of vegetables in chicken broth with a boiled egg just to one side, I think cracked into the soup while it is only partly cooked and left to finish off in the heat of the soup. It is very tasty but needing some pepper and salt to suit.
Her Nasi Goreng is a splendid display of colours; creamy rice, very yellow and white egg, tomato wedges and pink prawn crackers. The taste however does not match the appearance and is bland she declares. My Gado Gado (the cap Cay is off) comes on two plates, one brimming with vegetables except for one end where the cold salad sat. The other plate has a generous serve of still steaming rice which is soft and fluffy; nice even on its own. I like the light spiciness of my serve and the crispness of the vegetables which should be fresh in this area with vegetables planted all over the hill sides.
My companions are not as satisfied as I am however. Carol decries her fish as the worst meal she has had so far in Bali and Her bland Nasi Goreng gets no more marks.
The tax here is 21% which adds quite a bit to the already upmarket prices. The bill for Herself and me is Rp139,756 including the tax, A$27 which would be a bargain back home but we are not home and some of us are not too satisfied.
The other couple who were in the restaurant when we came have long ago departed as we dawdled over the meal, chatting with Carol. We are only keeping the two waiters and the cooks from their beds so we take our leave after arranging to meet in the morning. I’m sure that we are the only occupants of the Indah and I suspect that Carol is the only resident at the Resort. Back at our room we have a glass of that Hattens in the little courtyard facing down the valley. The air is now cool and dry on my skin, a change from the steaminess of the afternoon which I had not expected at this altitude. There are cloud banks rolling up the valley from the plains down in the distance that I know run right to the coast.
Eventually the still large moon is covered and the night becomes quite dark.
Time to retreat inside, have another Hattens, write up today’s notes and then to bed.
DAY 12 – SECOND SATURDAY
Something else I learned yesterday.
The Kris is the traditional dagger of the Balinese (maybe of the Indonesians generally but I’m not sure of this). It always has a wavy edged blade and frequently a very ornamental handle and sheath. They are mainly seen these days as part of the ceremonial dress at temples and dances but also occasionally as part of the everyday dress of older Balinese men, tucked into the back of the waist sash.
The Balinese believe that Brahma, the God of all creations, infuses blessings into each curve of the blade as it is being forged by the maker. These blessings are available forever to a good owner doing good deeds. If a bad owner uses the Kris for bad deeds the Kris can remove blessings from the person and stores them back in the blade to be granted again in the future under the right circumstances.
The minimum number of bends in a blade is 5 for an every-day, working Kris. The number of bends is always odd and the maximum number is 29 in the almost standard length of blade which is about 20-25 cm or 8-10 inches. I’ve never seen a Kris with a great number of bends but I imagine that the blade must be like the wavy edges of some modern carving knives. The more bends in the blade the more blessings are contained within it and therefore the greater the number of blessings which are available to the owner.
The best Kris blades are made with pieces of meteorite forged into them. I would guess that this process could introduce all sorts of exotic elements into the alloy of the steel. Some blades I have seen (including one in the museum at Gianyar) appear to have shiny patches of what might be chromium across their surfaces. For the ancient Balinese forgers I think that the only source of such exotic metals as chromium would be something like a meteorite which seems to add credence to this belief. I don’t know what the practise is today, nor even if there are Kris makers working in modern Bali.
Balinese men often collect Kris, hoping to achieve a collection which includes one of every different number of bends in the blade, a total of 13 Kris would be a complete collection. This would appear at first glance to be a collection which is fairly easy to achieve but, even for the wealthiest it may be impossible in a lifetime as the Kris with more bends are not only very expensive but are very rare. Even if all the money in the country was available to a collector, if there are none for sale one cannot be added to a collection.
Collections are usually passed down from father to favoured son who will spend his lifetime trying to add to the collection before, in his turn, passing it on to his son. Avid collectors regard their collections as honoured members of the family and as direct links to their line of ancestors and the gods. They are taken out and displayed in decorative settings on important occasions. They are talked to and used as mediums through which the owner believes that they can communicate with Brahma.
My walk this morning is not extensive. The road up the mountains here must have an incline of 30 degrees which is a great deal more than I am used to, and certainly more than my joints will tolerate.
Foolishly perhaps I begin by walking downhill. I’m a bit curious to see what the real village of Pacung is like and to go past a roadside shop that we stopped at back in 2000 when we bought some fruit, admired the view down that valley we can now see from our window and also purchased some small paintings. The shop then was the home of an artist who I think must have been still trying to decide what style he wanted to work in. His technique was not bad but some of the work was so mixed up it really deserved to have a thick undercoat applied and a new start made. On the way I ventured down a short track to the edge of the ridge to see the view on the western side that was hidden in the darkness at dinner last night. Blocking my way was a small market garden of vegetables. There were several rows of tomatoes, from small seedlings to mature plants with ripe, shiny red fruit hanging all over them. Next to the tomatoes there were rows of beans, similarly in various stages of growth. It gives me some perverse satisfaction to note that the garden is beset with a good crop of the same sort of weeds that I battle with at home. The shop is still closed and appears to be simply an outlet for fruit and vegetables these days. Maybe the aspiring artist has given up in confusion, or maybe he has found his niche and moved on to bigger and better and richer places.
Back at the edge of the road I look longingly downhill towards the village that is still out of sight, and look with dread up the hill, past the Pacung Indah to the crest in the distance where I know the Fuji shop is, and where know I will have to walk to later to pick up the photos. Dread beats curiosity and I head back up to and past the Indah so that I would finish the walk downhill and not be too stuffed to enjoy breakfast.
Up the hill about halfway to the Fuji shop and on the opposite side of the road an entrance driveway edged with a stone wall catches my eye. It looks like a place where I can get that view down the valley that the market garden prevented me from seeing earlier. There is a security guard house at the edge of the road but it is empty and there are gardeners trimming the vegetation who seem friendly and do not glare in warning as I approach.
Looking over the edge of the wall at what is actually a bend in the drive my view down into the valley is blocked again, this time by a large car park of several descending levels with a number of cars and small busses parked here and there. It seems that it is washing day, not for the vehicles but for clothes and bedding which is draped over the hoods and bonnets to dry. To my right the driveway dives down towards a tall building, at least three stories high maybe four, with an impressive entry door across a small footbridge over fish ponds. It all looks very impressive and of course I’ve got to find out what it is that’s down here, hidden completely from the road. A small sign up at the edge of the road comes back to my mind, ‘Bali Camp’. Is it a holiday camp? For children? For Government officials and bureaucrats?
Now I am curious and as the door is open I walk in looking for someone to say Salamat pagee to. There is no-one in sight but a passageway leads down to what appears to be a large room. As I go further the large room turns out to be an enormous open area with a soaring ceiling way up above my head and a steel barred bird cage featured in the centre. There are marble columns; steel and polished wood beams and acres of glass. At one side is a long desk where a couple of guys are reading the morning papers. They respond coolly to my ‘pagee’ and, rather abruptly for Balinese I think, ask me what I want. I explain that I have been attracted by their magnificent building and have come to admire it because it must be the best designed and constructed building in all of Bali.
I am immediately welcomed and offered a personal tour of the facilities.
My old grandmother used to say to me, “Honey catches more bears than vinegar.’
It really does too.
Tourists I ask? No, business is the reply. This is not the sort of building that I associate with business in Bali, unless the business is tourism. It turns out that the place is an enterprise at which computer programs are written and which also offers live in facilities for businesses who want to send employees to take advantage of the expertise that is here. Indonesians I ask? No, Japanese he replies, some Canada some Singapore.
The building really is outstanding, with the views down the valley that I was originally looking for, but here they are framed in tall glass walls and polished floors. Below me along the edge of the valley there are other buildings that could be the living quarters or conference rooms, all similarly impressive in design. Along a corridor from the security desk, at the top of a flight of stairs that dive down towards the valley there is an open cafeteria area and through ajar doors I can see rooms with rows of chairs and audio-visual equipment in an expandable theatre. At the end of the security desk there are three computers, screens flicking quietly as the screen savers move across them. Are these for the workers I ask? No, for anyone is the answer. Thinking that it is a small internet shop perhaps I ask what the rates are. No cost, is the reply, you can use. Well, here is something I must keep in mind for later, but right now I am still taken by this building.
Breakfast eventually calls but I know that later this morning I must divert Herself and Carol down here for a look.
Back to the road again and there is an almost endless stream of trucks, vans and Bemos. These Bemos are all blue, with side-by-side seating and larger than the little orange ones that ran through Candi Dasa. I would like to find out how far these run. I am sure that they will go as far as Bedugul which is really just up the road, but I also wonder if they might go through to Singaraja and Lovina. If they do, a day trip might be possible.
The breakfast menu offers a good selection of dishes and styles, from which HA selects the Australian which includes cereals, fruit plate, two eggs on toast with bacon and sausage, fresh juice and tea or coffee. I opt for the Indonesian with Bakmi Goreng, fruit, juice and tea. Hers is Rp38,000 and mine Rp30,000, a bit over A$7 and 6. To this 21% tax is added and a 2% impost if paying by credit card which I have not noticed elsewhere in Bali.
As with our dinner last night it is not cheap. The question is will it be good.
A look through the menu while we are waiting tells us that the options for dinner tonight include an A La Carte offering that includes Appetisers from Rp10-18,000; fish mains from Rp27-60,000 and pasta from Rp26-28,000. There are other choices that include Indonesian, Japanese, Pizza, snacks and sandwiches, desserts and a buffet list concluding with beverages and Cocktails.
Her cereal is cornflakes with real milk and all of the dishes, which come in quick succession, are nicely presented. My Mie Goreng has a fried egg on top which is almost as big as the entire plate with the noodles and vegetables just peeking through from under the edges. On one side of the plate there is half a really nice red tomato and a thick slice of bright green cucumber (which is not surprising in this vegetable growing area) with three prawn crackers. The fruit juices, Hers mixed and mine pineapple, unfortunately arrive with the hot dishes rather than as first offerings, before the cereal even as I would usually expect, so that we could sip at our leisure while enjoying the view. In the kitchen’s possibly enthusiastic rush of dishes the tea arrived shortly afterwards which would have been good if we were not battling with the juices at the time. It was to be almost cold by the time we got to it.
From empty, our table was loaded with our entire order in less than 5 minutes.
The juices turn out to be cold, cleansing, fresh and refreshing, Her mixed juice being particularly palate filling. Her eggs are nearly perfect, which means as She likes them, the bacon crisp and generous, the sausages thick of skin and with no tomato sauce which is surprising for an Aussie breakfast. The toast is underdone in the fashion which seems to be the typical style of Bali cooks. The butter is again the little French packs and the jam also from Knott’s Berry Farm.
The final Fruit Plates are generous with watermelon, papaya, pineapple slices and a little sprig of black grapes on top. It all looked very nice but I found that only the pineapple had some flavour although Herself liked the papaya sufficiently to take my rejects.
The tea is cold but we are well fed for the rest of the morning anyway although at A$9 and 8 we have come to expect a bit more in Bali.
As we finish a tour bus of Dutch visitors arrives and the passengers make a lively if noisy entry past us to the slightly lower and larger level of the dining room, right over the edge of the valley. The view hushes them for a moment, as it should, then they line up all rag tag and bushy tailed for their buffet breakfast which is quickly and efficiently set out on the side tables. The smell of hot strong coffee fills the room, the staff are lined up and smiling. The morning rush is obviously on. Is it the anticipation of this bus load that has given the presentation of our breakfast an unseemly rush?
Carol arrives and joins us at our table, stories of our evening and breakfasts are exchanged and plans for the day settled.
First is to be that 30 degree uphill walk to settle breakfast, to collect the films from the Fuji shop and for Carol to sit for her portraits. Back downhill (I’m already looking forward to that) to pick up the camera from our room and then to continue downhill to the village of Pacung (pronounced Par choong, ‘c’s being ‘ch’ in Bahasa Indonesia) that I didn’t reach this morning. From Pacung into a Bemo and up the hill, to stop at the village of Bedugul with its temple in the bordering Lake Bratan. We have heard that the markets in Bedugul are a bit different from those in the south having flowers, vegetables and fruits, including fabulous strawberries. This will be the first place to explore, before lunch if we can tear ourselves away (that means themselves of course), and we should then be able to walk to the lake, which will be down hill if my memory is accurate, and I hope it is.
The Hindu temple in the lake will be an essential stop as will the Buddhist stupa near the temple entrance. The close location of these two different religious sites gives a clear indication of the religious pluralism that exists in Bali as well as the religious tolerance of the local Hindu majority, not just towards the Buddhists but to Christian and local Muslims as well, although following the bombing in Kuta and the hardship that has spread all across the island it is not hard to detect some tension when a discussion turns towards other, off-island Muslims or particularly extremists in general.
An excursion to the Botanic Gardens is dismissed as being too much for a single day, really worthy of a day on its own. Exploration and discovery over we plan to catch a Bemo back to the Fuji shop to pick up Carol’s portrait prints and to drop off the inevitable films from the day’s outing.
Champagne and dinner will precede zzz zzz zzz.
A nice simple package, planned in far more detail than we have done before.
How far will we get I wonder.
Away we go.
Up the hill.
Even in the daylight this is not a footpath for the fainthearted with its scattered boulders of up to cricket or baseball size ready to twist an unwary ankle. The deep wash-aways, along what were once gutters maybe, are really close to the natural track for walking and they are even deeper now that they can be seen. The edge of the paved road becomes very attractive as an alternative footpath but the trucks, busses, Bemos and bikes whizzing down the hill are a great deterrent. After several hasty jumps back into the grass the intended path seems a safer option. One side of the road was much the same as the other we discovered and in the end we opted for the up-wind side to escape the heavy exhaust fumes, particularly from the loaded trucks going up hill belching dense diesel smoke
Along the edge of the road and the front boundary fences of the properties are a number of flowers that I have not seen in my rambles before. They are particular to the height or cooler weather I suppose. This means that there must be at least one more walk up and down here with the camera.
At the Fuji shop the photos are great. Well I can’t complain at all about the processing but the photographer needs some adjustments. It was just a bit amazing to find that the family gathered again at our arrival and the more I smiled and passed the photos to Herself and Carol the bigger their smiles became.
Chuppa Chups all round, Terima kasih’s back and forth (Thank you’s) and the grins just kept getting bigger and bigger.
Carol slipped off into the studio for her portraits with dad and the sons gave me their business cards. Putu’s showed that he worked at Bali camp, the spectacular building that I had found this morning. He is a software engineer there and confirmed that the computers I had seen were available for public use as well as for the conference members. Kade’s card showed that he was also in the IT business, a hardware and software specialist, I think working from above the photo shop. They are typical of the more modern families you can meet just about anywhere in Bali if you make a minute of your time available for conversation – which to me means listening more than talking. They are friendly and outgoing, intelligent, humorous and eager to know you as a person and as a visitor to their island.
Yes, Where are you from? was asked and the little map came out, the spiel delivered and a good laugh was shared.
Back down the road. It is just a little bit easier in this direction but you could not let your attention wander or lift your head to gaze around for too long. The banyan tree alerts us to the village temple before the red brick and stone wall with the opening of its candi bentar covered by the demon defying wall which runs across the opening just inside. This wall is built to confuse any unwelcome spirits that might try to enter the temple grounds. It’s well known of course that demons don’t turn right angled corners too well so a short section of wall confronting them just inside the gate baffles them and makes them reverse out of the temple, so leaving it in peace. At the hotel a short sit down is in order so while I get the gear together Carol inspects the lodgings and some of the recent purchases still spread across the bed after this morning’s stock-take. Later I am to take up her offer to have a look at her room and have to agree that it seems a much better deal than ours. It is either much newer or has been better maintained. Her view is up the valley rather than down, but none the less spectacular, and the small pool only a few steps away looks just so inviting. The only downfall as far as we are concerned is that the rooms here have been built down the hill, leading to a series of stairways up and down. At least the Indah has rooms built on a plateau cut into the side of the slope and all are therefore on about the same level.
Loaded up for the day we head off downhill again. Pacung is not very exciting to look at or to walk through. What amazes us however are the decorations on all of the cars and bicycles that we see there. Our curiosity now aroused we realise that the vehicles going up and down the road are also highly decorated. We learn that it is the festival of metal and there is a big ceremony at the Pura Ulun Danu, the temple on the lake at Bedugul today. This not only explains the decorations but also the heavy volume of traffic and the number of passengers dressed in temple garb, even the occasional Polisi escort with flashing lights and occasionally wailing siren as some notable or other gets a quick ride up the hill.
Now we all know that when you want a taxi there is not one to be seen but when you don’t need one you’re likely to be run over by two or three. Let me tell you that Bemos in Bali are much the same. We waited for ages, even taming the aggressive dog from the adjacent household with Es Krem lollies before one appeared around the bend down the road but it did not stop for us even though we waved.
A small boy eyeing us curiously nearby said simply, Full! And there was no arguing that he was exactly right. When a Bemo is full it’s really chock a block with bodies, both animal and human. Not only was there a pair of chooks out a window and passengers standing on the door step but three were riding on the back bumper bar and hanging on to the window rubbers with their finger nails. It went past very slowly which was probably a good thing for the tail end riders. After another long wait the next one didn’t even reach us, dying just around the bend we could see down the road. Every one appeared to get out to look at it from a distance but nothing else seemed to happen. A third one eventually came and this time there was room for us as two passengers got out. We Salamat pagee our way aboard and everyone already there pagee’s back, looking at us with open but friendly curiosity. There is a bit of shuffling around and three seats appear side by side near the back. We are motioned to take them and we do with gratitude as the vehicle takes off with a lurch up the hill and I bang my head on the roof despite stooping as far as I think I can.
Two small children in the front part maintain their curiosity after our novelty has worn off with the adults, hens and vegetables. It is too tempting and I rummage in my bum bag for CC’s to give them. My raised eyebrows to their mother as I show her the candy brings her nod of consent but still the children immediately look to her when I offer them. She nods to them and their smiles are so wide you could be forgiven for thinking that the top of their heads might fall off if they didn’t close their mouths over the CC’s pretty soon. Mother also has a baby and accepts a CC for it and another for herself. Curiosity is aroused all around the Bemo again now and the toothless smile of an ancient man in the front seat is just too much, his unspoken request just as loud as those you get from little kids. Then there was the driver of course, the group of four ladies in their best temple dress, the two with the chickens and the man with the rooster in the cage The two school age girls in the back seat behind us just looked at me with unblinking eyes as I turned to sit down again. Had I missed anyone? A quick glance as I sat down revealed a small boy’s head just half above the seat next to the women with the chickens. I gave a look of dismay a couple of times as I searched in the bum bag obviously trying to find one more but not having any success. His eyes began to narrow and lines appeared across his forehead. Eventually I couldn’t hold out on him any longer and pulled a fresh bag out of the camera case on the floor. He just looked relieved at first but then almost jumped over the seat as I offered him two.
All customers served.
The two girls in the back ask where we are from. Now what could I do? Here are questing young minds seeking education and a frustrated teacher with a ready-to-go lesson plan in his bum-bag.
Of course I can tell you where we are from!
Do you know Australia?
The punch line at the end drew absolute silence until they looked up from the map to see that I was nearly laughing. They could not contain their natural reticence for more than the second or two it took them to realise that there was a joke here. The ladies with the chickens spoke to the girls who I am sure related the joke to them, and then they to others who had been attracted by the laughter in the back. A small Bemo is really a microcosm of the whole island trapped inside a box from which there is no escape. I’m sure that within a minute everyone on the bus had at least heard the story even if they didn’t understand the joke and we were now a part of their life. What would be told to family members at their homes that night I wonder? Ah, those crazy Bules!
The road is steep and convoluted, around ridges with awesome scenery that varies from forest to farm fields and terraced gardens. If Tommy Suharto had time to finish his holiday house or hotel which is partly constructed right up on the most prominent spur, now with grass growing up through cracks in the marble of the unfinished foyer, I bet this road would be a slick super highway crossing chasms on soaring bridges.
What grandeur might have been here, but at what cost to the local populace?
Eventually, around a bend we catch sight of the markets and yell ‘Ayo’ to the driver. We gather up our gear, pay the dollar (I think it might have been two) to the driver, bid ‘Sampai jumpa’ (See you later.) to our new friends and squeeze our way off. From the footpath my farewell wave brings a response from the two girls who are looking at us out of the back window.
Briefly I watch as that world we were part of so recently but so briefly drives away. There are times that I can’t help wondering what they would make of our daily home lives, and what we would make of theirs if we could know it. Could we make a difference to each others or would culture and society prevent any meaningful intermixing and create nothing but despair at the inevitable constancy of our separate ways?
But would the constancy be inevitable?
Perhaps it does not pay to think too much but to simply observe from a disinfected distance, like naturalists who observe the struggles of nature without interfering in the life and death nature of some of those struggles.
I find it a dilemma.
The markets are fairly large and all at ground level. The air is fresh the colours bright and clean. There seems to be no meat stalls here, perhaps that makes the difference that we remark on between these and the Amlapura Markets we were in only a few days ago. But there are vegetable stalls with produce in orderly ranks and flower stalls with both plants and flowers of the most brilliant colours, even a pet stall with coloured rabbits hopping about amongst pieces of carrot, lettuce and cabbage leaves. I insist that they are pet stalls in case there are children reading this. There is plenty of fruit and the strawberries that I have been looking for are piled high on the most prominent corner of many stalls. The cleanliness and order of the vegetables immediately reminds me of the central Markets home in Adelaide.
The colours are bright and the skins so shiny.
There are watch sellers of course (Are there any markets in the whole of Bali which do not have watch sellers? I think not.), art/craft stalls with carvings, fabrics, grass weaving, and Herself is attracted, like steel to a magnet, to the spice counters with their rows of tightly sealed plastic pouches of glowing hues.
Her fascination is so obvious as she fondles and sniffs at pack after pack.
Oh, so tempting.
But what would the customs inspectors say and do on our return home? I think we can bring spices back but must declare them and have them inspected. We are not really convinced however but I know back in the cases at the Indah I have a customs brochure which we can and will go through later.
The supply of CC’s is all but exhausted and there are none to be seen anywhere. In desperation I show the last one to a girl who has a very tiny stall almost in the corner of the down hill side of the market. We both scour the shelves of her stall and whilst there are other candies there are no CC’s. Her companion rouses himself from his newspaper and looked at what was causing all the disruption to his rest. A few words passed between them and she asks me to sit for a moment, she will be back soon. Yeah, I think. I’ve been here before for no profit, but the legs need a bit of a rest so I sit and have a chat with the two small children who are far more communicative than he is. True to her word, within a minute she has returned with a container of CC’s that she’s got from somewhere down the road!
How much I ask?
How much you pay, she responds, pointing to my remaining example of the species?
Rp500 at Matahari in Kuta I reply.
Sama sama she says. (The same.)
I’ll take 50 I say. (You can see how smooth I am at this bargaining business can’t you.)
50 she queries, looking at me as though I might be dangerous.
50 I repeat.
50 are duly counted out, the price calculated and shown to me for approval.
OK. Deal done. Money changes hands. One each for the children. (She stands close by, quite sure now that I am dangerous. After all I’ve only just bought these things and here I am giving them away already!)
One for her. (The smile returns slightly.)
One for him. (Well he did give the instruction or advice I think, and I’m not churlish by nature.)
An Aqua followed by a Bintang and a chat with a group of locals, partly attracted by the lovely young female who has the refreshment stall and partly by the supply of CC’s, tunes us up for the walk (downhill) to the lake, and lunch I hope. We leave the markets with good feelings about the place and about the rest of the day to come.
It really is worth a visit, no matter how many other markets you’ve been to.
With Lake Bratan in sight the Ashram Restaurant and Hotel catches our eyes, right on the shores of the lake. It seems too good to pass up. Our lunch order consists of a large beer, a Fu Yu Chin Hai (a sort of an omelette/pancake affair containing vegetables with sweet and sour sauce), a Nasi Goreng and a Mie Goreng with rice for three results in a bill of Rp57,750 including tax: about A$11 for the three of us.
I will not comment on the quality of the food as there is none to speak of. Silence will similarly define the presentation and the service.
The beer was cold.
Sitting under a pergola at the edge of the lake it is pleasant and peaceful. Even the passing speed boats circling the lake with tourist passengers do not seem as intrusive as we have found them before.
A further short walk brings us to the car park at the temple entrance.
It is packed!
Loud speakers boom out across the country side. Why we have not heard this bedlam from the Ashram is beyond me. Here are the snakes, the bats, the sloth and Lord knows what else that you can have your photo taken with. Why they have not collectively shat upon and strangled the crowd yelling into the microphones is unknown to me.
A little further on is the Buddhist stupa with rows of worshippers kneeling at their silent prayers. On the other side of a low fence is the outer wall of the temple compound and there are devotees hanging over every inch of it, unable to get into the sardine crush inside. This is where the loud speaker bedlam is emanating from. Why they want to get closer, and how those inside manage to stay there is a mystery. I’m deaf in one ear and I can’t hear through the other but the vibrations alone were enough to make me keep my distance.
God must be deaf too, or He’s a long, long, long way away.
At the lake edge very small boys, and a few big ones too, have hired very tiny fishing poles with miniscule hooks, smaller than I have ever seen even fly fishermen use. Their intended quarry must be very tiny but still they are intently focussed on their pastime. My guess is that the fish have all fled to the far side of the lake to escape not the fishermen but the noise.
There are two meru(s?) or roofed towers on the little temple island just off the shore. One has a 5 tiered thatched roof (signifying a minor temple) the other has 11 roofs tapering away to the top. Eleven roofs signify one of the holiest of Balinese temples.
At normal times, even with a crowd of tourists present, it has been very peaceful to sit here on the lawns and look out past these meru across the lake to the forests on the far hillsides. Today is not a peaceful day and even the burlesque sight of a group of workers sinking new concrete pipes into the lake bed near the shore can not hold us for long. The sinking process relies on the greatest possible number of workmen standing around the top edge of the vertical pipe, with their arms around one another’s shoulders, flexing and straightening their knees in unison. A single worker is inside the pipe softening the mud around its lower edge with a long handled spade.
They look like a comical dance troupe and they must be a bit sensitive to their position and actions as they almost fall off with laughter when I mimic their actions as I take their photo. Funny as it looks it obviously works as there are already a number of pipes sunk down to the level of the footpath.
About mid afternoon we retreat back to the main road to catch a bemo for the return journey. The throng is already beginning to disperse, perhaps thinking as we are, that when the ceremony really finishes there will be a long wait to find room on a passing bemo. Eventually one stops, not really to pick us up but primarily to drop off passengers. We figure that if someone has got off there is room for us to get on, and others who are also waiting defer to us with waves and smiles. Once again we have the seat next to the back one, passengers and goods shuffling around to make three adjacent seats vacant for us. It is not long before we are all engaged in different conversations. In the back seat is a teacher (How is it that I seem to attract these? Do we have a look or a smell of mutuality?) who leans forward to ask my name. I have got into the habit of prefixing my name with ‘Made’ which gives the additional information that I am the second born. This little bit of Balinese inevitably tickles the fancy of the questioner and I can recommend it as an ice-breaker in any conversation in Bali. When I ask him in return he gestures to my notebook and as carefully as he possibly in the back seat of a crowded and bouncing bus writes;
tlp 0368 21038.
plase of birth:
Br. Padangaling, cau-Blayu-manga. Tabanan-Bali.”
He is teaching in Singaraja and when I tell him of our plans to perhaps go to Lovina at some time if not this trip, we are sincerely invited to phone him and visit his school and his home.
Such is the acceptance we have come to expect and appreciate so much.
Of course he asks where we are from and I just have to pull out the little map and go through the performance. At the threat to keep him in if he does not learn it his sense of humour takes over and his laughter attracts the attention of anyone nearby whom we have not already captured with our conversation. Like the girls in the bemo on the trip up he explains the joke to our fellow travellers so that they can share it also. The Balinese sense of humour is keen and a good joke (or even a poor one you might think) is always appreciated. Language may be a problem at times, and many jokes that rely on word meanings might be funny in one language but do not translate well. This does not seem to worry the Balinese who will work at such a joke for a long time until they understand it, or at least pretend to, so that they do not give offence to the teller.
Ketut feels confident enough after we have shared our joke to guess my age, with my permission of course. 50 he says pleasantly and perhaps with a built in degree of flattery. I correct his insignificant mistake of 15 years and he invites me to guess his age. With perhaps equal flattery I guess about 45 thinking that he is probably about 50. Not so, he corrects me, 57! I really am a bit surprised. His skin is smooth and his hair thick, black and glossy. I tug at my grey beard and white hair (where the skin is not showing through) to indicate that by comparison he looks a young man. He smiles broadly and leans close to confide that his hair is dyed ‘every two weeks now’ and oiled each morning.
Along the road we pass trucks and busses still heading towards Bedugul, filled with people in temple dress. Several times we are waved to the side of the road by Polisi to let columns of marchers pass on their way to local village temples. The ceremonies are obviously still going on. We are all engrossed in conversation or watching the passing parades and miss the stop at the Fuji shop in Pacung. In fact we only just manage to get in a stop at the Pacung Indah driveway.
Now we have that uphill walk again!
Off we go and eventually reach the Fuji shop only to find it closed again although it is only late afternoon. Our conversation must have attracted their attention for within a short time the roller door rattles up and they are all there to happily welcome us in. They have been to Bedugul too, as participants in the ceremony rather than as spectators. Our prints are ready and again I can’t argue with the quality but again the photographer needs a few lessons. Carol’s portrait prints are really good and she is pleased with them. We exchange E-mail addresses and part like old friends
We have come to the conclusion that our plans for tomorrow do not include Singaraja/Lovina as we (me too?) are now short of essential shopping days in and around Kuta and Denpasar. We agree however that it will be the top of the trip list for our next holiday; either to continue the anti-clockwise circumnavigation or to go clockwise and fill in the gap in the north east coast on the back to Candi Dasa again. Along the way I’m sure that we will call in to the Fuji shop at Pacung each time we pass in the future.
Our mobile phone will not connect to the system here for some reason. I anticipated trouble getting over the mountains and then down the other side to Lovina on the coast but we are also unable to contact Made in Tuban to come and pick us up. This is a real mystery as from this altitude we would be able to see Tuban with one look on the end of a first one.
I want to call Ringo in Lovina and let him know that we won’t be seeing him this time but I can’t find his phone number. At the front desk of the Indah they can’t find a number for him in the phone book, nor for Gloria’s Crisis Care Centre which would surely be able to get in touch with him.
The phone in the office is still locked and the absent manager still has the key.
The phone is still locked the next morning and eventually I find that the manager of the Pacung Resort over the road is more than helpful, not only allowing the use of his phone but doing the talking for me also. Alas, no contact with Ringo results despite his efforts.
We clean ourselves up, do a modicum of sorting out ready to pack tomorrow, have a wee drink and get ready for Carol’s arrival for dinner. The wee drink is a couple of champagnes poured over some of the strawberries we got at the Bedugul markets. They are large, red, juicy and full of real strawberry flavour. They do not harm the champagne in any way at all.
Dinner begins with lemon iced teas. It’s certainly becoming a favourite starter before a serious drink.
My Bruschetta starter is a great disappointment, nothing like the lunch time meal I have been used to on Tuesdays during summer at the Barista Café in Glenelg. This one has a light dusting of chopped tomato (Surely there’s not a shortage of tomato here!) on a half roll which has been toasted only sufficiently to make the butter easy to spread I think. If there was ever any real heat in it it must have had a long trip in the cold night air coming from the kitchen. The small fruit salad on the side, watermelon wedges and a pineapple piece are, for me, a novelty on Bruschetta and although they have a fresh taste they have also made the side of the roll soggy with their juices.
Her vegetable soup is an absolute contrast. The bowl is of a good size and full of real, still-crisp, salad and garden vegetables. The base is either a vegetable or light chicken broth, clear and hot. She deems it superb.
Her hamburger (or beef burger) is a mile high bun with a handful of French Fries to one side. Within the secret interior of the bun is a large meat patty, thick slices of tomato (which causes me more angst when I think of my Bruschetta), capsicum both green and red, onion and lettuce. It drips with juices and She disdains my offer of tomato ketchup to spice it up.
My Plum Pork and vegetables has a mound of pork slices, quite pale in colour, across the centre of the plate. Along one side, like colourful little wood stacks are arranged sliced carrot and green beans. On the other side are slices of tomato and cucumber arranged on a torn lettuce leaf. My search for the plum sauce is in vain and as there is no-one around to ask for it I resort to a dribble of Soy sauce from the buffet table. The carrots and beans are crisp, not overcooked but, like the Bruschetta they are barely luke warm. The tomato and cucumber are fresh and crisp. With a sprinkle of pepper and salt the taste is wonderful. The pork has a faint taste of ginger which is a surprise (Have I really got Plum Pork or has there been confusion with the order?) but not at all unpleasant. Like much of the rest of the meal the meat is not really hot to start with and by the time it has been on the icy plate for 5 minutes most of that initial warmth has gone. It is a surprise to frequently find that in Bali hot meals are served on stone cold plates.
Our bill for two of us is Rp121,000 including that 21% tax, a bit under A$ 24.
DAY 13 – SECOND SUNDAY.
We have both had mildly upset stomachs, Herself yesterday afternoon and me last night. This morning we convince each other we are over it, Herself with the aid of a tablet from Her box of tricks and me by way of a superior constitution and years of clean living. It’s so mild that we don’t think that it is the dreaded Bali Belly, more probably the result of an over-indulgence of fruit and young coconut flesh and milk. Whatever, we are ready for breakfast this morning.
She orders Continental and I try a repeat of the Australian that she had yesterday.
I remember that the cornflakes made an aggressively loud noise in my head at 8 in the morning.
Further attempts to call Made in Tuban are fruitless, Her mobile phone simply not establishing a connection to the network. The office phone here is still locked and there is no sign of the manager who has the key we are told, nor are they either able or willing to contact him. What they would do if there was a medical emergency or a fire in the kitchen or something similar I’m not sure; perhaps up here a phone call would not make any difference anyway. The manager of the Mountain Resort over the road however is particularly helpful, not only allowing the use of their landline but making the call and using his native Bahasa skill to conduct the conversations for me. Made is at the temple until this afternoon so we will need to find alternative transport.
Similarly my attempts, or at least the attempts by the Resort manager to contact Ringo or Gloria up north also prove fruitless. It seems that there is a cone of silence drawn over us here.
I spend a few minutes to have a look at Carol’s quarters at the Pacung Mountain Resort opposite after I had tried to make phone contact at their office. The steps down, about two levels I would guess, would be a barrier to us over an extended stay but the sparkling little pool about half way down is a great attraction. Her room is only marginally smaller than our suite but the paintwork is fresh, clean and light, no marks, no mildew, no stains. The carpet in the bedroom is not new but obviously well cleaned and the ceramic tiles are remarkably well laid with even grout lines, no edge gaps or uneven edge cuts and what should be white really is. She has a fridge, TV and phone although I’m not sure if this is only for calls within the complex or if there is also outside line access. The bathroom is modern, large and as clean as the rest of the place. Outside there is a small veranda that faces up the valley towards Bedugul.
All this at a lower rate than we are paying.
We have checked the Customs requirements for bringing spices into Australia and as I thought there is no prohibition but they must be declared and inspected. That’s OK by Her, any small opening would have been tried I’m sure. She hops on a bemo again to return to the markets at Bedugul and I gather up the camera gear and catch a motorbike up the hill to the Fuji shop, intending to walk back down the hill to photograph the flowers at the road’s edge after picking up the prints of the films we left last night and to say goodbye. At the Fuji shop dad is concreting a small breakaway in the bitumen road where it joins onto their driveway. Number 1 son Putu, who works at that majestic Bali Camp a little down the hill, passes on my offer to show him my camera stuff if he is interested. With the alacrity of a teenager (which he is not) he has his hands washed and dried and is lined up at the counter. There is nothing special about my camera really but it is much lighter than the good old Nikon that he uses. His thin hands hold it gently like a baby and his elegant fingers just seem to fall onto the adjustments, manipulating them surely and smoothly, obviously with years of skill and familiarity that I envy.
He is curious about the zoom lenses that I use which is a bit of a surprise as I would not have thought that they would be anything new to him, but each in turn is attached, focussed and zoomed back and forth down the road.
What really gets him going, and the boys when they are each allowed their turn, are the filters that I use. The polarising filter which darkens the blue of the sky but leaves the clouds white got a good work out down the road but the star filter which gives those 4, 6 or 8 pointed stars around bright lights at night, and the filter that gives soft focus edges around the heads and faces when taking portraits really fascinates them most. Lights are brought out from the studio and trial sittings are quickly arranged for each of them to see the effects.
I know just what gift will go down well next time I am passing!
With goodbye handshakes done twice over, I am eventually able to leave with a gift of a large Aqua to keep me from dehydrating on the trip back down the hill.
Isn’t it amazing? After all they have done for me, listening to a goatish old stranger make demands on their skills after twice getting them to open their shop after hours, THEY give ME a gift!
My antics along the way downhill attracted a bit of curious and maybe more than curious attention from the locals. I just knew that I should not have given that first small boy who stopped a CC, but I did, and soon there were 4 others looking for CC’s first and then a look through the viewfinder. One little girl started to bring me all sorts of vegetation to photograph, from grass to dead leaves, and in the end I capitulated and sneakily gave her another one. Not so innocent I think was my initial reception at the Polisi headquarters about halfway back to the hotel. I was down on hands and knees with bum stuck up in the air against their side fence near the gate onto the road, eye glued to the view finder, when something just did not feel right. I was facing the road but in a sort of a narrow drive and I thought I might have been in the way of someone wanting to come down the drive.
I looked up from the camera but there was no-one there.
Old fool, I thought.
Then there was a discrete cough behind me. I looked around to find two of the Island’s finest studying not only my posture but the contents of the camera bag that I had left in the longer grass by their wall. The one standing back a bit was armed with a pistol that looked about the same size as the canon that Captain Cook threw overboard when he was trying to re-float the Endeavour in the Barrier Reef. I am still amazed that I could register all of this in a split second. I started to get up and then thought that this was perhaps not the wisest of reactions, so I knelt down again, smiled and said as happily as I could manage, ‘Salamat pagee ! ! !’ They were momentarily unmoved by my affability so I had a gulp of water from the bottle I had been given at the Fuji shop. Gulp is about the best word I can think of to use here. I suppose it was only a second or two before they replied but it seemed like a
r e a l y l o n g t i m e .
The inspection of the camera bag continued without pause until he-without-the-pistol was satisfied and turned his attention to my camera sitting down at the lowest height of the tripod. With one finger he gently picked up the black shutter release cord that was hanging out the bottom and trailing across the grass towards my knee. I cast it a casual look and stiffened a bit as I thought how much it looked just like I imagine a fuse would look.
Is he thinking the same thing I wondered?
The inspection was really over quite quickly I suppose although it seemed a long time. Not knowing what else to do I asked if they knew the name of the flower I was focussed on. There was a brief conversation between them, whether about the name of the flower or about the advisability of shooting me before I could do anything rash I’m not sure.
Abruptly they turned and went back to their barracks without a word.
I continued down the road stopping every now and then to snap another flower or to pass out CC’s to what seemed to be an endless supply of children. I’m not sure if they were the same ones returning time after time or if the word about the crazy bule with the candy was beginning to spread far and wide.
When we all gathered again at the Pacung Indah a little later it was to sort out transport back to the south. We eventually resolved the matter by sharing the costs of Carol’s transport using a driver and Kijang from the Mountain Resort. I knew that the investigation and exploration was over for this trip when She and she agreed that it would only be reasonable to stop at the Sukawati Markets as we passed them.
Now these markets are well known as the place where many of the beach sellers around Bali buy their stock.
If you want a hundred identical pencils with carved fish glued onto the ends of each one – this is the place to go.
If you want a dozen identical watches – you can get them at Sukawati.
If you want a matching set of seven paintings in identical frames you will find them at Sukawati – and if there are only six at the stall where you are you can have a seat for a minute and the seventh one will turn up from somewhere.
Sukawati is a multi-storey, concrete pillbox of gigantic proportions, a fire hazard of the worst kind, surrounded by a whole village of other shops and stalls.
If you are a shopper it is paradise in paradise.
If you are not a shopper you’d better have a good book to read or other plans for passing a considerable time.
Did I mention that we were planning to stop at Sukawati in passing? Let me observe only that the main road from Pacung to the tourist south goes nowhere near Sukawati really. We’ve got to re-cross the Sayan River valley again, go around the town of Ubud and head a bit further across the countryside to get to Sukawati – and then do most of this again to get back onto the north-south road. This is a shopper’s idea of ‘in passing’ and I’m beginning to suspect that I’m really dealing with two shoppers here.
Off we go in high spirits although I’m not sure why this is so. We do not take the same roads as we passed over getting here and the new scenery down through the valley is just as captivating as it was on our way up. The twists and turns, and the sharp bends and flood-way crossings at the bottom of the ravines are the same however and it is still entertaining and, despite threatening to fly to pieces at every climb, the shuddering clutch of the Kijang manages to stay in one piece. Like the Mule Deer that they are named after Kijangs are sturdy and enduring little beasts. At some stage in this trip (I have lost my way trying to follow the road on the map again.) we crossed a bridge over the chasm and right next to it was an old, riveted iron truss bridge that may well have been one of the three built by the Dutch when they were planning railroads in Bali. It is a considerable structure of about 50 meters (yards) in length and from the old road deck to the top of the arch about one third of this. From my vantage point in the front seat I would guess that the heads of any one of the thousands of rivets would fit fairly comfortably in the palm of my cupped hand.
I imagine that the roads in those far-off times would not have been good, nor would whatever transport vehicles they had, if any, so it must have been a monumental effort to get the materials from Singaraja on the north coast, that would then have been the main sea port at the time as well as the capital of all Bali, over the central mountains, the rivers and the ravines to this site. Having done all of that, the effort of getting the first span across the deep river gully would have been a thing to see. Then there would have been the problem of heating all of those rivets to red heat and, with a hammer, hand forging over the head of each and every one in the construction.
Apart from the rotting wooden decking the ironwork of the bridge is probably as good today as it was when it was erected. Similarly the stone columns on each end of the bridge look to be in good condition but it is my guess that it would be instability in the footings of those columns, way down there in the river bed, which has resulted in the need to start again.
They don’t build ’em like that these days.
We left Pacung at about 11.30 am and arrived at Sukawati at 1.30 pm. It was not a quick trip but we did not stop along the way as we knew we had to find a place to stay when we eventually reached Tuban after dropping Carol off at the school in Seminyak.
I cannot think of a time that we have been here in Sukawati when it has been possible to walk more than 4 of 5 paces in a straight line. Even in the streets you would regularly have to step off the footpath to pass the rubber-neckers standing in groups on the footpaths and peering into the shops at long distance. In the market building itself you could not see from one end of a corridor to the other because of the crush of tourist buyers. I well remember one occasion we visited on a local public holiday. The car park was full of large busses which had come on specially organised tours from Java and it was just impossible to move in the market building. Herself and Nell, who was with us at the time, had a good look and decided against even trying. We all wandered off down the side street instead.
Now when She and Nell won’t go into any shop then it is F - U - L – L , full!
I don’t think either of us expected to find the usual crowds in Sukawati but we were shocked at its emptiness. Along the street I could not see another white European face and when I went into the market building to find Herself and Carol I only had to walk along the end and I could see clearly down every aisle. It seems strange but the sellers are really not too aggressive. All the old familiar calls are there, You look. You buy. You want - - -? Special price for you today. But the plea is a once off. If you say, No, or move on they don’t continue and pester you. Further down an aisle if they’ve heard you say ‘No’ a few times they don’t even ask. It seems to be an air of resignation that is depressing.
At Sukawati I did manage to find something to keep me amused while they shopped; something which only just touched on the fringe of shopping.
About half way down the street at the side of the main markets, not far from where we parked actually, there is a shop that sells drinks, ice cream, nibbles and , amongst other mundane stuff – Chuppa Chups!
I have to admit that here I did try very hard to bargain; after all I was in Sukawati. Not that I really thought it was necessary because the price here was still only 500 rupiah each, but for some reason I decided my skills needed much polishing.
Actually basic practice would be more accurate than polishing.
I really worked at it; I even walked out the door at one point, waiting to be called back to have my offer accepted. When I reached the kerb at the edge of the roadway and there was only the sound of total silence behind me I knew that I was beaten. Never the less I paused and waited for that call which never came.
Do you know how foolish you can be simply standing at the edge of a footpath facing the road with your ears feeling as though they are swivelled around to face backwards, like a dog’s really, waiting for a noise?
I can tell you that it’s not half as foolish as you feel when you slowly turn around and the shop keeper is looking straight at you with a definite smile right across her face.
I bought 50 and she continued to smile right up to the time I opened the bag and offered her one. Then she laughed.
By the time I’d covered the rest of the street, offering one to only the kids and the grandmas and a few grandpas, up to the far corner, they were gone and I had to return for another 50. You eat fast, she said as I counted out another 50 onto her counter and she put them in the same bag as the others had been in. This 50 took me back to the end of the street again, losing only a few along that first stretch this time as most of my targets were still sucking with the little white plastic stick hanging out of the corner of their mouths. Around the corner a bit I went and back up the other side of the street to a point almost opposite her shop again.
This time there was silence as I counted out another 50.
You give me discount now, I asked?
Sure, she said, only Rp25,000.
I had to do the mental calculations twice while she looked at me seriously.
But they were Rp25,000 before I protested!
Sure, she said, I give you discount then too.
You just know when you’re beaten. There is an unmistakable hollow way down in the bottom of your stomach and you can feel your shoulders droop.
It was clear to her too. She smiled.
We are just about ready to leave; the shoppers had only a half dozen shops to cover getting back to the car, when Herself had a little vomit at the side of the road. Must be heat she said and soldiered on.
The rest of the trip was uneventful. Along country roads with their little family rice fields, groves of trees, pandan plants for temple offerings and on through the outskirts of Denpasar. These byways are much more interesting than the main highways, and probably quicker too although there is not a lot of traffic to contend with anywhere. Carol guides the driver into Seminyak and the Montessori school where she has a flat above the school building.
Goodbyes and a sincere thank you said, phone numbers and e-mails exchanged we headed on towards Tuban to find accommodation. On the way we stopped at the same Wartel and money changer that we had used when we were staying in Seminyak at the beginning of the trip. It was one of those wonderful reunions that happen with heart-warming regularity in Bali – Hello Papa, you back again? Where have you been? Ah, Pacung! You go to Bedugul temple too? Where do you go now? Not stay in Sem’yak?
Along the main road, Jl Raya Seminyak at the northern end of the tourist strip, through Jl Raya Legian, into Jl Raya Kuta, just short of Tuban at the southern end of the strip. Counting the more obvious white tourist faces along the way we get no further than 23 ‘bules’ in about 5 kilometres, a bit over 3 miles. This is a road where it has been difficult if not impossible to walk on the footpath on our past visits. Even the road, which in the past has been a life defying task to cross, is devoid of moving cars for much of the time.
It might well be Aussie school holidays but there are still few tourists here.
At the old Holiday Inn, (It will be a long time before I stop thinking of the place in this way. If I refer to the Inn at times you will know that I really mean the BHR&S.) which is now the Bali Hai Resort and Spa, the best offer we can extract at the desk is US$100 a night. Too much we decide, much as I really want to be there.
Across the road to the new Green Garden Spa (where I am convinced HA really wants to stay) but the rooms that they can show us are up two flights of stairs. She struggles up to look, maybe hoping that there is a lift or something to make it all possible, but the room turns out to be very ordinary, with no outlook at all, no class except for a larger than normal refrigerator and the rock bottom price is stillUS$90 a night.
Further down the street, closer to the Pantai Restaurant, we stop at the Palm Gardens where a small and dingy back room, very, very ordinary, starts at US$90 on their brochure but is offered to us for US$70. Back at the office a little bit of bargaining reduces the offer to Rp225,000, about A$43 or US$30.
What a difference a moment makes!
I’m a bit worried that we might be expected to clean the place or give it a quick re-paint at this price, but Her face tells me that I have no need to worry – we’re not staying here.
Council of war time. What to do? Where now?
She thinks that she has a feel for the market and dives into her bag for a special letter she has been carrying from the Manager of the Inn, acknowledging a little service She did for him last time we were there.
Back up the road to the Bali Hai.
Can I see Mr Pat please?
My Pat is not here now. Can someone else help you please?
Who else is there?
Mr Made is here.
I will see him please.
Hello Mr Made (in honeyed tones) I have a letter here from Mr Pat and I was hoping I could see him but he is not in.
Ah, says Mr Made, reading letter while the desk clerk quickly hits the keys of her computer, turning the screen towards Mr Made.
Ah, says Mr Made as he quickly casts the screen a sideways glance. What can I do to help you today?
We would like to stay here with you again for a few days. Do you have a nice room near the pool?
The computer keys clack again briefly.
We have a Lagoon View room tonight and you can have a pool side room tomorrow, one that you have stayed in before. Would you like that?
That sounds very good Mr Made. Just what we are looking for Papa?
I can give you a 50% discount? Which would be US$45, offers Mr Made without prompting.
Thank you very much Mr Made. We really feel at home here -
- and, before you can call the cat for its dinner, the bags are out of the van and onto a trolley heading for our new accommodation in Lagoon view Room 1155.
The room is really light and bright, a far cry from the dingy, even dirty, damp and dank Garden View room overlooking the back service lane we had for the first night of what we now look back on and refer to as ‘that time’. I wish I could recall the conversation at the desk the next morning before we were offered a poolside room. This was a time when the owners had decided for some obscure reason to change the management staff. With Mr Pat’s leaving so did many of the little details that made the place so special and just that bit better than ordinary. There are new owners now but the old management staff seem to all be back, and so is the quality that makes this one of the best 4* hotels around.
With their new curtains our room’s large windows in the end wall look out over the lawn where there are flowering frangipani trees, towards a lotus pond in the middle of the lawn, maybe 50 meters away. Rooms are not squeezed together here. The paintwork is fresh and clean, only just old enough for the paint smell to have disappeared I think. The furniture is either new or newly renovated, clear finished timber with a soft sheen still on the un-marked surface. The bedding is also new, the colours bright and clear. The A/C is new and has a remote control unit just like the TV. The lights have been upgraded and it is now easy to read in bed and to see what you’re doing at the dressing table/desk. Even the bathroom lights seem brighter than I remember. The bathroom floor tiles are clean and shiny, even in the corners around the doorway and under the bench where the wash basin sits. You can only see under here when you’re sitting on the toilet so a casual inspection often does not see the build up of grot that lurks under there.
This is the nicest room we have had in many stays at the old Inn. What a pity that circumstances have contrived to ensure that we are not going to appreciate it as it deserves to be appreciated.
We really do feel at home here although we’ve never been at this end of the hotel before. It’s really quite good. Perhaps best of all (I’m joking really) is that the ice-making machine is just down at the end of the corridor, ice for the taking at any time of the day or night. It’s one of the great features of this place, really handy when you’re going out for the day, or for the night.
Very nice indeed, and that might be just as well but She heads straight for the bathroom and closes the door behind her.
I lift the cases up onto the beds and onto the case rack by the door and open them up ready for a bit of unpacking – not much because we will be moving to that poolside room some time tomorrow – stack the camera stuff in the corner and head off to the front desk to get a lock for the in-room safe.
When I return She has done some unpacking and is resting on the bed.
I think you’d better get the doctor, She says!
Oh dear! Things begin to gel in the haze of my mind. You’re crook, I query?
No. Thought it was building up most of the day. Even had to use the toilet at Sukawati ! ! ! ! Now there’s an admission of sickness that those of you who have seen the public toilets at Sukawati would appreciate.
The Doctor and his nurse are really prompt in arriving. Less than 10 minutes. His home is nearby I learn later, and the hotel has a contract with him to attend any to guest needs.
It is good and straightforward for us. The doctor’s bill will be added to our hotel bill to be paid only when we are ready to leave. So simple. No stress when we don’t need any more stress.
Questions and answers, blood pressure, pulse, temperature, heart beat.
Gluteus maximus exposed discreetly.
Three sets of pills with the doses written on the plastic packs. You’ll be OK in the morning, he says.
That’ll be good, She says.
Lots of water, he says.
Yes, She says.
No beer, he says.
OK, I say, I can handle her share.
Except for Her we all laugh.
This is our first experience with the dreaded Bali Belly up close and personal as they say. Our only knowledge is what others have told us or written. The doctor’s confidence is reassuring and She is (thankfully) ready to go to bed and ride it out. Our fluid stocks are low so I head off up the street to the little deli just past the SA Café for water, lemon drinks, a few assorted beers, CC’s, soda and tonic water. She is asleep when I get back but the smell in the bathroom tells me she has been up.
Back for some air freshener. It is to come in very handy.
We’ve both had mildly upset stomachs in Bali before. They’re caused by a sudden change in diet usually, or in my case by overindulgence of the exotic fruits that I just can’t resist. It’s also caused sometimes by an exuberance with alcohol that is not balanced by an intake of plain water which I think brings on a form of dehydration. The resulting mild diahorrea and sometimes vomiting is unpleasant but seems to go with a return to normal eating and drinking habits for a couple of days.
I now believe what I’ve been told, that the easiest way to distinguish between an upset stomach and the Belly is the smell.
It’s no good calling it an odour or a scent – it’s a stink, a stench, unmistakably bloody awful.
I’ve known strong men to say that they have never before in their lives sat on a toilet with their knees and thighs pressed tightly together, but when they’ve had the Belly this pose is just self preservation if you can’t hold your breath for 10 minutes.
I shower and change then diddle abut for an hour or so until She wakes.
Dry cracker biscuits, lemon drink, tissues.