Sunday, December 24, 2006

Bali 2006 - Part 6 - Amed, Lepah Beach, Snorkel and Sail

Lepah Beach, Bali – May 19, 2006

John got up for the 6:30-ish sunrise and walked down to the beach. The whole fleet had been out but boats were coming back in one by one. It takes about 6 men to heft a boat above the tide line. Our local guide Mr. Pauli said they came back early because they weren’t catching any fish.

I had met Mr. Pauli the day before. The locals who do not work for the hotel, hang out on the beach and try to get you to spend some money with them instead of with the hotel which is most likely owned by a foreigner. This makes sense. In some cases, by dealing directly with the locals you are cutting out the middle man. In others cases, you give them something instead of nothing. So guys like Pauli, a local fisherman in his 40’s with good English, approach tourists about renting snorkel gear, going for a sail, etc. Women ask if you want a massage. Even the hotel staff try to make their own deal with you for a taxi or other transport. Our “maid,” a guy in his late 20’s, had photos of various taxis loaded into his cell phone so he could show the merchandise.

I watched the fleet action, took some photos, and then went back up to the 2nd floor balcony until Sun-Ling got up. Only one boat come back with fish. About twenty small fish that were taken by a women who tossed them in her basket and walked away down the beach. No money appeared to change hands.

The fleet returns at sunrise.
The fleet returns at sunrise 03 - Lepah Bay, Bali

Breakfast was included in the room rate so we walked over to the beachside restaurant and had coffee, mixed fruit, and tomato omelets

After some negotiations with Mr. Pauli, we rented 2 days of snorkel gear for 60K RP. We changed in to our swim gear and walked up to the SE point for a decent hour of snorkeling even though the waves were building in the breeze. We saw some cool coral and colorful fish and took photos with our Lomo Frogeye underwater camera (see photos below). After a dip in the pool, we ate lunch at a nearby on-the-beach restaurant: Bintang, papaya juice, and 2 tempeh satays for 44K.

Sun-Ling posing for our Frogeye Lomo underwater camera.
Snorkel Bali

Spent the afternoon being lazy. Negotiated a sunrise sail and snorkel with Mr. Pauli for 180K RP. Took a nap. As there are no ATMs within 50 miles, we changed money at the Wartel. The proprietor did not want my 1996-issue $100 bill, and knowingly pointed to a small sign on his counter that so. Luckily I had an acceptable vintage bill back at the hotel and we received 870,000 RP for it. Capitalism.

A warung is a small restaurant. A wartel is a telephone office.

Dinner was excellent: 1 L Bintang, 1 Sprite, 2 set Vegetarian Dinners with very tasty spicy tempeh, all for 96K.

To see all the photos from May 19, click here.

Lepah Bay, Bali - May 20, 2006

Today’s program: Sunrise sail and snorkel.

Up a 5:30 AM – before sunrise. Met Pauli on the beach at 5:45 and we put in immediately. The mate for the day was his cousin. After motoring for 5 minutes, it was up with the sail and headed towards the fleet which had put in around 4AM. The fleet fishes at night but not all night unless the fishing is great. They go out about 4 PM and come back at sunset. Then they go out a 4AM and come back at sunrise. Of course, that’s what they did when we were there. The rhythm may be different in other seasons.

With its twin outriggers the sailing canoe was very stable but not graceful; lumbering over the waves getting us a bit wet when the bamboo outriggers smacked down and into the waves. The boats are most graceful with the wind behind them in calm water.

We sailed on a reach towards Lombok, the island to the east of Bali, with Mt Anung Volcano behind us in the dark. The sun rose about 6:15, turning the sky purple in front of us and lighting the tip of Mt. Anung behind us.

Sailing at sunrise in the Lombok Strait.
Bali - Sunrise over the Lombok Strait

After 30 minutes or so, just as we were approaching the fleet, we did a jibe - according to Pauli the boats cannot tack - and headed back to the so-called Japanese Shipwreck for snorkeling. However, the wreck was not very visible that day so we snorkeled some a bit north and saw some awesome coral formations at a spot called Good Karma Hole.

The fleet was returning in 2 streams. On to the north and one to the south with the sunrise as a backdrop. Spectacular. A regatta.

Back on land at 8:00 am. Just in time for breakfast!

Some various notes about the fishing fleet not included in the above narrative:
o The main catch is mackerel
o Each village has a boat builder
o The sails look like fish
o The outrigger is 3 pieces lashed together with rope.
o The boom and mast are made of bamboo.
o The outriggers are bamboo and are replaced each year.
o One man, one boat.
o The method of fishing is to put hooks some meters apart on a long line with small pieces of cotton (about 1 inch long) as the lure.
o In the recent past it was popular to have the bow of the boat resemble a fish with its mouth open. This has been abandoned in favor of a more streamlines look as the “fish mouth” was hard to maintain – they broke off a lot. See photos.

After breakfast a long nap was in order; then beachcombing, lunch, pool, etc.

To see all the photos from May 20, click here.

Ubud, Bali – May 21, 2006

The trip back to Shanghai was mostly uneventful. We negotiated a price of 250K for the ride back to the airport. After 2 “cousins” piled in the SUV with us, I figured that we were providing a bonus for an already planned trip to Denpasar. Hmm. Although 250K was a fair price.

About halfway to the airport, the driver, let’s call him Schumacher, decided to pass the car in front of him on a downhill no passing zone and was pulled over by the police who were sitting at the bottom of the hill just waiting to pull people over and collect money. I think that 50K rupiah changed hands. Instant Karma. Anyway we made it to the airport in plenty of time to spend the rest of our Indonesian money, win an argument with the Singapore Air counter staff about the number of carry on bags allowed, and catch our flight.

That’s all for our Anniversary trip to Bali. Thanks for reading.

Saturday, December 23, 2006

Bali 2006 - Part 5 - Sideman, Tenganan, Tirtagangga, and Amed Beach

Ubud, Bali – May 18, 2006

Plan: Drive to Amed Beach via the spectacular rice terraces in Sideman, the old village of Tenganan,and the Water Palace at Tirtagangga,

Today, our 15th wedding anniversary, turned out to be a great day in Bali!!

Up at 7:00 AM. B-fast at hotel.

Driver and Toyota Land Cruiser arrived at 8:00AM. We paid the bill of 1,200,000 Rupiah, loaded our stuff in the car, and were off.

Headed northeast towards Sideman and some spectacular scenery: rice terraces, ocean views, and volcanoes. Stopped several times for photos.

A one point the driver was stopped at a police checkpoint. I saw him fold a 10K rupiah note over his driver’s license as he stepped out of the car, but don’t know if he actually had to “bribe” the policeman.

Our first stop was at the traditional village of Tenganan (10K donation) is 5km from the ocean with cobbled streets. The locals are basket makers and weavers of traditional double ikat clothe, both are for sale. We walked around this lazy town. The cows were out, the children mostly in school, and the brightly painted chickens were caged. (See photos). Yes they paint the chickens as part of local ritual sacrifices.

Then on to the Tirtagangga Water Palace (6K RP) where we had a tasty lunch, and enjoyed the pools, statuary, and views. We did NOT swim.

Then onto the Amed Beach on the East Coast. We did not have a hotel booked, but we had a listed of possibles that we had picked from Rough Guide so we drove south along the coast, stopping at the possibles to check them out. After some bargaining, actually a lot of bargaining, we settled in at the Lepah Beach Coral View Villas, with a beachside family suite, for $40 US per night. The usual rate is $120 per night. The suite has an upstairs and a downstairs with a garden bathroom in the back, AC up and down, balcony and veranda, two singles down and a king-size up, tub and shower, and hot H2O.

Took a quick dip in the ocean, found some cool seashells, and showered. Then out for a walk in search of a restaurant. First we walked south over the headland to a view of the next bay, then back, finally eating at Cede-Cede:1 Large Bintang beer, Fanta Cherry Red, Grilled Veggies, Veggie Curry, and fried tempeh, all for 91K RP.

The fleet: There are hundreds of outriggers fishing boats along this 11km stretch of coastline. About 50 to 100 of them are parked in front of our hotel on the volcanic black sand beach. The boats are basically sailing canoes (some with backup gas engines) with dual outriggers. The canoe hull is no more than 30 inches wide and 12 to 15ft long. Most boats I’ve seen so far are all of the same design. One guy told me the area of his sail is 5 meters. I don’t know the exact name for the sail rig type, but you can see it in the photos below. Maybe someone will send me a email with the name of the sail rig. Also see the end of this video I shot where you can watch a guy launch his boat.

We watched the fleet go out in the late afternoon. The local boys use this excuse to go swimming naked, help launch the fleet, and generally have fun. Some of the boys had toy, bamboo, boats they were sailing. Miniature versions their elder’s boats.

SLHOTD: Water Palace
JHOTD: The fleet

Below are 4 photos; one each from Sideman rice terraces, Tenganan Village, Tirtagangga Water Palace, and Amed Beach. To see all the photos from this busy day, click here.

Scenic view somewhere between Ubud and Sideman.
On the way to Sideman - 03

Tenganan: Check out the painted chickens in the cages. Their fate is to be sacrificed in a village festival.
Tenganan, Bail - Chickens

Sun-Ling making friends with the fish at Tirtagangga Water Palace.
Tirtagangga Water Palace - Bali

View from Lepah headland south to the next bay. Local sailing canoes, jukung, line the black sand beaches.
Bali - The south headland and beyond

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Bali 2006 - Part 4 - Ubud - Monkey Forrest Preserve, Spa, and Bamboo Gamelan

Ubud, Bali - May 17, 2006

Plan for the day:
Monkey Forrest Preserve, Spa, and Bamboo Gamelan performance.

Up at 7:00. Usual breakfast at hotel.

Note to our friends in Florida: The grass on the hotel grounds appears to be St. Augustine grass.

Left hotel at 9AM heading south to Monkey Forrest Preserve. Saw the troupe of monkeys. Ho hum.

Headed out of the south end of the preserve, through the small village, and circled back to East Ubud. Negotiated a car and driver for tomorrow's drive to Amed Beach - 300K RP – about $35 US.

A very tasty lunch at Bali Buddha, run by an expat: Iced coffee, Iced cappuccino, guacamole and chips, avocado sandwich, aubergine on focaccia. All for 90K ($10 US). Also bought 4 bags of coffee to take back to Shanghai.

Then back to The Market. Bought a "fish puzzle" and “hanging monkeys" for Sun-Ling's nephews, and a shirt and a bath set. Back to the hotel for a dip in the pool. Yeah!

After a short rest it was on to the Verona Spa for “Lular Treatment” -- Massage and bath together in the couples room with a view of rice paddies – for 190K RP (less than $25 US). My massage was only OK – not vigorous enough. Then skin cleansing with abrasives. Then the couples bath with oils, flowers, tea, and view of rice paddy. Very romantic! Out of the Spa about 4PM.

Dinner at Bamboo Warung near the football field: Large Bintang beer, Pineapple Arak (local liquor), various curries and veggies (60K RP). Tasty.

After dinner we went to a Bamboo Gamelan performance for 120K RP. Music and dancing. This was lightly attended but I though it was pretty good. I posted some video several months ago. When the performance ended, we went up a tried out the gamelans ourselves. Cool.

On the way home, we extracted another 2 million rupiah from the ATM.

During dinner, with a good view of the football field, I figured out that the local “pick up” soccer game is more like “keep away” than the usual game of trying to get the ball into the other team’s goal. They divide into shirts and skins teams and then just try to keep possession of the ball. The goal posts are not used. Is this common other places – like in the US? Also before starting “keep away” they were playing some kind of “corner kick” game.

JHOLTD: Spa + lunch +dinner

Heliconia outside our hotel room in Ubud, Bali.

Finally I get the "right" shot of the beer and its "named" mug. Sun-Ling is drinking a pineapple arak. Bamboo Warung: Ubud, Bali.
Ubud, Bali: relaxing

Ubud, Bali: Dancers

Male Dancer
Ubud, Bali: Dancer

More dancers
Ubud, Bali: Dancers

John tries out the bamboo gamelan
Ubud, Bali: Bamboo gamelan

Monday, December 18, 2006

Bali 2006 - Part 3 - Ubud - Rice Paddy Walk

Ubud Bali - May 16, 2006

Today's plan: Do the Rough Guide "A rice-paddy walk through Ubud Kaja", parallel and east of yesterday's walk.

Up at 7:45, breakfast at the hotel, but got a late start on the walk. The temperature was 82F and the skies clear, so we had excellent views of the Gunung Agung volcano and rice terraces.

Stopped around 11AM to chat with a local man, Renta Wayan. He climbed a nearby coconut tree, brought down a coconut, and chopped it open for us. We chatted a bit and gave him 5K RP for his troubles which he gladly accepted. Although not pushy, he became evident that he hangs out by the track to chat up tourists. He could say hello in several different languages, including Chinese.

The rice paddies and terraces were very cool. This time of year - after the harvest - ducks are allowed to forage in the paddies. We saw many ducks. Also, it is the time of year to repair irrigation channels and we saw much evidence of this.

The walk north out of town was not as pleasant as yesterday as today we ran into a small business of some kind every 500 meters or so, each trying to extract money from tourist by selling art, knickknacks, food and drink, etc.

It seems that we missed the turn around specified in Rough Guide and crossed the river by walking in/on an aqueduct instead of a normal bridge. (See photos). So actually the first hour of the walk back was not on any established track, but just a cross country ramble on the rice terraces, generally headed south. It was quite fun. Finally we hit the main track and came back into town on the famous "Graffiti Road".

Ate lunch at the Lotus Cafe: Storm Pale Ale (A local microbrew - yes!), mango juice, nasi goreng served in a pine apple, and tofu curry. Total of 111K Rupiah. The Lotus Cafe has a great view of the town palace with its temple and water garden of lotus flowers. A very relaxing lunch with a fine pale ale.

Next stop was the local Market for some souvenir shopping. We spent about 200k RP on boxes, hand bags, and various pieces of cotton clothing. And finally, a dip in the pool.

Dinner at the Terrace View restaurant near Monkey Forrest. Excellent! Ankor Beer, Sprite, Gado-Gado, Sayur with tofu soup. The night was clear and we had an awesome view of the Southern night sky including the Milky Way. And we were able to "see the Southern Cross for the first time."

Walking back to the hotel, the long way, we checked out some of the local massage places for a possible "couples" massage the next day.

SLHOTD: Dinner and rice paddy walk.
Sun-Ling strolling.

JHOTD: Cold beer hello!
a cold beer

Ducks in a paddy
ducks in a pond

Sun-Ling drinking fresh coconut water.

Renta Wayan: Linguist, rice farmer, and coconut climber
renta - farmer, coconut hunter, and linguist

Great view of the volcano
volcano and rice

Local women threshing rice.
Rice harvest

A scarecrow to keep the birds out of the rice fields

Ready to harvest
Ripe rice

This local is much more graceful crossing the aqueduct than we were. But both Sun-Ling and I made it across with dry feet.
walking the aqueduct

Saturday, December 16, 2006

Bali 2006 - Part 2 - Ubud - Campuhan Ridge Walk, Neka Museum, Kecak Dance

Ubud, Bali - May 15, 2006

Today's plan is to do the "Campuhan Ridge Walk" north of town as described on page 203 of our Rough Guide, with a stop at the Neka Museum on the way back to town. And the 7:30 performance of the Kecak dance. A full program!

Up at 7:15AM. Breakfast at Sri Bungalows: The egg and tomato jaffle (a sealed toasted sandwich)was very tasty; the coffee was very bad.

A local woman, accompanied by little one, with her basket of small offerings and joss sticks. Each morning, she will make offerings at the many small shrines located around the hotel.
Daily offerings

A shrine just outside our hotel.
little one

Looking at a shine in the courtyard of a neighboring hotel.

We were out and walking by 8:15 and easily found the turn off for the path. Excellent walk up the ridge from the river confluence. Saw several men and women cutting and/or carrying elephant grass.

This is a shot of the Pura Gunung Lebah temple that is by the river confluence.
Pura Gunung Lebah

Women carrying cut elephant grass back to town. The grass can be used for roof thatching.
Two Women  - Two Bundles

A grass cutter with hat, pole, and sickle. The pole is used to carry bundles of grass, one on each end.

hat, pole, and sickle

The same cutter.
campuhan ridge grass cutter 2

Work in progress.
campuhan ridge grass cutter 3

Another grass cutter with a 2 bundles of grass, a pole, and a sickle on hip.
On the Campuhan ridge track

After 30 minutes or so the ridge spread out and we were walking though terrace rice fields. The view of the volcano was so-so as the day was a bit cloudy. Turned left, crossed the river and headed back to Ubud and the Neka Museum. Passed many temples and family compounds.

The ridge top walk looking south to Ubud.
campuhan ridge track

This should be a great view of the volcano but it was too cloudy.
Bali rice fields

Temple statue.

Just before Neka we saw this guy plowing his rice field.
Walking the tractor

Just a short while later we saw the Rosetta stone for the world traveler. ;-)
Rosetta stone

Ate lunch about 12:30 at Nuri's, just across the street from Neka Museum. 51K for one large bottle of H2O, Pepsi, Pineapple Juice, rice w/veggie dish, and Nasi Goreng. The place is run/owned by an American and his local wife.

Then toured Neka Museum - 20K rp each. Seven pavilions with very good descriptions by Rough Guide. Excellent display of modern and traditional art by locals and foreigners. The foreigners came to Bali to be influenced by the Balinese culture and natural settings. Many of these foreigners ended up mentoring, encouraging, and influencing a whole generation young locals artists. Photos without flash were allowed so I took many photos. You can see some of them here.

Here’s one example: “Three Masked Dancers” by Anton Kustia Widjaja
Three Masked Dancers

Locals playing “keep away” soccer with “shirts and skins” teams.
shirts and skins

Walked back to the hotel, arriving at 3:30, just in time for a refreshing dip in the pool and a shower. Total walking for the day: about 10 km or 6 miles.

Then off to dinner at Gayatri Restaurant: One large Bintang, Orange Lemon soda, chili sin carne (beans and rice), rice and eggs w/peanut sauce (nasi goreng). All for 83,000 Rupiah, about $10.50 US.

The last activity of the night, and maybe the highlight (for John) of the whole trip was the Kecak dance, which we caught in town for 20K rp each. Months ago I posted some video of this a capella performance. Click here. Most excellent and unexpectedly so. Following the Kecak was fire dancing which may have been genuine but it seemed hokey to me.

SLHOTD: Ridge-top walk
Sun-Ling in the grass

JHOTD: Kecak dance

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Bali 2006 - Part 1 - Shanghai to Singapore to Ubud, Bali

May 13 - Shanghai to Singapore to Bali

Just 6 days after returning from an exhausting trip to Tibet, we were off to Bali. Why Bali? It's a tropical island paradise. The weather is perfect in May and it's the low tourist season. And May 18th 2006 would be our 15th wedding anniversary.

Up at 6:00 AM. In a taxi by 6:30 and headed to the Pudong (PVG) airport. The 8:45 AM flight to Singapore, our first ever on the famous Singapore Airlines, left on time and arrived at Singapore Changi Airport 4hrs and 40 minutes later. A nifty airport with a very luxurious orchid garden (photo below) and free internet kiosks. Also has a movie theatre. We ate dinner at an Indian restaurant: Pakora Platter, Uttapam, and a Masala Dhosa for 17 Singapore dollars total.

Orchid Garden in Changi Airport
Orchids in airport

Caught the 4:40PM flight to Bali which left on time and arrived on time at the Denpasar Airport at 7PM local time. No problems entering Bali. As expected we paid $25 US on-the-spot each for a 7-day Indonesian visa. Got 1,000,000 rupiah, yes one million rupiah (1 Chinese RMB = 1000 Indonesian rupiah) from ATM. 1000 rupiah is about 12 cents in USD. Negotiated a 140K taxi ride to our hotel in Ubud. The posted prepaid rate is 175K but in the low season it's a buyer's market.

Arrived at Graha Ubud Hotel on Monkey Forrest Rd after a one hour ride in the dark in which we saw many motorbikes with Mom, Dad, and Junior dressed up and headed for a festival. The temperature was pleasant and the air not as sticky as I had imagined. We had a reservation for 3 nights at 30USD per night. Checked in and immediately headed out for a cold 630ml Bintang (the local beer) and a piece of cake for Sun-Ling. Saw many foreigners in the several blocks of Monkey Forrest Rd we walked. Then back to hotel and crashed.

May 14 - Ubud, Bali

A good night's sleep in Graha Ubud Bali Hotel. Had to cut off AC in middle of the night because it got too cold. Our room is actually a 2 rooms; a sitting room and a bedroom. The sitting room has a table, chairs, fan, and a fridge. The $30US per night included a slowly delivered breakfast of fresh juice, fresh fruit, coffee, and fried noodles.

During breakfast, we decided to switch hotels because the Graha pool was greenish and the hotel was generally "not kept up". Spent the rest of the morning wandering up and down the Monkey Forrest Rd, the main north-south drag, looking at hotels. There were many available rooms at reasonable prices. John wanted a room in a hotel with a pool. Finally, we decided on Sri Bungalows just across the street and the 2nd place we looked. The bedroom room was big with a killer bed (more later), AC, fan, and very nice veranda. The bathroom was big with shower and tub and small window. There was no TV or fridge. No problem. The furniture was neat and art hung on the walls. The pool was clear, blue, and refreshing. The price of 300K rupiah per night (about 38 USD) included tax and breakfast.

The bedroom.
Sri Bungalows

Sun-Ling relaxing on the veranda.
Sri Bungalows

The pool!
The pool - Ubud, Bali

After checking out and moving to Sri it was time for lunch which we ate at the Nyuh Gading Restaurant just down the road. We shared a gadogado and some sort of tempe dish. No drink. Sat on the 2nd floor overlooking the football field. A group of boys in some sort of religious procession passed by below. They were playing music, chanting, drumming, and 2 of them were dressed up as the front and back of a cow or maybe an elephant (photo below). Anyway, we enjoyed a relaxing lunch.

Procession I

Walked all over Ubud checking out the local bookstores looking for a decent copy of a Lonely Planet Bali or Rough Guide Bali. Yes, we arrived without a Bali guide book. More about that later. We passed the main Hindu Temple which is also used for performances and festivals. Finally, bought a new Rough Guide at Ary's bookshop in city center. Then back to Sri Bungalows for a fantastic swim in the pool. Out to dinner at Bambu. We had a cold Bintang, a ginger beer, Cap Cay, and Nasi Goreng for 83K rupiah total including 10%tax and 5% service charge. And extracted another million rupiah from an ATM on the way back home.

Back street scene with festival poles.
Indonesia Bali Ubud

Women carrying gravel to a construction site.
Procession II

The town palace pavillion.
Saraswati Hindu Temple - Ubud, Bali

SLHOTD (Sun-Ling's Highlight of the Day): The veranda.
Sun-Ling relaxes

JHOTHD (John's Highlight of the Day): The pool.
Blue Water Bali

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