BALI BLOG 2020
You know the finally finally syndrome when for 2 days you tell yourself finally everything necessary has been done. Well, get thru that accompanied by the first decent rain in six months, 75 mm….will we get through to the airport OK? Having passed that hurdle, we arrive early and try to understand the mumbled announcements about planes unable to land due to poor visibility.Cutting to the chase, our plane is cancelled and we spend 6 hrs at our local airport awaiting the only other plane for that day, unsure as to whether it will make it. Suddenly the winged giant roars down the runway, ‘yeah’, I sing out, a lone voice amongst so many- oh that Anglo Saxon reserve gets me all the time! Luckily the late plane could accomodate us and packed to the gills, takes off. We spend three days in Jill and Al’s beautiful river house in Murwillumbah for the usual catch- up with old besties from our farm days.
The background to this trip is the corona virus scare. All day in the overly air-conditioned airport and plane leaves Jon quite unwell for a couple of days just when reduced immune system matters most. Ah, the joys of travelling as an older person! Just in the nick of time he improves and, armed with pharmacy products, we have arrived safe and sound in Bali.
Arriving in Bali is fun. We are at the front of the plane queued to disembark, delayed waiting for a bus to the terminal. The Captain stands right beside us and so we engage in what turns into quite a conversation. A friendly man, tall, lean, 40ish, I ask about his flying schedule & he tells us pilots love to surf while on layover and all rent motorbikes while here but the other crew are not permitted to do so. The idea that pilots are somehow better positioned than the other staff to survive the Kuta traffic on motorbikes amuses Jon.
Jon’s first trip to Bali was in the early ‘70’s when cows still roamed the sand streets of Kuta. My only stay in Kuta was with him maybe 20 yrs ago leaving me with abiding opposing impressions- delicious frog legs and our charming, frangipani-lined laneway, and the narrow crowded streets full motorbikes and cars and stalls with vulgar T- shirts and drunk young Ozzies. Nonetheless, as we are to arrive late at night, we decided to have two nights here and have a poke around. I booked a lovely hotel ( Adi Dharma, Kuta, recommended) for about $70 AUD which promised to be quiet.
The taxi doglegs its way left and right from the airport for what seems a long time. In the throng of Kuta/Legian lined with small restaurants and people eating late, we finally turn off the narrow noisy street into our tiny laneway, instant quiet. The ubiquitous yellow frangipanis, many little shops, now closed, and several nice accomodations, ours being at the very end.
One almost forgets how beautiful this culture is so I am immediately enthralled as we turn into the property with its 3-storey, traditional style buildings surrounded by gardens, the usual open- sided, gleaming tiled reception area furnished with traditional rich timber and the large adjacent dining area. Generous room with two 3/4 beds, aircon, mini fridge & our own little balcony. And a great sleep! I include a photo of the hotel brochure showing the ‘usual/ unusual’ hazards of travelling here!
Breakfast is included but what a spread -fresh fruit salad, other salad items, three traditional Indonesian dishes, and egg area, a pancake area and seven young preparers and serving men wearing traditional sarong and head gear. The manageress, graceful and gracious, welcomes us and comes to talk to each patron.This is a large establishment, 100 rooms, 30 years old but I only realize this today when I scour the grounds arranged around a large pool where I sit writing.
We set out at 8 a.m to explore the immediate environment and beat the heat heading to Kuta beach, 10 minutes away. Our laneway is devoid of people, quiet and peaceful, too early for “morning price” quips Jonny & still a pleasant temperature.
Jon says if you want to know the value of your currency without reading the Wall Street journal or the Financial Times, the money exchangers have a much more realistic rate, a great barometer. As we near the beach, more little shops, mostly selling cheap clothes etc, are opening and then we arrive at the beach. It is a glory of wide flat sand, gently rolling surf and a wide treed strip, freshly raked and swept dotted with large umbrellas, little stalls with seats and some tables.Vendors are selling drinks and fresh coconuts for juice. This extended area leads onto an area specialising in surf board rentals and lessons and the boards lean clustered against tree trunks where squirrels scurry and scour the gelatinous insides of the coconuts wedged between branches for them.
Jon loves the T- shirt he sees on the drippingly hot way back to leap into the pool:’I’m not gay but $20 is $20’. I wasn’t quite as amused!
And as the afternoon proceeded, clouds gathered and just I managed to drag the man to the pool area, a rare event, it started to gently rain. Within a few minutes we moved to our little balcony off our room and watched the rain pour off the roof and drench the gardens below. We decided to eat ‘in’, dinner as excellent and authentic as the Indonesian selection at breakfast- cap cay ( mixed vegetables with seafood) and Soto Ayam (chicken soup on fine noodles with hard boiled egg on top), both really delicious.
The rain cooled everything down so immediately that we took a short stroll to the end of our now deserted little laneway chatting to a couple of indifferent typical stripes Balinese dogs en route. And so ended our short Kuta stay. We would do it again.
Feb.2, Ubud, Feels Like Coming Home!
We are back at Taman Indrakila where we stayed 18 mths ago a little out of the centre of Ubud so go out for dinner. Indus, the upmarket restaurant run by Australian Janet de Neefe (also,of Ubud Readers and Writers Festival and the Ubud Food Festival fame) is just up the road but undergoing renovations. The nearby temporary premises is part of the Writers Festival site and is as impressively beautiful as the ‘real’ one. A huge open-sided space with high thatched ceilings finished with detailed Balinese carving, overlooks the gorge. Round timber tables with a Dutch colonial touch, candle lighting throughout, all surrounded by lush gardens create a plush exotic ambience.
Our delicious meal consists of tapas for two- two pieces each of sate stick mushrooms, fried chicken, tempe and mini spring roll accompanied by three little condiments in mini banana leaf trays- sate sauce, sweet pickled cucumber and spicy chilli dip. For mains,Jon chooses a Sumatran chicken coconut curry which is served in the coconut shell and I a balinese version of Sumatran jack fruit curry. I haven’t eaten jackfruit before and found it reminiscent in texture to eggplant, absorbing the flavour of the curry sauce and quite filling. Including two beers and a lime soda it came to about $20 per head which is expensive in Balinese terms but reasonable for what we ate. At a local Balinese place it cost approximately half this.
Nearby, two men, one extremely heavy set, are struggling for minutes trying to convey to the skilled waitress what they want.Clearly their English isn’t good. At last I step forward and ask if I may assist, understanding where the confusion lies. What language do you speak, I ask, Russian they reply. Oh I don’t speak Russian, but in no time have them sorted to get a large plate consisting only of prawns, only being the stumbling point, lost in translation. They are unnecessarily appreciative and gracious and Jon makes a gentle joke, they beam at us. This all repeated as we depart.
Internet access is sporadic here and makes one conscious of our absurd dependency on immediacy. Nonetheless, I want to check that we aren’t the only ones having difficulties, so ask a couple of younger women sitting their little balcony a few rooms up from us. The usual where are you from question comes from them and it transpires that the too are Russian and lively and engaging, one speaking better English than the other. Good to see they dont confirm our rather negative experiences of Russian travellers. As Jon says, in general Bali is so laid back that even the Russians are smiling! He feels this reflects more about Bali than about nationalities.
Feb 3. The Yellow Flower Cafe Walk And General Delights
No rain last night so we decide to beat the heat and take a morning walk before breakfast. Let’s do the Yellow Flower Cafe/ rice field walk I brightly suggest and am delighted that Jon agrees. In his words: Early morning walk following my leader who knows where and how to navigate through the winding pathways around the back lanes. As it is fairly early shops still closed but Westerners emerging from their digs going to yoga, mostly women of various ages, long hair of a type going to do the downward dog and other tricks. They appear to be recovering from failed relationships,my vibe, and are probably bitter and twisted, much like the men in our home neighbourhood.
Having written in detail about it in my 2018 Bali diary, I won’t elaborate much except to reiterate that to me this walk is the quintessential Bali, and to comment on changes and people. As it’s wet season, the verges of the narrow concrete path are quite overgrown, several new buildings and little cafes have popped up, all charming. It is amazing to see so many new eating places, also along our main Campuan road. One wonders how everyone eeks out a living especially as tourism has been down. Due the coronavirus scare, the Chinese tourists have stopped. As they come in large numbers, I worry that this would have a huge impact on their fragile economy so asked our taxi yesterday driver, an intelligent man we have used before. He, like Jon, feels it is not so, because the Chinese, as in Australia, stay in hotels and eat in restaurants etc wonder by Chinese and hence not much of their spending here would benefit the local economy.
If you have never visited Bali, it is difficult to convey how dominant the aesthetics of this place is, how surrounded by beauty one is everywhere- from the larger scale of the landscaping of grounds and traditional architecture, to the smallest detail of small offerings on the ground, tiny personal temples, walls decorated with Hindu sculptural icons, huge pots filled with plants carefully placed, the traditional clothes worn not only for ceremony but by wait staff and hotel staff at ‘better’ establishments and so on. All the sweating and heat is worth it! And now I am off to leap in the pool at the bottom terrace of the vast grounds of Taman Indrakila, good compensation for the lack of soap in the soap dispenser or the fact that the room boy forgot to replace the hand towel he removed or wipe the taps to sparkle.
Our room, same as last time, is at the end of the terraced path with the small offering temple next to it and has sliding plate glass doors across the front and two large windows on the external wall all of which overlooks the terraced gardens, palms,frangipanis,crotons, banana palms cascading down the slope and disappearing into the ravine from which the eye is led up the other side to the palm filled Campuan Ridge. At any time of day you can see a trickle of people walking along the ridge-walk path. If it’s too hot outside, you could lie on the huge bed in the aircon, as Jon does, and overlook all of this.
Just to let you know I am struggling a bit with internet access and technology here so will have to add relevant photos later, maybe after the one month trip is complete, so check back in the site again if interested.