Well, we're here in Bali!

Trip Start Jun 27, 2007
Trip End Mar 17, 2008

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Thursday, July 12, 2007

Sorry we haven't written for a while, this is just going to be a quick update of what we have been up to. phew some of you might say given the detail we have been able to go into so far!!

Well as the title might suggest we are here in Bali. This isn't so much the point, but rather the more interesting bit is how we got here.

Last time we left you in the quiet seaside town of Cirebon (north coast of Indonesia). A rapid departure by train, executive tickets in pocket, us on the wrong train! We found ourselves without seats, videos or air con, with the addition of strange looks from EVERYBODY on the train, this largely due to the fact that the train conductor tried to remove two Indonesians from their seats! Eventually being found seats, we settled in for a looonng, hot train journey to Yogyakarta (called 'Jogja'). A point to note, not next to each other. Sarah slept most of the way, as she was sat next to a rather surly looking gentleman, whilst Bill's seat partner seemed to promise a lot of conversation.

Arriving in Yogya, we managed to catch up with each other, and it turned out that Bill had learnt a lot from Mawan (the man he was sat next to on the train), firstly Indonesians do NOT look their age, a 16 year old looking youth turning out to be 38! Secondly, Indonesian out looks on football, badminton, scooters, mobile phones (the most precious thing to many Indonesians) and finally, and perhaps most bizarre the impacts of Indonesian contract law reformation. Sarah on the other hand had received some interesting flavoured rice snacks that we saved till later, from a very nice boy called Aris (who did computer science!).

The train pulling into Yogya, in the dark, three hours later than timetabled, we pull out the trusty Lonely Planet and walk off to find somewhere to stay. Liking the sound of the Losmen (a youth hostel) promising esoteric-style mural. We find the Losmen Setia Kawan, it's gorgeous, after a lot of tooing and froing they tell us they have space! Yes! Covered in the owners son's paintings it's stunning.  From our room you can hear the planes flying overhead, the call to prayer, it all seems a little intimidating at first but it does feel like a little community, and it turns out that it isn't just flamboyant youth hostels there's a restaurant too (Bedhot Resto), which well the food is as gogeous as his paintings.

So activities in Yoyga.

3rd July: Having woken up late we decide to tour the city following the route  in the lonely planet, and back to Bedhot from yesterday, yes we're hooked.

4th July: Borobudur and Prambanan tour, a bloomin cold shower at 4am, we get on the minibus with an amazingly friendly Dutch couple, Bas and Irma, who we kept running into later in Yogya and a guy who looked and indeed acted like Mr Bean!! Buddhist Borobudur is astounding and should be a wonder of the world, a local hot topic of debate (Source: Jakarta Post 11th July). It was awe inspiring, loads of Buddha statues and we almost touched the Buddha's foot through the stupa (a stone bell shaped, lattice work) for good luck. A quick shift in relgions to the Hindu Prambanan, spectacular in such a different way, the temples were beautiful, unfortunately due to the earthquake 2004 we couldn't go inside or see the Ramanyana epic carved around the bases.

5th July: Visit and tour of the Sultans Palace in Yoyga the Indonesian equivalent of Buckingham Plalace, but the Royal Family is still a lot more integrated into the everyday life of Indonesia, some past Sultans having held political positions, number 9 seems to be the favourite by quite a way. Then to Pasar Beringharjo (Indoor Market - Batik and Food) a positive maze, deep at the back there combination of so much produce ad so many smells (dried fish being the most lingering memory, having a stench, and proving not to be crisps as they look like from a distance), such an insight into Indonesian life away from the tourist front end.

6th July: Just chillin in Yogya, department store, amusement arcade and coffee shop (Bill opting for a threesome latte, tee hee oh plus we forgot to mention the suggestive choclate treat a goodtime bear!!), well sometimes you need some things that make you think of home well kind of. Back to Bedhot resto for our last meal, yes we told you we're addicted.

7th July: Start of our Bromo - Ijen tour, well the minibus tour was epic, about tweleve hours, but it did provide the opportunity to get to meet the two other couples in the bus, Sofie and Coen from Holland and Elena and Jakob from Denmark, a questionable vehicle change in the pitch black, all couples a little bit on edge at this, leads us to our arrival at Yoschi's Gusethouse. An early night as to catch the sunrise we have to be up at three.

8th July: Up early for the Bromo Sunrise, we're taken by jeep to a viewpoint on the crater that surronds Gunung Bromo (Volcano). We watch the sunrise and Gunung Semeru erupt providing, to many more excitement than the actual sunrise. The jeep then takes us across a 'sand sea' and to the bottom of Bromo. From which we climb to the top. The sulphur fumes are quite overbearing. It's a couple of photos then back down to pack for the tour part two.
Another long bus ride and we arrived at the Catimore Homestay on the Kebun Balawan coffee plantation, in the middle of Kwah Ijen. The bus ride was made more bearable by the company of Coen and Sofie from Holland and two comrades Cathrine and Nicolas from Belgium, and higly acrobatic gibbons!!!

9th July: Slightly later start today 5am made slightly better by a warm shower, get back in the minibus and drive to the bottom of Ijen, we're told on the bus ride to take some biscuits as the sulpher miners will stop for photos if you ask them to or not and kind of expect something for their troubles. We hike up Ijen 3km not far but a change in altitude of 2148m, made this walk more of a mission, encouragement being provided by Tommy our lovely guide and guy. On the way up we see the sulphur miners, there is no real way to describe the sight of men from 19 to 58 carrying upto 150 kilos of sulphur in baskets on their shoulders, with no shoes and some no shirts between the hard bamboo and their skin. Reaching the top the view was incredible a perfect copy of the guidebook photo, now that doesn't happen often.
Scrambling back down it is then a compratively short minibus ride, only two hours and we reach the ferry to Bali. All six together manage to get on a coach alledgedly to Denpasar, after the ferry and 3 hours driving the otherside, with some interesting performances by 'local' buskers, a gent gets on trying to convince all of us we need a taxi. Using our local knowledge ie if the woman sat next to Bill smiles or grins we know it's not a good idea, so we stay on the bus and reach the terminal. Hagling a ride using the power of six, we push the price from 150,000 to 75,000Rp for all of us. Satisfied we sit in the little local Bemo (minibus), and travel to Ubud cultural capital of Bali. On the way discussions are had about where to stay. Coen and Sofie opt for slightly lusher accomadation in the North, we and the Belgians try to find somewhere a little central. Tired and loosing the will ti walk plus tempted with a more luxurious room for the cost of a standard, we settle into  Adi Cottages.  We go for a swim yes it has a pool!!!  Followed by dinner with Catherine and Nicolas.

10th July: We get up and move accomadation so we got more for our money but it was more than we should have been spending. We  had, had the same thoughts as the Belgians and Catherine being amazingly organised phones aheadto check the choices have rooms. We end up in Kajeng Bungalows, cheaper but still with a pool!! A key selection choice for Bill. We chuck our bags in and go to the ARMA museum, possibly no definately the most beautiful well anything we have ever seen or been in. Gorgeous grounds, beautiful buildings and amazing art fill our afternoon and then Bill being Bill can never turn down a museum cafe (or giift shop if it had had one) plus it was free so that was a big tick from Sarah. (Check out the photo eventually iy is amazing!!)
Went out for the dinner with Belgian's again to compare notes as they had also been to a art museum. After dinner we all head to the Putra bar for live Reggae music, it was hilarious, trust me dancing rastafarian Indoensians rock!! Plus there was a poodle in a tutu!

11th July: Touristy things have to be done, so we went to the Monkey Forest, it appears Sarah is petrified by Monkeys after a close encounter the night before, where a photo moment went horribly wrong!!! (Sarah say's IT DID TRY TO BITE ME!!!!!)
We then walk the 3km to the Elephant Cave, a strange combo of Hinduism, Caves and tattoed man holding snake trying to convince people to have a photo taken whilst he himself looked more scary than the snake. Heading back a different way (Bill has his rules!!) we head up a footpath suggested by the lonely planet ( I mean what would we do without it) however, half way along the once footpath is now private property, we go on and it turns out the land has been bought by the plushest hotel complex, we manage to find our way out by walking with a purpose and confidence and the knowledge it's such a big hotel the guards (yes there were guards) couldn't possibly know all the guests. Back in Ubud we go to the Deli Cat a restaurant suggested by the lonely planet as the description includes those magical words "cheese sandwhiches". Going out for entertainment we saw Wayang Kulit, Indonesian shadow puppets amazing.

Today!!!! Yes we are actually up to date. Had a relaxing morning by the pool and this afternoon had a silver jewlery making course, the guy doing it was amazingly patient with Bill and very talented with a really good sense of style. Bill has made Sarah the most beautiful necklace that she is wearing with pride, and Sarah has made Bill the most gorgeously cheeky Gecko, to remind us of Indonesia when Bill is wearing it, using it as a bookmark.... it really is a versatile little chap.

So although brief that's us up to date. Tomorrow we plan to head off to Padangbai, for a bit of beach action and once more Bill has found somewhere that specialises in fish food, well it isn't hard on an Island. Sand sea and barbecued shrimp we can't wait. Spending a couple of days there then off to the wilds of Sumatra, where internet may or may not be an option, so unless you hear otherwise we are safe and sound and just to reassure those that know about Sumatra the local people USED and NO LONGER have cannabalistic tendencies.

Love to all, it's nice to hear from you all, sorry we haven't written back to you each indivually, the internet here is just so, so slow. We love you all lots of hugs Sarah and Bill, Bill and Sarah xxx
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