Day 5: Volcanos, Rice Paddi's and a ton of Monkeys

Trip Start May 14, 2009
Trip End May 24, 2009

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Flag of Indonesia  , Bali,
Tuesday, May 19, 2009

I finally managed to get breakfast today, which consisted mainly of a choice of Egg on Toast or Noodles (Mee Goreng).  I chose Noodles.  Yum Yum.  Speaking of which, on the way back I wanted to find a Taxi to take me out for the day and see a bit of a the island.  Enter Mr Yium Yium.  I bumped into him outside of the hotel, after he asked if I wanted transport.  Yes, yes I did.  A quick haggle later and I had a 8 seater van for 8 hours for the princely sum of 20!  After a bit of a heated discussion, the rest of the Clan decided that they would come with me, I assume on the basis they saw how easy it is to get things sorted in Bali.  This was the first time for most of them outside of English speaking countries, and their first time in Asia. I guess it's all a bit overwhelming.  Not sure what they would make of Vietnam....

After reading various message boards, tourist information sites and brochures, I had a rough idea of where I wanted to go.  It was pretty much the same as any of the tours that hotels, travel agents etc ran, so nothing off the beaten path.  However, the advantage for me was that a) I paid about 3 for the whole day and b) I could go where I wanted, when I wanted.  You can't get that on a normal tour.  I'm far too used to going where I want, when I want, to enjoy any tours these days - hence my love of campervans I guess! 

First stop was at some village famous for it's wood carvings.  Every building in the town is dedicated to selling busloads of people wooden statues, and the one we visited was no different.  A brief 2 minute talk about how they make stuff (the same as Chippies the world over) and we were allowed into the marketplace, which I think everyone liked, surprisingly.  I guess it's because they had rude statues for my Mum and Brother, and amazingly detailed statues for my Dad and Nan.  I purchased a couple of Buddhas and Burungs, to add to the large collection I got from China and Singapore.  They take up more room at home than Helen does.

Back on the road and I saw that Goa Gajah, or "The Elephant Cave Temple" was nearby, so we stopped off there too.  I wasn't sure what to expect, but I was pleasantly surprised.  The main Elephant Cave itself is just that - a cave with elephant carvings outside and various shrines and offerings inside.  What surprised me however was the older Buddhist Temple nearby.  We walked through a small Paddi field, then alongside a small stream where we came upon the remains of a Giant Buddha that crashed down a hill in the 1970's, during one of Indonesia's many earthquakes.  A newer Buddhist temple is being built there, but it was the Giant Buddha that struck me.  I can't really explain why, it just fascinated me.

It was here that my family were introduced to the concept of "Squat" toilets.  Luckily for the chaps, it's not a problem, but how we all laughed at my poor Mum.  Behind her back of course, she's a scary women and you don't want to annoy her.  Saying that, the Urinals themselves were minging, so much in fact I took a photo and sent it to my mates back home, in the process costing a fortune in phone bills.  Worst thing was none of them were impressed.

Our next tour stop was Mt Batur, a one of the highest mountains in Bali, and still a very active Volcano.  This was what I really wanted to see, I knew I wouldn't have time to hike it, so seeing it would be the next best thing.  Before that though we had an hours drive there, past various villages and many Paddi fields full of Rice.  The highlight of this part was being stopped by the Police to "check our papers", which involved Mr Yium Yium putting a few thousand rupiah in the pockets of the local polisia.  Still, at least the bribes are cheap here.

Most of the journey there was in heavy rain and thick cloud, evidence that we were high up in the mountains.  Sadly when we got to Mt Batur it was still covered in heavy cloud, meaning I couldn't see much except a thing outline.  I was pretty gutted, but we stopped for lunch in Kintamani and waited for the cloud to lift.  I think Kintamani only has one restaurant, as it had the busiest car park in the universe...but was strangely empty inside.  I'm slightly ashamed to say that I even haggled on the price of the meal, especially when I worked out the cost in GBP.  And I had two helpings.  We also got Mr Yium Yium some tuck, which he seemed to be really stoked about.  I thought it was common courtesy to get your driver food on an all day trip, but maybe not.

As we sat eating, the clouds lifted, all too briefly, just enough time to see MT Batur in all it's awesomeness.  I'm in love with mountains and the oceans you see, so of course it was going to be awesome.

Once the clouds had come back, we had to start making our way back to the south coast, and on the way to Ubud stopped off, like a million other people, at a place with very cool Paddi Terraces down the hill.  I think this is also where the young Balinese learn to sell stuff, as I was surrounded by kids trying to sell me postcards and other tat.  Kids being kids though, I made them laugh and they soon stopped the selling and just went back to being Kids.  Nice one.

Our last stop of the day was Ubud, a place I wanted to spend a couple of days in, but time really didn't allow it, sadly.  So we went straight to the thing I wanted to see most there - Padangtegal Mandala Wisata Wanara Wana....the "Sacred Monkey Forest Sanctuary". 

Monkeys and Apes are the best things in the world, after Sunshine and Ice Cream.  I've had the pleasure of seeing them in the wild in two different places - Gibraltar and Hong Kong - was very happy to add a third place. As in Hong Kong, these were Long-tailed Macaques (hereby referred to as "Monkeys"). Surprisingly for a heavily visited place, I thought they were very well behaved.  Sure, if you had food or drink in your hand they would eventually get if off you, even if they had to bite your legs in the process.  Otherwise though, they were very well behaved, and just stuck to their packs.  The Monkey Forest does have a temple in there, which is close to becoming overrun by the rainforest that's slowly growing over it.  It also had an graveyard near by, showing up my lack of knowledge of Hinduism (I assumed they were always cremated).  I read later on that some will be buried until they can be cremated with others, as it's cheaper.  Not sure how much truth there is to that, so if I'm wrong - sorry.

A local Dog was mooching around the graveyard, and was also playing with the Monkeys.  Not sure how much of a game they saw it as, but the Dog was happy.  I'd rather see the Monkeys attack fat tourists who insist on feeding them when they are told not to though.

With that all done, it was back to the hotel in Kuta/Legion, for food, drinks and comparing photos of the day.  I'm sure we did something else too, but I'm too forgetful to remember, and let's face it, no one is reading this far down.  They stopped reading when they saw the Monkey photos.
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