As Beth mentioned in our last post, we met a wonderful woman at the Ashram Gandhi in Candidasa named Toni Tack. Toni is a Dutch lady who is a Historian studying, writing, developing tours and lecturing on various points of interest throughout Indonesia. Well after just a few short conversations Toni felt comfortable enough to offer us her home as a place to stay while she was out of town. As it turned out her place is right in between Kuta and Ubud, so it worked out wonderfully for us. I'd just like to pause here for a moment and say that there are some truly amazing people in this world. Since we have begun traveling we've met so many generous, wonderful people. For example by the end of our time in Bali, we had offers to stay with people in Indonesia, Australia, Holland, UK, Malaysia, Belgium, and Austria. I feel like there is such a focus on the few bad things happening in this world that people are not tuned to the goodness that is all around us, rather many live in fear and as a result choose to avoid rather than embrace strangers. It's really refreshing to feel the kindness everywhere we've been so far, both with locals and, as you might expect, among the traveling community.There's hope for the world yet.
Our first night at Toni's, she was still in town and we went out together to run some errands and grab a good old cup of coffee/tea. Over our "cup of Java", Toni shared with us inspiring details on her upcoming assignments on the island of Java involving the largest Buddhist monument in the world called Borobudur that she has been studying and is now working to support and promote. Needless to say, within a few hours of listening to Toni's work we were convinced to change how to spend our last several days in Indonesia and make necessary reservations for a day trip to Java island to experience this wonder and attend her lecture. To make time for everything in this new plan, we decided to first bolt down to the south shore of Bali for the weekend before going to Java with Toni.
We landed in Kuta on the beach and surprisingly we really enjoyed staying there. Kuta is the mecca of the tourist scene in Bali complete with Starbucks, MacDonalds, Hard Rock Cafe and all the rest. It's generally not well liked by Balinese and many backpackers as there's not much authenticity left in the area and most of what is there is all about making a buck off the reams of vacationers. But at the same time, we were ready for a little fun in the sun. We found a great clean place called Lulu's for $10/night including breakfast, dropped our stuff off and headed to the beach. The sun was setting as well so it was a picture perfect evening, nice.
We met a local surfer dude, Sugang , on the beach who seemed really cool, he offered to guide us around the peninsula. With the nutz traffic conditions on the roads in Bali, and reports that Bali police have a habit of stopping foreigners they see driving so they can threaten jail time for driving without an international license or give the option for the tourists to continue on after they empty their wallets (bribe), we decided to take him up on it.
The next day we toured virtually the whole southern peninsula, Sugang was great, he knew all the picture perfect spots, her's a few of the highlights:
We started in Nusa Dua, on the south east coast. This is the mecca for upscale hotels and resorts in the area, and as you might imagine incredible beaches, and coastline rock formations where the water would crash against the cliffs creating waves of seafoam.
He then took us to other beach/surf spots that are off the beaten path, sweet spots.
Later we landed at this one beach where there were all kinds of sports to check out. They had this huge tubes that caught air as the speed boat got going
, the tube went about 50 ft in the air, looked way cool but was expensive. There was snorkeling, fishing, etc. I decided to try out parasailing which was really fun
, I was able to take my video camera and caught some great footage from up above. Check out my attached movie video!
We then hit the two key surf spots in the area, Pedang Pedang, and Ulu Watu. The surf at Ulu Watu is legendary although it was not ripping too hard when we went there. None-the-less it was fun to watch the experts ride a barrel or two.
The sun was setting so we headed off to the Ulu Watu Temple located on a cliff side over the breaking waters. Aside from this being a picturesque sunset and perfect spot to see it from
, the place is LOADED with agressive (or "fresh" as Beth calls it) monkeys
. These little dudes would grab anything within reach and attempt to eat it. Some even jumped on people biting at their shirts and all. The bushes were filled with stolen hats, cameras, camera cases, every kind of bag and bottle you can imagine, and anything else a traveler might be carrying. Of course we were not immune to the scene, Sugang was wearing a baseball hat and lost it quickly when a monkey jumped him from behind
. Luckily Beth had a power bar in her pack so we broke it out to barter with the little guy. Good thing it worked quickly as all the monkeys came running when they saw the food. The little guy dropped the hat as he reached for the flying chunks of caffeine laced power bar....
Those monkeys probably went on a serious high from the caffeine. Then not one minute later as we were rushing away a monkey jumped out of the tree, bounced off the top of Beth's head snatching her headband in a split second then perched himself on a tree over the cliff's edge and proceeded to chew the heck out of it. Well with all of our bartering material now gone we wrote the headband off as the casualty of the day and headed back to Kuta.
The next day we spent part of the day lounging on the beach in Kuta and Sugang taught me how to surf, good times!!!
Saturday night in Kuta we headed out for dinner and the intention to do a little dancing, but when we got to the club area we found a huge monument dedicated to the victims of the 2002 bombings at the site of one of the clubs that was targeted. Names of the victims who died in the explosions were listed alphabetically next to their country of origin. It was a somber experience- people were quiet, sitting around looking at the monument, thinking, meditating, and I presume wondering what this world is coming to when someone would blow up hundreds of innocent people, many their own. In fact other than Australians, the country that lost the largest number of people was Indonesia. Although the terrorists were targeting tourists, blood-shed aside, Indonesia was by far the worst affected by the bombings. Being a third world country Indonesia really needs the tourist industry to remain strong, and it suffered a tremendous blow as a result of the bombings. As Beth mentioned in the previous post it's very apparent in the changes she saw in Candidasa from 2002 to now.
Monday morning we set our alarms for 3 am to catch the first flight out with Toni for Yogyarkarta on Java island. It was a quick one day trip so we hired a guide, Trudi, to show us around town then take us to Borobudur where he specializes in guiding folks through the monument. Toni setting us up with Trudi was right on the mark when she talked him up as being the top guide in the area. Trudi has a great personality, is high energy, and a wealth of knowledge. He really made the day awesome- discussing history and taking us to out-of-the-way place to eat breakfast and later lunch that were just fabulous. The day walking around the city was filled with both religious and political details of the area's history. We went to the kings palace where we were lucky enough to catch the royal musicians playing traditional Indonesian instruments
, pics are ok but you really had to hear it... it was interesting. Then on our way to the water palace we strolled though a street animal market where you can buy just about anything you like: check these pics out.
Notice anything funny about the snake pics? Yes that's a fat bird in there with the big snakes, frozen stiff in fear. Guess the snakes are not so hungry at the moment. The water palace was cool but damaged in a recent earthquake. Pics don't really capture the essence of this place but Trudi did a great job painting the picture in our head.
The palace was built in the middle of a man made lake, so apparently you could see nothing but water for miles around the lake, but now it's in the middle of the city and is surrounded by a bustling residential area. There was a dome sticking out of the lake but much of the structure was build under the waterline.
Our next adventure and the highlight of our day was Borobudur. This monument was made over the span of 80 years from approximately 780 to 860 AD and is a work of art like none other I've seen.
The monument comprises six square platforms topped by three circular platforms, and is decorated with 2,672 stone carved panels and 504 Buddha statues that tell the story of Buddha's life and his quest to understand and stop world suffering. At the upper levels are 72 Buddha statues in domes then it's topped by a large dome that's empty symbolizing Buddha's final reincarnation to Nirvana (or nothingness), the ultimate goal.
. Trudi did a superb job going through details of many of the most important stone panels- having a great guide for Borobudur was key to understanding the essence of 80 years of work that spanned 2 kings.
We got lots of great pictures, even one interrupted by the embassador of Syria.
Interestingly, we were invited to visit Syria by members of his entourage. The last stop of our day was at the hotel where we watched Toni give a lecture on Borobudur to several writers from around the globe who were attending the Ubud International writers festival.
The lecture was awesome giving us more insite into the monument and the history of Indonesia culture in general.
Indonesia was an incredible adventure filled with wonderful people, great food and many adventures. We're sad to go but it's now time to move on to our next adventure..... Malaysia.
With only one week left in Indonesia, there were many options for us to see and do. Neither Beth or I are interested in the fast-paced kind of travel where you don't really have time to experience the local culture, and we're not interested in just checking boxes off a list "just to say we did it". So with our last week in Indonesia, we decided to focus on expanding on our Balinese experience by spending more time in Ubud (mentioned in the last entry) and making our way down the south shore to see what all the hype's about around Kuta, Ulu Watu and the rest of the peninsula. As you'll read later this plan changed again as we got advice from new friends.....