Let me begin my saying that Bali is easily the most beautiful place that I have ever seen. There is also so much to do from relaxing on the beach, to touring the island, to hiking, to taking Balinese cooking classes. There is really something for everyone in Bali and the locals are so grateful for the tourist business. They are really struggling to recover the tourism that was there prior to the bombing a few years ago. This is a real shame as it means there are so many people missing out on experiencing such a wonderful place and so many locals struggling to get by.
I stayed at the Bali Hyatt in Sanur. The hotel was 5 star and very plush which was tough getting used to given that I had just seen such poverty in Thailand. Sanur is a more traditional village and although there are a few hotels in the area it is not at all touristy in nature
. There are so many nice small shops and locally owned restaurants in the village that one is really spoiled for choice. The food is also ridiculously inexpensive. The most I spent on a meal the entire time I was there was equivalent to $10 for 3 courses!
I decided to sign up for a few tours while I was in Bali so that I could see some of the island.
The first tour that I took was a half day tour. We first went to traditional rice field to see how the farmers grow the rice on the terraces. The rice fields are gorgeous, interesting and slightly treacherous to walk through which resulted in my digital camera being dropped into the water (Eeek!). (Luckily I was able to recover the pictures from the memory card as they covered my travels from Shanghai through to Bali!)We then visited a monkey forest where we could feed the monkeys(Rhesus). I of course,loved this as I just adore monkeys, gorillas and basically anything resembling a primate.(which explains some of my past relationships) The only problem was that the monkeys were quite aggressive especially the males. They would grab onto your legs, trousers etc in order to get your attention. This clearly did not bode well with the other woman who was on the tour. Unfortunately for her one of the bigger males decided to grab onto her skirt from behind which sent her running in fear towards the exit. This marked the end of our visit to the Monkey Forest but for her the terror continued
. As we power walked towards the exit, there was a man holding a Boa Constrictor for those tourists wanting a photo opp. As we would soon find out, not only did this woman have a fear of being grabbed from behind by small, attention seeking primates but she was seriously phobic of snakes. Luckily our minibus was not too far off so we piled in and headed off to visit Pura Tanah Lot. Tanah Lot is a Hindu temple just off the coast. At low tide you can walk to the temple but at high tide you must take a boat. We were able to walk to it and watch the locals bringing their daily offerings. While we were watching the procession to the temple, the tour guide took me to one side for a chat. He was concerned because in order to get to the top of the cliff to watch the sunset, we had to pass a man with a sea snake. Our guide was afraid that Ms. Phobia would freak out again. My advice to him was to launch into tour guide dialogue as we walked passed the snake so that no one actually noticed the snake. I also offered to walk next to her to block the view of the snake just in case. I admit, it was a flimsy plan but we had little to work with under such circumstances. Luckily our cunning paid off and the snake went unnoticed. We made it to the cliffs and watched a sunset which was cloudy but lovely nonetheless.
The second tour that I took was a full day tour. This was quite tiring and due to my limited attention span, was a challenge. The group consisted of myself, a really nice Australian family and a fairly unfriendly couple from Wales
. We started off by visiting a traditional Bali theatre to watch Balinese dance. This is similar to the Peking Opera in that its name is somewhat deceiving. There is little actual dancing per say. It is actually more of a play set to music. It was really interesting but difficult to follow. All that I could make out was that there was a mischievous monkey (yes, another!) who teams up with a lion to cause issues with the royal people. It seemed to be somewhat of a happy ending so that was good enough for me. Our tour also involved trips to local craft factories such as silver jewelry, art work and wood carving. There was a bit of a tense moment during the tour of the wood carving shop when the Welsh couple announced that they could buy life sized Buddha carvings cheaper back home in Wales. I was unaware that there was such a large Buddhist following in Wales, but hey at least now I know where to go for life sized Buddha carvings at bargain prices. The highlight of the trip was the visit to Kintamani and Mt Batur. Mt Batur is a semi active volcano which last erupted in the 1970s. You can still see the hardened black lava that flowed from the blast. It was quite beautiful.
After a very tearful good bye to my fellow volunteers and the folks at Ban Bangkae, I headed off to Bali for some R&R.