Bintang and braiding in Bali 16-23 March 2011

Trip Start Sep 09, 2010
Trip End May 28, 2011

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Where I stayed
The Dynasty Hotel

Flag of Indonesia  , Bali,
Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Wednesday 16th March

I’ve developed a tickly cough which is worse at night so didn’t sleep well at all, it was hot and humid too, but at least that means I can get acclimatised to what it will probably be like in Bali. Our flight is with Jet Star which is the Qantas budget airline. The flight went at 10am but before we left Chris bought the kids these great Samsung camera for the hols, which have this fantastic functionality which I have never seen before on a camera, but I want it! You know when people try and take a self portrait photo turning the camera on themselves. Well this camera has a mirror image which appears on the front of the camera so you can actually see yourself as you take the picture the normal way. It’s awesome.

We got to Bali around 2pm. I got through immigration ok but when Chris and the kids followed behind they were sent to the back of the queue I had no idea what was going on. So I went to the baggage claim and started to look for our luggage. However mine didn’t appear for felt like ages until I looked over and saw a sign with baggage on it a load of backpacks on the floor and there was mine phew! I managed to remember what everyone else’s suitcases looked like and then waited for the Robinsons. They eventually came through. It turns out the steward on the plane had misinformed Chris and told him he only needed to fill in one immigration card for the whole family - wrong…so he had to fill it in three more for each of them. Very hot and humid it was like walking into an oven as we walked out of the airport. We got to the hotel about 3pm and were the first to arrive, as Chris’ friend Aaron and his family (around 40 people) would all be arriving later that day. The room is ok although not that large for a ’family of four’ as there is Chris, me, Cass and Tyler. There is one large bed and a bunk bed. I get the top bunk! Dinner in the hotel restaurant - choice of food was nice - pleasantly impressed.

Thursday 17th March

Spent most of the day at the pool. We are staying at The Dynasty hotel complex in an area of Bali called south Kuta. It has a large swimming pool which has a bar in the centre, there is a kids’ pool with a slide and an ‘adults’ only area which has stone sunbeds built into small pools. I’ve never seen anything like it before but good if you want some peace and quiet. Kuta is one if not the main beach resorts of Bali packed full of shops and there is a party atmosphere at night when the streets become alive with music blarring from the many nightclubs and bars. But it is also where the ‘Ground Zero‘ site is - this is what they call their Monument of Human Tragedy which marks the spot where over 200 lost their lives in the bombings of 2002. It is very touristy, not unlike busy resorts in Spain or Greece. And the roads are crammed full of traffic. According to the Rough Guide, Bali has a population of around 3 million and I’d say there must be a scooter for each of them on the roads at any one time. The main road through Kuta is very congested with cars, taksi (taxi), horse and carriages and scooters, literally bumper to bumper but the drivers are polite and if you step into the road to get to the other side they will stop for you without getting aggressive or beeping their horns.

Some of the shop assistants are very annoying and call everyone 'darlinnnng' - I’ve been told though that the people who are rude are usually Javanese and not Balinese. Anyway on first impressions I am definitely not falling in love with Bali…..unlike Elizabeth Gilbert in her book - now also a film starring Julia Roberts - Eat, Prey, Love. And Bali is supposed to be the best place in the world for me to find true love according to the astrocartography chart I had in Peru, but definitely not feeling it. It’s strange how you get an instant feel/connection with a place. I instantly felt a connection and awe about Egypt but not Bali. A few of my friends have been here and raved about the place, I must be missing something…I hope I find it.

Friday 18th March and Saturday 19th March

It’s been decided that we are going to Bali Safari & Marine Park. I was happy to go for the day but everyone else wants to stay the night. There are 14 of us Aaron, and Jen and their family Tarnia, Kayla and Shae and Vanessa and her three kids CJ, Levi and Tia. We are staying in wooden shacks built on stilts amongst the actually safari park and by the side of paddy fields. I really like the rooms, we have 3 large bedrooms and 3 bathrooms with a massive walk in shower. We hoped to do the elephant ride today but by the time we got to the park late afternoon it was fully booked so we’ll have to wait until tomorrow. Instead we took a jeep ride around the park to see the animals. It was like being transported into Africa, which wasn’t quite what I’d expected, but we saw Zebras, Hippos, orangatans, lions and tigers. We also saw some white Sumatra tigers which are actually native to the area. The restaurant where we had dinner is very unusual as it overlooks the area of the park where a family of lions live so we were sitting with only the thickness of glass separating us - you can actually hear their roars as you eat.

On Saturday we got up early for breakfast with the lions and then it was the elephant ride. I’ve been really looking forward to this. I have always wanted to go on an elephant, but never managed it even in India. The elephants look healthy and well cared for. Cassidie and I go on one together. We have a small female elephant who has a bony back, I think we must have been sitting right on her spine poor thing so it was the most comfortable ride I‘ve had. We rode around a small section of the safari park. It’s not quite what I imagined - I suppose I always saw myself swaying through the jungle in a more natural environment but instead we end up at the back of the bungalows where were staying and the elephants wandered around eating and drinking the vegetation watched on by a couple of rhinoceros, just not the realistic experience I’d hoped, but then this is a safari park I suppose more suited to children. But I mustn’t complain Chris very kindly treated me to the accommodation. All I have paid for is dinner and the elephant ride which was about 30 for 30 minutes.We then visited the Rock Bar which was a good hours drive from Kuta. It is a popular place on the cliff edge overlooking the sea and amongst the grounds of a very plush hotel. We aimed to get there to see the sunset and looks like everyone else had the same idea. There was a large queue or one out one in. So we just watched the sunsetting took some nice pix and left.

Sunday 20th March

Latest major world story is the launch of Operation Odyssey Dawn. US, British and French forces have launched air strikes on Tripoli in Libya shortly after announcing the no fly zone. I can’t believe how much chaos there has been in northern Africa since December. When will it all end? They are also holding a referendum in Egypt - over 18 million people have voted to amend the constitution and I think elections will be held in three months. However, they are saying on the news that the rushed through elections will mean that established parties attached to the old regime will have a better chance of getting votes than newly formed parties and candidates. Well only time will tell, maybe the whole revolution will not have been as revolutionary as people had hoped for. All I hope is that it doesn’t impact on my relationship with Alaa, and any new government still allows tourists into the country.

Prices in Bali are pretty cheap. The local beer here is called Bintang and its like a pilsner but is brewed in Bali. Most of the men out here (Australian tourists) all wear these singlet t-shirts with the beer label on it - it appears to be the must have fashion items - but not for me! Beer in the hotel is just over 2 a bottle so not mega expensive but still not the 1 I was paying in Egypt. Happy hours at the hotel at midday and 5pm. I’m just not getting the whole nightclubbing thing though. Some of Chris' friend have been out partying to the wee hours. ButI suppose I’ve been, there done it got the t-shirt - although not in Bali! Bali has lady boys and gay clubs but I’ve seen it all before on my travels and in the UK. The one night we did walk down the main strip the young kids were getting offered Viagra and drugs as they walked down the streets. All a bit sleazy and very much how I expect Bangkok to be, but not what I expected of Bail.

Today I decided to hang out by the adults’ only pool. I’d prefer to go to the beach than the pool but the nearest beach to the hotel is awful. I’d imagined white sand and clear blue sea, but instead it was a dirty and decidedly unwelcoming. I was really disappointed. I had always thought that Bali was this kind of paradise island…but I think I was sadly misinformed or just not been to the right places? Anyway it was lovely and chilaxing on the stone submerged sun lounger in the water facing the midday sun and reading. Chris and the kids were supposed to be going to Water Bom Park but turns out there was some special event being held there so it is fully booked. I spent a couple of hours by myself but by mid afternoon and then Chris and the kids who are sitting by the pool. We then shopping to Matahari Mall which is in central Kuta and a popular mall with fixed prices so no hassle. It has 4 floors full of ornament, clothes, makeup and shoes etc. We spent a good couple of hours before heading back to the hotel for a Sunday Roast. It’s not the best I’ve had but there was a good selection of food and Yorkshire puddings!

Monday 21st March

I’ve been looking forward to today as we will be heading out of Kuta to hopefully see the real Bali, or so I thought. We left around 9.30am and were taken a short distance to a little village where we were going to be seeing some traditional dancing but apparently even though we got there about ten to ten in the morning we’d missed it? We then headed off to see some craft shops showing how silver jewellery is made and wood carved. All a rouse to get you to buy something I suppose, not me I though….but I ended up buying a pair of silver and a blue stone stud earrings. We then headed to the town of Ubad which I’d heard of before, I think it is mentioned in Eat, Pray, Love. This is much more of what I expected Bali to be. It’s a kind of hippy traveller type of place full of arts and crafts shops, small cafes and just had a nice vibe about it, but unfortunately we didn’t stop. We then drove around and saw lots of the more typical countryside made up of small villages and endless green paddy fields and temples. We then visited the Sacred Monkey Forest Sanctuary, which was full as you might expect from the name dozens and dozens of monkeys, who were actually quite vicious with deadly sharp fang like teeth, not your cute and cuddly types. Five minutes into the forest and you reach Pura Dalem Agung Padang Tegal, the temple of the dead, with half a dozen stone carved buildings.

Tuesday 22nd March

Early start as alarm went off at 6am and we had to be out and ready for 7.30am for our journey into the heart of Bali again for out bike ride down the side of a volcano. We paid 300,000 rupee roughly 20 for the day trip. The minibus ride took over 1.5 hours to get us to our final destination. I sat up in the front with the driver so I could get to see the people, the villages and the scooters - the real Bali - as we drove along. Our first stop off is to try some Luwak coffee, apparently this is the most expensive coffee in the world because…the red coffee cherry bean is eaten by these cat like animals called ‘Paradoxurus’ or Luwak, and as it is digested it undergoes a chemical treatment and fermentation. The bean then finishes its journey through the animals digestive system and exits! The beans are roasted and ground using the Balinese traditional processing and hey presto you have a cup of Luwak coffee. I had one, it actually had a much smoother taste than I expected and was not that strong. Not sure why people would rave about it though.

We had a late breakfast at the Lakeview restaurant which has stunning panoramic views of Danau Batur which is the largest lake in Bali at 3km wide. The Lake is especially sacred to the Balinese people. This is the Batur area and has some of the most dramatic volcanic scenery in Bali…although today the weather is overcast so not the best views. The volcano is Gunnung Bang and is one of the highest mountains in Bali at over 2,000 metres.

Finally at around midday we begin our bike ride down the side of the volcano. We spend most of it free wheeling through the paddy fields and local villages. This is the first time I had been on a bike in 16 years, the last time it was in Nepal…this time Bali, only exotic locations for me eh…but was a tad worried I wouldn’t be very good. I was a bit wobbly at first but the 45km was mainly downhill and we went really fast, so it only took 2 hours. It was great fun and thankfully the weather was much cooler up in the hills so once you got the wind between your wheels the breeze on your back was heaven, it soon got hot and sticky again as we neared the final descent.

At one point we stopped off at the house of a local family in one of the village. Here families live in small enclosed communities, they all have a temple which is in the centre of the courtyard and the outbuildings such as bedrooms and kitchen are built around it. Many of them have cocks wandering around, apparently cockfighting is popular around here. I really could easily have biked on for longer but there again it was a long day from 8am until 4.30pm door to door. It has made me think about taking up biking when I am back in the UK. By the end of the day I really do look very hot and sweaty. Here in Bali my hair frizzes badly - not the best look but better get used to it as Northern Territory and Queensland are likely to be hot and sticky too and so will Thailand. Not sure I could live full-time in those conditions. I am missing Alaa a lot and think about him all the time. I really wish he was here with me now. It’s going to be a long few months of waiting until I see him again.

Wednesday 23rd March

It’s our last day in Bali today. Cassidie wants to her hair plaited/braided but not sure how long it will take as she has long hair. Chris went out to a few places to try and get her booked in but in the end she had it done at the hotel and it only took 45 minutes. She had her nails and toes painted too, they paint them with little flowers so I had mine done a well! Chris and Tyler are going to Water Bom, but Cass decided not to go. So we go shopping again. This time we ended up in Jenny’s a shop that is right opposite the hotel and has fixed prices but is really cheap. Sunglasses for 30,000 rupees about 2 and I got 2 dresses, some trousers and a top for just a tad over 10 - bargain and no hassle. The boys get Bintang t-shirts and then head to Water Bom park. Cassidie and I spent the rest of the afternoon together. We decided to go shopping again…headed for Matahari - it was so hot so we treated ourselves to a ride in a horse and carriage for 50,000 rupee - about 4, he just took us to the end of the main road but it was fun. We wiled away a few hours had some lunch and then headed back to the hotel. We had to check out by midday, but our flight wasn’t until 11pm.

Luckily the hotel has a hospitality suite that guests can use which is lovely and air-conditioned with free water and coffee making facilities and a TV. So we hung around there for a while, then headed to the pool to watch the world go by and have a few drinks. I then saw a lady perhaps my age with similar length hair which was plaited. Hum I thought shall I get mine done too? Yeah why not. The ladies at the pool has just gone home, so we went to the beach but it was too expensive and would take too long. We then headed out and on the opposite side of the hotel found a spa and hairdressers. They said they would do it for 150,000 rupee and it would take an hour. Well it took nearly 2 hours and was getting late, so I was getting worried that Chris would be worrying where we were but I managed to ring the hotel from the spa (chris didn't bring his mobile phone) and left a message. But we didn’t get out till 7.30pm and we were leaving the hotel at 8.30pm. And I hated them. It took so long even though I had 2 people plaiting my hair because I have lots of it, but also I’d forgotten then my hair is layered underneath to take out the volume so I had lots of tiny little plaits sticking out left right and centre- I think it looked ridiculous - well perhaps not that bad but not a look I’d like to keep. By the time I’d left I’d already decided that they would be out by the next day!!!

We got to Perth around 2am. We had to declare any wood items that we were bringing into the country. Chris and the kids had bought lots of stuff, wood drums, musical instruments, pictures etc all in wood. I had a couple of fridge magnets so I had to declare them too. We had to get all of our wooden items out, mine were ok but quite a few of Chris’ were not. The lady who was inspecting them showed us the bugs and insect eggs that were on some of the objects - yuck. But thankfully instead of throwing them away they could be treated for around $100 so Chris will get all the items fumigated but it will take 2 to 8 weeks. As we walked through customs so a big TV screen announced that Hollywood film legend Elizabeth Taylor has died at the age of 79. End of an era. We finally get home at 4am.

So how would I sum up Bali. Well I really enjoyed getting out into the countryside and sampling the local culture. But Kuta could have been any other beach resort anywhere in the world and unfortunately I didn‘t get to see any amazing beaches. I am now trying not to have any expectations of anywhere else I go as I hate being disappointed. Would I go again? Yes but I would do it very differently and probably spend more time in Ubud the cultural centre rather than the more popular beach resort areas. But it was still nice to say I've been to Bali and Chris very kindly paid for the holiday as a 40th birthday present so no regrets only life experiences....

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judy on

it is amazing vert charming

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