Back To Bali

Trip Start Oct 20, 2009
Trip End Apr 01, 2011

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Where I stayed
In a temple

Flag of Indonesia  , Bali,
Sunday, November 28, 2010

Tearing ourselves away from the perfection of the Gili Islands, we returned via an 11 hour journey over land and sea, to Kuta. After three weeks of saltwater showers and never really feeling properly clean, a freshwater shower was one of the nicest experiences I've had in a while. Spending only one day here, we organised a shuttle bus up to Ubud to see what was going on up there and to escape the hektik harassment of the Kutan Streets.

Before I could escape, however, I needed to sort out extending my visa, which runs out tomorrow. I wasn’t entirely sure where to get this done and for some reason, the words "visa", "Extend", "Immigration" and "Bureau" don’t seem to be part of the locals vocabulary, so I spent an entertaining couple of hours being ferried around the city on the back of peoples motorbikes, sometimes being passed from one bike to another in the middle of the street. One guy took me to an information office who said they would sort everything out, including any need to re-visit the bureau, for three times the price of the visa itself. Having more time than money and willing to out in a bit of legwork myself, I passed up on the offer and set about on my quest to find this elusive Immigration Office.

Finally finding this hidden fortress, I was given the forms and filled them out just in time to watch the entire office break for lunch. They force you to buy an onward flight even if you're staying in the country and will extend your visa again (they'll do anything to get us to spend money out here), so I took this opportunity to get a taxi back into town, jump on the internet and buy a flight that I didn’t really want or need. The cheapest date was the 20th Dec, so this set my departure from Indonesia in 20 days. Heading back to the Bureau I was delighted to be informed that I had missed my number so I had to wait even longer. This gave me just enough time to begin to worry about just how much money I have left, how much longer I can realistically travel for and how much more of Maries last few days this process could waste. It got sorted out in the end and I was told to return in three days, which worked out fine, as that’s the day Marie had to be back in Kuta for her flight the next morning anyway.

Ubud is a bit more chilled out, a bit cooler being higher up above sea level, with a bit more character than Kuta, being peppered with Temples almost every third building. Half of the hostels seem to be converted temples, including our one. One of the main features there is the Monkey Forest, so we headed straight down there, unsure of what to expect. I thought maybe there would be a few monkeys you could spot up in the trees, and maybe the odd cheeky one who would be trying to mug tourists of anything dangly or food related, but no. There were probably about a hundred monkeys chilling out on the main path in the centre of the forest, just hanging out, calm as anything, mingling with the tourists. It was amazing that they were so calm and let you get so close, especially as some of the bigger monkeys had babies, who looked like they had just made it out of the fetus stage, clinging onto them, looking bewildered with wide eyes. The bigger monkeys were a bit full on and definitely gave a "not to be messed with" kinda vibe, but the baby monkeys were extremely friendly and playful. Some of them would just sit there and hold your hand, calm as anything. Very sweet.

My persistence on getting up close with the monkeys backfired a little when one of them climbed on my hand and bit my forearm, but it didn’t break the skin, so I was happy to walk away, not having been penetrated by a monkey today. This made me a little more cautious, but you could see fairly quickly which of them would be likely to be aggressive. Me and Marie were stood chatting by a temple near a statue of a naked woman with the head of a rabid dog, when a monkey ran up from behind me and jumped up onto my shoulders, wrapping its tail around my neck and its hands around my head, then just sat there, perfectly happy, like a pirates little companion. I thought this was amazing and was happy to have the little guy chilling on me, as long as he didn’t pee on me. I walked around with him on my shoulders for about 10 minutes, before the fear of the pee took over and I decided I wanted him off, so I foolishly took him over to some "friends". Monkeys are actually quite territorial and a fight broke out with my back as the battle ground, so I left the scene fairly quickly, happy with the monkey related antics for the day.

We then had the delights of seeing a funeral temple which was guarded by two statues of reptilian gods consuming children, one clutching a severed head, and adorned with lovely carvings of women being boiled up in giant cauldrons, raped by wild dogs and by the lizard gods with big sticks. Lovely. Just the kind of place you would want to come to burn your deceased loved ones and send them into the afterlife

When we headed down to the final temple, things got a bit interesting. My bottle of water had been consistently attracting monkey attention, but one dude felt a bit more confident than the others and decided that this vessel of water would become his. Persistently clambering over me he wouldn’t let up, until it was his. At one point he was clinging onto the bottle, upside-down, unscrewing the lid with his teeth to my shouts of "They've learnt how to unscrew lids! They’re evolving!!". When I shook the bottle, he backflipped off, then leapt straight back on again, so I just gave him the bottle as he clearly wasn’t going to give up.

After all this work, he unscrewed the lid and poured it all over the floor. They can unscrew lids, but they haven’t learnt how to drink yet. It was about this time I realised I was quite thirsty. As we walked away, he now decided Marie’s bag and its contents would be his, and he leapt upon her, hanging from her hair by his feet, with his head and hands in her bag, seeing what treasures he could find. I had to scare him off otherwise he would have run off with her wallet, camera and anything else he could find. This is when a very primitive match of body language took place between me and this extremely brave monkey, who stood up to me toe to toe, despite being about a sixth of the size of me. I got him on the run in the end as everytime I left him he was jumping on Marie again, but I made the rookie mistake of turning my back on him. He took the opportunity, pounced on me and sunk his teeth into my back. I grabbed him and threw him into a bush, shouted at him and he disappeared pretty quickly. So did we. Somehow he managed to break my skin, but not harm my top in any way, so not entirely sure how he did that. It was all quite entertaining and as thoughts of the films Outbreak and 28 Days later strolled through my mind, we strolled through the rest of the forest, past statues of women with massive jubblies with nips the size of my fist and frogs with giant phalluses. I would love to know what inspires the sculptures of this culture and what stories lay behind these bizarre and sometimes nightmarish creations.

Marie was still in a fair amount of pain from the grueling endurance test that they call Rinjani, so walking wasn’t really an option. As a result, we hired some bicycles and went for an 8km ride through the surrounding area, seeing a few rice paddies along the way, and finishing the day with an all you can eat Indonesian buffet, overlooking rice paddies at sunset, for 2 each. Nice. Later that evening we managed to meet up with Ally and Olivia from the volcano, who were also in the area. It was nice to see them again and glad to see that they too were still recovering from the trek.

So back to Kuta we went, arriving early with the plan of me scooting up to the immigration bureau, sorting out my visa, and then heading down to Jimbaran, a chilled out beach in the south, for lunchtime. Easy as that. It was a lovely plan on paper. The reality of the situation saw me getting lost in the insane streets of Kuta for over an hour, getting waylaid by stupid one way systems that all head in the exact wrong direction. Eventually pulling up to the Office, as I got off my bike, it dawned on me that I hadn’t brought the receipt they gave me the first time. Do I really need this, I’m thinking. Well apparently yes! It turns out to be essential. So back on the bike I get and head back to where I started an hour and a half earlier. As it happens, the airport is so close that it took me about 10 minutes to get back, down one road, so I remembered the way, intent on not getting lost again.

The guys at the hotel gave me the wrong key, so I had to climb in and out through the window as I was too frustrated to go all the way downstairs and explain it to them. Grabbing this all important piece of paper I climbed back out the window, handed the key back, explained that it was the wrong one, they didn’t understand, mounted my bike, set off and then realised I’d left my wallet in the room! Not one of my greatest days I have to admit. Frustrated, tired and way too hot, I ran up to the room again, climbed in and got what I came for. I had to laugh then, as the cleaning lady on the balcony sees a man clambering out of a window, with a bike helmet on, clutching a wallet. We exchanged and entertained look and I just thought: No words can fill this space, so I left and continued on with this un-necessarily difficult mission.

As it turns out, there is no way to get onto the road I came home on, as the end 10 metres is one-way. So I had to ride in the other direction for about half an hour, past about four roads, going the right way, but all one-way, the wrong way. This airports like an impenetrable fortress. I eventually found my way there and of course, I was smack bang in the middle of their lunch time. Of course! It couldn’t be any other way today. Another 40 minutes of the day needs to be wasted for no reason. So I headed off to find some food, which wasn’t easy and came back when they were open again. This gave me an opportunity to relax, calm down and approach the rest of this frustratingly difficult day from a less emotionally involved perspective.

So this guy gives me a form, I go to this next window where everyone else is getting stamps and paying, but I get told to go back to the first window to get it signed. It’s the same guy who gave me the form, so basically this guy gave me a piece of paper, just so that I could hand it back to him a metre to the right, then he signs it and gives it back to me. What a marvelous system. I jump through the hoops and go back to the paying window, who take as long as humanly possible to print out another form, then I take this back to the first guy. He looks at it and then tells me I have to come back on the 10th of December to get my passport and that’s it. Why I was required to physically be there is beyond me! They could have easily done that all themselves, and just told me the 10th on the first day I was there. I actually didn’t need to be there at all.

Now there are several things wrong with this. Being back on the 10th means I have to spend another week in Bali, but I need to start island hopping through the rest of Indonesia in order to get it done in time. The Visa is only thirty days long, so a third of it will be wasted waiting for it to actually be processed. Then, because they forced me to buy an onwards flight, this is on the 20th, so this means half of my time left in Indonesia is wasted in Bali, leaving me 10 days to travel through Sulawesi, Borneo and Java, which is actually physically impossible. This leaves me with a bit of a dilemma and a lot of thinking to do. It has also wasted Maries last day so we don’t now have enough time to see Jimbaran. What a palava. Oh, and I also had a head on collision on my moped on the way to meet Marie. We were both only going slowly but this guy pulled out in front of me without looking. No damage or anything just a slight bump, but it made me laugh and wonder what else this day could throw at me.

We decided to spend the last day chilling out on the beach and putting this madness behind us, so naturally, just as we get comfortable a torrential rain storm rolls in. Some days it really does feel like there is some higher force manipulating events to make things as difficult as physically possible. At times like this all I can really do is take a step back and smile, there really is nothing I can do, but take each blow as it comes, do my best to see the humor in it all, roll with the punches and just make it through to the end of the day when things will become normal again.

That night me and Marie checked out the Indo clubbing scene, going to the Sky Garden club for a few drinks. After some confusing directions at the entrance we got in for free and went for a wander through the 5 levels of this huge and pretty nice looking club. Somehow we managed to sneak into the open air VIP lounge up on the roof to find them pouring out the most vodka redbulls I have ever seen in my life. Speaking to one barman he said they were free for VIP ticket holders and then signaled to a bouncer that we weren’t wearing the VIP ticket. Thankfully the bouncer didn’t come over, so I spoke to another barman and he gave me a VIP ticket for free, so we prepared ourselves for the free drinks at midnight. Much drinking ensued and we ended up dancing up on stage with two Indonesian dancers dressed like robot temptresses. It turned out to be a pretty awesome night.

The following morning however, was not quite so awesome. Thankfully we had left the door unlocked and the owner of the hotel had come in to wake Marie up for her flight as he was supposed to be taking her down there. We spent probably about 20 minutes trying to wake her up as she seemed to be in some kind of unshakable coma. Thankfully she woke up, the random abuse stopped and the realisation of what was happening finally set in and she hurriedly left for her flight. I immediately slipped into an unshakable coma of my own. Waking up eventually at 5pm and then feeling very sick and very sorry for myself for the next three days, feeling like that illness I had in the Gili's had returned. Vodka is not my friend. Not at all.

Spending three days being basically unable to leave the room for feeling so rough, I finally gave in and regrettably started taking the last of the anti biotics I had left over. This cleared things up pretty well and feeling much better then next day I decided to go surfing. Being definitely the most productive surfing session I have had, I was really starting to get the hang of things and how to drop in off the bigger waves.

My favourite moment occurred as I was catching one wave, I tipped nose down off the top and saw that my board tip was about to plunge into the sea and throw me forwards. I was standing up, so I kneeled down to reduce the fall and slid forward off the front of the board as it plunged into the water. Hitting the sea still in the crouched position, I felt the wave lifting my feet up behind me and tipping me over headfirst. Calmly I reached out with one hand above my head and performed what can only be described as a perfectly executed, one-handed Ninja Flip, spinning a full 360 degrees underwater; I landed perfectly on my feet and stood up smiling. There is no way in my life I would ever be able to reproduce that. Surfing is amazing.

As I was trying to catch one of the rare bigger waves, as the surf was pretty weak today, I realised that I had paddled into the potential breaking point of the wave which is never a good place to be. As it loomed behind me, I decided to pull out and turned sideways to escape the wave. Thinking I was clear, I foolishly let my guard down, not realising that I had perfectly aligned myself sideways along the peak of the wave, just as it was about to break. Very smoothly, it lifted me up and then just as I realized what was happening, body slammed me sideways into my board, into the sand, then barrel rolled me for a few metres. Whilst being quite fun, when I stood up again, I had the feeling from the shockwave that was reverberating through my organs, that an impact of that force could quite easily have done some proper damage. This suspicion was confirmed when I began to paddle for the next wave and my shoulder seemed to be clicking and grinding, triggering a weird sensation in my rib cage. Leading me to believe I may have cracked a rib, I decided to retire as a surfer for a while and head back to dry land where the environment doesn’t try to kill me. Such a shame, as I would have happily surfed for another couple of hours into the sunset.

So now, after three days of being immobile, I am now basically immobile again, for a while this time. Feeling quite frustrated at wasting all this time in Kuta of all places. I only intended on spending a few days here, but now it’s like the city doesn’t want me to leave and is willing to cripple me to make me stay. Frustrated, I am now watching my well laid plans of Jimbaran, Uluwatu, Sulawesi, The Togean Islands, Borneo and Java slip through my fingers helplessly as I sit in my hotel room, way too hot under a completely ineffective fan, in one of the best surfing spots in the world, unable to surf and concerned whether I can support the weight of my backpack to move onwards. Hmmm.

I spent a few days resting to avoid doing any further damage and prepared myself for the return journey to the all fateful immigration office. I decided to rent a motorbike this time, rather than a scooter, to have a go at tackling gears and to have a bit more power to play with. The plan was to ride up to the immigration office, pick up my passport with the visa stamp, hopefully, and then ride down to Jimbaran in the south. This is a chilled out beach I had read about which I had set my sights on since before arriving in Indonesia. As it turned out, I managed to skillfully navigate the insane streets, having figured out the most direct of all the indirect routes to the airport. Still, after half an hour’s riding, I came around the final roundabout, about 100 metres from my destination and was pulled over by the police. I hadn’t done anything wrong, they just saw a white-skinned dollar sign riding a bike and jumped on the opportunity. I didn’t have my drivers license on me, so being extremely corrupt, they threatened to impound my bike unless I pay them a hefty bribe. He was demanding a ridiculous amount and I managed to drop it down considerably, but the final amount I had to give them, just so they could line their pockets with silver and walk away smiling at having mugged off a foreigner, coincidentally, turned out to be the exact amount of my Visa. Now, having no money as I just handed it to the corrupt cops, I now had to ride all the way home, get some more money and then start this infuriating mission once again, from scratch, an hour later. Thankfully my second attempt at this mission went a little more smoothly and despite turning up 5 minutes before lunch time and being certain I would be held up another hour, they actually sorted everything out very quickly and I was free to spend the next 10 days in Indonesia.

With the first 10 days of my visa wasted due to illness and circumstance and the last 10 days being wasted due to a forced plane ticket purchase, the remaining 10 days was nowhere near enough time to explore Sulawesi, Borneo and Java. So, as disappointed as I was, I had to cut my losses and roll with the punches, deciding to just spend the 10 days traversing Java, to reach the north for my flight to Thailand.

The vista which adorned my exodus from Bali was absolutely breathtaking as a complete understatement. As the bus bounced up the roads to the East, the countryside broke out into rolling hills on both sides, cut into steps by rows of Paddy fields, cutting the hills into giant bright green carpeted curved stairways. This is the point where man meets nature, creating beautiful natural art forms in a symbiotic partnership to provide the source of life. The sweeping parabolic curves gracefully sweep the landscape in almost fractal proportions, using the countryside as a canvas, dotted with elegant wooden shacks. Scenes like this are a perfect personification of how stunningly beautiful this world can be and show that, despite how our concrete streets and consumerist mentality have demonstrated, Man and nature can actually live side by side in perfect harmony. If there is ever any journey I wish I had my camera to hand, it would be this one.

So, alas, I board the ferry and await its departure from Bali. A land so far from western culture, yet also sadly so close. Unfortunately despite all my intentions not to get stuck in Kuta, that is exactly what happened and I definitely feel that I haven’t got the most from this magical little island and will definitely return if I get the choice. But for the moment, the ever moving, ever evolving eternal moment of now is leading to the mysterious land of Java. Home of some of the best coffee in the world and full of wonder and potential. Staring across the Indian Ocean to this new land, I eagerly await the adventures that it may bring.
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