Saturday, February 28, 2015

Feb 24 – On the Road to Bali

Today was a typical sea day, so there is no need to go into detail.  We got all dressed up for another formal night [think escargots and lobster tails] and shared our table with Kathy and Bob.  Arthur and Linda had been invited to join another table for the night and were literally right next to us.  The meal and the company were both excellent.

The big news today came from Kadek, our waiter, who has been able to secure transportation for us in Bali.  Instead of our original 4 p.m. arrival, we will be able to disembark around 9 a.m. and have a full day.  At least something good came from missing Geraldton the other day.

TOMORROW – More of the same

Feb 25 – Getting Closer

Our last sea day before Bali was like all of the other sea days except there was an air of expectancy about the ship.  Indonesian crew members will get to see their families for the first time in months, so they are more excited than the passengers.  The same excitement will stay with us as we visit Semarang and then Jakarta after we leave Bali.  Kadek and Ari, one of our cabin stewards, live in Bali and Kadek has yet to see his 2-week-old son.  He hopes to spend tomorrow night at home if he can arrange his schedule.

We ate in the Canaletto Italian restaurant tonight with the same crowd as last time.  This time, however, we did not order 2 of everything as we had previously because we knew we could not eat all of the food.  On the other hand, we were able to manage dessert this time.

Tomorrow is Day 1 in Bali and we are anxious to find out exactly what we are doing.  We think we know, but there are no guarantees.

TOMORROW – Bali, Indonesia

Feb 26 – Beach Bali

As previously reported, we relied on Kadek, our waiter, to find drivers for our two-day visit to Bali.  He came through like a champion.  His cousins Putu and Kadek were waiting for us when we exited the ship this morning.  They each had a 5 passenger minivan, so we had no trouble fitting everyone in although there was a bit of a discussion about who would or could climb into the back seat.  We suggested Chines fire drills so that everyone would switch seats and/or cars after each stop, but no one else seemed too interested.  “Our” Kadek told us that we should ride with Putu because he had the better English skills and we were joined by Bob and Kathy and Arthur.  Ken and Lois and Dave and Ginger rode with Linda in Kadek’s car for most of the day.

Since our original schedule called for a 4 p.m. disembarkation, we had a lot of time to fill.  Luckily, Putu gave us good advice and we started the day at the Bali Safari and Marine Park.  Even though he said we needed 3 – 4 hours to fully enjoy the park, we told Putu that we would meet them in 2 hours, time enough to see everything.  That was our biggest mistake.  We did, in fact, take almost 3 hours and could have stayed longer had it not been so hot and humid.  By the time we returned to the car, we were all drenched in perspiration, hot and tired.

The Bali Safari was a cross between a zoo, a circus and Lion Country Safari in Florida, a drive through wildlife park which has an amusement park attached to it [Carter and Caiden’s favorite part of LCS is the miniature golf].  From the main entrance, we took a tram to the park itself and began wandering through the lobby of the main building.  We were just in time for a short Barong dance with male dancers and the inevitable two-person “dragon.”  They were accompanied by a small group of musicians playing traditional instruments including the gamelon, a local version of a xylophone. 

After the brief performance, we started into the park itself, stopping along the way to look at water gardens and statuary.  Several in the group took the opportunity to have their pictures taken with an orangutan before joining the rest in the theater area for the Animal Education Program.  This presentation brought trained rodents [guinea pigs and rats]; snakes; birds of prey; and orangutans.  Despite the heat, we enjoyed the show; having a circulating fan in front of us was a big help.  There were other shows scheduled throughout our stay, one following another.  Shortly after the Animal Education Program concluded, the Elephant show began, but we skipped it.

Along the way from the theater area, we saw the elephant washing during which Linda got sprayed by the elephant’s trunk [captured on video by Arthur]; the white tiger exhibit; elephant feeding [another photo opportunity]; Komodo dragons and lots of caged birds.  Once we were able to get everyone in the same place [not an easy task], we walked back from whence we came to take a ride on the Safari Train.  The train took us through three regions – Asia, Africa and Indonesia – and let us see indigenous wildlife like lions [males and females in separate enclosures], hippos, zebras, rhinos, assorted deer and hoofed stock and others.  We compared it favorably to Lion Country because we were much closer to the animals.  Unlike LCS, we were not allowed to go around a second time, something we can do in Florida.

We did not know how quickly the time had gone by.  We had arrived around 10:15 and all of a sudden it was 12:30!  There was no way we could see everything in 2 hours.  We grudgingly started back to the main building, hot and sticky from our time outdoors.  When we saw the Gloria Jean’s coffee stand in the lobby, we all agreed that this would be a good place for a quick, inexpensive lunch.  We each had Chillers almost as good as ones we had had in Sydney.  Others ordered a variety of drinks and several got solid food as well.  Gourmet it was not, but it filled a need, especially for liquids to combat dehydration.  Once we finished, we caught the tram back to the entrance where we found Putu and Kadek waiting for us.  We all agreed that the $45 admission fee was rather steep but that the experience was worth the price.

The first stop on our planned tour – the one that never happened – was to be the Hindu Temple at Uluwatu, a magnificent view with a mediocre temple.  We had been here before with Jon and his family when we visited in 2007.  Uluwatu Temple affords an unparalleled view of the Indian Ocean.  Despite having spent the past six weeks on or near water, this was still breathtaking.  The visit was not without its perils.  Based on our previus experience, we were prepared encounters with aggressive monkeys.  Putu and Kadek broke small branched to make switches to keep the monkeys at bay, but the monkeys never showed themselves until we saw them playing in the bushes as we left.  As a precaution, we had all left our jewelry and watches in the car to discourage their interest, but it proved unnecessary.

We were required to “rent” sashes or sarongs before entering the temple grounds.  Those of us with long pants needed only brightly colored sashes but visitors in shorts or short skirts were provided with ankle length sarongs.  Either way, we had to pay 10000 rupiah apiece as a “donation.”  [Note – the dollar is now valued at 12600 rupiah, so our contribution was less than 2 dollars.]  Once inside the grounds, we were led by our drivers down a long and occasionally steep hill to the edge of the cliff.  We turned right and continued downhill, albeit not as steeply, to the end of the paved path.  There, we were able to look across a small inlet at the temple at the highest point of the opposite cliff.  The weather was perfect for looking if not for walking, so we took pictures and enjoyed the breeze.  Some clouds would have cooled us off even more but would have diminished the vista.  D took pictures of the Flat Grandchildren but the temple is barely visible in the background.

Pictures taken, it was time to assault the hill.  We walked past our entry point and then continued increasingly steep steps to the top of the cliff.  The temperature was in the upper 80s and the humidity was about 90 per cent making the unofficial Wind Chill Index approximately Hell.  The climb was withering that D had to lie back on the top terrace while waiting for the laggards who kept stopping to take pictures.  He recovered quickly and was fine after about 5 minutes.

Once everyone was together at the top, we looked briefly at the Temple itself.  The complex is small and made of stone as compared to most that we have passed which we dark red brick.  The sanctuary was barred and locked so that we could only look through the gate.  It was just as we remembered.  It did not take long to complete our inspection and then begin the descent to the bottom of this hill.  Of course, we had to walk back up the next hill to return to the parking lot, but the ascent was easier here than it had been earlier and we were able to see the monkeys playing or fighting under the trees.  When we finally reached the car park, we stopped and got cold drinks before climbing back in our minivans.  Coca Cola, either regular or diet, remains the drink of the gods.

Somewhere during the day, we stopped at a tourist tchotchke shop because Linda Starr wanted to buy things. She did not find what she wanted but found other stuff instead.  We, who had not wanted to stop, ended up buying a box for our coffee table collection; a t-shirt for MA; and a shawl/scarf she will use as a head covering when we visit mosques in other ports. [It should be noted that most of Bali’s residents are Hindu even though Indonesia has the largest Muslim population of any country.]

The highlight of the excursion today awaited us at Jimbaran Beach.  We visited here in 2007, too, and made a return our first priority for Bali.  Jimbaran is on the southwest corner of the island, about 30 minutes from Uluwatu.  There are a dozen or more almost-identical restaurants in a row on the beach.  While each has indoor seating, we came to eat dinner on the beach and watch the sun set.  Putu told us that regulations require the restaurants to offer the same seafood choices and the same prices.  We told him to select whichever one he wanted because we didn’t care.

We looked at the dinner options on the way in and explained to the others that they would be able to select the fish/shellfish they wanted and it would be cooked to order.  We saw squid, clams, oysters, shrimp, snapper, crab and lobster on ice as well as live fish in a tank.  Then we were taken to our table where we sat in the sun and ordered drinks [for the record MA had a LARGE Bintang beer and D had watermelon juice, one of his favorite Indonesian memories].  As we approached 6:30 and the sun started to get noticeably lower, we all went to order.  The menu we looked at at the table listed the choices and their price per kilogram [about 2.2 pounds].  D order 1 kg of large prawns and 1 kg of squid, both to be grilled.  Others in the group ordered whole fish, crabs and lobster in addition to prawns and squid.

The sun was going down as we waited for our food to arrive and almost everyone except us had their pictures taken with the sunset in the background.  D planted the Flat You-Know-Who in the sand and attempted to take their pictures, too, but they cast their own shadows with the sun behind them and using the flash would have been counterproductive because of reflection off of the laminating film.  Still, it is obvious they are on a beach and that was the whole idea.

We ate like we hadn’t eaten all day which was true, really.  We shared dishes with abandon and there was no food left on the plates when we finished.  Our squid had been over-cooked and was rubbery but the fried ones someone else ordered were perfect.   Nonetheless, everyone was full and in the happy place by the time melon was brought to the table for dessert.  Putu and Kadek ate with us and we agreed to split the cost among the 5 families.  D charged our entrees and theirs as well as the group bar bill and will let everyone know what they owe after tomorrow’s adventure when we will undoubtedly buy lunch for the drivers.

We had had a long day by the time we arrived home at 8:30 and were ready to unwind and go to bed.  However, we had one more adventure awaiting us – there was no power in the terminal building and we had to make our way up the steps by flashlight and then through the building using the light filtering in from the Amsterdam.  The lack of power did not discourage some people, though, because there quite a few sitting in the dark trying to connect to the free wi-fi.

TOMORROW – Our second day in Bali.

Feb 27 – Busy in Bali

In an effort to avoid bad traffic and insufferable heat, we left early this morning.  We were outside with Putu and Kadek just past 8 a.m.  At least this time we knew what they looked like, so there was no confusion.


Our original, not-so-lamented tour was to take us to the north from the port to see terraced rice paddies, a picture-postcard temple in the middle of a lake and whatever else happened to come our way.  Putu said that to do that would require a two-hour drive each way which he did not think was a good use of our time.  He proposed visiting rice paddies closer to home, as it were, as well as a different temple and some other things.  We agreed without hesitation.

We still had a drive of 75 minutes before we stopped at the paddies.  Once we were away from the city area, we were one two-lane roads all the way.  For the most part, they were lined with small shops open to the street with goods for sale displayed on what would have been the sidewalk if there had been one.  There were no doors visible and almost no illumination in the interiors of these shops.  We assumed they had pull-down garage doors to secure them at night.  Interspersed with these shops were more traditional [i.e., Western] buildings as well as vacant lots filled with trash and rubble.  Once again, we saw racks of liter bottles filled with gasoline for sale; a motorcycle will go a long way on a liter of fuel. This was Bali as we remembered it – still a third-world country at heart. 

Of course, the road congestion was only made worse by the throngs of motorcycles which filled every gap in the traffic.  The cyclists paid no attention to the niceties of the road like painted lines, traffic lights or oncoming vehicles.  Complicating the traffic even more, there were U-turn lanes which were too short to keep a car out of the regular travel lane and too small a turning radius to allow for easy maneuvering by drivers.  And it will only be worse when we get to Jakarta.

The rice paddies we saw were across a chasm from the road.  There were several warungs on the side of the road selling food and drinks.  The one closest to us actually had several durian fruits available as well as mangosteen and bananas.  The durian had not started to smell yet, but no one was interested in trying it. [Durian smells so bad that it is not allowed on public transportation in Singapore.]

We could look across the valley before us and see the paddies carved into the natural contours or the opposite hill.  There no straight lines anywhere, but the rows of rice were perfectly parallel in the individual paddy.  Most of the rice plants we saw had been harvested recently, but we saw what appeared to be an old man planting new seedlings at one end of the little valley.  Because of the irregularity of the paddies, all of the work from planting to harvesting must be done by hand making this a very labor-intensive crop.

On the way to our next stop, we had to take a little detour so Linda Starr could do some shopping.  She had wanted to make a visit to a name-brand jewelry designer’s store, but we scotched that idea early.  This time, she was looking for something in bamboo, so we sent the other car on to the next stop while we and the Starrs stopped in Ubud.  She did not find what she came for but managed to spend time and money anyway.  We bought a little painted butterfly, but we did not agonize over it and were done long before she was.

The temple we visited today may not have been as picturesque as the one in the middle of the lake, but it was stunning in its own way.  The Batuan Temple, named for the town where it is located, was constructed primarily from brick rather than stone.  The dark red brick, typical of buildings in Bali, was much more attractive than the dull grey stone of Uluwatu.  Once again, we had to wear wraps.  At Uluwatu, wraps were required for anyone in shorts; at Batuan, everyone had to have a full-length “skirt” regardless.  There was also the semi-obligatory 10000 rupiah per person donation.

The pavilion where we donned our skirts was across the street from the Temple, so naturally we had to climb up and down and up sort of like yesterday but only about 5 steps each time. [On the way back, it was down and up and down].  Some of the wraps were a bit long, and several people stepped on them on the stairs. The temple complex contained several small open-air buildings, typical of Hindu temples.  The back wall of each of them was covered in artwork.  Of course, there were statues and shrines scattered around the area; the shrines are used for offerings to the Hindu gods Brahma, Vishnu and Siva. 

We knew from previous trips and conversations with HAL personnel that everyone has a shrine in his or her home.  Putu, who rents a room in Ubud, told us his is only 30cm by 30cm on a shelf on the wall, but he also had a container of flower petals and other things on the dashboard of the car.  These offerings can be seen all over Bali, usually by the front door of houses and businesses.  The HAL people we have asked say they also have offerings they display every day.

The Batuan Temple had a distinctive pattern in the courtyard, alternating stripes of grass and brick pavers.  There were perhaps 30 or more stripes altogether.  Putu explained that the worshippers used the paved areas and place their incense sticks in the grassy ones.  The priests walk down the grass strips [carefully avoiding the incense, no doubt] during worship.  This arrangement helps maintain order and avoids having crowding near the altars.

Having seen and photographed everything we could, we returned to the pavilion to return our skirts, enjoy the shade and prepare for the next destination, whatever it was going to be.  Those who in need used the facilities while the others wandered over to the little stand selling fruit and drinks next to the parking lot.  This display included durian, mangosteen, rambutan, snake fruit and dragon fruit as well as bananas, pineapple and limes.

Because Linda had asked about Bali housing, we went next to a compound of stone buildings which represented typical historical Bali living conditions.  Putu contended that the people we saw there actually live in this compound which was rustic, to say the least.  There was a communal kitchen in the walled compound as well as a working wood carver who was accompanied by his children.  We saw two women pressing sticky rice through an extruder as if they were making sausage but they were really making slices of the sticky rice to make into something like bread.  There was a rambutan tree, loose chickens and fighting roosters in wicker cages.  On the way out, we were again “urged” to pay the patriarch 20000 rupiah.  All in all, we were reminded of Sturbridge Village or Plymouth Plantation, historical sites in New England.

It was still too early for lunch, so Putu and Kadek took us to see a lovely waterfall surrounded by lush greenery.  The falls was so attractive that the lunch counter and tchotchke shop next to it wasn’t too disrupting.  Once again Bali ingenuity was at work – we had to pay 10000 rupiah each to walk through mud to see the falls.  Nature may have made it, but the locals knew how to capitalize on it.

Lunch time arrived and we told Putu to take us some place that served Indonesian food and that would not be overrun by Westerners or tour buses.  We drove back toward civilization and then down any alley to Rapuan Cili whose sign advertised it as a restaurant and swimming pool.  We ate on a patio overlooking, yes, a beautiful pool below.  The rest of the view was not much to talk about, but the food was.  We got nasi goreng and mie goreng; nasi means rice; mie means noodles and goreng means fried.  Put it all together and we had fried rice with chicken and spicy satay and fried noodles with chicken.  And Diet Cokes, of course.  Once again, we paid for the guides’ food but will share the cost with the rest of the group just as we did at Jimbaran.

Putu asked if we would like to see anything else, but we decided that returning to the ship would be a good idea.  Although we did not have to be on board until 5:30, we had been aiming for 4:30 and Putu thought we should return earlier to beat the traffic.  As it was, we were back around 2:30.  Some of the group went to see what was on sale outside the fenced area at the terminal, but we went to our cabin.

Shortly after we returned, D went back to the terminal to exchange US dollars for rupiah and found himself a millionaire.  He, too, succumbed to the lure of the vendors and ended up buying 3 alleged batik shirts for a total of $22.  He wore one to 28 instead of the standard blue Oxford.  If they last until we get home, it will have been a good deal.

TOMORROW – A sea day



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