Archive for 'Bali'

Selamat Tinggal Bali

Our last few days in Bali haven’t been too adventurous, but they’ve been productive.  Boat jobs never end, so we’ve sweated our way through a day or so of different repair and maintenance jobs – changing engine oil (every 100 engine hours), tightening belts, repairing a broken VHF antenna, fixing a leak, etc.  Lauren took me up the stick as well so I could have a look at the rigging before we start our Indian Ocean crossing.  I didn’t see any major problems, although the standing rigging (stainless wires & fittings holding up the mast) could use a good polish.  It’s amazing how much even good quality stainless steel rusts in a year and a half under these conditions.  I also replaced the shackle for the spinnaker halyard block at the top of the mast.  The last time I did it was at sea during our long crossing in the Pacific and doing it in a calm anchorage was much, much simpler.  It’s stainless as well, but it is fastened through a larger stainless eye and they wear against each other.  It wasn’t too worn, but it was enough that I’d rather start the ocean crossing with a new one.

We needed to check out and make an ATM stop, and one of the locals here told us to try using the ATM at LotteMart, which was on the way, so we stopped there to check it out. It looked like a local Wal-Mart Supercenter, so we were pretty excited about doing some provisioning there.  We tried to ask our cab driver about whether it was cheap or expensive, but he didn’t speak much English.  After a couple of failed attempts, I tried “LotteMart: big money or small money?”  He cracked a big smile and said “Small money”, which was consistent with the large number of locals shopping there, so we decided to come back.

Check out was pretty smooth.  It took us about half the time we were expecting, everyone was friendly, and as before there were heaps of stamps, but the only cost was $2 at quarantine.  This time we knew the Navy office was in Serangan so we made the visit to the Navy office first then went to Benoa to complete the process.  Apparently this is a little out of order, but not too big of a deal.  We just smiled a lot (bringing Lauren along seemed to help), used the local phrases we’ve learned, and made small talk.  We finished in time to have a small lunch at Bali Marina, where we’d spent our first night in Bali.  After traveling a bit, we were shocked at how high their prices were. 

DSC_0292-horz 13 stamps and 6 signatures later, we are cleared for departure

Yesterday was the last day of Ramadan, and although Bali is mostly Hindu, Indonesia is the world’s most populous Muslim country.  Apparently many of the fishermen are Muslim (the Hindus do believe the sea is the home of evil spirits) because all of the marine shops near the marina were closed, and the harbor was filled with more fishing boats than I’ve ever seen in one place in my life.  We didn’t have the camera, but it would have been hard to capture the sight anyway.  There were literally hundreds of boats tied alongside each other filling the harbor – colorful blue, red and purple wood-hulled boats, white steel ones, the rows just went on and on.  These weren’t small fishing dhows; they were large 70’-100’ offshore boats.  Apparently they were all in town to celebrate Ramadan and it was a sight to see.

The shopping at LotteMart turned out to be pretty good.  We got a number of things we needed, enjoyed some good local prices, and even found a new pressure cooker.  The pressure cooker is one of the more important galley items and the seal had stretched too much on ours to make it useful anymore.  We thought we could find a new one in Australia, but when we asked for pressure cookers there they always pointed us to electric gadgets.  Here we were able to find 5 models of old-fashioned pressure cookers on display.  We selected the one model that was actually in stock and continued the process of walking down every aisle to make sure we didn’t miss anything.  We’re not expecting much in the way of shopping until South Africa so we’re pretty stocked up at this point.

DSC_0282 Typical Asia: No Fritos, but how about some Happytos?

DSC_0286 Bargain threads are looking good…

After another hot, lazy day on the boat (at least Lauren got in a little beach time), we’re finally ready to set off.  The typically reliable tradewinds have been displaced a bit recently by what looks like the ITCZ moving quite a ways south, but it should start clearing up soon and we’re hoping for some decent sailing to Christmas Island.  We have about 5500 miles to go before we’re safe in South Africa and out of the cyclone region, so I’m anxious to get started, especially as there’s not really any padding left in our schedule and something always seems to cause delays. 

We’ll definitely miss Bali with its kind and friendly people, beautiful temples and mountains, nice beaches, cheap everything, and laid-back atmosphere.  Goodbye in Indonesian is a bit different than it is in English.  There are two translations of the phrase.  One, “selamat jalan” is said to the person who’s leaving (by the person who’s staying).  The other, “selamat tinggal” is said by the person who’s leaving to the person who’s staying.  “Selemat tinggal” Bali!

New Scenes and Spectacles

Well, you might think that once you’ve been climbed by monkeys, it’s all downhill, but each day here has brought new and interesting experiences. On Saturday as we were returning to Kuta from Ubud on the bike, it started to pour down rain just as we arrived at the place we had been thinking of stopping — Batubalan, the village known for stone carvings. It seems that most of the major villages between Ubud and Kuta are known for a particular type of craft, with many people within the village involved in that activity. For example, we drove through one village that was renowned for egg painting and had at least five street-side studios/shops where eggs could be purchased right next door to each other. It seems like this would create competition amongst neighbors and friends, but then again, the Balinese seem to be very community-oriented and have temples, conservation projects, etc. that are funded by local villages. But I digress…

We made our way through three different shops that were chock full of stone carvings. Each one had its own selection of unique items, but there were several smaller items that each one had in common that must be typical souvenirs for tourists such as little praying Asian dolls and wall hangings with flowers. Surprisingly, they did not have any statues of the male anatomy or couples in sexual positions, as almost every souvenir shop in Kuta (and to a lesser extent, Ubud) had several of these in wood, often with a bottle opener attached to the end. We’re not completely sure what this is about but think they must be a gimmick to get drunken Aussies who aren’t into art to spend their money on carvings. Anyway, we picked up a framed relief (3-D) wall-hanging of a holy ceremony that looks like it has been around for 300 years, along with some smaller items for gifts, and loaded them onto the bike — one bag between Dallas legs, the relief in my lap, and another somewhat heavy bag in my hands. We had as much as we could possibly transport and left the Batubalan villagers looking very pleased.


These sculptors are working with cement, but limestone is also used carvingsAt least we didn’t try to transport one of the really big ones

As we drove away, Dallas said, “Just don’t move around. With all of that weight back there, it seems more unbalanced”. Great! Then we’re all set for our trip through the big city of Denpasar! We hadn’t gone through the city yet, and it was an all new adventure. Fortunately the rain had stopped! The two lane streets were three or four vehicles thick, with scooters squeezing into very narrow spaces between cars and curbs. Naturally Dallas, having a whole 24 hours of experience on the streets of Bali under his belt, was right there with them, and I had to use caution when we were stopped at the lights and inching forward in the pack to make sure I didn’t scrape the adjacent cars with the stone carving in my lap. When I mentioned this to Dallas later, he said, “Oh, I thought you would just hold it upright.” Apparently Mr. Practical didn’t realize how heavy it was, but he did a great job navigating through the traffic, and only once did I question his judgment when it appeared that we were headed into oncoming traffic (we turned eventually). We made it back to Kuta with sore buns but in one piece and thoroughly enjoyed our $4/hour full-body massages that afternoon!

We stayed in Kuta for the rest of the weekend to enjoy the beach and the nightlife. I love the surf culture here as well as the great relationship between the Balinese and the tourists, many of whom stay for weeks or even months at a time. I was starting to feel pretty darn comfortable in our little room by the beach, but alas, we had to go. Before heading back to the boat on Monday, we ran some errands to collect things we will need in Africa — passport photos (10 each, I guess they require them for everything there), copies of the new boat registration certificate, and t-shirts and balls for trading/gifts. If you have to leave a place you’d rather not, it’s a blessing to have something else to look forward to, and I think Dallas and I are both pretty psyched up for Africa at this point.

It was nice to be off the boat for a while, and I guess we stayed away long enough, because I was happy to see her again. It was fun to come back to Serangan, too. Even though we’ve only been here a short time, it’s such a small village that you start to see the same friendly and familiar faces. Today one of the villagers is doing some cleaning and waxing of the boat for $20. It’s a win-win for him and for us, and he’s been great to have around. He just asked us if it was ok for him to smoke a cigarette in the cockpit and told us that he started smoking after seeing Slash from Guns and Roses smoking while playing the guitar! Of all the reasons for a man in a small village in Indonesia to start! Of course his continued habit probably has something to do with cigarettes only costing $1/pack here.

Tuesday was a rough day, particularly for Dallas. He woke up the night before with a temperature of 103 and full body aches and pains. He was in pretty bad shape throughout the morning, alternating from fever to chills. Our mariner’s medical guide said that if traveling in malaria-infested areas, attribute fever to malaria unless proven otherwise, so that afternoon we took a taxi to an Australian-run medical clinic for tourists to get him checked out. In addition to malaria, they also ran tests for dengue fever and a couple of other things, all of which came back negative except for one that was a possible indicator of dengue. If you aren’t familiar with dengue, try to keep it that way. It is a nasty illness that you get from mosquitoes in Southeast Asia. We’re pretty sure Dallas had it a few years ago after we returned to the States from Thailand, and he was fighting a high fever for almost a week and still recovering a week after that. (Fortunately it didn’t progress to its most severe form, which involves internal bleeding.) Needless to say, we were really hoping that he didn’t have it again, and based on his seemingly swift recovery (his fever broke last night and hasn’t returned), it looks like he’s in the clear.

Last night we returned to Kuta to pick up our new eye glasses. I’ve never had glasses before, but my vision ain’t what it used to be, and at these low prices ($75 for an exam, lenses and frames), I thought what the heck. Maybe it will help me restore my image as a serious, professional woman when the time comes! Ha! Dallas was also pleased to get some new ones since his last pair broke on our passage to Vanuatu, and his soldering fix didn’t take. Since then he’s been using contacts as well as a really old pair that he can now return to its rightful owner, Harry Potter!combined glasses

Our most practical souvenirs from Bali

From Kuta, we caught a taxi to head up the road to Seminyak, the Beverly Hills of Bali. We were pretty surprised at just how upscale it was, a completely different scene from Kuta. The Italian restaurant we selected had excellent food (mmmm, salmon…my favorite!) and service. They even brought out a complimentary appetizer and after-dinner cordial. Big thanks to Dallas’ brother Tim for the meal! It was a rare treat!

We are working on the boat this week and getting ready to set sail on Saturday, weather permitting. For two days we’ve had very light winds and rain, and the GRIB data is predicting more of the same until late next week. We’d prefer not to have to wait to depart but don’t want to motor all the way to Christmas Island, either, so we’ll see…


Ubud is famous for being the spiritual, cultural and artistic center of Bali.  In addition to being a tourist destination, it also seems to be home to a fair number of expats with a disproportionately large number of them being keenly interested in yoga, meditation, tantric breathing, baggy clothes in earth tones, organic foods, dog shelters, etc.  I can’t really poke fun at all the upscale culturally sensitive Westerners there since I’m a vegetarian whose wife enjoys yoga (it is pretty cool to watch) and I was also interested in visiting Ubud (and who doesn’t love dogs), but it is an interesting crowd that we really haven’t seen much of on our travels.

We’ve taken in a traditional dance performance at nearly every country we’ve visited, and it was at the top of our Ubud to-do list.  Without really knowing anything about the layout of Ubud we managed to drive into town and park right across from a temple that was starting a traditional dance performance show in 15 minutes.  We bought a couple of tickets, found some gelato to stave off our hunger for another hour or so and then took our seats in the temple.  In case it’s not clear from the pictures, the temples here come in a few different flavors, but a common one is a stone construction featuring a large rectangular space with a raised floor that is open on three sides, pillars holding up a red tile roof, and an ornate facade at the back of the temple behind a stage-like area.  In this case, we sat on chairs in the large open space while the show was on the stage. The left and right sides of the stage were filled with musicians making up a sort of small orchestra.  With the exception of one flute player and four female singers, all of them played some type of percussion instrument.  There were drums and gongs, bell-like instruments, Balinese xylophones, and a simple wooden percussion instrument player that seemed to be keeping the main rhythm for the whole affair.  At times it sounded pretty good, but most of the time it sounded like a cacophony bordering on chaos.  I guess it’s an acquired taste.  Either way, the skill of the musicians was pretty impressive.  They probably do this twice a week, but they played for nearly two hours without a single piece of written music, no director waving hands and arms in front of them, and didn’t seem to ever miss a note.  Often the guys playing the most difficult and quick pieces on the more complex instruments would be looking off into the distance with an expressionless face while the little carved hammer in their right hand flew over the top of the instrument, striking it at different angles in perfect time with the other players beside them.

DSC_1009 You know you’ve arrived when you have two guys to carry you and one to hold your umbrella

I wish I could say as much for the dancing and acting.  At least the costumes were colorful and entertaining.  It seems like if you’re a participant playing a demon or some other role that involves a mask then you get to dance around like a jester and try to mime the storyline.  The dancers that didn’t wear masks generally had very slow motions featuring lots of hand and arm contortions, strictly defined poses, slow turns of the head to particular angles, etc.  The first dance featured two female dancers whose movements weren’t too entertaining, but the degree to which they stayed synchronized in their motion was pretty impressive, especially considering the complex and arrhythmic sounds from the orchestra as well as the fact that they often had their eyes closed or weren’t facing each other.  Lauren is the official dance critic (I often catch her making breakfast with her legs in some sort of a dance pose) and she wasn’t impressed either.  Maybe we’re just spoiled by the simple, emotive Polynesian dances or maybe it’s the stereotypical Asian restraint in terms of self-expression.  There’s no doubt that the Balinese society is much more modernized, developed, and complex than the indigenous societies of the Pacific Islands, but the Legong dance wasn’t our favorite example.

DSC_1006 At least the costumes were great

We were pretty tired after driving the scooter halfway across Bali so we found a basic warung dinner and a nearby hotel.  The hotel was just the first one we stopped at and aside from not having any electricity in our room much of the time it was pretty amazing.  It was part of a family compound in the city that had several rooms built in different styles in a small three-story space.  It felt something like a monastery with the stone stairs, decorative wooden doors, and small space, but each room was spacious and had a patio for enjoying breakfast.  On the way in you walked past the partially open-walled rooms of the family that owned and ran the hotel.  In the morning the family spaces were full of friends and relatives with large bowls of food and plenty of drinks to celebrate some sort of ceremony.  It was so laid back that they didn’t bother to ask about money, name, or ID when we walked in and when I asked about breakfast they said it was “from 7am to whenever you get up.”  The family compound with an onsite business was a theme in Ubud; we saw several beautiful ones as we walked one of the main streets looking at the variety of art – paintings, wood carvings, weavings, silver jewelry and crafts.

DSC_0008 $20/night is a bit steep, but it looks great

At the end of the street, aptly named Monkey Forest Road, we came to the Sacred Monkey Forest Sanctuary.  The Monkey Forest is basically a small jungle area in the midst of an otherwise populated region where there are several temples and three troops of Balinese macaque monkeys.  We bought some bananas to feed the monkeys and read that we weren’t to give the bananas directly to them, but to set them down for the monkeys to come and get.  Apparently the monkeys haven’t read the brochure at the front desk.  We were barely 10 paces down the forest path when a reasonably sized monkey spotted Lauren and her bunch of bananas.  He strode quickly and smoothly toward her and then climbed up her leg and torso to grab a banana from her hand.  She managed to stay pretty calm and only let out a couple of yells as the monkey darted to the edge of the path to chomp away.  This scene was repeated several times.  One of the trained monkey guardians actually had Lauren sit down and hold a banana up in one hand so the monkey would climb over her and onto her shoulder to take the banana.  It all worked according to plan until the monkey came down off of her shoulder and into her lap on its way down.  Being one of the sweetest and affectionate people around, and with a soft, furry monkey walking across her lap, Lauren just couldn’t resist the impulse to hug it.  As she started to put her arm around it, the guardian yelled “Don’t touch monkey!”, startling both Lauren and the monkey, which had no intent of hanging around to snuggle.  It took a while to stop laughing.  I guess I was one up on all the tree-hugger types visiting Ubud; I came with my wife Lauren the great white monkey-hugger.

DSC_0049 Little does this sweet little monkey suspect…

DSC_0050… the monkey-hugger in action

DSC_0133 Ferns and banyan tree in background, monkey climbing banana tree in foreground

After several more episodes of monkeys climbing Lauren a.k.a. The Banana Tree, we started off on a walk through several villages and the countryside that was outlined in the Lonely Planet book.  The walk was a great opportunity to see local villages, painters and wood carvers at work, and rice paddies in several states of maturity, from small shoots through to just-harvested stalks and plowed-under fields.  We even came across a duck herder. I have no idea what the relationship between the villagers, the ducks, and the rice paddies is (aside from ducks eat stuff from the paddies and villagers eat ducks), but we came across a guy holding a long bamboo pole with plastic bags tied at one end.  He was walking slowly through a rice paddy herding a large group of ducks, separating them into two groups and then moving one group across the road to another paddy.  The ducks were some species of mallard and had either had their wings clipped so they couldn’t fly or were just used to being herded around.  After another incredible dinner for less than $2/plate we found a room in a family compound nestled among the rice paddies at the edge of town.  It didn’t look like much from a distance, but it was actually the nicest place we’ve stayed and had hot water as well.

We decided to give Balinese traditional dance one more try and went to a performance of the Kecak (KAY-chack) or Monkey Dance, which is a popular tourist attraction.  This one was also on temple grounds, but outdoors in a circle on a large stone courtyard.  The dance is a traditional story of love and war with the twist that the story features a large army of monkeys.  The monkey army is represented by more than 50 men wearing a black and white checkered wrap with a red belt wrap.  For most of the dance they sit in rows that form several concentric circles, although at times they stand, lay down, raise their arms, rock side to side, or move into different formations.  A couple of the older men lead the chanting and singing.  For most of the dance and play, which lasts more than 30 minutes, they make a the sound “chak-chak-chak” in unison — “chak-chak-chak-chak chak-chak-chak-chak chak-chak-chak-chak chak-a-chak”.  You get the idea.  Even though the dancing and acting were the same style and quality as the Legong dance, the Kecak was done around a firelight and to hear all the men chant and sing together makes a lasting impression.

DSC_0225 Kecak dancers entering the courtyard

DSC_0232 Most of the Kecak dance/play was done with the men in a circle

After the Kecak dance, we were treated to a special horse trance fire dance. We didn’t really know what to expect, but figured it would be something like fire twirling dances in the Pacific.  First the fires for the Kecak dance were put out and all the men formed several lines in the back of the open area.  Then a man came out in the dark with a large box on a cart and dumped what sounded like a large pile of coconuts onto stone courtyard.  A few seconds later he came back with a bottle of kerosene, poured it over the pile and then lit it on fire.  We could now see that it was coconut husks and soon afterward a man came out dressed like the Kecak dancers but wearing a large hobby-horse contraption that fit over his shoulder and between his legs.  He began to dance over the stone courtyard with his eyes closed.  The left half of the men sang and chanted something similar to the Kecak song and chant and then the men on the right started to sing a different song.  When the group of men on the right started singing, the barefoot hobby horse dancer turned and ran straight into the pile of burning coconut husks, kicking the glowing husks all over the courtyard, some landing only inches from the tourists in the front row!  Needless to say, this got everyone’s attention.  Two men came out with a wooden rakes and pushed the scattered and glowing husks back into a pile as the left group of men chanted.  When the right group of men began to sing, the dancer again ran into the glowing pile of husks and kicked and scattered them.  This was repeated a number of times before two men came out and caught the dancer, wrestling him to the ground and pulling the hobby horse contraption off of him.  As soon as the horse was pulled off of him, the man collapsed in a seated position, a priest came out to sprinkle him with some water and he started praying.  He was still sitting there with outstretched, blackened feet as we filed out of the temple grounds.

DSC_0247 Fire dancer kicking and scattering the burning coconut husks

On the road

Leaving south Bali to enjoy a bit of the itinerary Lauren had planned was exciting, but also a little nerve-wracking.  Even though I have a US motorcycle license, I’ve never owned a bike and haven’t driven one much.  Luckily bikes in Bali are limited to 250cc.  Bike is actually a little bit of a misnomer.  Most of the country gets around on scooters, which is what we rented.  Ours was an automatic, which definitely made things easier, but Bali traffic was still an adventure.  The roads are often narrow, driving is on the left side, and the lanes here taken as helpful suggestions more than rules.  Trucks and bikes are constantly using part or most of the other lane to pass or to get around vehicles parked at the side of the road.  Traffic is bad enough that people needing to make a turn across traffic often cross when they can and then ride the wrong way down the edge of the road to where they want to turn.  Driving the wrong way on the edge is also a common way to get started into busy traffic.  Your general responsibility is to watch out for what’s in front of you and assume that those behind you will do the same.  Honking is actually a courteous act here that most people use to warn someone that you’re about to overtake them.  Intersections are probably the worst, as only a few have working stoplights.  The rest are a sort of mad tangle of traffic that’s a little harrowing the first couple of times.  Everyone just works their way into the intersection in the direction they want to go, trying not to stop.  As you gain practice, you learn how people react and how to smoothly cross in front or behind of a moving car or bike, but my first attempt was a near collision.  Luckily a scooter has a pretty short braking distance.  The other added complication we had was that the face mask of the helmet I was wearing needed to be down to avoid being pulled over, but it was old, heavily tinted, and so covered with scrapes and scratches that seeing through it was a challenge.  If Balinese drivers weren’t so incredibly competent and courteous it would have been a nightmare, but as it was we ended up enjoying it even if we were sore by the end of the day.  Lauren sat still behind me and did a great job of reading the occasional road sign preceding an intersection and telling me which way to turn.  Without the occasional signs, we would have had a pretty tough time figuring out where we were going.  Fueling up was the other funny part of driving.  There are gas stations every so often in larger towns where you can buy gas for $0.45/liter, but lots of people just get gas at roadside stands, as anybody with a roadside shop of some sort may be selling gas as well.  The shop owner will put a rack of one and two liter glass bottles filled with yellow gasoline out front, with Absolut vodka bottles being the most popular.  The premium for the convenience is pretty small – only $0.50/liter, so we used them several times.

DSC_0897 Getting ready to hit the mean streets of Bali

Our first stop was Pura Tanah Lot (Pura means temple).  Tanah Lot is a picturesque seaside temple that is actually built on top of a mound of volcanic rock that is separated from the mainland by a short stretch of ocean about 150 feet wide.  The tide seemed to be near a low when we were there as several Indonesian men dressed in traditional religious garb were able to cross over to the temple with the water only coming up to their thighs at the deepest point.  After checking out the beautiful ground, temples, and views on the cliffs of the mainland, we waded back through row after row of souvenir shops and climbed onto the bike for a ride into the mountains.

DSC_0920 Purah Tanah Lot

After a short stop to down a couple plates of Mie Goreng and cold soft drinks, we climbed up into the cool mountain air through small villages and past hillsides covered with terraced rice paddies until we finally reached Pura Luhur Batukau.  Pura Luhur Batukau is billed as a less-visited misty mountain temple and it lived up to its billing.  It wasn’t misty when we were there, but it was quiet, cool, and beautiful.  To enter a temple here you have to be wearing appropriate clothing, which includes a sarong and sort of satin belt in all cases and a special head wrap as well sometimes.  Since most tourists are traveling in Western clothing, the temple staff keep loaner sarongs on hand that they wrapped around us before we entered.  While we were having sarongs wrapped around us, we got a good laugh out of the sign saying that the following people were not allowed to enter the temple: (1) Ladies who are pregnant, (2) Ladies whose children have not got their first teeth, (3) Children whose first teeth have not fallen out yet, (4) Ladies during their period, (5), Devotees getting impure due to death, (6) Mad ladies/gentlemen, and (7), Those not properly dressed.

The temple itself was made from stone or concrete with lots of stone carvings, mossy stairways and walls, and traditional courtyards with altars and structures for ceremonies.  It was a fairly large complex that seemed to have people living there and was still undergoing expansion.  We followed one new concrete path through the forest and down a long stairway until we reached a mountain stream rushing over rounded boulders.  It’s only rained once or twice since we’ve been here, but the streams, ditches, rivers, and rice paddies are all full of water running down from the mountains.  In typical Asian or at least Balinese fashion, there was a large pile of trash being burned half-heartedly right at the edge of the temple.  Bali is a fairly clean place, but there are definitely cases, especially inside or next to otherwise beautiful locations where you see trash piles that would be removed from view in western areas.  Even with our loaner sarongs, there were several more sacred parts of the temple where we could only look in because were were tourists or because a ceremony was being performed.

DSC_0950 A properly dressed, only partly mad lady at the entrance to Pura Luhur Batukau

The ride to Ubud, our destination for the night, wasn’t quite as smooth.  The map in our Lonely Planet book wasn’t really enough to get us there and we went through a fairly large stretch with no useful road signs, especially at one critical point.  Bali is such a roadside society, however, that we didn’t even have to get off the bike to ask directions.  We just pulled over every 5 or 10 minutes and asked a group of people at a roadside warung which way to Ubud.  Like all the Balinese we’ve met, they were immediately friendly and helpful, but it still took us until after nightfall to finally reach Ubud.

Vacation from our vacation

After another day on the boat and a big night out in Serangan with some other yachties and a couple of semi-resident Aussies we finally got moving to see some of Bali.  We were counting the bill for our big night out before leaving and realized that at $1.30 for beers and $1-$1.50 for a local dinner meal (I had 3), we didn’t come off too badly aside from the half hour or so we spent in a Serangan karaoke bar listening to awful, sappy Indonesian heartbroken pop songs.  The Indonesian songs actually had videos (mostly guys looking sad), but instead of the "real" videos, the Western rock/pop songs that were performed had videos that were basically someone’s camcorder tape of their trip to a popular tourist destination, mostly Australian. That was pretty weird, especially in Asia, where you can get ripped off DVDs of anything you want for less than $1 (including movies that aren’t out on DVD yet).  My favorite knock-off example came when we bought Lauren a new pair of flip-flops.  I could just be ignorant, but I don’t remember OP and Converse being the same company or ever making clothing using both labels.  The flip-flops had a big OP on the sole and a converse logo on the thong portion.  The woman in the shop told us they were a good deal because they were OP, and I had to add, "Yeah, and Converse too!"  She obviously understood and laughed as well.  After some bargaining (mandatory here) and guarantees of "I make you good price" and "I make special price for you" we walked off with a new pair of flip-flops.  I think the locals generally get a lot more from us than they’d be willing to accept, but it’s still been cheap.

DSC_0882 Delicious $1 Mie Goreng

DSC_0875The local warung uses the “count the bottles at the end of the night” method of keeping a tab, so everyone has a “collection”

At the top of our list was some attempted surfing, so we went back to Kuta and got a cheap room near the beach. The room was $11/night, which isn’t as cheap as you can do in Bali, but isn’t bad.  It also includes two free breakfasts (omelet, coffee/tea, some fruit, and orange juice that of course named for its color, not for any fruit used to make it).  It even has a Western toilet, which is to say the sort of toilet you have at home.  An Asian toilet, which we’ve had the chance to get acquainted with, is basically a hole in the floor with a footrest on each side (squat for short, as opposed to sit).  Toilet paper and a flushing mechanism aren’t included, but there is usually a container of water with a scoop for manually flushing.  One thing it doesn’t include is a shower curtain.  We’ve tried 3 hotels now and none of them have one.  Instead there is a drain on the floor for the water that sprays everywhere.  The beds are pretty basic, but it’s still fun to get of the boat for the first time in a while and for us it’s really not a step down in terms of amenities (we even have a big ceiling fan above our bed).

DSC_0884 Not bad for $11/night and a short walk to the beach

The surfing was a lot of fun, but I have to admit that the best we looked was standing at the edge of the water with the board under an arm, looking out at the waves like we had some idea of what we were doing.  There are lots of surf classes in Kuta, so we had no problem watching how the beginners start out, but their boards are larger and more buoyant, they’ve actually had a lesson and presumably a day or two of practice, etc.  At least those are our excuses for why we’re still happy to get up on our knees on the white water while they’re surfing the white water and looking a lot like a kid that’s trying to balance a bike without training wheels for the first time.  The water at Kuta is shallow enough that you really don’t have to paddle much to get out to the white water, so Lauren and I had enough energy to take turns with our board about every 15 minutes for a couple of hours.  Lauren has better balance than I do, so after someone out there let her know that you need to paddle to catch a wave, she actually seemed to do better than I did.  After a couple hours of sun and falling off the board, it was time for a nap.

DSC_0887 This is our best photo of me surfing

With the cheap food prices, we’ve been doing a lot of eating out. Since I’m a vegetarian, my options are fairly limited in terms of local cuisine, but what I’ve had has been good.  I’ve also managed to have about 10 pizzas and half a dozen attempts at Mexican food.  The pizzas have generally been serviceable, but the Mexican food has been pretty funny at times.  For example, one restaurant advertised "Mixican specialites", including a burrito, which was described as a Mexican spring roll with beans inside.  Apparently some restaurants didn’t really understand that the inside of a "Mexican spring roll" was different than an Asian one, so there are been several funny bean-less Mexican dishes although we finally found two reliable places for tacos or a combination platter within a couple hundred yards of our hotel, which I do think had something to do with us spending an extra day just hanging out in Kuta.

The next day we finally decided to join the ranks of the illegal foreign motorcyclists.  You’re supposed to have an international driver’s license to drive here, but we don’t and neither do a lot of people.  Apparently it’s officially a $20 fine if you get caught, $20 and 2 hours to get a proper local license in the capital, but only $5-$15 for the bribe you’ll need depending on how easy of a mark you look like to the cop that finds a reason to pull you over.  There are checkpoints for just this sort of thing, with locals being waved on and tourists lined up for fleecing, but as long as you know in advance that you should be carrying bribe money if you’re going to be driving it’s not a big deal.  Since we’ve had the bike, we’ve enjoyed a couple of long days with lots of great sights, but we’re at the end of the 2nd long day and hoping to get a gelato before a possible warm shower so the mini tour of Bali will have to wait until the next blog.