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Monthly Archives: September 2012

Our final stop on our tour of Bali was the Bukit Peninsula in the south of the island

Bingin is a relatively untouched village whose beach forms part of the chain of surfing hotspots in southern Bali. With names like Impossibles, Dreamland and Playgrounds it conjures up images of challenging and perfect waves, and after talking to several surfers these names are well deserved. We've yet to try to catch a wave but it's top of the list of things to do if and when we return to Bali

We stayed at the Bingin Family Guesthouse and were well looked after by Susie and Putu. After checking in we enquired about hiring a scooter. Ten minutes later one turned up, delivered by Susie's cousin. No ID, licence or formal agreement required, just keep the bike for as long as you want and pay when you return it. Part of Bingin's charm is the fact that it's still a genuine Balinese village and like all villages everybody knows everybody else's business. Within a day of arriving we'd met all of Susie's immediate and extended family and between them they'd offered us everything from a massage to a tour of the island!

Whilst exploring we stumbled across a Spanish restaurant called El Kabron run by Carlos from Barcelona who'd been bitten so badly by the surfing bug that he'd decided to 'up-sticks' and live in Bali so that he could surf whenever he got the opportunity. The restaurant is perched on the edge of the cliff with an unrestricted view of the Bingin and Impossibles surf breaks. The views and the sunset were spectacular and on this occasion the food was great too although it was slightly surreal eating tapas in a Spanish restaurant in southern Bali!

Bingin is also close to Uluwatu which is a tourist hotspot for two other reasons in addition to its surf. These are it's temple perched on a rocky outcrop and the Kecak Fire Dance. The dance tells the story of Rama and Sita and is Bali's equivalent of Romeo and Juliet although in this version the lovers live happily ever after. It's unique in that it's not accompanied by any musical instruments, no Gamelan for once, instead the chorus of men provide the soundtrack through their chanting which becomes almost trance like

From Bali we fly to Kota Kinabalu in Borneo (taxi to the airport courtesy of Susie's brother). We've stayed in Bali longer than anywhere else on our travels and yet the last two months have flown by. Hopefully we'll get the opportunity to return before we finally start to head for home

 

After the somewhat depressing and frustrating experiences in Lovina we headed to Pemuteran which borders Bali's National Park. The park was established in the early part of last century, primarily to preserve the habitat of a number of indigenous species including the near extinct Bali Starling. Suffice to say we didn't see it, nor did we see any of the deer, wild boar or leopard cats which inhabit the park. What we did see were lots more macaque monkeys eager to eat anything and everything that tourist are willing to feed them. All we had in the car was some muesli and it was funny to see them examining and smelling it before deciding it was edible. There's just no pleasing some people!

Menjangan Island, just off the coast, forms part of the park and is renowned for its diving and snorkelling. Again we chose the latter and were rewarded with an array of marine life and coral that put Malaysia's Perhentian Islands to shame. We saw some weird and wonderful sights, not least of which were a unicorn fish, a bottle fish, a school of squid and a puffer fish which blew itself up to twice its size when it encountered us!

Another of the highlights of our stay in Permuteran was the traditional dancing and music that provided the after-dinner entertainment on the night we arrived. We were treated to around a dozen different performances each of which was visually stunning and accompanied by traditional music called Gamelan

For us Gamelan has become the soundtrack to Bali, however as the saying goes, you can have too much of a good thing. There seems to be a limited number of 'greatest hits' and these seem to be played in the reception of every hotel that we've stayed at since we got to Bali!

After Pemuteran we drove south, stopping off at the one of the oldest Hindu temples in Bali. It has a vey serene feel about it partly because it's little visited and also because it's looked after by a caretaker who was in his late 70's, helped by his mother who's 110 years old, or at least that's what she told us!

After a drive down the west coast of the island during which we caught glimpses of the sea through towering palm trees which dwarfed the cattle standing amongst them, we finally arrived in Jimbaran

Jimbaran used to be a tiny fishing village with a daily market. In the past 20 years several upscale resorts have been built and these, together with the large private villas that occupy the high ridges overlooking the bay have earned Jimbaran the nickname “Beverley Hills of Bali”!

Eating seafood on the beach in is a quintessential element of a visit to Jimbaran. The beach is home to about fifty grilled seafood restaurants. Choice of restaurant is relatively unimportant as they all offer pretty much the same experience. It was a bit like the fish barbecues on the Perhentian Islands but with lots more people, a group of strolling musicians and a wider menu selection, all of which comes at three times the price!

Close by to Jimbaran is the 'Secret Beach' which, appropriately, we stumbled upon by accident. The road to the beach was pretty nondescript, but turn the corner and you're presented with an amazing view of the seaweed beds sitting under the shallow, calm waters which stretch along the shore. From the hill side you can clearly see how the sea-bed has been sectioned into rectangular plots that resemble a patchwork quilt. Workers live in shoreline shacks and spend much of the time between dawn until dusk up to their waists in sea-water seeding and harvesting the seaweed which grows along lines tethered to the sea-bed. After harvesting the seaweed is laid out to dry before being taken to market to be sold. The seaweed grown on the island produces carrageenan which is used in shampoos and interacts with human carotene to give soft skin and silky hair, so now you know

Away from the seaweed beds there was a bay which was completely deserted other than a small shack selling sea-shells. At the water's edge there were dozens of crystal clear rock-pools, all teeming with small fish, crabs and starfish. We ended up spending ages just sitting, watching and getting lost in the comings and goings of all sorts of marine life

There is definitely something special about the Secret Beach, something that the locals are keen to acknowledge by carving huge figures of the five Paca Pendatha from the Mahabaratha into the side of the rock-face leading down to the beach

Our next stop is the Bukit Peninsula in the south of the island. We visited previously when we had a day trip to see the Rip Curl Padang Padang Cup. This time we'll be there for several days and it'll be interesting to see how different things are without the razzmatazz of a world class surfing event

 

After chilling out in Sanur for several weeks we thought it was time we saw more of Bali than just its beaches, bars and restaurants!

Feeling more confident on the roads we rented a car for a couple of weeks and left for a tour of the island. We headed up the east coast to a fishing village called Candidasa where we stopped off for lunch. As we arrived at the water's edge one of the outrigger boats had just landed and began unloading it's catch. As the photo shows it was yet another example of the women doing all the heavy lifting and carrying!

Naturally, lunch was fish, cooked in the local style which was delicious, not that surprising given that it had probably been caught fresh that morning

Next stop was Tampak Siring water temple. Water holds a special importance for the Balinese, so much so that the former president built a house here so that he could bathe in the waters to ensure that his mind was clear to help him make the right decisions in terms of governing his people. Every day hundreds make the pilgrimage to the temple to bathe in the water. Each of the thirteen water spouts has different healing properties and the idea is to start at one end and work your way to the other taking the benefits of each spout as you work your way along. Whether it works or not is open to debate but I can confirm that the coldness of the water gives your mind and body a huge wake-up call!

Mount Agung, an active volcano which is the highest point on the island provided the next stop. Like almost everything else on the island it has huge spiritual significance with its southern slopes being home to the 'Mother Temple' of Besakih. Balinese legend has it that Agung was created when the Hindu God Pasupati split Mount Meru (the spiritual axis of the universe) and formed Mount Agung with a fragment from this

The volcano last erupted in 1963. On March 18th of that year it blew so violently that the top 100 metres or more was blown away. Lava spewed over much of eastern Bali and the resulting ash cloud swept across many villages destroying all the crops. Up to 2,000 people are believed to have been killed and tens of thousands of homes were destroyed.

The fact that the temple of Besakih was relatively untouched by the eruption fuelled the local belief that spirits were to blame for the eruption and that it was a sign of further terrible things to come. They were proved right when the nation was plunged into civil crisis two years later in 1965!

Next on the list was the curiously named Git Git waterfall. The water plummets 35 metres and creates a current so strong that life jackets wouldn't go amiss for those brave or foolish enough to swim in its waters. Being the latter we took the opportunity for a swim before being told of the local legend which says that lovers should not swim in it's waters, because it will separate them. The legend doesn't give a time-limit but as yet we're still very much together!

After Git Git we headed to Bedugul which is best known for its cool temperatures, strawberries and the Botanical Gardens. After a late check-in at the unimaginatively named Strawberry Hill hotel we sat down to dinner in front of a log fire before putting our pyjamas on ready for bed, yes it really was that cold!

The next day we headed to the Botanical Gardens, home to the 'Treetops Adventure Park'. After a safety briefing and a practice run we were let loose on the course itself. The courses are graded from green to black with each more challenging both physically and mentally. We started on the orange course before progressing through the others. The courses involved lots of climbing, swinging and crawling, some of which was 12 meters above the ground. At times it felt like a cross between an army assault course and 'I'm a Celebrity Get Me Out of Here'! I'm pleased to say we both managed the red course but declined the opportunity to do the black after watching others younger, fitter and more fearless get part way round and start wishing they'd never begun!

We then drove up to the north coast and spent the night at a 'resort' hotel that had around a hundred rooms of which only about three were occupied. It was a pretty depressing experience staying somewhere that had clearly been the victim of a downward spiral in fortunes to the point that it now has a skeleton staff who seem incapable of performing even the most basic housekeeping functions.

Early morning saw us in Lovina for a pre-dawn boat trip in search of the dolphins. Any thoughts we may have had that this was an exclusive activity were soon dashed as the sun rose and revealed dozens of other boats all doing the same thing. It soon became like something out of a Benny Hill sketch with a flotilla of boats chasing each other along the coast on rumours of a sighting of the elusive dolphin. Sadly we saw no sign of the dolphins. Clearly the intelligence they're credited with is not misplaced as they have the good sense to stay well clear!