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The Island of Gods, Bali

By on Dec 1, 2009 in Indonesia | 0 comments

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Niki and I flew up with Air Asia on Monday night, arriving into a hot, forehead sweating type of humidity. You know the stuff, the type that make your legs feel like they are swimming past each other when your walk down the street. The type that when you lift up your arms a spray of water shoots out  and takes out the person your standing next too – like in the links deodorant advert.  The type of stuff that….hmmm I think you get the point. We were up here for a quick 4 days to book our wedding package and just to make sure that Niki liked the place. It had been 5 years since my last trip to Bali and the first for Niki; it hadn’t changed much at all! We caught a taxi to Seminyak and got ourselves a cheap guest house for $11 a night with free breakfast. The shower was something out of the heart of Borneo but the room was clean and cheap. We then hurried down to the main Jalang (road) to grab some yummy Indian grub and my first Bintang since I became a beer drinker in Germany. I knew I was missing out on something all those years ago! With a full stomach and a slightly light head from the beer, we let the Island of Gods do its magic and slow us right down.

World Heritage Listed Rice Padi - Ubud

World Heritage Listed Rice Padi - Ubud

Bali is one of those places that has its own pace, everything gets done…eventually. No one is in a rush and no one worries, I can see why Perthonians love it up there. It’s similar to our own lifestyle except no stress. So as we sat around drinking a few more beers and lazily made our way back to our hidden Guest house, I knew the next 4 days were going to be great!

Day 1 was full off appointments as we were taxied to our photographer’s house and then to our wedding coordinators – won’t bog you down with the details. Just to say that everything went well! After a little afternoon rambling through Kuta Square and an afternoon siesta! SIESTA, I always feel like saying SIESTA is a loud over the top Spanish accent and clapping my hands – if only you could see my little dance! We headed to JD’s, a restaurant come late night music venue in Seminyak. This place had reasonably priced drinks, bit pricey compared to Kuta and by 9pm a local band would pull in the crowds. We enjoyed the “special of the day”, a yummy steak roll and listened to some classic local indie music. They weren’t half bad and it was the type of band you’d expect to see at a local pub here in Perth. After a few good covers we decided to head back to our Guest house.

Bali Billboard

Bali Billboard

Day 2 involved us getting a taxi up to the mystical kingdom of Ubud or as normal non-mushroomed hyped up people may call it, the hippy and cultural centre of Bali. There is no other way to put it except to say that I love Ubud! I always have and I always will. It’s a quiet little town about 1.5 hours from Kuta an offers a more relaxed vibe then Kuta. In fact Julie Roberts was there a week before filming a new movie based here. There goes my relaxed vibe when the movie comes out! We got ourselves a little guest house, Sanias, and as my guide book explained – “it could rival the gardens of Babylon”. It was a traditional Balinese compound with small guest rooms. The smell of freshly cooked rice and sweet incense would slowly waft through out the gardens. It was perfect! That afternoon we made our way to the art markets and rambled through the “you buy, you buy” calls and “taxi mate, taxi mate” shouts from across the road. It was great to get lost in the markets; I missed that old feeling of visiting Asia and getting lost in its ways.

Niki and I then headed down to MONKEYYYYY FORESSSTTTT DA DA DA DAAAAAAAA. From our last experience in Kuala Lumpur, Niki has been a little traumatised by monkeys, she has even been to a few AMA meetings. You don’t know what AMA is? Asian Monkey Anonymous meetings – their mission statements is “Have you been assaulted, peeed on, bitten or taken advantage of by an Asian monkey, then come see us – we can help!”, apparently its full of Australian and Japanese tourists. Anyway, Monkey Forrest is a small park that you pay to enter and is home to hundreds of long-tailed macaques, all eager to deprive you of the bananas that somehow you got conned into buying at the start for the price of a small car. Then here I am running the gauntlet of my life, fighting of monkeys, trying to protect my fiancé and make it out alive when all of a sudden my bananas are gone and the monkeys don’t want to know you anymore. Then for some crazy reason, I felt that I wanted to buy some more bananas! Niki quickly smacked  me across the head, said I was a psychotic and dragged out of the park by my ear. I’m sure the monkeys were pointing and laughing!

Day 3 was another wedding day, however with a twist. I was allowed to hire out a scooter – which as Niki asked half way down the road, “does our insurance cover this?” which I responded “what insurance?” (Joking, I had insurance, I don’t think it covered monkey bites or scooters, but I had it). After scooting off to see our wedding venue and WOW, it’s amazing, we decided to get some lunch at a legendary place known for its suckling pig! This little place known as Warung Ibu Oka has communal tables and is set in lush tropical gardens. The main dish they are know for is the Balinese traditional food of suckling pig, mmmmm it’s almost worth booking a flight just for that. We ate ourselves to content and promised ourselves to bring everyone here next year when they were here for the wedding.

Blessing at Goa Cave, Ubud

Blessing at Goa Cave, Ubud

That afternoon we decided to go to the Goa Gajahs  or the elephants caves. Ironically named as Bali has never had any native elephants, only introduced. So after riding through absolute mental traffic,we arrived at a small Hindu temple unearthed in the early 1900’s. Within 30 seconds a guide had a latched on and we knew we wouldn’t be able to shake him. He took us around the temple and explained the different features, including the 7 river statues which refer to the holy rivers of India. We then entered the cave which our elderly guide went onto explain his interpretation of fertility. Apologising 3 times before he started, he then went onto explain that the symbol for male and female is a….I feel I should apologise too….a finger poking into a circle (you know the one). So that’s fine, nothing we haven’t seen on Animal channel, except he went on to demonstrate it another 5 times because he thought we didn’t understand. Apologising each and every time. Whilst this was going on Niki was positioning herself behind me, which I was later told ” to stop him from getting a good look”, some bodyguard I am?

Our final night involved lots and lots of chanting. On one of my earlier travels to Bali I had come across a Balinese dance. It was a dance of many men trying to woo a single woman. I remembered it for the colours and the amazing sounds of the gamelon. I was even luckier as it wasn’t tourist orientated but for the local village I was passing through at the time. Ubud has many tourist dances and I was very keen to take Niki to see one. I was hoping to pick one with a small amount of tourists, hence the Kecak Dance or Monkey Dance. We arrived at a small ornate Balinese temple, with a square performance area and fierce statues in the background. The dance was to tell us the story of a great war between the monkey king, the legendary Garuda and Ramada. And of course it’s based all around a simple love story. The dance involved over 50 men providing all the sounds for the dance through their own voices, mimicking fierce battles, the sway of the forest and the craziness of the monkeys by chanting kecak, kecak, kecak, kecak. The costumes were colourful and well done; I even got an impressive photo with the monkey king – who needs Elvis? By the end, the 6 tourists watching were able to ask questions and say hello. It was such a small audience, I loved that it wasn’t overly touristity however I felt bad for the performers as this performance deserved a bigger audience. Niki loved it, brownie points for me, and said she regretted not seeing another the night before. After our crazy monkey dance and some Indonesian tucker, we headed back to our room – sadly tomorrow was the last day for the Perth Project in Bali.

Kecak Performance, Ubud

Kecak Performance, Ubud

We spent the final day in Kuta waiting for our flight that night and here is a little practical tip – there is no luggage facilities in Kuta! So after lugging my pack around for a couple of kilometres in humid weather, we ended up going to the airport to drop off the stuff. However not before venturing down Poppies Lane 2! Now in all my trips to Bali I’ve never had to go down it and I wish I hadn’t this time. It was mass tourism at its worse and our Balinese taxi driver was just shaking his head the whole time we drove down it. Its raucous, it was raunchy, it was ugly and I all I wanted to do was crawl back up to Ubud and hideaway.  My lecturer argues that tourism is new form of colonisation – if poppies lane 2 is anything to go by, Australians have conquered Kuta. Anyway enough of my soap box.  Niki and I found the quiet Poppies restaurant half way down relaxed poppies lane 1 and spent the evening drinking and discussing the Perth Project. You should see the ideas we have come up with, before jumping on a turbulent flight back to Perth! Why do they have to show horror movies at the airport in Bali, can’t they tell I can’t handle it?

Thanks for reading guys, if in fact you are reading. That was a long one and I’m now back to Perth destinations. I would definitely recommend getting up to Bali. If you haven’t been before it’s not what you think, and if you have been before, try something new.

The Kecak Dance – http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mv9utkz-Jco

Hint: DONT BUY ANY BANANAS.

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