Friday, 28 October 2016

Bali Indonesia

Bali - 12 to 28 September

Bali is the holiday island for Australia and hence is a well-developed tourist island. It is mainly a Hindu island with about 20m people living on the island. We were staying on the north side which is the less developed side of Bali – the main resorts are all in the South. 

Amed 12 – 13 September
One of the better marked FADS

Amed was our first stop as it was just a day sail from Lombok and we could only sail during daylight  - there are lots of fish attracting devices (FADS) along the north shore and it is not safe to sail at night. We anchored off the beach and we received a vhf call from the other two boats in the anchorage who were enjoying a beer around the pool in one of the resorts. 

We had dinner on the beach and for the first time it felt like a holiday. There were quite a few tourists staying in the town although it is described as an alternative backpackers place for hippies. I cannot say that I would have described it as such, there was not much alternative about the people we met – just normal tourists. A very pleasant evening even if the food was not that good but the setting made up for that.

Lovina 13 – 16 September

As soon as we anchored in Lovina,.we took all our forms into the local agent for the visa renewal and were told that we would have our fingerprints and photos taken by immigration two days later, on Thursday. Immigration offices are only open Monday to Wednesday so that was never going to happen!  But then nothing happens here when it is expected and we were not that surprised

Band playing on the beach
The festival was on in Lovina for the first two nights with lots of stalls selling clothes and food with bands playing on the beach in the evening. It was very lively and crowded as it was a big draw for both tourists and locals in the area. The rally boats quickly adopted one of the local bars as the meeting place, mainly because it had a two for one happy hour on cocktails between 6pm and 8pm. We made good use of that facility over the time we were there!

We spent our time sorting out a trip to Sideman Valley (the traditional Bali) and looking at the options for getting to Borobudur on Java. Finding out the options is something that Catherine has more patience with than me and helped by Pepe and Bear who were going with us.

Sideman Valley 16 – 19 September

Sideman Valley
Hiring a car would have been an option to get to Sideman Valley, but not a good one. The cost of hiring a car is £30 and with a driver is £36 per day and you need nerves of steel to drive here. I am sure they must have some rules of the road but we could not work it out. At least they are very calm drivers - cars overtake into on-coming traffic on narrow roads and move in just before the head on collision without even a horn being sounded or a raised fist. Similarly, cars will turn right across the on-coming car which will just slow down and let them turn. Good decision not to drive ourselves.
The journey was to be 4 hours and the driver suggested some stops along the way.

Stopped for a Coffee

On the way we stopped at a Coffee plantation since we had never seen one. The guide was very
Luwak Coffee
Coffee beans growing
informative as he showed us the beans growing and how they dry and roast them – all by hand. We were also introduced to Luwak coffee which is the most expensive coffee in the world and it shows you can market anything. The coffee berries are eaten by the Civet, a cat like animal, and the beans are not digested but ferment in their stomachs before being passed out in the normal way. People collect the Civet poo, wash the beans clean and then put it in the sun to dry for a couple of weeks. It can then be roasted and sold as a premium coffee.

Catherine sampling the coffee
We sampled a variety of coffee, the variety coming from what they put with it e.g. vanilla. TheLuwak coffee was much stronger, bitter and none of us liked it. Just as well at the price they charge even here.

We are not going to the Temple

Impressive temple
We all agreed we did not want to go to the Hindu Temple (the largest in Bali) as we had heard people are scammed for money. We agreed with the driver we would just drive past it so we could see it but not stop. However we found that you have to pay the entry fee even just to drive past it so having paid we decided to go in.

Our tickets were collected at a booth on the walk to the temple. We had gone about 100m before we were asked for our tickets again and told we would have to pay as we did not have them. We explained to no vail so we just carried on walking past them while they shouted at us. Not a 100m further on we were told we could not go in without a guide (more money) but we had been advised of this scam by some other tourists we had met on the way. So again we kept walking while being chased by some angry guides. And we were approached by another two people with the same story but less vehemently as we were getting more than a little annoyed by this time. The temple was large and the advice “that it is not worth the hassle you will get” was well founded.

Three Nights in Sideman

Our "villa"
The two villas in the place we stayed were rustic but comfortable and nestled among the paddy fields and the mountains. It was much cooler in the mountains and the pool was a welcome relief in the heat of the afternoon.

The village of Sideman is small with a few restaurants and some other villas, but is mainly a farming area – rice, chilli, peanuts and beans. The two aspects sit side by side: the small number of expensive villas and restaurants alongside the subsistence farming. The locals welcome the small tourist places as somewhere they can earn money away from the farm (often combining both jobs) and the tourism is very small compared to the more developed parts of Bali.

The first day we explored the village, about a ten minute walk away, and it did not take long to walk all the way through the village – it is very small. After a very pleasant salad for lunch (something that we have missed since leaving Australia – salad that is), we relaxed in the pool before going out for dinner.

We chose the restaurant on the basis that it served cocktails (not normally a good criteria) as a change from Bintang (the local beer). However the food turned out to be excellent in an attractive setting and it made for a very relaxing evening.

The next day we hired some scooters to explore the area with Bear taking one (while Pepe relaxed by the pool) and Catherine and I on the other. Our first stop was in the village to go on a guided tour of the paddy fields, something we were all keen to do since we did not understand much about rice growing.

Irrigation System
Planting out the rice
We spent three hours walking through the paddy fields with riceat all the different stages of growth. We watched just how hard it is to farm rice, ankle deep in water with the hot sun blazing overhead. And while it is a staple food in Indonesia, the price on the market is very low and the farmers do live a subsistence life style.

Ploughing the rice fields before planting
Fully grown rice
Rice takes about 4 months to grow and the crops have to be 
alternated with other crops such as peanuts, chilli and beans to allow the soil to dry out and recover before the fields are once again flooded for the next crop of rice. The system of irrigation is interesting in itself, with canals cascading the water down from the top of the valley through all the fields, with the ability to control the water supply to any one field.

Peanuts freshly picked
We sampled many crops along the way including eating raw peanuts directly picked from the ground. Surprisingly tasty even before they have been dried out in the sun for 11 hours before being roasted.

Our bike trip continued up the mountain to go to the temple at the top. As the roads got steeper and steeper we passed a group of young boys who had stopped their bikes and they shouted to us as we passed, making thumbs up gestures which we did not understand. Two hundred metres further on we ground to a halt as the bikes could not make it up the increasingly steep slope and we were passed by the group of boys on foot who clearly knew that it was not possible to ride a bike up that hill. They were very friendly as they passed, taking the obligatory photos of us as they walked past.

Back to Lovina 19 – 22 September

A few days back in Lovina to get our visas completed, explore the town some more and stock up on a few essentials including bread from the bakers – the first since we arrived in Indonesia.

Java 23 – 26 September

We flew to Yogjakarta on Java to see the famous Buddhist temple at Borobudur and the Hindu temple in Yogjakarta itself. The hotel was in the grounds of the Buddhist temple and we planned to get up at 4am to see the sunrise over the temple which was a short 20 minutes’ walk. However, that night the monsoon rains started and was quite spectacular, if a little wet. We did get up at 4am and immediately went back to bed on looking out of the window.

Buddhist temple in Borobudur
The school photo
Later that morning and early by our standards, we explored the temple, borrowing an umbrella from the hotel. It took us an hour to get into the temple after being waylaid by a group of school children who wanted to have their picture taken with us. And then we were invited to join in the group school photo before we managed to extricate ourselves and actually go into the temple.

The temple was built in 800AD and is a magnificent building, built on three levels on top of a hill. Each level has a series of carved pictures on each side of the walls and the idea was that the pilgrims would study the stories that these told as they walked around, spending weeks on each level before they were ready to progress to the next level. The highest level was achieved when they had achieved Nirvana but that could take a lifetime. People from all over SE Asia would travel to the temple and it was famous until it was forgotten and left undiscovered until the mid-19th Century.

One of the stories carved into the walls
It was four hours well spent, helped by the documentary we had seen in the hotel the night before which explained some of the stories contained in the pictures. It was fascinating to find the pictures and have some understanding of their significance.

We strolled into town to find somewhere to eat and it did not seem well set up for tourists given it is right next to the 2nd most visited site in Indonesia after Bali.

The Hindu Temple

The Hindu temple still being restored
The next day we took a taxi for the forty minute drive back to
Yogjakarta and stopped at the Hindu temple on the way. Built around the same time as the Buddhist temple it was not as impressive and looked much like the many other temples we have visited. And the two hour monsoon rain during our visit which flooded everything did not help.

Armed with a newly bought umbrella we set off in the afternoon to explore Jogjakarta, a major town. On the way we stopped at a traditional restaurant (a must do according to the Lonely Planet) and experienced the local delicacy – fried cow skin along with a range of other foods we did not recognise. Will not be eating that again!

In the Town, we were struck by the sheer number of people, cars and the upmarket shops sitting alongside traditional markets on a huge scale. As the rain started once again we made our way to a bar to sit out the latest deluge. There are many restaurants and bars in Yogjakarta, catering for tourists from all over the world.

A little downpour
The local transport
With the rain showing no signs of stopping, we took the local
transport back to our hotel – a type of rickshaw with some poor and very wet person peddling the bike while we sat under the plastic sheeting at the front.

Catherine had picked out a Mediterranean restaurant to visit that night and once again we were forced to take the local transport to keep dry. The restaurant would not have been out of place Europe with its western type menu and d├ęcor and it made a very pleasant change from eating in the  normal local restaurants.

Back to Lovina 26 – 28 September

We had planned to leave the next day but I had succumbed to the local food from Yogjakarta. I was convinced I was about to die but Catherine assured me I would be fine, just drink water and not eat which I did. She turned out to be right and we set off for Borneo a few days later.

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