essay: Bali 2010

What can be said about Bali that hasnt been said already?  Nothing, I
suspect, so this will be more of interest to those, who like us, havent been
here before.
Balinese are SO creative – everything is carved, statues are everywhere,
everything is embellished to an unbelievable degree – houses, furniture,
gates, bridges, everything. the people are very friendly and mostly smile at
you in the street – it may be good tourism, but seems to come naturally to
them.  they are also very spiritual – little shrines everywhere, every house
and business seems to have one – some very large and elaborate; and that’s
apart from the scores of larger temples.  People make little prepared
offerings to their deity several times a day, in front of their shop, house,
wherever. the cities and towns are intense and Hindu  – highly commercial,
lots of touts and beggars, narrow little streets packed c traffic, thousands
of motorscooters, often ridden by beautiful young things without helmets.
men and women seem fairly equal here, with women in executive positions,
labouring, whatever.  Just about everything is very cheap – food, transport,
accomodation – except the big western/brandname stores which abound in the really intense
places like Kuta. the food is generally excellent – I could just keep eating
piles of  mee goreng – Rochi not so sure as she had a bad piece of tempeh
which made her sick for a few days.
We prepurchased mid range accom on the net and it has been of a high
standard, at times luxurious.  We stopped first in Seminyak for 4 days –
it’s an upmarket beach suburb of Denpasar, a few km north up the same long
beach as Kuta.  A bit of a shoppers paradise, but without the intensity of
Kuta; not far from Oberoi Bali, which has a big security presence.  We
checked out the huge old market in Denpasar, and were tagged throughout by
women whose job seemed to be to negotiate a price for whatever we wanted – a
little unnerving to be followed the whole time. For our first few days there
was a tropical deluge – the streets turned into fast flowing creeks, but it
all drained away surprisingly quickly.  We have resumed our old holiday
ritual of (cheap) vodka and mango juice at 5pm, a habit I’m sorry to be
leaving behind.
One day we accepted a scratchee from a young tout and low and behold Rochi
seemed to have won a big prize – he was terribly excited as it also gave him
$50 (a month’s living) and more points towards a real job with the
organization, selling luxury holiday condo memberships all over the world.
We thought what the hell, and jumped into a taxi with him to an hour’s
interview with some v smooth Australians in a luxury area south of Kuta.
Not surprisingly we didnt part with the $15000 minimum sign-up fee, but we
kept the free week’s holiday in one of the many luxury hotels in this huge
international condo outfit run by a British Branson type.  maybe next year,
if it’s real.

Next stop was a lovely thatched hut on the beach at Ahmed, a group of
villages in the shadow of the mighty volcano mt Agung in east Bali, about
4hrs away by car – via the beautiful Sidemen Rd through pretty little
mountain villages and those wonderful terraced rice paddies – though not the
mighty world heritage ones to the west.  Ahmed was a nice 4-5 day break from
the urban intensity, little to do other than eat, laze about and take long
hot walks through the coastal villages.  I’ve also become a bit addicted to
their wonderful fruit pancakes for breakfast.

Our final stop was for 5 days here at Ubud, the culture capital of Bali, a
bit south of the centre of the island in the foothills of the volcanoes.
Urban intensity again, but culture by the truckload – galleries everywhere
including some very large and wonderful public and private ones filled with
Balinese art – all incredibly detailed and very decorative. yesterday saw a
huge collection of keris – ceremonial curved swords/daggers, blades
intricately  inlaid c gold, highly carved and bejewelled handles, and
scabbards totally encrusted c precious stones and jewels  We’re in a fine
old hotel in the centre, a short walk from the great sacred monkey forest
sanctuary where Balinese macaques come in vast numbers to watch the
tourists, and generally do lots of monkey business.  Best not to touch them
(big sharp teeth and rabies!) but one ran up my back and sat on my hat until
I managed to tip him off).

We’ve got a late flight from Denpasar tonight wednesday and should be home
via Darwin and Adelaide on thursday at tea time.
Lots of love, Rod and Rochi

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