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Bali

23/04/2010

Finally I have decent enough internet to post about my holiday in Bali in February. Didn’t end up having enough time to “resume normal transmission” when I was in New Zealand.

So after working 5 weeks straight to make my holiday’s align with the Papua schedule I got some time off. Given that in nearly 2 years of living in Indonesia I had yet to venture forth to Bali I decided it was time.

Being based in Nabire meant ‘dead-heading’ on one of our own flights to Biak with a small wait at the Hotel for breakfast and then onto the Garuda service to Makassar. Unfortunately there is only one flight in the afternoon from Makassar to Denpasar (Bali) so it meant a 5 hour transit time in Makassar. Thankfully Ujung Pandang Airport is reasonably new and has a few shops. In order to get into the holiday mood I decided to stop into the reflexology shop for 30 minutes and it wasn’t too bad. However, that and some magazine purchases didn’t really kill much time so I decided to check out one of the airport lounges.

Finally it was time to board the flight to Bali and it was on a 737-800 but one of Garuda’s earlier ones without the TV’s (not that it matters on a short flight). I arrived in Bali just before 6pm and after the normal mind-numbing wait at luggage claim I headed outside and got a taxi to the hotel.

Immediately driving out from the airport it did start to feel a little different, and I guess it should seeing Bali is Indonesia’s premier tourist destination. My hotel was in Kuta but quite a bit back from the beach. So despite is being brand-new 4-star it wasn’t that expensive. They apologised to me at check-in because the room I had booked was not available and I was being put in a family suite. Yeah that really requires an apology!

Sun setting at Kuta Beach

I did the normal touristy things on the first couple of days. Did some shopping along Jalan Legian and then had a few beers at Kuta beach. Got to say I was pretty over Kuta after a couple of days. The beach isn’t all that nice and the shop keepers constantly putting on an Aussie accent thinking I was Australian gets old really quickly. I ended up just talking in Bahasa Indonesia and telling them I was from Papua; that got some funny looks.

After a couple of days by myself some more company pilots arrived and we had another afternoon on Kuta beach. This time was actually worse than when I went by myself. We were not left alone not matter what we tried. A constant stream of hawkers came trying to sell us their wares.

We decided it would be good to get out of Kuta, so the following day after lunch we rented scooters and set heading for Ubud. My Nokia E71 was absolutely invaluable with the GPS sensor and Google Maps helping us navigate seeing Indonesian signage isn’t the best. We made it to Ubud about an hour before dark so that gave us a bit of time to ride around and find somewhere to stay. There is no shortage of accommodation but we ended up settling on a place set down an alley and with rice paddies around it for Rp250,000 a night (NZ$39). We then headed to Jalan Monkey Forest and found a nice restaurant for dinner.

Setting sun in Ubud from Hotel in the Rice Paddies

The following day we got up nice and early and left the hotel at around 9am to get to Munduk which is further north in the Bali highlands – more cooler temperatures, hooray. With Google Maps it should have been a 75km trip but because I didn’t like having the phone out of my bag while we were driving and we made a few wrong turns we travelled about double that. But it was all good fun. Still being wet season we had been remarkably lucky so far in avoiding any significant rain. But as we got close to Munduk our luck ran out and the run began to tumble down on us. We made to Munduk village and pulled over, taking shelter by a small shop where we bought some wet weather gear. According to Lonely Planet, Puri Lumpung Cottages is the best accommodation in Munduk so we decided to head up the road and check it out. It is definitely pretty cool and being low season we got a really good rate.

The view from the restaurant at Puri Lumbung Cottages in Munduk

The food at Puri Lumpung was fantastic, being Bali pork was on the menu so we all took advantage of that. It was one of the other pilots birthday while we were there too so we got a bottle Bali’s own Hatten wine. It was an Alexandria which is quite sweet like a Muscat, it really wasn’t too bad at all.

After a wonderful full breakfast we headed up to see an amazingly powerful waterfall up the road and then continued on for the journey back to Kuta. Because this was our last day with the scooters we didn’t really have time to stop at different places and take things in. It was pretty much 100 km/h through villages and country-side which was fun in itself but I would definitely like to go back and take things it at a more milder pace.

We did however make time to stop at Pura Luhur Batukaru which is an ancient Hindu temple sitting on the slope of the second largest volcano in Bali. It is somewhat hidden and difficult to get to as it is not signposted very clearly and we had to make quite a few stops and ask locals if we were going the right way. Once we finally found it there were a few tourist but not many. It is required to put a sarong on before entering the temple, this is done for you by attendants at the gate house.

Guidelines at Pura Luhur Batukaru

After some time at the temple we set heading for Kuta at the usual quick pace. We could see rain clouds moving in from the east so we wanted to try and avoid those as best we could as we drove south. We were doing pretty well until we missed one turn south and continued towards Denpasar and the brewing clouds. We re-grouped but soon found one of the guys was missing. Worried that he may have come off his bike we tried calling his mobile but had no luck. One of the other guys went back in the direction we came just to make sure he sprawled across the road but there was no sign.

Eventually we got through to him and he was sitting in a restaurant after getting lost. By this time the clouds were starting to beat down with rain so we made a plan to meet by the McDonald’s at Kuta Beach and quickly mounted up on the scooters to get away from the rain. It really bucketed down so after a couple of km’s we pulled over to get shelter and waited it out for about 30 minutes. Once it had cleared somewhat we carried on for Kuta.

We were eventually reunited with our navigationally-challenged friend and went and had some lunch. After we had returned the scooters we then went back to my hotel and made good use of the pool along with a few beers.

That night myself and another one of the guys were headed back to work on Garuda. Departing from Denpasar at 3am. Unfortunately it turned out I had contracted an ear infection and ended up being in severe pain as we came in for landing at the first stop, Timika. I managed to persevere the following flight to Sentani but ended up having a week off there after being diagnosed with barotrauma (bleeding in the middle ear). I could have got the ear infection from the water at Kuta beach which wasn’t terribly clean or the underwater lengths in the pool on the last day after having ridden the scooter from the highlands down to Kuta.

Despite this unfortunate ending to the the holiday I think I will definitely go to Bali again, probably not Kuta which is overly commercialised but there is much to explore and the short time there was very enjoyable.

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