Dawn at the Bali Hilton beach, Nusa Dua.
A letter to family and friends, to share with them the saga of our 1999 Bali holiday.
Written at Home;
Dear Kin, Friends, Acquaintances and Bastards-I-Have-Known,
Never having tried to write a letter for community circulation before, let alone one which I hope will be jointly written, it will probably be a bit surprising if this ever sees the light of day or the darkness of your letter box. I confess that I have cringed in the past when I have received this sort of letter, feeling miffed that I was so unimportant to the sender that I did not warrant a personal note. I hope no-one feels that way but rather that you recognise you are so important to us that you are on the short list to get the full and unabridged volume of our travels.
Obviously two authors could make it confusing to read so I have started in Comic Sans (a softly rounded sans serif font) and left a normal font for C.. to use. Why is this? (That’s C.. Can you see the difference?)
One of my reasons for doing this (writing the letter, that is) is that I am a bit behind in my correspondence (now that's more than close to a lie as I can only remember writing 2 non-business letters in recent years).
In addition there are a number of friends whom I/we (Did I really agree to this?) do not see regularly but never the less would like to regale with the stories of our recent Bali holiday adventures. Also, it might be interesting for us, in future years, to read it and re-live the memories.
Now printing fonts have only been an academic study for me in the past, however, one of my old friends has recently made me aware of the mysterious things that can be read into a person's selection of fonts. For instance, Arial and Times New Roman reminds him of things that threaten to foreclose on the mortgage, he claims. He uses an almost unintelligible font of unknown origin and so small I need my magnifying glass to see it, all of which must say something about him but he is probably too busy to ask what.
G'day Chris, old mate.
I have chosen Comic Sans because it seems a friendly, relaxed, easy-to-read script rather than a formal set of letters, and it's dark enough for tired eyes to see on the screen. Read into that what you will, I like it.
Anyhow, a discourse on fonts is not what I started out to do, so let's get on with the story.
~. . o o 0 o o . .~
We left on Wednesday the 30th of June, latish in the morning, in fact nearly midday, scheduled to return in 15 days. C.. had been allowed the last 2+ days off school because of her commitments to their re-building work which she had managed over the Xmas and Term 1 holidays. She had lessons first thing in the morning and arrived home shortly after 10.30 am.
Max the dog had been a bit upset for a couple of days, I'm sure because he recognised something was up when the suitcases came out and packing began. He’s a very smart dog! When the cases
were closed this morning his fears were confirmed and he sat leaning miserably against his favourite part of the kitchen wall with his head slumped, making a pathetic sight as he glanced sideways at us and showed white crescents under his eyes. Priscilla the cat had a last minute feed and disappeared somewhere to sleep as usual - nothing was going to change her routine. Don’t you believe it! She may not have realised it but her routine of food on demand was well and truly shattered.
Joan, the Home Pet Care lady, was to again call in twice a day to feed them, walk Max, collect the mail and look after the house and garden. We have found in the past that this is not only cheaper than boarding them but much less stressful. They are free to roam and sleep in their familiar surroundings and their friends Nosh and Pam, Leonie and Eddy also call in to see them, either by design or just as they come and go.
Joan is a large lady, has a very lovely nature, a real affinity for the animals and a booming voice. One does wonder what the ‘children’ really think!
Everyone we were prepared to burden had a copy of our itinerary and phone/fax numbers in case of disaster.
The gates were locked and the security lights (including 4 new ones outside) were on.
The radio and light timers inside were set and on.
The taxi was booked. (It's always embarrassing to tell the cabbie that we're only going 1.5 Km to the airport - but what else can you do? It's too damn far to walk, even without loaded suitcases. I have to say that none of them has seemed put out yet.)
We thought that we were ready! We were certainly eager, although I had more than a touch of regret that my daughters E.. (No.1.) and M.. (No.2.) had decided not to go with us - (sorry kids but I think I've got to tell it like it is, for the sake of posterity you understand.).
Quite by accident over the preceding weekend I had discovered that our flight tickets which read Adelaide-Melbourne-Denpasar actually meant Adelaide-Melbourne-Sydney-Darwin-Denpasar! The Duty Free shopping C.. had planned to do in Melbourne, where we thought we had a decent time span, suddenly went out the window. Confusion reigned when we found that we would not clear customs until Darwin, an unknown quantity and quality in the shopping stakes, and with very little time to clear customs even, let alone leisurely shop even if good shopping was available. In addition, the Duty Free shopping which I had done in Adelaide (mainly photographic gear including a new, solid tripod) would have to be carried as additional cabin luggage all the way to Darwin. The true disaster was not revealed until it was confirmed that everything would have to be carried on AND OFF at every airport, even Darwin because of customs although we were using the same plane for the remainder of the flight! And here was I with my arm in a sling due to tendons torn a week before we left. C's biceps have developed a new dimension.
But eventually we made it.
He also got all of the sympathy while I got glares for carrying too much hand luggage!
I also have to mention that when we tried to close my Dad’s old faithful suitcase, the locks decided to give up. Some colourful language and long lengths of baling twine fixed it and we proceeded, albeit less glamorously, to the airport. It was later to get it’s own back on us for this casual treatment, right in the middle of the Darwin airport when we had to undo the baling twine and re-pack the now overweight case.
~. . o o 0 o o . .~
Adelaide to Melbourne was a nice flight although the thick cloud cover (which was to be a common thing all the way there and back) limited sight seeing which I usually enjoy, and made the light coming into the cabin very glaring. We arrived at 1.30 pm., a 1.5 hour trip.
C.. found a Duty Free shop available to transit passengers and made a few purchases (would anyone who knows her ever had any doubts?), "just in case Darwin was a disaster" I was told.
And it was! Only time to clear immigration and rearrange all His stuff that I was carrying. This included the tripod! Life in Bali without Chivas Regal would have been even more disastrous!
This helped pass the 2.5 hours we had to wait for the next flight and whetted her appetite for more in Bali. It also made her feel more like a holidaymaker than someone who had been in front of a class and then trying to escape a chatty Principal only an hour or two earlier. I am not a shopper so found a phone and called an old friend, Christopher, whom I taught with in Tumby Bay many years ago when we were both boys. I couldn't find him in the plethora of phone books available at the airport so had the strange experience of ringing directory assistance, asking a computer, and receiving a prompt and accurate reply. He now grows orchids and begonias at Marcus Hill near Queenscliffe at the entrance to Port Phillip Bay (and if I've got any of that wrong he will take great delight in correcting me). This was to be the first of many times over the coming fortnight that I would wish I'd taken a list of phone/fax numbers and web addresses with us, but the last time I had to cut a conversation short because of a lack of coins.
Just by way of a diversion, when Chris left THE DEPARTMENT (and I confess that his decision horrified me at the time but I have since marvelled at his foresight) he helped his parents run a grocery/green grocery/general country store in Keith in southeast South Australia. This was before becoming a general builder, a dune buggy driver on the Coorong, a salmon fisherman and Lord knows what else before becoming a Victorian (that’s not really a reflection on his age) horticulturalist, with fertiliser under his fingernails I guess. This very building (the grocery shop in Keith) has now been heritage listed by the local Council (well after all it is about the same age as him), and it has been renovated very nicely as an upmarket Café called “The Penny Farthing”. My number 1 daughter, E.., who now shares shelter with a wealthy Keith land owner named Midge, is about to start work at The Penny Farthing as a casual weekend chef (or is it cook? I can never remember which is right but I know I usually get into trouble because I get it wrong.) Small world eh?
~ . . o o 0 o o . . ~
Back to the story and the Melbourne airport. - - -
On to a big (737? 747? I used to know these things but I’m not sure anymore.) aircraft to Sydney, lugging the now greater load of baggage. And the tripod! For stay-at-home folks we seem to have been through Sydney airport a number of times. Perhaps it only seems that way because it's such a long hike from the car park and between terminals, and the moving walkways never seem to be all working. The last time was when we went to see C..'s old (now I'll get into trouble for that) (Yes, I’ll tell her.) Teachers College classmate Merril. It was strange on the way back to leave from the very same gate from which we had said goodbye to her about 12 months before. Yes, it really is a small world – even in almighty Sydney town. Here it was C.. who was frustrated when she wanted to ring Merril and leave a rude message on her answering machine. (Merril is also a teacher and would have been hard at it at school while we were off on an early holiday.) With no record of either phone or mobile numbers, and both being silent, the computer wouldn't talk this time. I might mention here that gorgeous Merril lives at Lindfield but has a lovely little boat named Moskwa, moored on beautiful Pittwater, and that Merril and her drinking and sailing mates now know how to tie a Dragon Bowline! - or is it draggin' Merril? (That's an in-joke known only to all smart-arse South Aussie sailors and now 3 from Sydney.)
The Melbourne-Sydney flight took just under an hour and we had another hour to wait to get on board the next much smaller aircraft bound for Darwin.
~. . o o 0 o o . .~
The long flight to Darwin took nearly 4.5 hours. The movie was worse than terrible and as it was dark the sightseeing was not memorable. At Darwin we had less than an hour to -
- get us and our stuff off, (Again.)
- fill out the immigration form which had not been given to us on the way up,
- last minute Duty Free shopping, (Did absolutely none!)
- get cleared through customs,
- visit the toilet and try to clean the teeth,
- undo and re-pack the duty free stuff, (Reposition the tripod.)
- re-board and re-stow the luggage, (Mainly the tripod.)
- settle down for the 3 hour flight to Denpasar, across the Timor Sea just south of currently troubled Timor itself.
Just by way of another diversion, on the way back we had a few brief moments to admire the modern structure of this airport building. It has a soaring, curved roof, corrugated iron I think, arcing up from ground level to way, way overhead, and seemingly well over 100 meters long. The upper levels have a series of huge works of art, commissioned from locals I think, all along its length. We really spent much of our time on hands and knees untying an overweight suitcase. It had developed defective locks as we were about to depart Adelaide and was therefore tied up with baling twine. We re--distributed stuff into a separate plastic bag so the baggage handlers did not have to lift more than 30 kg. When I told this story to nephew Ramon who lives and works in Darwin as a tourist (terrorist?) bus driver and guide, he bemoaned the number of times he had been caught loading/unloading luggage outside the building in a teeming tropical downpour.
Still a small world isn’t it?
~. . . o o 0 o o . . . ~
Back to the story - again. We were about to depart Darwin for Denpasar, the ultimate destination in Bali if you can remember that far back.
Eventually the attitude of the aircraft changes perceptibly and the engine note changes slightly. This signals the start of our descent into the Denpasar air space. Actually the airport is Ngurah Rai, well south of Denpasar, about 12 Km, or twice as far as Adelaide is from its airport at West Beach, but 12 Km in Bali can take up to twice as long to travel as it would in Adelaide. After an agonisingly long wait the landing lights come on and I eagerly peer out of the window to catch the first tantalising glimpse of the magical mystery isle. Nothing but fleeting clouds of varying densities! But, wait, is that the light of a fishing boat out there? Concentrate mind! Focus eyes! No, a small star. But don’t give up. Look down further. Nothing. What about further forward? Scrunch the left cheek more firmly into the Perspex of the cabin window, close the right eye, hold a cupped palm close to the window to cut out the reflection, - - - - - - still nothing.
Which way are we approaching from? Is it over the Bali Strait or over the Lombok Strait? From the west or from the east?.. A series of turning banks that are felt in the seat of the pants but cannot be discerned from the view out of the window indicate that we are on a controlled glide path – but still nothing but the damned clouds.
‘Patience has it’s own rewards’, my old Grandmother used to tell me.
Along with other things like, ‘I’ll get you for that my lad – never fear – I’LL GET YOU!!!!’
And indeed it does have it’s reward, for eventually the cloud thins and there below us is the reflection of the moon on the water and above that, on an ever changing level as the aircraft banks left and right almost continuously, are the stars. Tropical stars like no others because below them, I know, are the shores of a tropical paradise. Bali!
Then they come into sight. The specks of light that are the fishing boats out over the fringing reefs. A few at first, then a cluster, then more clusters, and as we sink lower it seems that the whole bottom half of the window is sparkling with pin points of light.
The aircraft’s lights eventually show up the edge of the runway after the rocks of the breakwater extension that juts out into the sea and divides Tuban beach from Jimbaran Bay. The bounce of the wheels touching bitumen with a puff of white smoke announces the arrival of Kaptain Kangaroo, who probably hopes that the boss didn’t see his misjudged effort, and who knows that any mechanic who happens to see him on the ground is going to rib him about the landing.
This is the time I really start to worry. Not now about ditching in the Timor Sea or anything like that, but about the 6 bottles frothy tea and 2 casks of liquid coffee which we are each carrying into Indonesia which has a limit of only much less per person. I have vision of trying to plea bargain with a Moslem judge to stay out of an Indonesian jail! I once had to pay a $50 "tax" to the customs man who found only 2 bottles of frothy tea - it went straight into his pocket! - the $50, not the frothy tea.
To make matters worse the aircraft is running late and we also get held up on the runway because the aircraft in our scheduled parking bay at the airport is delayed leaving. I have visions of screaming passengers being dragged off in handcuffs, all the while being beaten with bamboo canes for some trivial offence. We are the last aircraft for the night and it is a small plane with few passengers to be processed by a full complement of vigilant inspectors. When we get to the huge immigration area there is none of the usual hour's delay waiting in queues - the little men are waiting for us! Passports and papers scrutinised and stamped repeatedly, with savage vigour.
Off to the Customs Hall !!!
And there they are - watching - again waiting, seemingly with all the time in the world to examine us thoroughly, tired no doubt - and grumpy too no doubt, brusque as only an irritable Indonesian Official can be when dealing with any European infidel.
A bit of an exaggeration perhaps - but that's the way it seems when nerves are strung taut.
By the time I get there, C.. has two trolleys organised and waiting by the carousel. The bags come through the opening in the wall and begin to circulate towards us, porters materialise and are paid handsomely in advance with A$5 notes. Coins would be an insult as their largest coin, 500 rupia, is worth(less) - just 10 cents. We drag the bags off as they come around, well C.. does. I’m protecting my drinking arm in it’s sling. The now very eager porters toss them onto the trolleys and we are off to the Customs inspection desks without drawing breath it seems.
Off to our fate as carriers of prohibited goods in quantity !!!
With a barely visible nod from the porters to the Inspectors, we are waved through without a pause in our step, out the door, into the night and to the ranks waiting for a "taksi".
This time they were really quite pleasant and quick. He’s just too shy to say anything!
We’ve survived again. What an anticlimax !
The 5 dollar note has done the trick once more, no doubt to be shared with the Customs Inspector at the end of the shift. ‘Viva le corruption’ I say!
The porter even got in the taksi queue for us, and 20 minutes later found us and showed the voucher. He waves the voucher at a Taksi driver, who also seems to gets the nod about rich tourists throwing money around. They begin loading all our stuff into a small, old, but clean Datsun sedan, the driver enthusiastic for this time of night, doubtless anticipating his tip at the end of the trip. With relief on my part at least, we are whisked away into the night with the now cool breeze blowing through the open windows of the cab.
We remark on and relish the balmy night air carrying the tinkle and clonk of wind chimes and with the scents of flowers, incense and garbage.
~. . . o o 0 o o . . .~
The trip across the narrow lower part of the island from west to east takes about 20 minutes and we found ourselves on the well-made roads with their manicured verges leading past the 5 star resorts of Nusa Dua. Up to the entry portals of The Bali Hilton International Hotel. Around the climbing drive past the fountains and reflecting pools flanked by shrines made of red brick and grey local stone, all laid in patterns and carved in relief. Past the stone figures of their mythology; the Barong, the monkey King, the wise bird of ill fortune and numerous others.
The taksi eventually stops at the entrance steps (why do hotels, especially first class ones, always have steps for the weary traveller to negotiate?). These lead up to the reception desk sited at one corner of an immense open roofed area with highly polished, visible structural timbers, where a very welcome cold fruit drink waits.
The ambience of a 5 star hotel and heady aromas of Bali started to take effect and I parked the events of the day in a remote corner of my mind. Bliss!
We know we have ARRIVED and are now ON HOLIDAY !
~. . . o o 0 o o . . . ~
Part of our travelling group, Bull, Blondie and their son Flea, who left Adelaide after us but arrived in the hotel well before us, having travelled via Perth, have left a message at the desk to be called when we arrived. Only Bull was still awake I think, and he shortly gave us a call to arrange to meet the following day. They had a surprise at the airport when they discovered white chalk crosses on their suitcases. Despite Bull’s hasty efforts to erase the suspicious and offensive marks and the usual $5 note to the porter, the bags were taken straight to the Customs inspection desk and were required to be opened. Thankfully on top of the first one was Flea's supply of Fruit Box drinks, which were obviously acceptable, and with Bull's assurance that there was no demon frothy tea drink anywhere (he lies through his teeth of course) they were allowed through.
We were to have 3 days at The Hilton before moving to our usual stamping ground, the Holiday Inn at Tuban, on the western part of the island near the airport.
Boy was to arrive on our last day at The Hilton and Lollylegs; the final member of the group arrived the day we moved into the Holiday Inn.
We spent our time at Nusa Dua travelling to the capital Denpasar and on to Kuta Beach where we were familiar with the shopping areas and the prices as well as the moneychangers. It is very important to know the moneychangers, but it is still wise to have someone else with you to double-check the counting. We also investigated the local village of Bualu and the hotel controlled Galleria shopping centre and Tragia Supermarket. Having checked out all of the more distant and the local options, the prices and the finances, the girls still could not resist shopping in all areas. The prices at Nusa Dua (inside the hotels' area of control) are inflated as they are really intended to cater for the Japanese market. Recent financial problems in Japan have badly affected the volume of this market and the immense hotel seemed almost deserted. As an example of price inflation, a large bottle of Bintang beer (Indonesian) cost Rp20,000 (A$4.55) chilled and served in the cheapest hotel restaurant dining area, ++ (that is plus 10% hotel surcharge and plus government tax which seemed to vary between 10 and 40%, depending on the goods. I think alcohol attracted the higher levels of tax.) a total of about A$5.50. The same beer cost Rp13, 500 ($3.10) at the hotel controlled Tragia Supermarket, Rp14,000 served cold at a restaurant in Bualu village, Rp12,000 served at a beach side cafe in Kuta and Rp7,000 ($1.60) at a little local shop down the street from the Holiday Inn. Local beers (Bintang, Bali Hai, San Miguel and Anker) are really very cheap drinks, usually served very cold with a double skinned handle "glass" straight from the freezer. The tankard is made of plastic and the space between the skins contains a liquid that gets frozen in the freezer and ensures that the beer remains really cold in the (brief) time that it takes to drink. On the other hand imported wine, spirits and liqueurs are very expensive. For example at the "cheap" restaurant at the Hilton house wines by the glass cost A$7.50 for Aussie Chateau Cardboard, but A$10.45 if it was French vin ordinaire. Johnnie Walker was $10.90 a measure and Chivas Regal was $17.05.
Later in the trip when I stayed at the Champlung Sari Hotel in UBUD (in the middle of Bali) I asked for a brandy and dry in a long glass before dinner. The little man was apologetic that he did not have a suitable long glass and hoped that the medium sized brandy balloon was OK. It was a very nice brandy and dry, even if not in a long glass. When I checked the final hotel bill the next day I found an item, -
"Courvoisier and Dry, Rp 74,000 +10 %+21%. Total: Rp98, 000 ", (A$23.45 !! )
Even given that French brandy is nice, I'm very glad that I enjoyed the drink before I knew the cost.
I mentioned that the Hilton was large. It had two accommodation wings of 5 levels. Each level had, I think, 70+ rooms making a total of 700 rooms. In addition there were two very large suites at the end of each wing. These had walls enclosing the suite and its grounds that contained a private swimming pool of about 1/3 Olympic size, with Security Guards at the gates.
We were on the second floor with views of the gardens from our balcony. Bull and Blondie were on the fifth floor and got lost going home several times. We got lost most times going to visit them. They had an outlook across one part of the golf course towards the ocean cliffs, a temple on the headland point (it has been said that there are more temples than people in Bali) and the Nikko Hotel running back along the ridge some 2 Km away. Their view was spectacular.
A lagoon wandered all around the site between the two wings of rooms and up to the reception area with its bars, lounges and formal and informal eating areas. Besides the private pools attached to the suites there were two others for guests' use, the larger requiring a bridge to span the centre so that the grounds did not become inconveniently divided nor require long treks to get around.
The whole thing was remarkable in both its size and it's detail. Little things kept grabbing your attention –
- the brass anti-slip edges on all the stairway treads were being cleaned and re-polished by hand while we were there.
- the floodlighting in the grounds didn’t just sit where you could actually see it. It was enclosed in hand made ceramic frogs, with the light shining out of their mouths or through holes made in their backs
- the ashtrays (numerous, to cater for the ever smoking Japanese) were large white clamshell halves on wrought iron stands. They were half filled with sand and one little man had a full time job removing the butts, sweeping the sand level and decorating the surface with little finger drawn designs.
Similar designs, but on a larger scale, were drawn in the sand of the little "beaches" created every so often along the corridors past the rooms. They were regularly changed and always seemed to be of a different pattern.
- the lawns went right down to the edge of the beach where the sand was raked and swept every night. I was down there a few minutes after dawn on one morning to get some photos and the task was already finished, my footsteps across the pampered grains being the first of the day.
- there was a dedicated Ball Room about the size of the old Palais on North Terrace (Adelaide that is, for you interstate runner-ups) underneath the reception area. It had boxes of "Floor Speed" in little cupboards by each of the doors.
- the lawns were trimmed every day and the fallen leaves and flowers (numerous) were continually picked up through daylight hours. I felt compelled to regularly pick up flowers, particularly the multi-coloured frangipanis, just so that their perfection in form, colour and fragrance was recognised by someone before they wilted.
I remember remarking to C.. that No.2 daughter, who has a developing (pardon the pun) passion for photography could have used up two films between the entrance drive and our front door.
Come to think of it I could have myself, but I didn't have any film when we arrived. I did make up for that over the next couple of days though.
It was US$280 for a round of golf on either of the two international golf courses that meandered around the hotels' grounds. This fee evidently covered a motorised golf cart with driver, a caddy for each two golfers and, as we witnessed one day, five police/security officers to spring up out of the grass and trees at every road crossing when the buggy was heard. Two officers marched to the middle of the road and stopped traffic (to our surprise, even us while we were out walking one morning). Two others stood at opposite sides of the road to salute as the buggy crossed and He-Who-Was-In-Charge bowed slightly as they passed. Once the buggy and its precious cargo of rich Japanese hackers passed of course, everyone slumped down from their rigid attention positions, slouched back to the grass under the trees, recovered their previously hastily discarded cigarettes, sat or lay down, - and life went on as normal.
This performance was only Act 1 of the comedy, however.
Act 2 began when Bull asked if they would mind having their photographs taken with young Flea who is fair and very blonde.
But of course not! It would be a pleasure and an honour to have their photographs taken with anybody.
Up they sprang (really) and the opening ritual began once more. The traffic, or potential traffic, and even the fairy imagined traffic, the pedestrians and possible pedestrians, were ritually stopped once more. Flea was escorted across to “their” side of the street and the gathering formally composed according to rank rather than size, with Flea in the centre and the cigarettes not discarded, but hidden behind their backs. As a final scene Flea was given the walkie-talkie radio to hold (prominently) and everyone froze into formal rigidity and smiled as the shutter was triggered.
Bull had made their day memorable, they had made Flea’s day memorable and Bull had a memorable photo.
Such a simple (?) thing to make everyone happy and to produce an effusion of sincere thanks and little stiff bows all round. The role players and their audience were all well pleased.
From my observations the golfers were not as proficient as the actors who served them, apparently trying to have as many hits as they could get in for their money. And at the cost who am I to blame them?
Three days at the Hilton were very nice, and not really very expensive in comparative terms. I'm sure that we all enjoyed the lifestyle and some enjoyed the shopping, especially the discount sales at the handy Versace shops (genuine jeans for A$42-$45 rather the local A$100 +++. Armani and Gucci things (?) were also readily available for those with a burning need.
Some of us practiced our Salamat pagee (good morning up to 10 am), Salamat siang (to 12), Salamat soree (good afternoon till 6pm) and Salamat melaam, (good night), as well as Salamat tingaal, (goodbye), Apa kabar? (how are you) and Bagus - "bagooose", good!
Others, like Boy who is fluent in Indonesian, didn't need to practice at all.
At the end I think that these three days had a lot to do with what seemed an earlier than usual conversion to Bali speed or 'rubber time'.
~ . . . o o 0 o o . . . ~
From the Hilton to the Holiday Inn at Tuban (between Kuta Beach and the airport) on Saturday 3rd of July.
A smaller, older, more family oriented hotel, right on the beach. One that we have become familiar with and feel relaxed in (though not so much as Bull and Blondie who have been there now for the past 7 years). This was to be our base for the rest of the holiday even though we would go to stay at Ubud for 2 (or in my case 3) days.
The local markets immediately took a hammering.
From the beach sellers the usual cheap bargains of T shirts, shorts, carved wooden nick-knacks, sarongs, watches, bracelets and rings
- from the supermarkets, besides foods and fruit, there are cheap cosmetics, underclothes, shirts, belts, and shoes
- from the beaches - massages (WOW!!!), socks, kites, manicures, more shirts and shorts:
- from the little tailor down the street skirts, from locally available summer weight cloth (and from winter cloth bought in Adelaide, and brought over to provide packing around the frothy tea) and blouses. It all got too much for him in the end and it was easier for him to come to the hotel to see the girls one or two at a time rather than have all of them at once descend on him in his little shop
A seemingly endless buy-fest.
Fortunately (?) the Versace shops here (yes, there were more than one) were also having a discount sale. Perhaps the market was down because of the lack of Japanese tourists. Never the less our Aussie tourists were up to the mark with some members of our party buying 6 pairs of jeans with matching designer belts. I think that Flea and I were the only ones to resist the apparently irresistible. I must confess, however, to now owning a black dinner suit for attendance at weddings (I don't know whose) and funerals, probably mine as I've been told that I can be buried in it because it won't fit anyone else and so can’t be passed on. (That's OK, I'll be damned if I'm leaving it behind after enduring so much to get it). I've also got a summer leather jacket for the bike, which I have to say I like a lot.
~ . . . o o 0 o o . . . ~
Breakfast at the Holiday Inn needs to be seen to be believed. Your jaded palate can be sated by choices which include :
- Fresh fruits and fruit juices (there were usually 5 or 6 choices).
- Cereals with fruit compote and/or yoghurts, muesli.
- Hams, cheeses, dried fruits (no dates, strangely).
- Eggs, any way you wanted them and as many as you wanted.
- Breads, rolls, Danishes, pancakes, croissants, with butter, jams, vegemite, marmalade.
- Sausages, bratwurst, potatoes, rice, noodles, vegetables, great heaps crispy bacon, (and I mean crispy!), tomatoes, ham and pineapple (and what succulent pineapple it is).
- Toast, tea, coffee.
- Anything else that you might have a fancy for, but which was not on offer, would be quickly obtained and delivered to your table.
It was worth saving up for. Many of the younger guests ate unbelievable amounts and supplies for lunch were wrapped up in serviettes and packed into handbags as well.
The quality was as unfailing as the quantities.
Apart from breakfast we usually ate out of the hotel for lunch and dinner. Amongst our favourite places in TUBAN or KUTA unless otherwise noted - (Blondie has a 5 page screed on travelling to, eating in and buying at, Bali if anyone is interested. It's somewhere in these pages as "Beginners Bali".)
- The Pantai (meaning sea shore, formerly the Jukung). Overlooks the beach close to the Holiday Inn. Good food, good prices and good ambulance (ambience?). The manager is Fransiskus Ruben - if you ever get there ask how his little daughter Maria Christani Ema is and you'll be especially welcome.
- Green Garden - good satays.
- TJ's (Mexican) – Here and elsewhere I learnt to watch out for the chilli because it wasn't!
- Bali Seafood - (a bit expensive).
- Rama Bridge opposite the Kuta markets (used to be VERY good value but there are now a lot of new places that make it seem just good).
- Sunset Café (actually ON the beach at Kuta).
- Hard Rock Hotel (on the beach front at Kuta, with an ersatz beach in the back yard. VERY expensive, and you don't get any change offered to you, you have to ask for it!)
- The Pub - at Legian, has been good in the past but . . . . . . . !
- Dolphins in Legian street next to Dolphins Leather. It was great for breakfasts - all you could eat for about $3 but the devalued currency has caught up with it a bit.
- Mama Lucia’s - Legian St. Great Italian food.
- Palm Garden - (nice for a quiet snack).
- Kin Khao - GREAT Thai food and the very best spring rolls in all Bali.
- Kori Restaurant - Poppies Lane 2 - Blondie says it has the best food she’s ever eaten. As a gastronomic peasant I wouldn’t go that far, but it was good.
- The Hann Restaurant - Bualu village just outside the hotels compound at Nusa Dua. Has branches at other places.
- Lotus Garden - at Nusa Dua, Ubud, Tuban etc.
~ . . . o o 0 o o . . . ~
The days really fade into one another but I know I spent two (or was it three) days in Ubud (the art centre of Bali located in the central highlands before the real mountains). One of these days I was on my own in sole command of the bemo and our preferred driver Wayan Suka (phone 411965 if you're going to Bali soon). I spent the day delving further north into the mainly terraced rice paddies and up-land forests, taking photos using my new tripod. In the semi-darkness apertures of 3.5 and shutter speeds of 2 seconds using 400 film were common. That's technical talk for the aficionados amongst you, blatantly meant to impress those in the know who have seen the results. What it means is that it was damn dark because of the rain cloud overcast, with the forest canopy making it worse still. The poor camera was working its little bottom off and had nothing in reserve for photographic delicacies. The rice terraces, which step seemingly endlessly down the sides of the steep hillsides (ravines?), are spectacular sights. They're also mind numbing if you stop to wonder how a comparatively primitive workforce managed to achieve such miracles of hydrology thousands of years ago (but can't get a shower floor to run towards the drain hole these days). It's also provocative to imagine how they peacefully managed (and still manage) the legalities of ensuring that one family who owns the top terrace provides water in timed, controlled, and equitable measured quantities to a neighbouring family who might own the next terrace down the slope, and so on to the bottom perhaps 20 or 30 terraces away. The shades of green in these scenes, or shades of pale tan, brown and yellow-orange at other warmer times of the year, seem to be infinite in their variety and translucence. The greens in the forest are also favourites of mine. They too glow, but they are much more subdued in the filtered light that flickers through the canopy overhead. The contrast of heights and slopes, the variety in the colours sizes and shapes of the leaves, all added to the enchantment of the silence which is now and then broken by dripping or running water, the sounds of frogs and birds and the slow swaying of the larger leaves. These are awesome and mystical places. Mind you, the flat land paddies are also spectacular for the sheer size of the water surface that farmers achieved before only a small change in level requires a new start. The reflections on these sheets of water can be most impressive in a photo taken with a low viewpoint, when it can be hard to decide which really is the top. I have always found it difficult to handle these reflections in the camera viewfinder as they give misleading light readings and can be marred by reflected glare. This time I had followed No. 2 daughter's lead and bought a polarising filter that gave some very satisfying results.
Paddy, by the way, is from an Indonesian word, paddy, meaning growing rice plants. Beras means the rice seed or grain and nasi is cooked rice, as in Nasi Goreng.
By the way, (again) would you believe that we had lunch at the very Lotus Restaurant at which Mick Jagger and what’s-her-name were (or were they?) married! I can also tell you that by strange chance Mick left a personal note tucked under the dunny mirror for our travelling companion and ardent Rolling Stones fan, Bull! It's really hard to understand how it remained there all those years until Bull found it! Now if you don't believe this I have to tell you that Boy has a photo of Bull and the note to prove it.
Also in Ubud I found a young artist, Made (pronounced "Mardee") Karmayasa, in his little studio (nice word for tin walled hut with thatch roof) at the back of the Monkey Forest Temple. He was working on a traditional Balinese painting of forests, temples, rivers and maidens bathing. It immediately reminded me of a work in an artist's colony that C.. and I had seen, admired and desired on our first trip to Bali 20 odd years ago. In those days the master painter quickly and briefly outlined the work and passed it on down the ranks where lesser artists completed details and other stages, referring back to the master regularly, until the most junior artists began applying colours. These days the colony concept seems to have gone and younger artists are opting to work on their own, as Made was doing, completing the whole work from start to finish.
When I first saw the painting the most intricate phase, the shading of the black outlines to provide the foundation layer for the colours was almost completed. When C.. saw it we agreed that we would negotiate a price based on the work so far completed and some added colour work. Our idea was that the painting would show all of the steps involved in creating a work of art in the traditional Balinese way, and therefore it would not be finished. This request, to stop the shading work before it was complete, was rather strange for Made to understand until we told him the story and our reasons for wanting an unfinished work. We eventually settled on a price, paid a deposit and left Made with instructions on which areas we wanted coloured by the next day when we were due to leave Ubud and return to Tuban. As it turned out I decided to stay on and do my day of photography in the rice fields and mountain forests, so he got some further instructions and some more time before I picked up the painting. The most time consuming part of a traditional painting is the very highly detailed shading in the black/grey/white areas, over which the translucent colour is applied, almost as a multi-chrome wash over a monochrome foundation. On a painting of this size (about 1m x 800mm), the basic line work takes about 2 weeks, the shading almost 2 months and the colouring another 2 weeks or so. The shading is the area where the traditional artistic talent is required, but it's beauty and delicacy tends to get hidden under the glow of the colours.
~. . . o o 0 o o . . . ~
Often when we were out with Wayan in the Kijang van the police would wave him down. He would ask us to stay in the car while he got out to attend to whatever checks or enquiries were being made. This never took more than a minute or two and was generally passed off as licence checks or something. After a while we became curious about the frequency of these stops and the regularity of attention to our vehicle but apparently not to others, and pressed the point with him. It seems that the police singled out drivers who might be carrying tourists with money, and the price for continuing with little hindrance or without a lengthy safety or permit check was a “donation” to the officers’ Christmas fund or something similar. (Did I say ‘vive le corruption’ earlier?)
On the way back from my day of photography in Ubud and beyond, to the Holiday Inn, Wayan the driver and I were passed at very high speed by a uniformed person on a motor bike. There was no way of missing him because not only is very high speed rare and almost impossible to achieve in the closeness of Bali traffic, but the exhaust of the bike may well have been totally missing, such was the noise that heralded both his approach and his departure. Out of the corner of my eye I saw the corners of Wayan’s mouth turn down in a most un-characteristic grimace. I asked if the uniform was that of the army, to which he replied something in Indonesian that I didn’t understand. His following explanation was that the rider was not just army, but army police. I asked if the rider would be stopped by the police for either speeding or for the noise of the bike. Wayan just smiled and shook his head. He explained that anyone who offended or even queried the police risked a severe beating from the bamboo sticks that were often carried in addition to standard issue truncheons. Anyone who similarly challenged the army received an even worse beating that would probably result in at least hospital treatment. But anyone who offended the army police, including even the civilian police, could possibly just disappear. Clearly the military police were at the top of a feared and obviously detested official (and officially sanctioned) hierarchy of forceful repression.
All is not idyllic in paradise, although it is generally hidden from the visitor.
~. . . o o 0 o o . . .~
On two or three of our excursions into the capital, Denpasar, I indulged in shopping for computer programs on CD's. These are all pirate copies of course, but the chance of getting a program that would cost $400 or $600 up to over $1000 for roughly $10 per disc, was too much to be resisted.
I wound up with things like Windows 98, Office Premium 2000, MacAfee Antivirus and First Aid, Dragon Naturally Speaking voice recognition program (takes the place of manual keyboard entry) as well as Encyclopaedia Britannica, and several Clip Art discs for our PC; a swag of stuff for a friend of Bull's, and AutoCAD 2000 for our home-bound friend Leigh. There were also some discs available for Macintoshes, but very little compared with the heaps for PCs. In a total of over 30 discs only one proved to be a con, containing only one freeware program, and one other was wrongly labelled and did not have the program I wanted. On the other hand, several discs contained not only the program I wanted but several others as well.
~. . . o o 0 o o . . .~
One day, when the regular shopping expedition to the Sukawati markets was scheduled, Boy and I decided to indulge our cultural sides and go to the Museum and Art Gallery at Denpasar. It might help explain this perhaps strange behaviour if I confess at this point that Sukawati markets are a sort of native wholesale extravaganza which could be held in many department store sized buildings put together. This, however, is packed into one multi level structure about the size of half a dozen double garages - and there is nowhere around where desperate desert trekkers can get a cold beer!
So, off to Denpasar it was.
As it turned out the museum was closed (I'm not sure why, maybe it was Tuesday or something) but at the Art Gallery there was being held the All-Bali Community Crafts Fair (or something similar). We moved from one extreme to another as we roamed the grounds and buildings. From frightening local food stalls where the sphincter muscle trembled in sheer fright from only looking, and from the chilling thought of catching something from the very air, to the most exquisite silks, woven fabrics, gold and silver creations, gems and polished river gravel, ancient and modern decorative wood carvings, practical furniture, pottery, paintings and so much more.
All this interspersed with forbidden games of chance on which considerable sums of local currency were wagered (all seemingly supervised - or at least closely observed - by the local gendarmerie). Also available were the cheapest watches on the planet (about $3), coloured papers, stick-on motifs, books, icons and statues an a variety of religious stalls, shoes and clothes from simple farmer's wear to cultural dance costumes and so much more. It was easy, in this tightly packed conglomeration, to differentiate between the cheap and nasty and the very best quality that the island and its neighbours could muster.
It was a much more remarkable day than either of us expected.
On the way out we stopped for a cool drink at a little shop just across the road from the gates. Next door was a ladies hairdresser (honestly!) where half a dozen young girls were sitting around doing nothing. It wasn't long before they had engaged Boy, who is a good-looking, youngish, lad, in close conversation (in Indonesian) and I joined in (in Aussie of course). Part of the conversation revolved about where we came from and an elementary geography lesson with maps sketched in my trusty note pad followed. I was surprised that they recognised my rough world map and immediately identified both Bali and Australia. I was astounded that they could also correctly name the Australian states and capitals, with the exception of Brisbane! They may not go to school for long compared with us but they seemed to learn a great deal about their place in the world and their near neighbours at least.
On the way home we called in to the Hero Supermarket which Boy had seen in an Internet page. As advertised, it did have a large stationery department but, just inside the door, there, waiting for me to arrive from far off Oz, were a pair of pure white sand shoes (sneakers?) with not just two Velcro straps as I usually buy, but THREE!
Lordy lordy, such euphoric joy. It was like finding a bottle of fine wine with three labels rather than just two – or even one.
But what would be the price of such treasures, even if they had them in my size?
Well, they did have them in my size!, The price, Rp99,900, a mere $22.70.
As the yank in the Telstra add says, “OH YESSS!!!”
Boy did not find the pens he was looking for, but he did find a toilet that he suddenly found a need for. Regrettably he did not think to look to find the toilet paper until it was too late and all he had on him was a collection of sundry receipts from purchases and money changing. Now, if you’ve ever seen the thinness of the paper which is used for shopping receipts, dockets, money changing receipts and other non-essential paper in Bali you will realise the longing he had for a gum leaf or two. I took some perverse delight in telling him that if he had only yelled loudly enough I would have shared the half roll of genuine, pristine, soft, white Aussie bumf that I always carry with me in Bali and other foreign or slightly strange realms.
I think he was not amused.
~. . . o o 0 o o . . . ~
One of the significant changes that we noticed on this trip (and you could hardly miss it) was the virtually complete absence of street sellers. In past years it was difficult at least, and sometimes impossible to walk on the footpaths because of the sheer number and persistence of sellers hawking watches, perfumes, silver rings and bangles, sunglasses, embroidered caps, newspapers and magazines from the aircraft, shirts, thongs and anything else that might turn a dollar. (- and don’t forget those very rude and aggressive Time Share bandits. They really were a pain at times - most times actually - and you had to be really rude to get them to go away; but they were part of Bali, particularly around Kuta Beach.) This year they were gone, by Indonesian government decree, enforced by the feared police. I think a part of Bali has gone with them. There must be thousands of young people, mainly young men, now out of work in a country that has no unemployment payments at all. Its a worry think of what they must be doing to get enough food to survive. You have to wonder why they could not have been banned from just one side of the street, or reduced to only one every 10 meters of paving, or something rather than total prohibition.
But such is the worrisome way of Indonesian authority.
Well folks, I think you have the whole story. I know you are all convinced now that I am a shopping junkie, but there are some real bargains to be had once you get into the swing of the shopping style in Bali.
The department stores even get Him into the mood (Just for shopping, folks.) and he also is quite a keen bargainer once you get him started!
If you are into leather, shopping early for Xmas and finding something different for ‘Aunt Molly’ & ‘Uncle Fred’ this is definitely the place. Shopping where the Balinese and Javanese do at Sukawati is a real experience. The wood wear here is great, but leave the boys at home. Its crowded and hot and you have to be patient with seeking out good stuff in aisle upon aisle of piled items which always seems in danger of falling on you.
Denpasar market is truly a ‘spot the Aussie’ affair but nearby are incredible fabric stores. Go there before you visit the friendly tailor who will make you pants for $16, dresses and shorts for $9 and full suits, using their own fabric, for $50.
Once you've done with all of the shopping (temporarily, of course) you’ll need to crash by the pool for a while and then swim leisurely over to the bar for a Young Coconut drink. This delectable nectar is mixed with ice, a little lime juice and sugar syrup and served in the nut. A spoon enables you to scoop out the soft jelly like coconut, which is just starting to mature. I was assured by the delightful bartender that this was very good for my heart and skin and because it was non alcoholic I believed him!
Young coconuts, however, did not replace a big glass of Chivas Regal over lots of ice later in the day!!
One of the highlights of each day came towards sun down, over a champagne or two and a Chivas or two, with nuts, spreads, dips and other nibbles to get the juices ready for the evening meal. This was called “Show and Tell”. Everyone had to display his or her purchases of the day. This included modelling at which some of us proved more stylish than others! The commentary always had to include where the purchases were made and this was often interrupted with exclamations such as, “Where did you get that? How come I didn’t see that?” This often prompted return trips to the location of such treasures. Versace jeans for $42.00 and cool jocks - 3 pairs for $6.00!!! Show and Tell was a great “family” bonding time as well as a wind down ready for the nightly wind up. Every one joined in – Flea being particularly eager to display his wares (as long as he was not interrupted too much by irrelevant questions) and took great care in answering the obligatory question afterwards. At the other end of the scale ‘He’ was proud to show off his photos and even modelled his new $3 bathers after a champagne or two and the obligatory Brandy and Dry!
(Most eager of all were the girls of course – sarongs, little dresses, big leather jackets, watches, shoes, jewellery of all descriptions from 50 cent brooches to rings for lord knows how much, wood wares, pictures, table cloths, cosmetics, handbags . . . . and the list could go on forever. I began by wondering what the newcomer Lollylegs would make of all this but she really turned out to be a proper trouper and quickly became an old hand, although a little conservative by comparison, and settled right in.)
Why do I keep returning to Bali?? Because it is always restful, warm, and relaxing, yet there is a vibrancy, which intrigues me. The people are warm, friendly and engaging and love to talk to you and ask about your family. I can concentrate on saving the frangipani flowers that fall to the ground by the pool and sit and gaze at the vibrant bougainvilleas. I never grow tired of watching the children and even take an interest in the soccer matches on the beach at dusk. The sunsets are exquisite, the food delectable and someone makes my bed everyday.
Why wouldn’t I want to go back for 2 weeks of sheer joy and luxury at a price that is a pure bargain, most particularly when compared with local destinations in total cost and in value for what you can get.
Well, for better or worse there it is I think – the 1999 Bali Saga. It’s taken 48 days of spare time but the record is written – although probably not without dissent from those who were also there but doubtless saw the same scenes from a different angle. At 26 pages (without pictures) you’ll be forgiven if you skip over the middle or don’t read it to the end.
There’ll be no final assessment test to catch you out if you’ve not finished your homework.
It really was a memorable trip, as have been the others before this. I for one am grateful to all those who took part and helped make it so – both our fellow travellers, and the local Balinese – even the Javanese I suppose (although they’d want to be paid if they though they’d contributed).
Not to be overlooked are the people who got us there and back. Two who come to mind are Sophia of Ansett Travel (now in Grenfell Street) and Louise from Traveland at Savings and Loans in Flinders St., amongst the other unknown flight crews and cabin crews and baggage handlers who all, thankfully, kept body, soul and luggage together.
With affection for you all,
Him and Her.
E & O E.
Now there are some photos that go with this Saga if you're interested. They can be found most easily by clicking on this link - Hilton Nusa Dua Photos.
If you think that you're ready to tackle the Bali Story - 2000 which is the saga that followed this one, then click on this link to get to the first of 16 parts. - Bali Story 2000, which is about the prior organisation (and maybe a bit boring).
However, if you're more into travel it might be better to start at part 2, which is Getting There , the story of the flight over to Bali.
If you're really only interested in Bali then go to Day 1 which tells of our transfer from the airport, our first day at the Bali Hilton, and the first little shopping foray.
If you'd like to go to our Home Page to see some different stuff as well as links to some of our favourite Bali sites try this link - Home Page. You'll find things like - a world-currency Shoppers Aid/Cheat Sheet, a list of shopping - eating - staying - visiting recommendations from the Bali Travel Forum, Filo's Toilet Tester, other photo series and more.
- fan8 - new4