Friday, September 3, 2010

Holidays in Bali (1)

I have 10 days holidays to tell you about, to avoid a giant post and a very delayed one, I'm going to split it in several parts (I don't know yet how many...)

So the first one is about Ubud on Bali island.
Landing at Bali international airport on a Saturday afternoon, we take our time to find a taxi by first having lunch while observing the construction of the new terminal. First, a new terminal is definitely needed as the current one doesn't reflect the image of the huge tourist destination that Bali surely is! Secondely, the safety protective equipment used in Indonesia are somehow different from what I'm used to... Flipflop and baseball cap are mandatery and gloves don't come in pairs!
Anyway, we are now in a taxi to Ubud (after the usual negotiation). Ubud is the cultural capital of Bali, known for traditional danses, art, meditation etc. It's less than 40 km away from the airport but it takes us 1h30 to get there. Traffic is both slow and mad. There are scooters and motorcycles coming all directions, the road surface is far away from flat and the entire infrastructure is critically underdesigned. After a bit of 4*4 experience and under the rain, we arrive at our hotel, a lovely place at the (very ) far end of one of Ubud 3 main roads.
First stop of our Ubud visit is the monkey forest, just 10 minutes walk from the hotel. This is a normal tropical forest with an enormous grey monkey population. From the entrance they are everywhere! Tourists feed them on bananas constantely so they always come to see what we have for them! It's the baby season, so lots of mum with their little ones hangging on the front. No aggressivity shown so it is quite a pleasant walk. There is even a small temple at the top. From the forest, we walk up to the town centre checking art galleries. We book tickets for an evening Balinese dance show and we turn down about a million offers for taxi. In Indonesia, anyone who owns a car is a taxi driver and is trying to make some money out of his 4 wheels!
The Balinese dance show is made of an orchestra of 20 men playing xylophone and probably 20 women performing different dances all carrying a religious signification. The music is rythmic and very repetitive (R's excuse for falling asleep) and the ladies do some really crazy dances just with their eyes and fingers. From time to time, a dragon turn up to make everything more interesting!

The timing of the show was quite good as it is pouring down during the dances and it has stopped by the end!
2nd day in Ubud, it is still raining... I have checked 3 times, the guidebook is positive, we are in the middle of the dry season! We must have brought the rain with us from Sg!
After a breakfast of green pancakes (not sure why but lovely with bananas) we hope for the best and start our walk in the ricefields. The sun is even starting to show soon after we start. Rice paddies everywhere, so much green is increadible! There are lots of kites flying around (attached to long strings from the fields), ducks in between fields and snakes! Yes snake count for today: 3 (ok, I didn't see the 1st one but R did, the second one crossed the path just in front of us and I spotted the last one on the side of the path and it was HUGE!!!)
I also saw 5 big lezards (including 3 times the same one when we got lost), 1 noisy dog, lots of chicken (ayam in Indonesian) and lovely butterflies.
We are now all muddy and sweaty (indication not being the strong point of the country, there are about 10 signs to indicate the starting point of the walk but not a single one after that...)
After lunch we exchange walking for cycling to go in between 2 rivers.
The first 20 minutes are spent either on the side of the bike pushing it or carrying the bike, I was starting to wonder if we were on the right path! Anyway, we see more rice paddies, one dead snake, lots of ayam and young girls learning the traditional dances.
After such a day of exercise, we deserve a good shower and a massage! And a lovely dinner! And a drink in a bar with live music! (that's it :-)
Our time in Ubud is now over, tomorrow we are moving on to Lembongan, a small island on the south east of Bali and the subject of a new post!

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