Bali - First Impressions
Our first destination is Kuta. We are at the airport without a hotel reservation, it is high season and already nighttime, so we are stuck paying $50 for our hotel. Kuta is the closest place from the airport, and Mika wants to see the beach. The roads and sidewalks are narrow and there are lots, I mean LOTS, of motorbike and car traffic. Kuta is probably great if you in your early twenties, a surfer and like clubbing. It is definitely not the relaxing, spiritual Bali that is in the brochures. So the next day we go to Ubud in the center of the island and the cultural center of Bali. Also, the second biggest tourist destination.
Bali is an amazing island in Indonesia that has maintained a type of hybrid hindu religion when the country has become predominantly muslim. There are temples, shrines and weird statues all over the place. They also have a unique dancing style and rich artisan history. The tourism industry is huge and caters to every type of traveller: surfers, scuba divers, new age yogis, backpackers, and luxury resorters. People are very friendly, but we also at times feel like a commodity. You cannot walk 15 ft. without someone asking if you would like a taxi or massage. We will rent a car soon and explore the island more ourselves. When we return to Ubud we will try to find a place away from the center and nestled in the rice fields. Since it is high season people are less-inclined to bargain with us.
It is hot and humid. There is no lack of sweat in Bali, though the Balinese do not seem to perspire. It is also dry season, but rains often. Big downpours which actually cool everything off. Many of the guesthouses are people's homes which is like a compound with extremely lush gardens. My hand washed socks never get dry.
We finally settle for a room in the center of town for 120,000 Indonesian Rupiah (US$13.50), including private bath with hot water and a light breakfast. Our stomachs and bowel systems have also adjusted to the new country and we have found - not as easily as we imagined - some restaurants catering to locals, not just tourists.
Our first tourism excursion is to Monkey Forest just a short walk down the main road from our hotel. At the entrance is the "official Monkey Forest" banana seller. There are also some monkeys hanging about waiting to be fed. Interestingly, you do not see the monkeys around town, like in India. However, one night we heard a monkey rumble on the roof of our room.
In the forest are long-tailed macaques. Macaques, after humans, are the second most successful primate. They are supposedly wild animals, but I would say just half-wild. They have no problems climbing on people to get some food while some people have no problems with monkeys climbing on them to feed the monkeys. However, Mika was not so delighted the two times that the pesky critters jumped on her when mistaking her water bottle for food.
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