This is a travel blog for desktop travelers and other ramblers who want to know the world just a little bit better.

Right now I am living in Quetzaltenango, Guatemala where I'll be settled for a while. Thanks for reading!

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Bali Road Trip Part I

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Day 1
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While spending five days in Ubud, we have been trying to figure out what should be our immediate travel plan. We talked about renting a car, but as we get closer to our departure date I start having second thoughts about driving a left-sided manual car on the left side of these crazy, narrow, motorbike-filled roads. There is also our budget to consider and worrisome travel reports about having to pay off police during unwarranted stops. However, today, July 11, is our fifth year wedding anniversary, so a perfect time to throw good common sense aside and go for it. Last month I had some left-side driving experience in Japan. Even more incentive is that our jalopy of a Suzuki jeep is only 80,000 RPH (US $8.88) per day. We leave around 9:30 AM to make sure that we will arrive at our destination with plenty of daylight left to find a hotel.

Our transport
Most of the roads in Bali are just two lanes, if that. There is very little shoulder space and cars will stop anywhere sticking out into the road. So every car must then drive into the other lane and oncoming traffic to go around them. The majority of vehicles are motorbikes which buzz in and out and all around the cars. Some motorbikes will go on the limited shoulder in the wrong direction. And I must be the only driver on the island that slows down for dogs and chickens in the road. With so much going on ahead the mirrors, for me, have become and afterthought. But here people beep the horn when passing, so I guess I do not really need to know what is happening behind me.

Driving along, traffic begins to lessen as we get away from Ubud. I just try to keep pace with the other vehicles and not hit anything. Mika is navigating well from our map and the street signs are in roman letters. We pass a big temple with many cars and some tourist buses in the parking lot. We should probably stop and see it, but the difficulty of turning around outweighs the joy of sightseeing.

While in the jeep, Mika plots out some stops for us. We make a few stops along the side of the road to get vistas of the terraced rice fields. The bright green of the fields is stunning, and we can see the sea in the distance. Our next stop is impromptu at what we thought was a festival. It ends up being some Scouts event. A quick walk through gets a lot of “Helloooo Meester” from smiling teens. Our third stop is at Taman Tirta Gangga, a palace built in 1948 for the last king of Karangasem, whoever he was.

We finally arrive to Amed, our destination recommended by two separate people in Ubud.. We get the last bamboo and straw bungalow available right on the beach. Everything is very spread out in this area, so we just decide to eat at our hotel. The owner is Japanese, and we have a delicious, lightly grilled bonito sashimi. The taste is so different from everything that we have eaten lately that it seems hard to believe that we have only been out of Japan for exactly one week.

My Self-Made Sushi
We go to bed under a mosquito net with the sound of waves crashing. We wake up all through the night with the sound of waves crashing. Waves are really noisy.
Day 2

We take the car out to go hit some snorkeling sites. The first place is not so great. Most of the coral is dead. We have seen this in other parts of S.E. Asia also.. Net trawling and dynamite fishing seems to have that effect on ocean life. There are just a few sprouts of color among the grey and brown mass of dead coral. There are a few tropical fish swimming around. The highlight here for me are these very large blue starfish. I have never seen a blue starfish before. Our second site is at an old sunken Japanese fishing boat about 75 feet from the shore. Here the coral is still quite dead, but much more alive than the other place. There are many more species of fish - none of which I can name. Even some large schools of small fish and small groups of larger fish. The boat itself is almost completely eroded, but the fish and tourists like to congregate here. Briefly being a part of this other ecosystem is very exciting and beautiful. It has us seriously considering making the journey to more remote parts of Indonesia to explore protected marine areas.

Late this afternoon, we change to a standard bungalow next door from our previous one. For Mika, unfortunately, the next morning this means lots of bedbug bites. I sleep over the covers and have no problem. Our standard bungalow also means that in the morning there is a family of cats and a dead mouse on our front porch. A certain grey kitten finds the dead rodent much more enjoyable at 6:30 in the morning than we do. At breakfast the Japanese ladies talk it out in their ever-so-polite manner of speaking, and we get comped our second night.
The fishing boats return just as we are waking up
Day 3

We spend the day driving from Amed to Lovina. Our one stop is to take a short trek up to Bali’s highest waterfall which you can stand under. The cool water is refreshing, but at times it hurts, like someone is throwing small pebbles at my head. One other quick stop is at a large, air-conditioned, western style grocery store. Aaaah the comforts of civilization! We finally arrive in Lovina. I am exhausted from the concentration and harrowing passes around dreadfully slow trucks needed for the drive. We thought that Lovina would be another bustling beach tourist town. The main attraction here is early morning boat trips to see wild dolphins. We see many hotels, but nowhere seems busy. We check a few places and settle on a clean room with air-conditioning , breakfast and a TV - our first one since Singapore. There is also a nice garden with tables over looking the ocean. The beach, however, is dirty. There are no other guests and the owner easily drops the price 40% with little bargaining. For dinner we go back to the main drag. There are a few other tourists walking around checking menus, but the restaurants are almost all empty. It feels pretty sad in Lovina. An Indonesian woman points us in the direction of five street stalls where locals are lining up to get take out food. Our dinner plus a bottle of beer costs US $4.40. I hope Lovina is not banking on us to revive their tourism industry.

We have dinner back at the hotel with the sound of the ocean and lights from fishing boats seen in the near distance. Mika crashes before nine. I flick on the tube, but the tv only gets one channel. Correction: it gets around fifteen channels, but they all show the same program. I have the feeling that even if I spoke Indonesian, this sitcom would not be very funny. I go to bed around 9:30 PM because I have to wake up early to see the dolphins.

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