Bali, Indonesia – We arrived in Bali three days later than expected and very much looking forward to some relaxation on the famous Kuta Beach – AKA “Little Australia”.
We spent our time there doing little more than eating cheap and delicious food – a majority of which is served with a fried egg on top, swimming in the hotel pool and the ocean, shopping, ‘sunbathing’ (in the shade) and enjoying the beautiful sunsets.
After getting our fill of hot Aussie guys and European gals frolicking in their skimpy swimwear we headed to the inland town of Ubud. I was excited to go to Ubud because it is the third destination of the writer Elizabeth Gilbert’s popular novel, Eat Pray, Love. In her book she writes about rice fields, roosters and rich Balinese culture and the town seemed really exotic.
Ubud is a little more touristy than Ms. Gilbert made it out to be, but it’s a fun town with its share of rice fields, roosters and culture, but also loads of shopping and lots of yummy restaurants. The highlights were defiantly the interesting architecture -each home has its own Hindu temple – and Sacred Monkey Forrest.
The Balinese Hindu temples in the Sacred Monkey Forrest are home to about 300 long-tailed macaques which roam the forest freely among Balinese locals and tourists. It is just fascinating to watch the behavior of these monkeys that seem so human in many ways, yet so wild and “animal” in others.
We watched nervously as one tourist allowed a baby monkey climb up his arm, and then in horror as the mother of the baby raced over and grabbed the man’s arm, pulled it towards her and bit him. I hope he had a rabies shot!
A third highlight of Ubud, mangosteen shakes. Mmmm…
After a few days in Ubud we decided to hit the road again with a motorbike for a two day trip to see some other sites on the island.
Our first destination was the huge temple complex of Pura Besakih temple, which is actually several temples built up on a hill. The temples are pretty cool, but unfortunately, tourists are not allowed to enter them so we had to peer at them over the temple walls.
Our next stop was Danau Batur, a large lake surrounded by a volcanic ring. We found a cool floating – and very creaky restaurant – where we were able to eat our lunch in the lake.
Then it was on to Lovina, the town we were intending to spend the night. It gets dark early and fast in Indonesia, something to do with it being located on the equator, so when the sun set around 5.30, it got dark pretty fast and we realized that the bike’s headlight was not working.
Just as Stuart started to look for a mechanic, we hit a stretch of road that had no streetlights and Stuart couldn’t see anything. He didn’t see when the road turned suddenly, without warning, from pavement to gravel. The bike skidded and he lost control and – wham! – we flew off of it – lucky us to the left and the bike in the opposite direction.
After the initial shock of hitting the pavement, or gravel rather, we asked each other if we were okay, which it appeared we were, and Stuart later told me that the next thought that went through his head was, “Rose is going to kill me if I hurt Tina”. Rose informs me that he was correct in his assumption.
Somewhat stunned we picked ourselves and the bike up from the ground and a nice couple that had seen us crash stopped to help and directed us to a mechanic so that we could have the bike check and the headlight fixed.
The bike actually seemed to be okay except for the wheel that was bent a bit and the headlight actually started working again, so we thanked the couple and made our way the last few kilometers to Lovina.
Lovina beach wasn’t much. The sand was gray and you couldn’t walk an inch without someone offering to sell you something. It was so bad Stuart and I found that we couldn’t even have a conversation with each other or enjoy the view.
So we left that morning for the Air Panas Banjar hot springs, stopping on the way at a mechanic who spent half an hour straightening out the wheel and only charged us the equivalent of $2.50.
On the way home I had to get off the bike several times because it couldn’t make it up steep hills with the both of us. It was a nerve-racking ride because I was still nervous from falling the day before and the bike just didn’t have the power to take two of us up the hills.
We did meet a lot of really helpful people on the way, who stopped to say ‘hi’ or give us directions and the scenery was just splendid. We drove through winding hills in mist and rain and through lush valleys and rice fields, discovering that the true grandeur of Bali is not the beaches or Ubud but the glorious countryside.