Selamat pagi everyone. We’ve been in Indonesia for 2 weeks, but it feels like a lot more and as long as it’s been awhile that we don’t post anything, prepare yourself because here comes a big story. It is a feeling of newness at every minute and at the same time of identification, something here makes me feel at home. New Zealand seems so distant now, and the feeling is that Australia was no more than a quick passage and that the journey only began on the day they we took off from Perth. Today, more precisely, we are in Lombok, one of the islands of Nusa Tenggara, but I came here to tell a little bit of what were the first weeks in Bali.
At the airport in Perth and throughout the flight I broke a strange nervousness. My heart seemed that was beating up at my mouth, I got dizzy and could not explain why. Only later I realized that I was about to fall in love. It was love at first sight of the colors of the sea, the architecture, the smiles, the first scent of sandalwood, the sea and restaurants, the first sound of bells, the sea, the horns, the first desire to take off my boots, my pants and wear only a summer dress as it was 30 degrees inside the airport. The kind of love that even knowing the shortcomings of other, falls in love more and more every day. Bali is a place to fall in love with. Even with the intrinsic poverty, chaotic, noisy and polluted traffic, the open sewers, the garbage on the streets, the corruption, the excessive number of tourists … Bali is still lovely. The little we could know of the island before coming to Lombok showed us that Bali is beautiful, colorful and smiling. Every corner, every house, every object, is an example that Bali is overflowing art, history and culture by every pore. The food is wonderful. Before leaving NZ we received several warnings to do not even brush our teeth with tap water at the risk of contamination, even so since the first day we’ve been having natural juices, tea with ice, eating in small local restaurants (which do not speak English, do not serve Western food and do not charge us 5x the normal price) and yes, we do brush our teeth usually with tap water and have not had any problem, neither I nor Felipe.
We left Perth with 1 hour of delay and arrived at the airport in Denpasar (which indeed is not in Denpasar) at 3:30 in the afternoon. First stop was to pay the visa – US$25 each, 50,000 rupees for both, as Felipe had taken a few rupees before leaving Australia. Second and loooong was the stop at the immigration queue, which despite the delay of approximately 1 hour, was very calm, they got our passports, the forms that we had filled out during the flight, the receipt of payment and returned it with the stamp “Republic of Indonesia” with a 30-day visa. No questions, no other document required, simple like this. When we finally left, our bags were waiting on the floor in the lobby of the airport. Airport security guards surrendered the bags to their respective owners. We also passed by the police with bags and surfboards with no question, or even a X-ray. But behind me I saw a guy having to put the surfboard on the table, open and show the police officer what was inside it. The Indonesian law has zero tolerance for possession of drugs and if the person is carrying any, he can get death penalty here. Leaving the airport, there was a huge crowd outside. A total madness, everyone squeezing themselves behind a little gate, shouting, holding labels with names, pushing each other… a lot of people, and a very hot weather. From inside we saw Pasqual and Ale, by the corner, a little separated from the crowd, waving to us.
Reception in Bali
Pasqual and Ale are a couple of very good and dear friends, also from Curitiba and who also live in New Zealand, they left NZ 1 month before us and we’ll be with us during this trip in several parts of the way. They arrived in Indonesia also 1 month before us and when we arrived not only they were waiting for us at the airport but also had already arranged a taxi to take us to a friend’s house and had even rented a motorbike for us for the next month. Thanks a loooooooot, dears! In Singapore we’ll be waiting for you. We got the cab to Luis’ house, another Brazilian, also from Curitiba, who’s been living in Bali for 7 months with his wife, Aline, who is from Switzerland. Luis’ house is located in Sanur, a city on the east coast of Bali. The first shock was the traffic, we already knew the fame of the chaos of traffic here, but from inside the taxi we were even more impressed. Many many bikes, sometimes whole families on a bike, the cars and bikes pile up, if they overtaking, the turn in front of each other without waiting their turn, they only warn with the horn .. it means that everybody horns all the time and it seems that everyone “almost hits” all the time too. In Luis’ house I finally managed to get off my boots and pants and relax. We paid the rent of our bike, 600,000 Rupees for a month, which is equivalent to US$ 60 (that’s right, US$2 per day). At night we moved the four of us to “Kesari Sanur”, an excellent inn in Sanur, western style, with pool, internet and rooms with air conditioning. Price: 150,000 Rupees per day each room – US$ 7.50 per person. We spent 3 days there and then we moved to “Sun House”, another excellent inn, Balinese style, but also with pool, air conditioning and the same price. We spent 2 more days there. I recommend either of them for who is looking to go to Sanur, only the pool is worth it on this freaking hot city.
Getting in the mood in Sanur
It was great to spend the first 5 days in Sanur. First because with it we decelerated and got into the rhythm of Bali, which as any place that is hot is also slow. Then because we had some setbacks: On our second day here the boys went surfing very early and Felipe came back with his board broken in half and had to have it repaired, he can tell this story in more detail later, since I was not there. I spent the morning walking through the streets of Sanur, I got lost, endend up at the beach, which sea water has a lot of seaweed and there is people sunbathing only in front of resorts… finally I found my way back to the hotel, which was all the time like this: “Hello! How are you? “,” Hello, good and you? “,” Need transport? “,” No, thank you. “,” Maybe tomorrow “,” No, thank you. “,” Maybe later?, “” Hello .. need transport “,” … “,” Maybe tomorrow “,” … “,” Hello! How are you? “,” Hello … (smile) … “,” Need transport? “,” Where are you from? “… Women walking alone on the streets of Bali is like this… all men say “hello”. All of them! No exception. In contrast when I left in the afternoon with Ale and the boys together, they hardly looked to us. At night we left for dinner and while Ale and I waited for boys at the restaurant Felipe fell with the motorbike. He arrived at the restaurant with bandages on the foot, leg and right arm. He said it was a fool thing, he’d slipped in the sand, alone and slowly, but all skinning and since he could not surf without his board and hurt, in pain and afraid of catching an infection, that was another reason for staying a couple more days in Sanur, enjoying the swimming pool, touring the town in adapting to the Balinese style and catching up with our friends. We learnt the fair price of things, met some “warungs” (small restaurants) thanks to Luis who lives here, we also learnt a few words in Bahasa Indonesia and Felipe were amused bargainng prices with vendors.
In the heart of Bali – Ubud
On Friday we went to Ubud. The city is more to the center of the island, and the last 10 years there was a boom on tourism that was not previously exist there. Not for less, Ubud is surrounded by hindu temples, archaeological sites, museums, art galleries, besides being the city that houses the royal palace of Bali. That’s where the main artistic displays happen, either visual arts, music, dance or theater. Ubud also has numerous stores more or less luxurious and a central market with stalls selling typical balinese products: clothes, sarongs, jewelry, furniture, pieces of decoration, spices and more.
We spent 4 days in Ubud. We stayed at “Wena Homestay”, as the name says is a residential house that has rooms for rent, that Pasqual and Ale had been before. It cost 70,000 rupees a day including breakfast – 3.50 U.S. dollars per person. The place is quite nice, the family treated us extremely well and we had the opportunity to be a little closer to their lifestyle. The rooms are very simple and spacious, with ceiling fan, the bathroom has no toilet paper or flushing (most have a tap and a bucket that do the same service) and have hot water in the shower. The place is huge with a beautiful garden that had an inside fountain with koi fish. For breakfast there was always fruit salad, banana pancakes or egg with toast, tea and bali coffee (they put the powder directly in the cup, which after a while is just at the bottom and is delicious). Another thing different here in Indonesia is that the sugar is usually liquid.
The Monkey Forest and Goa Gajah
In Ubud we visited the sacred forest of monkeys, which has some temples inside and many monkeys running loose among people, usually after a banana. We had taken a bunch of bananas, because the home’s staff had warned us that sometimes the monkeys steal any object and we have to change with them on a banana, but then came a monkey at the entrance with a funny moustached and stole the whole bunch from Pasqual’s hand, when he noticed the jack was already on top of the roof eating all the bananas. Even though all they stole in there were scares and smiles. We also visited a place called “Goa Gajah”, or the Elephant Cave, also sacred to the Hindu and is believed to be from the eleventh century. The place is immense, everything inside is sacred, there are several images of Ganesh (the Elephant headed son of Shiva), the Lingan of Shiva, of Hariti (the goddess that converted herself and became protective of children), there is a huge statue of Buddha that collapsed and is in ruins now, there are images of animals carved in stone and we were explained that we could get blessed with water sources and the river, which is also sacred. The cave itself is a hole in a rock that they told us to be super deep and dark, we could not go very far, but we saw several offerings that people leave there.
Offerings are the most common things in Bali. Every day, everywhere, shops, houses, temples, often more than one. People are very religious. The curious thing is that they do both offerings to the good spirits, that according to their beliefs live on top of the mountains, and for bad spirits, living deep in the ocean. We humans, we live in the middle.
Legong, Barong and the market
In Ubud we also witnessed a show of typical Balinese dance / theater called Legong and Barong Dance that was shown in the Royal Palace in the evening. We visited a rice field. Of course, we did not resisted and entered in the madness of the central market. Vendors speaking at the same time, pulling us by the arm inside their stalls, selling their products, shouting prices, lowering prices, asking you to say how much you want to pay, even if you are not interested in the product. It is stressful, very stressful and fun at the same time. “Sarong? Sarong? Cheap price! “,” How much you want? Tell me, how much you want to pay? “,” Cheap price! “,” I say HUNDRED THOUSAND but you Bargain! “,” Pipty thousand, pourty thousand …. Okay, twenty pive thousand for you, only because you have a good smile. “
At home several women were working for the cremation ceremony of their parents that is going to happen only in November. We learned that to be cremated for them is one of the most important things that exists and that for a criminal the penalty of not being cremated when they die can be worse than the death penalty itself. But the ceremony of cremation is very expensive for them, most of whom are very poor, and generally is a collective celebration that the whole community works to happen. Women began to work with the crafts early in the morning and at evening they were still there. Making beautiful things and chating. And there are still 2 months to the ceremony to happen.
Packing the bags to Lombok
On Tuesday we went back to Sanur to pick up the surfboards that had stayed at Luis’ house with our large bags (we have been traveling with the small backpacks here). We got some tips on Lombok with Luis and Aline. Had lunch at a local Warung and tried to make us understood with our weak Bahasa Indonesia. We got back on the road for more than an hour riding to Padangbai, also on the east coast of Bali where is the Ferry terminal to Lombok. In Padangbai we stayed in a little hotel also for 70,000 rupees including breakfast, the bathroom had flushing this time, but had no hot water. After breakfast we went to the Ferry, which costs 92,000 rupees (US$ 9.20) for the bike with two people – 5 hours travelling on the big boat to Lembar, in Lombok, Nusa Tenggara.