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Travel blog I don't mean to brag, I don't mean to boast, but I'm intercontinental and I eat French toast (Beastie Boys) | | | Photos available at www.istockphoto.com/georgeclerk

Four Weeks in Bali

INDONESIA | Thursday, 14 August 2008 | Views [16133] | Comments [8]

Kuta / Legian

My first impressions of Bali weren't the best - on arriving at 10pm at the hotel, security guards used mirrors to check under the taxi for bombs.  Then, after checking in I went for a walk to get something to eat, and in the two minute walk there and back was hassled six times by people on mopeds trying to sell things, including two drugs dealers and two prostitutes.  One of whom was very persistent, driving along slowly next to me, trying to make me change my mind!

Absolut petrol for all the mopeds!

Unfortunately, 'sex tourism' seems to be fairly common here, and as a man walking alone, being hassled by prostitutes happened a lot, plus there was the occasional hushed offer of 'young girls... young girls' from some of the the men, who first loudly offer transport.

Site of the 2002 bomb, which killed 202 people from lots countries, but mainly Australia and Indonesia.  

Day or night, pretty much everywhere you walk in Legian/Kuta, every three or four paces people are trying to get you to buy something, thankfully mostly in a friendly way.  Most use loud and convincing Aussie accents to get your attention first - 'Oi, mate, how you goin?'.  But the occasional scam attempt reminded me of all the fun and games I'd been missing while travelling in NZ and Australia.

After that moaning, everything else about Bali was all good! Kuta/Legian had cheap accommodation, an enormous beach with surf constantly rolling in, plus great restaurants dotted all over the place.

All the waves encouraged me to continue my faltering attempts to learn to surf, and I enrolled in a short course on Kuta beach.  After that I was able to stand up most times, and even steer my board sometimes, but I also managed to cut open the bridge of my nose when I stupidly smacked it against the back of the board!

A cheeky monkey being groomed in the Sacred Monkey Forest by Ubud


After a week near the beach, I headed inland to Ubud, a town nestled among rice paddies, which is traditionally full of arty types.  Here I had a bit of trouble finding a room anywhere recommended, and was initially a bit skeptical about a guy called Blondy, who was hanging out on the street.  He insisted that I had a look at his place, the Swan Inn, and after the place I was on the way to try was also full, I agreed.  But he turned out to be a star, and if anybody reading this is going to Ubud, I can definitely recommend staying there - well located near the top of Monkey Forest Road, rooms are spacious and clean, and include hot water and a good breakfast for about 10 USD per night, which is way cheaper than anything of similar quality in the Lonely Planet.  In Ubud at least, being in the Lonely Planet seems to mean that prices quickly treble and quality drops.

I ended up staying at the Swan Inn for 8 nights - longer than anywhere since leaving home last August, apart from when I stayed in NZ with Jules and Steve.

Ubud had plenty of noises in the night - cockerels seemed to start at around 4am (and there's lots of them - cockfighting's very big in Bali), plus frogs and insects, and - loudest of all - street dogs.  These trot along the pavements and sleep under cars by day, then vigorously defend their territory from all comers by night, and once one starts barking and howling, all the others join in.  Balinese people believe that all the racket is because the dogs are frightening away evil spirits.

Daily offerings with flowers, food and incense are put out everywhere for a blessing on the day's activities (Bali is mostly Hindu, unlike most of the rest of Indonesia).  Every day they're put on car windscreens, on the street in front of shops, on rice terraces, house steps etc.

I went for several walks, plus an organised bike ride in the countryside around Ubud.  The best thing about the bike ride was all the smiling children shouting, waving and giving high-fives as we passed villages and houses.  Passing a school playground, we got 'Hellooooo, Where Are You From???' pretty much in unison!

We stopped briefly in a village at this cremation ceremony for a local priest.  It looks a bit quiet from this photo, but there were actually tonnes of people there!

Lots of rice is grown on the island.  Seedlings are grown in a special area of the rice paddy, then they're gathered up and planted in rows, at lightning speed...

...The rice grows, with lots of fresh water (this picture was actually taken at Jatiluwih further north)...


...Almost ready to be harvested.  After harvest it's laid out in the sun to dry, with the grains still in their husks...

After harvest the paddy is ploughed with the help of cows, then soaked and churned up using a machine.

These are coffee beans, which are surprisingly tasty straight off the plant.

As well as eating lots of rice, I drank a fair bit of Bali and Java coffee, but also tried an unusual, and normally expensive (it goes for £50 a cup in the UK) type.  The coffee beans are harvested from the poo of civet cats, who must really know their coffee, and supposedly eat all the best and most inaccessible beans, which are retrieved, then (I hope) cleaned before being roasted.

It tasted very good, but comments such as 'This is shit coffee' etc etc were inevitable!

At the Swan Inn, I finally met some people in Ubud who were neither hemp wearing, 'alternative thinking' wannabe-hippies (who always complete their uniform look with an Apple laptop), nor French (for some reason there's a huge population of French people in and around Ubud).  Caitlin and Liz from San Francisco moved into the next door bungalow, and were a good laugh.  

Small part of the market in Ubud

I joined them for a Balinese cooking class - first we went to the market to check out all the stuff, then made lots of dishes, including our tutor's secret-recipe signature dish of Simbal Goreng Uding (prawns in hot sauce)...

Bedugul / Candikuning

After Ubud, we were all heading further North towards Bedugul, and Blondy very kindly invited us to go to his Grandfather's cremation ceremony on the way.  Unlike the ceremony for the priest above (which was done a few days after he died), this was a mass cremation, where the deceased are buried first for several months, then for the ceremony parts of their remains are taken and cremated.  It's believed that the person can't be re-incarnated until the cremation has been done.  There were over twenty people being cremated at the ceremony, so there were several hundred people there.

Although we were in sarongs (I got one specially!), we still stuck as the only westerners at the huge ceremony, but didn't feel at all unwelcome, unless you count the children pulling faces at us!  All the carefully constructed structures for the ceremony (including the one above) were tossed to the side once they'd been used, then set alight with the help of petrol later on.

Spot the difference (wasn't intentional)!

At 6am on the morning after arriving at Lake Bratan, we canoed across the lake to see Para Ulun Danu Bratan at sunrise, then headed for a trek near the town of Munduk with local guide Udin. 

Liz, Udin (with a cacao pod - the cocoa beans and gunk inside were sweet) and Caitlin

It was his 30th birthday, but (amazingly) he'd got the date wrong, and had celebrated it with his friends the day before, which made the driver laugh at him a lot.  As well as several waterfalls, we walked through lush hills, planted with with cocoa, jackfruits, Java and Balinese coffee, cloves (which are used to flavour cigarettes as for spices), bananas, vanilla and (of course) rice.


After that we headed to Permutan, which is on the North West coast, only a few miles from the island of Java (the volcanoes in the picture at the top are on Java).  Here we stayed in luxury but at very good prices, at a great new hotel by the beach called the Adi Assri which Liz had found on the web.  Here we went snorkelling over the coral reefs in a national park off a tiny island.

After a few days there, Liz and Caitlin headed across to Java, and I headed South down to Jimbalan where I stayed for a couple of nights at a very pleasant university 'eco lodge' before flying to Sydney.

To use pictures from here please go to www.istockphoto.com/georgeclerk or contact me.

Tags: bali



ah you will find a lot of similarities between Bali and Kerala when you visit Kerala...esp. the flowers/incense as an offering before the start of daily acitivities...the greenery, the cloves.., the first is the Hindu influence/second is the cultural similarities..:) nice keep writing.

  Usha Aug 15, 2008 12:40 AM


I love Bali!!!!

  pema-joy Sep 9, 2008 1:44 AM


Hi there,
I am heading to Bali in January for the first time, can anyone give me some tips on shopping, markets, tours and stuff. I am only there for 6 days so I want to make the most of it. Also can you go and see people in jail, like a tour.
No I dont have friends in jail over there or aanything LOL :)

  Brooke Oct 7, 2008 3:11 PM


“Laugh as much as you breathe and love as long as you live.”
You got some great material on here, I see why people love your blog so much. Will make sure we subscribe to rss and keep up with your new stuff. Thanks so much for writing. Me and my family are on 3 year trip around the world having a blast. Come visit our blog we update with all types of crazy stuff.

Unstoppable Family
Brian and Rhonda Swan

  Unstoppable Family Jun 26, 2010 6:02 PM


I'm planning on hitting the wave @Bali. I love your blog and its so inviting. It's my first trip abroad as my birthday gift for my self. I'm a beach baby since then. Help me out getting crazy from SUNRISE-SUNRISE!! xoxo

  Lu Sumaylo Mar 25, 2011 1:56 AM


Nice blog.. Bali still beautiful.. I love Bali..

  personalbali May 17, 2011 3:30 AM


Nice blogs, i have been in bali too..joint with Bali Hai Bike Tours all i can see.


  arnolds Feb 4, 2012 12:41 PM


I love what u did in Bali~!! You seem more into the culture than partying. which is always goo

  wibi udayana Apr 20, 2012 5:53 PM



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