Thursday, May 3, 2007

Bali hi

What an adventure! Well worth every penny.
It began with an exciting morning. Off to the airport to get sent to Darwin for the day. A 3 hour flight with a crappy breakfast. I just drank black tea as I was coding my way through how to place an input box in a specific place on a multi line text field, one of my favourite pass times when cramped into an airplane seat. While enjoying this pass time, I dropped my new sunnies, mangled them, popping a screw or two and bent the frame. Great, no sunnies for the trip.
Arriving in Darwin, greeted with the first wave of tropical humidity. 12 hours here. Ok off to the 'city'. Smaller than Adelaide with a unique population of Aboriginal people, this town is as rural as a city could get. It has one mall flanked by a few adjacent streets of open shops, then about a block or two away, the harbour and parks.
We stumbled into the optometrist who was able to mangle my glasses back into shape with about 1/2 a centimetre off on one side. Alright, glasses are back, and all for free! Then we had lunch in an unimpressive food court, before taking a long walk through the harbour, parks and a seaside suburb with a cold beer stop.
On the way back for dinner we stopped at Tim's Cafe. Awesome Aussie dishes. I ended up having a crocodile parmy. When in Darwin...
After a celebratory cocktail at the local tapas place, we whisked off to the airport to land in Denpasar. At the airport, we waited for about 1/2 hour for the international gate to open. After which we had to show our bags, and a ridiculous man frisked everyone with the backs of his palms in the most ridiculous fashion. If I had anything I wanted to sneak on board, there would have been no problems. One up for the Australian airport security. Doing a smashing job guys, love your work!
After a brief flight (not long enough to get my coding boots on), we landed in Denpasar at 11:30pm. The whole airport felt like it was made out of wood. And I felt like I just stepped into a Swedish sauna.
After passing the lacklustre security and dishing out US$50 to line the pockets of some corrupt official, we stepped out onto the footpath where everyone wants to grab your bag to help (for a tip). Luckily we spotted our Contiki bus who whisked us off to the resort for free through the hot and smelly streets of Bali. It's a mix between petrol fumes, burning rubbish, satay chicken and incense. Arriving in the Contiki resort was something different.
Drink on arrival and a poolside room that has a pool bar. Heaven.
With all breakfasts and dinners included, this resort was a real highlight of the trip. Our room was the one immediately to the right of the person with a blue skirt in this photo. So the out-of-the-bed-into-the-pool scenario became a frequent occurrence. And the water was so nice and warm that you just couldn't fault it. The only reasons to get out were excessively wrinkled skin and the need to visit the toilet.
From this home base we ventured out onto the streets of Seminyak, and Kuta. Everyone wants to sell you things. Trinkets, t-shirts, watches, carvings, fabrics and the list goes on. You just have to learn to politely say 'no'. We even thought of printing up some t-shirts that say 'no' or 'no thanks'. That might do the trick to those who can read. The most heard words though are : "taxi?", "transport?", "you like?", "where are you from?" The traffic was a horror on one side and a peaceful river of oneness on the other. Drivers are respectful and cautious but there are no road rules really. The main one to consider in Bali is that the driver is responsible for their vehicle's front. This makes drivers more vigilant and giving way to cars entering a road is not uncommon. The roads and places we ventured to I mapped on google maps here. Hope it works.
So after a few days of 'cooling off' with the coldest beer in the country, we headed off to Ubud. A place that's known for it's stone carvings, silver making, and beautiful scenery. Here, we stayed at the Tjambuhan hotel. It was amazing. The hotel itself is a series of villas. All of these are built on a cliff face facing the adjacent river. It even has its own temple! Walking around this place was like being in some magical land. Fresh water pool, a spa carved into the mountain, a collapsing stone bridge leading to a huge temple. It was simply amazing. It was not as hot here as it was in the plains, but you'd still built up a sweat, and if it wasn't for the air-conditioning, I don't know, we would've melted.
In Ubud, there are many cheap restaurants with good food and the main street has more than its fair share of shopping. One night during dinner we bumped into an Aussie who's lived in Ubud for 20 years painting. He said that there has been a massive expansion of Ubud in that time with many of the demand not being catered for by the town's infrastructure. There are no taxis, for example. Everyone has a car or a van and they offer transport on every corner. Ubud is kind of like the hippy valley of Bali. Highly recommended if you go to Bali anytime.
On the last day, we caught a taxi down to the airport, checked our bags into the lockers, and found a local taxi driver who took us around. To waste time he took us to the newly up and coming western-style shopping center. Even though it was huge, it just looked like it was going to fall apart any minute, and I swear about 40% of the stock there must have been 'Polo' shirts. He got a bunch of cheap DVD's, most of which didn't work, and wandered around for a bit.
After this, our cabbi picked us up and we went to Jimbarran bay. It's basically a beach with a whole load of fishing boats on one end, and is lined with restaurants from then on. You can select your live seafood and they cook it fresh, and you get to eating on the beach watching the sunset. I couldn't think of a better way of ending this magnificent trip. It has been truly awesome
Oh and one set of batteries lasted me the whole trip in my new camera - go Canon!
Here's the online collection of some of the photos from Bali. Check it out if you feel like it!

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