Todd had to conduct training for work in Indonesia, Malaysia and the Philippines, so we decided to enjoy a weekend in Bali, Indonesia together before he took off for two weeks.
Before taking off, we read that Mount Agung, an active volcano on the island, was rumbling, leading to travel warnings and an evacuation order for a 12 kilometer area around the volcano. Since our hotel was on the far side of the island, well outside the danger zone, we decided to continue with the trip and take our chances with the hope that the worst we might have to deal with would be flight delays due to ash clouds.
We arrived after a mere 6 hour flight (any flight less than 10 hours is short when living in Australia!) and met our driver to take us to the hotel in Legian.
We arrived early and couldn’t check in, so we relaxed by the pool, adapting to the hot and humid weather. After checking in and getting our room assignment, we discovered that we had spacious patio over looking the pool that even had a full bathtub!
We unpacked and headed across the street for a walk along Kuta beach. The beach was crowded with people flying kites and waiting for the sunset. We strolled along the beach, admiring the fancy and colorful kites and stopped to watch a festival with traditional local dancing. As the sun went down, we enjoyed nature’s colorful show, thankful for the opportunity to visit our 28th country.
On the way back to the hotel we stopped in at a small restaurant to grab a bite to eat and decided to sit outside and enjoy the warm weather. Little did we know that by sitting outside we were automatic targets for all of the street vendors and one young girl was particularly persistent. She must have asked us to buy her bracelets twenty times in spite of the firm ‘no’ she received in response each time.
After dinner we made the short walk back to the hotel and turned in early because we were getting up early the next day to go SCUBA diving.
The next day we were up early and ready to begin our hour long trip to the dive site. As we drove along the packed roads we were awed by the numerous Hindu shrines. As it turns out, Indonesia is predominantly Muslim; however Bali is more than 90% Hindu.
After a long drive through the narrow streets, we reached Padang Bai Beach, where we got on our traditional Indonesian outrigger canoe (equipped with a motor) and head out to sea. Because of Mount Agung’s looming eruption, we were unable to go to the better diving spots that Bali is known for, but we were glad to get whatever diving we could.
Our first stop was to be a pier that supposedly had a considerable amount of sea-life under it living in the discarded refuse. Needless to say, the thought of diving in trash didn’t sound too appealing and thus we were happy when they chose another site! We made two dives – one at Blue Lagoon and the other at Bias Tugal. The dives were good with lots of big coral, multitudes of fish and clear water (and no garbage!)
When we returned to the hotel, we decided to explore some of the nearby beaches and walked down to Seminyak beach where we found a multitude of colorful beanbag chairs lined up to offer the perfect spot for a refreshing drink while enjoying the setting sun. Naturally we grabbed a beanbag and enjoyed a local Bintang beer and another glorious sunset.
After relaxing on the beach, watching the sunset and kites, we headed back down the main beach road looking for a place to eat that had a few less street vendors. We found a delightful Italian place along the beach and watched the scooters and cars become ensnarled in the nightly traffic jam.
The next day we made a last minute decision to hire a tour guide and see some of the island. We hopped in the car with our driver and took off through the winding and crowded street.
On our way we chatted with our driver and when he discovered that Todd was in town to conduct compliance training regarding anti-bribery and corruption issues, the driver proudly proclaimed that sometimes corruption was good because if you get stopped by the police for speeding in Bali, all you had to do was give them money and they would let you go.
After learning a bit more about the cultural difference from our driver, we made it to our first stop – the Batuan Temple. It was Hindu temple that nearly a 1000 years old. We had to wear traditional clothing to enter the temple so we both put on sarongs and went off to explore the temple complex. We enjoyed the ornate carvings and the multitude of statutes of Brahma, Vishnu and Shiva (Hindu gods) and had the opportunity to observe a bit of a ceremony that was being held to celebrate the new moon.
Next on the tour was the Ubud Monkey Forest. The forest is actually a nature preserve and a massive temple complex that is now inhabited by hundreds of macaques romping around, begging for food and posing for pictures. We enjoyed the playful monkeys as we walked the paths through the steamy jungle, exploring the many temple sites.
We left the monkeys behind and headed for the Royal Ubud Palace, which was a smaller complex with a few ornate buildings. Unfortunately much of the compound was under construction, so we couldn’t see much of it.
Across the street from the palace was the massive main market that sprawled through several buildings and passageways. It was a maze of wood carvings, cheap souvenirs, paintings and clothing. We spent a few minutes quickly walking past the hundreds of stalls and then met our guide to head to the final stop.
The final stop of the day was the Tegalalang rice terrace. The area was a steep valley terraced to hold rice paddies. The rice covered the steep valley and the patchwork vibrant greens created an amazing view as we hiked down winding trails. We hiked up and down the valley, enjoying the views and grateful for the opportunity to stretch our legs after sitting in the car and exploring the packed temples.
On the way back to the hotel, the traffic was so bad that we could have walked faster; however, the twisting streets were so confusing and packed with shops and people that we realized that we would never find our way back.
Once back at the hotel, we decided to walk down the beach and enjoy another sunset on a colorful beanbag chair. We relaxed and watched another spectacular Bali sunset and then headed back to the hotel to pack for our flights out the next day. Kelly was heading back to Melbourne and Todd was making a short hop to Jakarta for the first leg of his training sessions. It was a short trip, but we were grateful for the weekend getaway, the chance to check another country and not having to deal with an erupting volcano!