Saturday, 6 April 2013

Ubud, Lovina & Sanur 28th March - 1st April

The day started with a surf early in the morning at Uluwatu! We got packed again and we have managed to collect a few curios to post home!

We headed up to Ubud ( pronounced Ooh-bood) again, this time we planned on staying 2/3 nights there.  Ketut took us to see Batik material and paintings being made. Some beautiful designs! Of course we could'nt buy everything as we would'nt have enough cash for the rest of our trip. After a lunch stop overlooking more rice paddies we arrived in Ubud.
We decided to check out the Monkey Forest. Once the entrance tickets were purchased we bought some bananas to feed the monkeys. Dave handed me the bananas while he was putting his wallet away. Next thing I got a massive fright as I had a mokey trying to climb up my leg to get to the bananas!!
I ended up throwing all 4 bananas on the floor and the chuffed monkey ran off with 2 of them. Thing is we could see other toursits ahead of us with all the monkeys and some climbing them for bananas however I hadn't seen this cheeky monkey right next to us. Dave picked up the other 2 bananas shaking his head at me for throwing all 4 bananas away, and he put the bananas in his pocket. A few moments later we came across a monkey and the monkey was very very interested in Dave's pocket and was following trying to figure out what had happened to the bannanas, monkesy are not as stupid as they look and eventualy Dave took out the banana and gave it to the monkey.  Monkey Forest is a place worth visiting, you can watch the monkeys play in lush greenery and in amongst the temples.

 Monkey Forest - Ubud
Cheeky monkey stuffing his face with a banana.

 Monkey Forest - bridge to another small temple.

See where we were: Monkey Temple, Ubud, Bali,Indonesia - Google Maps

We checked out the Ubud Palace (Puri Saren Palace) before checking into our new accomodation in Ubud.  Located not too far from the Monkey Forest, like most royal palaces only a certain area is open to public. It had lovely stone sculptures, ornate doors decorated in gold and beautifully manicured gardens. Our visit to the palace was very quick, mainly due to the limited area open to the public. It's worth vistiting if you are staying in Ubud or generally in the area near the Monkey Forest but not worth going out of your way to visit.

 Ubud Palace
 Ubud Palace
 Ubud Palace

We chose to stay at Gunung Merta Bungalows in Ubud, initially for 2 nights but we extended for an extra night as we wanted to do a cycling tour which was a full day. We chose this place based on the great reviews of the place. To be honest we could not fault this place, however we felt the owner was trying to make the place a bit too westernised.The staff were at the door every 5min its seemed if not to offer to clean the room then to offer the breakfast menu for the following day. The place is an extension of his family's compound and some interesting architecture can be seen, the grandparents house is elevated above all the others as a sign of respect and there is a temple in the middle for ceremonies. The staff were very friendly but it didn't feel genuine to us, as though they had been told how to behave. We had a great room overlooking rice paddies, the room was clean, pool was very inviting and the whole place well kept with beautiful gardens. We just felt we were able to relax a bit more at The Gong than here.

The first full day in Ubud we wondered around the local market, checked out some more art galleries, had some great food and had 2 hours at the spa, myself opting for a facial and Dave a foot and back massage. Probably the best facial I have ever had! Our first night we wondered the side of the road looking for somewhere to eat.  If you have been to Bali you will know that pretty much most of the pavements have gaping cracks and in some places missing full concrete slabs and under the pavement is the sewer. We stopped suddenly as I had noticed a movement from one of the cracks and initially thought it was a leaf but on closer inspection it was a snake! It was small, maybe a meter in length but its shape of its head is what got Dave and I alarmed. The head was triangular, and immediately we thought it was an adder of some sort. It watched us, aware we were there coiling its head in a warning/striking pose and Dave and I cautious not to make any sudden movements. Eventually he slid back under the crack of the pavement out of sight. We hate snakes and definitely gave us goosebumps. Everytime we saw a crack or hole in the pavement we walked out into the road to go around it. With the local's understanding of english not that great it was hard to establish what snake it was although one guy did say it might have been a water snake.

 Wondering aroung Ubud.

We booked our cycling tour through Eco Cylcing tour. It's a tour through rural Bali - exactly what we wanted. We were picked up from our B&B and transported to breakfast at Mt Batur and crater lake. This volcano is still an active volcano so you could cook breakfast there as well!

The breakfast was good and we got to try something new, black rice pudding for breakfast with coconut milk - interesting flavour but maybe needs more sugar. Back in the van we headed off to try some of the Balinese coffees and teas, which we had already done. The other people on our tour really liked it. Soon after we were dropped off to pick up our bikes and go through a safety brief. We were quickly on our way way for a 26km bike ride, mostly downhill. Most of the route we took were small rural side roads with hardly any traffic and us being the only westerners around. We stopped at a local Balinese compound, having stayed in some homestays already we sort of knew the layout but we learnt a fair bit on this tour too. Each compound has a small family temple at the back or front of the compound for their offerings on a daily basis. Their is one building that is significantly higher than the rest, this is where the parents/grandparents live and it is higher as a sign of respect for them. In the Balinese tradition the youngest son is the one who inherits the family compound, the one who gets a nice house etc. In the African culture its the opposite, its the eldest son that gets everything.

 Terraced Rice Paddy
Before the cycle tour begins.
 Breakfast with a view of Mt Batur.

We learnt that the Balinese beleive in sins ~ kama (lust), loba (greed), krodha (anger), mada (drunkeness), moha (confusion), matsarya (jealousy) ~ and they have 6 of their teeth filed represeting each sin in the belief that it reduces the influence of these 6 sins to live a better life and this behaviour will ensure reincarnation into a better future life.

 82 year old lady in the compound we visited.

Another interesting fact with their burial rituals too is that there are 2 types of cremation, direct and mass. Direct is for the wealthy class as this is a single cremation but costs 60million Rupiah = US$6000! The mass cremation is for the not so wealthy that only occurs when a certain number of people have died in a district, normally can take up to 5 years. In the mean time they bury the deceased and then resume the body when it is time for cremation, this will then cost the family 2million Rupiah! Ashes we understood are scattered by the ocean. When someone dies the body is laid on a bed outside under a beautifully carved wooden cover, normally for everyday prayer and people in the community come and pay their respects and bring their offerings to the gods. The body can lay here for up to one month.

This is a picture of what some of the roads we cycled on looked like. The Balinese have recently been celebrating a 10 day festival called Galungan, Bali's major feast and is held throughout the island, an annual event. Every home is decorated with bamboo poles with brightly coloured cloth and/decorations made from either paper, straw, dried palm leaves or strips of bamboo.

There are only 4 names in the Balinese culture given to both girls and boys. They are named in order that they are born followed by their family name. The first born, boy or girl, is Wayan,  second born is Made (ma-day), third born is Nyoman and the 4th born is Ketut. No wonder we have met so many with the name Ketut! To distinguish between male and female the women have 'Ni' before their name, eg: Ni Wayan. And the men have 'I' before their name eg: I Wayan. In westernised terms you could say Miss/Mrs/Mr.  If a family has a 5th child, I'm sure the question has already popped into your head reading this, then the names revert back to that of the first born and will continue to do so even if there are 12 children. We had some insight to this while staying at The Gong, but we learnt a bit more on our cycle tour.

Our cycle tour continued through to rice paddies where we managed to walk in the paddies too. Bali grow 3 types of rice, white, red and black and all grow at varying lengths of time. We watched some women harvesting the rice. They cut the bundles and then they bash them against a cloth and all the seeds aka rice falls from the leaves.

 Walk through Rice paddy.
 Hard at work.
 Harvesting the rice.

Just before ending the cycle tour I some how managed to fall off my bike. I'm good but hit my head and shoulder pretty darn hard on the road. Thank God for helmets! I ended up with lots of bruises and scrapes. All pretty sore - Dave has had great pleasure applying chineese medicine (Betadine) to my open wounds which have stung like hell to put it politely. Oh well I guess on a 2/3 month trip through Asia something is bound to happen. Let's pray this is the first and last!

Lunch was a big buffet of Indonesian food. Yum! Dave has quite liked Mei Goreng, which is fried noodles , chicken and egg. We were lucky to get to try Bebek! This is duck in Indonesian. Most restaurants in Bali request that you order Bebek 2 days!! in advance as they cook the duck slowly. The same applies if you want to order suckling pig.

We would highly recommend if you stay in Ubud to do the Eco Cycle tour. It has been one of the best tours we have been on and what a better way to get out and see rural Bali than on a bike where you can stop and take pictures, interact with the locals in the rice paddies, learn about Balinese traditions and see  a different side of Bali, the true Bali. (Just please practise cycling first!)

Eco cycling tour we went on

After feeling battered and bruised from the cycle tour yesterday, Ketut has picked us up to take us to Lovina, which is North of the island. We started the day off with a visit to Taman Ayun Temple, a world heritage site. It situated next to a royal palace. The place has impeccably landscaped gardens before you reach the temple. The temple is simply beautiful especially with all the water lillys surrounding the temple.  The temple has a small wall built around it and we walked along the path around and saw inside to the temple. The temple is only used for ceremonies and the doors remain shut. No need to spend longer than 20 mins here.

The offerings that appear like magic located everywhere throughout Bali.
 Temple doors.
 View inside the temple.
 View of the temple.

We checked out Jatiluwih Rice Terraces, famous for its rolling hills of terraced rice paddies for miles as the eye can see. Again also another world heritage site. Being more out of the way, Jatiluwih is less commercial and crowded. We stopped here for a lovely buffet lunch overlooking the rice terraces. It was simpy a breath taking view. We could have stayed longer here, however we were pressed for time to get to Lovina. I understand from a few reviews on the area that there is plenty other things to see and do around Jatiluwih.

 Jatiluwih Rice Terraces

 Jatiluwih Rice Terraces - workers working hard.
 Jatiluwih Rice Terraces - workers working hard.

Close up of rice growing.

On our way up to Lovina we stopped at a lookout point to view volcanic lakes. As we were taking pictures we heard a guy asking if we wanted to experience Bali animals as he called it. Wondering over the guy had the biggest fruit bats we have ever seen. Normally we have seen the small little ones flapping about but these were huge and interesting to be able to view them up close too. In our opinion the fruit bat looked like a luwak with wings. Luwak being the creature that eats the coffee beans that we mentioned in an earlier post on Bali. Next thing we knew the guy got one of the bats, hung two of its feet onto Dave's pockets at his hips, grabbed the wings of the bat to stretch them out and gave the other feet of the bat's to grasp onto Dave's hands. Wow!  Another first on our trip of seeing and experiencing something new and unexpected. 

 Dave with the fruit bat.
Holding another ''Bali animal''

Soon after getting all fascinated with fruit bats we arrived at the hot springs about half hour from Lovina. Unfortunately Shev did not venture into the hot spring as she was unsure how dirty the water was given her war wounds and the fact the hot springs was filled with locals everywhere. The water was lovely and warm. Hopefully we will come across more hot springs on our travels for her to try them out and maybe with fewer people. Note: do not go there over a weekend, we heard its quieter during the week.

On arrival in Lovina after a long day of driving, we arrived at our resport Aneka Lovina Bungalows & Spa. It looked beautiful, like a resort. We chose this place based on reviews and wanted a bit of a splurge after going budget for a while. The beach in Lovina is not fantastic. Due to the proximity of the resort to the volcanic mountains, the beach was black and dirty with rubbish everywhere. Not exactly a beach to relax on or even to swim at either. Needless we were quite disappointed. We saw review of the beach not being nice but no one had actually elaborated as to why which would have helped in us deciding not to waste our time going all the way to Lovina. Lovina is well known only to do dolphin tours only and to stay in resort luxury. In our opinion we didn't like our stay here, food was overpriced and hardly even worth eating.

That is the one disappointing thing we found so far in Bali, there is rubbish everywhere and some beaches that are not developed yet are just ruined by the litter. We are assuming its a cultural thing or lack of education, we are not sure but the Balinese people just throw litter out their car windows, on the pavements as they walk.  Bali is truly beautiful and there is so much to offer and we don't quite understand why the locals are not taking more pride in such a beautiful place.

 Lovina Beach. Tried to get a decent picture without all the rubbish on the beach or floating in the sea.

After a rather restful time in Lovina we even watched TV for the first time in ages,shocking I know but we enjoyed the Harry Potter movie none the less. Who knows we might be able to adapt to UK life again..
We met up with Ketut the next morning and started to make our way back to the south of Bali to Sanur, an upmarket tourist place for one night. We had to catch our ferry from Sanur to Nusa Lembongan early the next morning. Ketut had kindly arranged our accomodation for the night in Sanur, no doubt a friend he knows. We stopped off to see Gitgit waterfall not far from Lovina. We had a knowledgeable guide with us as we walked to the waterfall who showed us various fruit trees and cofee plants along the way. It was pretty to see, Dave went for a quick swim under the waterfall. Can't keep him out the water anywhere we go! LOL. 

 Gitgit Waterfall.

 Playing around with slow shutter speeds.
 Dave about to go for a swim under the waterfall.
 This is probably the best picture yet! Thank goodness Dave stayed still that bit longer for this perfect shot of the water.

We got Ketut to stop at the post office for us to post some of the items we managed to accumulate in Bali. It will be like Christmas when we arrive back home with all the parcels we are sending. The post office was the slowest experience we have encountered. We got a ticket for the queque and we were then told to go out the building to the back of the post office where our goods would be wrapped for us. Off we went and we found a guy already boxing and sealing a rather large painting. He wrapped our stuff up for us, tapped it and when we thought he was done he pulled out a white plastic potato sack and then proceeded to wrap the box in this. No taping the plastic sack, instead he pulled out a ''needle'' and some plastic twine and started to sew up the package. WOW! What a service and probably packaged better than what we would have done ourselves too! We had been gone just over half an hour and we assumed we would need to get another ticket for the queque but we were suprised that our number had still not been called. We were still 20 places away from being called. After another half hour wait we eventually got called, and to our annoyance of not checking before packaging the items we were told no liquids allowed. Oh boy we bought some local alcohol Arak in a rather cute bottle. So we stood there unwrapping our parcel to remove this item. All in all a rather slow process at the local post office.

Ketut arranged for us to stay at Coco Homestay. Not that great in all honesty, the bathroom smelled awefull and it was a door that had to stay shut on all accounts but it was within our price range for the area of Sanur and only for one night. We found the lady to be rather abrupt and a bit rude to be honest and this should have been our warning sign and the fact there were no other guests staying. Oh well we live and learn. After catching up with families over skype etc we headed out to find some dinner. The lady at Coco's recommended a lovely place not far from where we were staying called Little Bird. It was a cute, small, acoutsic place run by some Balinese boys. And wow what great food and service we received. The atmosphere was relaxing too. If you are in Sanur check this place out for food. We decided to call it a night and head to bed early.

The next morning we got packed and ready to get to our ferry. While packing and after discussing how much cash each of us had as there are no ATM's on Nusa Lembongan I realised that some money that I withdrew just before arriving at Coco's was missing. Not just a small amount either - more like US$90! Needless I was fuming and a little angry at myself for having let my guard slip while we went out to dinner.  Our room price we paid included breakfast, although we didn't want to eat I would have at least thought the lady was going to ask if we were going to have breakfast and I would have enjoyed the pleasure of why I am saying no. We didn't get a chance to say anything to the family running the place but I'm certain they could hear the fury and frustration I was venting upstairs. There was a very different attitude when we handed over the key, no thank you for staying and hoped you enjoyed your stay, the lady just turned her back and disappeared once the key was handed over.

We focused on getting to the ferry and enjoying our next leg of our trip in Bali.

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