Ubud and Lovina

Trip Start Nov 18, 2002
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Saturday, April 28, 2007

We took the fast speed boat back to main land Bali with intentions of taking some form of transport inland and up to Ubud. 
"Transport" or "you want transport"(together with the miming of turning an invisible steering wheel) is now a familiar word and sight we had gestured to us literally everywhere we go.  There maybe 5 men in a row, the first one you pass says "you want transport?" we reply with a clear and precise "no thank you."  But then the next man sitting next to him still calls out "transport?" and so on until all 5 men have asked.  Why they don't get the message the first time we say 'no thank you' is beyond us.  It's something we were having to get used to for the rest of our time in Indonesia.  Only another 6 weeks to go........great.  If only we got a pound for every time we had the word "transport?" said to us......we could fund our next trip!!
So, when you do eventually say "yes" to one of the 'transport' guys you then get surrounded by all the other 'transport' men.  Hey! hold on a minute we only need one driver.  But no, they all feel it is there duty to barter the price with us too.  So what price would we start at?  Well we used to first look in our Lonely Planet book for the price of the local bus or company travelling that root.  Then we would double that price (because there was 2 of us) and add a small amount more and then take the bartering from there.  The whole bartering system was a bit of a pantomime really.  If you were prepared to keep happy and smiley and spend time bartering then you would usually get the price that you set out to pay.  If not we would walk on and find someone else.  There were plenty of other 'transport' guys waiting for work.
The journey took about an hour and a half to two hours.  We rocked up to our chosen place which happened to be a resort spa well,  it is my birthday tomorrow and I wanted to stay in style.  Alas it wasn't to be as they were fully booked to we settled on another place set into the rice Valley's of Ubud.  Called 'Gusti's Garden Bungalows' the garden was very beautiful with a huge resident spider living just outside our balcony terrace!  See photo.
Unfortunately our room didn't satisfy this near birthday princess (more like Crusty than Gusti) so we checked out the next day and relocated to a really lovely place called Ubud Terrace on the Monkey Forest Road, more in the center of Ubud.  Beautiful huge marble rooms with a 4 poster bed and large swimming pool.  And all for under $20 a night with breakfast bought to your room every morning.
On my birthday we went for a lovely walk along the Campuan Ridge which overlooked the rice fields.  In the evening we went for a pampering session at a resort spa.  We opted for  a honey scrub, steam and massage package.  The steam bath turned out to be some sort of small canvas tent where you sat on a small and zipped in while steam was pumped in and all the honey scrub dripped off inside.  The best bit was walking from the massage bed to the tent in the corner.  Runny honey scrub and marble floors do not mix, not without dire consequences anyway.  How we never slipped over is a miracle!  The whole seesion finished with us sharing a huge open air bath with beautiful flower petals on the water.  It was all very special for my birthday Queen day.
The day after my birthday we went and visited the Sacred Monkey Forest Sanctuary.  This cool, green dense forest houses 3 holy temples. The sanctuary is inhabited by a band of grey-haired and greedy long-tailed Balinese marques who are nothing like the doe-eyed monkeys in the Lonely Planet.  They are just everywhere.  They especially like Martin.  Mmm I wonder why that is?  Could it be he reminds them of their ancestors??  They loved climbing all over him too.  We spent a good couple of hours just people/monkey watching.  It was so funny to watch people being literally robbed for their water bottles, cameras, camera film, fruit or in my case my tube of insect repellent.   There I was sitting quietly laughing at all those unsuspecting tourists being mugged for whatever they we carrying.  Then one little monkey decided to snatch the tube I had in my hand.  When I didn't give it to him he bit me on the arm!  Piecing the skin with his canines and everything.  Great!  Now I will get rabies, tetanus, bird flu.........no not really.  I was sent off to the ticket office where they put some alcohol and iodine on it.  A regular occurrence we think.  I figured that if I was to start going mad and frothing at the mouth then I needed to go to the doctor.  But how will you tell? Asked Martin, she is already mad.......!
Despite that slight mishap it's definitely worth a visit.  Just don't go with any bags or backpacks as the little buggers are very good at opening zips and clips.  We know we saw it.
There are some great little shops selling crafts, clothing, jewelery and all kinds of unique and individual things in Ubud.  And none the owners  tried to hassle us to "look in my shop."  The restaurants were really good too, selling local specialties including Bebek Betutu which is duck stuffed with spices, wrapped in banana leaves and coconut husks and cooked in embers.  Yummy. 
We hired a motor bike for a day which allowed us to really travel further than just the center of Ubud.  We went to Goa Gajah (Elephant Cave) a bit over rated we felt.  It's a small cave carved into a rock face and you enter through the cavernous mouth of a demon.  In front of the cave are two square bathing pools with water gushing into them from waterspouts held by six female figures.
Next we visited Yeh Pulu which is a 25m-long carved cliff face dating back to the 14th century.  Here we found an old lady and her husband who obviously keep it all tidy and sell offerings to tourists so they too can make offerings.  When we arrived there was just one other Japanese tourist.  We watched as this old couple were really badgering him for a donation, even showing him a big rupiah note that they would like to receive from him.  But he was having none of that just taking his photos and left.
We explored many of the little roads around these temple areas and even bumped into the Bali Cycling group which advertises it's well know Bali Eco and Educational Cycling Tour in Ubud.  These poor people had paid $36 each to be driven up near the volcano and then cycle down hill back to Ubud.  They stop for lunch and at a couple of craft work shops on the way.  It sounds a lovely idea but we met them on one of the paddy field roads and as they stopped to moan, catch their breath and drink water they said they really really envied us with our motor bike and would we like to swap?  Errr what do you think?  
After 5 nights in Ubud we were back on the road again.  We took a taxi up to our next destination of Lovina.  The 2-3 hour journey wounds its way past beautiful rice terraces and up and over the volcanic cone of Gunung Batur where we stopped for lunch and to admire the views of this active volcano.  Us? walk in the crater, no thank you.  Sounds too much like hard work to us, we'll just sit here and watch.
We arrived in the Kalibukbuk area of Lovina around mid afternoon and checked into a nice hotel with huge swimming for about $18 a night including breakfast.  It was certainly very quiet there as in fact the whole of Lovina was.  The following sights witnessed will explain why maybe.......
We decided to take a stroll down to the famous beach of Lovina.  According to the Lonely Planet "Lovina manages to exude a sedate charm as the number of hotels and other tourist places grows."  We ever before we set foot on the parking lot area we were accosted by at least 6 'mafia' but a new breed of 'mafia' was discovered.  Yes the all new 'Dolphin Mafia.'
Lovina is famous for it's sunrise boat trips.  Talk about constant hassle, it was a nightmare and enough to make you retreat back to the confines of your hotel.
Later we did venture out for a lovely sun set only to have it spoilt by loads of Dolphin Mafia trying to sell their trips.  We had had the fortune of being able to swim with wild dolphins in Australia so we definitely weren't interested in being in a boat hounding and chasing after dolphins with numerous other boats all at the same time.
We got friendly with a dutch couple Marcel and Angela, who we got on well with and hired a old Toyota Kijang one day.  You could describe it as a very poor relation to a Land Rover Discovery, very very poor in fact.  'Kijang' is the Indonesian word for 'dear.' And yes it would have been very 'dear' to have all the things that were wrong with it, repaired.  With A/C blowing out hot air, windows that just disappear into the door lining as you attempted to open them, doors that had to be manually locked in order to keep them closed was you went along, window winders that break off in your hand, steering that took one whole turn before it would even start to turn the wheels.......are to name but a few.  Oh and a new engine too!!!  We rattled and clanked our way along the coast road heading west to Taman Nasional Bali Barat or West Bali National Park.  The journey took about 3 hours.  We questioned whether we would ever arrive.  We followed the rough home-made signs of 'ferry to Pulau Menjangan.'  There we discovered a huge rip off cartel going on.......In order to visit this little island (famous for snorkeling and diving) in the middle of the national park   
one has to first charter a book at an extortionate rate $40.  Then you are told that you HAVE to have a guide, another $20 and then you have to buy a permit to enter the park, another $8 each and then if you haven't got snorkeling gear they will hire you some at another extortionate rate.  There was absolutely no negotiation on this 'fixed rate.'  We 4 figured we hadn't come all this way to just turn round and head back.  We managed to get a couple of french guys to come in with us which made it slightly cheaper per person but still a HUGE rip off by Indonesian standards.  Thankfully we had our own snorkel gear.  Oh and there was the car park on waste land that was charged for too.  Why? we asked 'well, that includes the use of the toilets!!!'
The fish and coral life were actually rather good by our standards.  The water was very clear and warm but we are not really sure it was worth being riped off by the cartel for. 
On the way home we felt the need for refreshment and pooped into what is described in the Lonely Planet as 'one of Bali's best hotels' the Matahari Beach Resort and Spa.  All very posh we rocked up in our Kijang where the front gate man would be seen dead 'valet parking' our car and promptly directed us to the car park.  We duly took the turning and ended up in the staff car park who lifted the barrier and waved us through no problem.  It was very apparent when we got out of the jeep that we weren't staff and was then escorted past the huge swimming pool and jungle garden to the beach bar. 
After our beers and cocktails we headed back to our wheels taking the long way round through the plush gardens unescorted of course this time.
Our Kijang made it back with just one head light, which is great fun with a million scooters on the road!!
And that was Lovina really.  Such a shame that we witnessed so many people literally driven away by all the mafia touts.  We watched one day on the beach as cars pulled up, parked, got out, only to be confronted by 6-10 touts all selling dolphin trips, massages, sarongs etc.  Most people lasted 10 mins of a stroll along the volcanic sandy beach and then retreated to their cars and drove off again.  Our way of dealing with it was to ask them what they used to ask us.  "you want dolphin trip?" and they would laugh.  The same went for sarongs, massages we would just say something different to what they were saying.  It always raised a smile and the generally got the message without us having to say no thank you a million times.
Why the touts haven't got the message that they are driving these tourists away we just don't know.  Its such a shame as Lovina was really quite ok for the 5 nights we were there.  Although hardened as we are to the 'mafia' even we found ourselves retreating to the confines of our hotel pool as there would be just too much hassle to swim in the sea.
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