Bali Hai

Trip Start Dec 28, 2007
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Trip End Dec 01, 2008


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Flag of Indonesia  ,
Saturday, April 12, 2008

Hi all!

We have landed in Indonesia. The island of Bali, to be exact.  Going to Bali was a source of contention for awhile between Andrew and I because I was a little nervous about the recent terrorist attacks on tourist locations.  However, it seemed silly not to see Indonesia, being this close. That, combined with the fact that our prior mountain destinations of China and Tibet are beyond dangerous at the moment, convinced me to go. We are also implementing a personal boycott of China based on their conduct towards tibet.  So we agreed to go to Bali and just avoid the areas that were targeted by the terrorists in the past, namely Kuta Beach. 

So, yes, we saw a lot of Kuta Beach.  But we didn't stay there, just went out for drinks a dinner a few nights, including one night of Mexican food

But I must first digress to Singapore, our brief stopping ground between Saigon and Denpasar, Indonesia.  How is it possible that a place like Singapore could exist out here?  Singapore is a bastian of sophistication and technological advancement, far beyond anything we have seen in SE Asia so far.  But on to Bali...

Bali is a province of Indonesia, one of many islands that make up the country.  Bali was not hit by the tsunami in 2004 - that was mainly Sumatra. It was, however, targeted by Muslim extremists in 2002 and again in 2005, apparently in protest of the excesses caused by western tourists in this primarily (90%) Muslim country.  In 2002, two bombings at a disco in the beach town of Kuta left over 200 dead.  Most of those killed were Austailian.  38 Indonesians, 8 Americans and 2 Canadians were also victims.  There is now a moving memorial at the site of the attacks and many people have placed photos and other mememtos of lost loved ones.  What a tradegy that occurred in such a historically peaceful place.  In 2005, suicide bombers struck a market in Kuta, apparently again targeting tourists.  Security has been increased significantly in response to these attacks.  Locals from neighboring islands, primarily Java, are not allowed into Bali without extensive screening.  (the attackers in 2002 and 2005 were not from Bali, but rather from Jakarta and other areas of Muslin Indonisia.  Bali itself has remained primarily Hindu).  We paid our respects at the memorial set up for the victims of the 2002 Bali bombings.  It was particularing moving, and very disturbing given the fact it is located across the street from the actual site of the bombing.  The bombing site is currently an empty lot, but there are plans drawn for a memorial peace park to be built at some point.

So, you ask - you're in Indonisia and what do you do?  Well, go rafting, of course.  Twice.  In the first two days.  we had a great time, and the pictures attached should demonstrate just how beautiful this land is.  The rainy season ended in March, so the rivers were not so hairy as we found in Austrailia, but they were fun and the water was warm.  One guide insisted on engaging in the Deschuttes-style water fight, which I just hate, but other than that we had a fantastic time.  And, truth be told, the meals served after each trip were the best we had in Bali.  They do amazing things with soy beans over there. 

Our time in Indonesia was split between three areas - Sunar, Ubud, and Benoa.  In Sunar we did our rafting and played some mean beach volleyball.  I was bleeding profusely from a knee injury, but didn't even flinch - and certainly did not take a time out to wash - until Andrew gently reminded me that the others may not be so keen on having my blood on the volleyball.  We won all three games, by the way.  (Ah- ps - I have yet to hear from my team at home how we did this last session). 

From Sanur we went to Ubud, a town in the middle of amazing rice field terraces, much like we saw in Sapa, Vietnam.  Ubud is an "artists" town, so needless to say, I was completely lost.  We stayed at a place that was under construction, so we got  a great deal. We had our own villa, a private massage hut for two within our villa walls, and private pool (you have to see the pictures of this one).  It was the perfect honeymoon location if anyone is looking.  We did nothing worthy (or advisable for printing) in Ubud. 

We then went to the south of Bali for a few days of sand and sea and sightseeing in Benoa.  There are thousands of Hindu temples in Bali.  The government structure in Bali is reverse from what we are used to, with the primary power being held in at the local, rather than national level.  Each small community has its own leaders, which make the majority of decisions that will have any significant impact on the everyday lives of those living in the village. Each village has at least three temples, one for living and community meetings, one for special events, and one for housing the dead.  (The death ritual is confusing.  All Hindu have to be cremated in order to move out of this world, but there are only certain times when cremation is possible.  This results in temporary burial in the death temples until creation can be completed, sometimes years after death.)  There is also an amazing 200 hectare botanical garden in the north that we were able to visit.  I was reminded of Washington park in Portland and wanted so badly to take Luna for a run through the trees up there.   (sidebar - dogs are safe in Indonesia). 

The people we met in Indonisia were as friendly and welcoming as all those we have come across so far in this trip.  There is an emphasis on tourism as a means of income in Bali.  Being the low season, the competition for business for tours or taxis and restaurants was stiff, making for some pushy touts on occasion.  There is nothing a smile and "maybe later" won't quicky get you out of though.  On our last day in Bali we splurged on a jet ski rental.  Guess wo is now set on getting himself a jet ski when we get home?  (and who, by the way, also probably irreversibly compacted his spine while jumping the waves).  The water sport providers (of which there were MANY)  also had this ridiculously huge air mattress thing called the "Flying Fish." You lay on it, hold on for dear life, and get pulled behind a jet boat until you fly into the air at heights of at least 10 meters for extended periods of time.   The food in Bali was mainly asian influenced, with  a focus on seafood, tofu and peanut sauce.  They also, oddly enough, had nachos at every restaurant. ??  The signature dish is Gado Gado, a plate full of blanched green beans, carrots, cabbage, bean sprouts, tofu and tempeh, and boiled eggs, all covered  in a fabulous hot and spicy peanut sauce.  Yummm!!!!!!!!!!!!  Andrew was even a convert before we left.   (As my extreme personal honesty compels, I will make the admission here - on our first night in Bali we went to Kuta and had burgers at the Hard Rock Cafe while watching a T-Lake video.) 

People were very surprised to hear we were American and not Australian.  I seems very few Americans head to Bali. I strongly suggest you do so if you are going on another of those Hawaiian island trips we have all gotten used to. You will have every  benefit of luxuary that you would expect in Hawaii but you also get to help a country who needs your tourism dollars and will give you a different take on the world.  And its much cheaper.  We really liked Bali. It's relatively easy to travel, the security put in place by the hotels and discos seems sincere, the island is gorgeous, and there is a lot of history to explore.  On a bit of a down note, though, tourism was a certain and growing income stream for so many prior to 2002.  After the bombings, tourism was cut in half and those involved became more agressive and territorial.  We are told that tourism was back to alsmost pre-2002 levels at the time of the 2005 bombings.  People are trying to get back to where they were, but now they have a mind set that this may only be temporary. So the push for your business is becoming almost agressive at times, which is unconfortable but can lead to some great deals with some dilligent bargaining.  

We left Bali for Vietnam and are currently back in Hoi An.  Our friend's shop is becoming more of a reality every day and she hopes to open in a week. We are so excited and so proud.  More on that later.  Love to you all, Andrea and Andrew
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