Bali

Trip Start Apr 26, 2005
1
12
16
Trip End Ongoing


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Monday, June 6, 2005

Bali

Bali is an island of temples and everyone here worships something.

The locals are Hindus and have a local version of the religion where all the gods have been merged into one, to fit with Indonesia's Muslim laws that only recognise mono-theistic religions. Everywhere you drive there are temples by the roadside, ancient and concrete modern ones. On visiting one we were met by a couple of smiling locals who kited us up in sarongs and sashes, we were then presented with a box to make a donation to the temples. the second Phil dropped a generous donation in, we were informed that the sarongs were extra and more money was passed out. Then the fun starts, the temples are dotted with young men who for a minimum of information call themselves a guide and expect to be paid, the tourists part in this game is to keep moving, trying to ignore all but one of the "guides" to limit the number of people you have to pay at the end. Phil stopped in the shade of a tree and was joined by a "guide" who pointed at an orchid 1/2 way up said "orchid" and then put his hand out for a tip. The whole game is actually very good natured.

The second set of worshippers are the shoppers. The high temples here included top fashion designer labels in air conditioned malls. We visited none of them but I imagine they have racks of dresses with "I visited Bali and all I got was this $4000 Gucci dress" printed on them.

The other end of shopping temples are full of batiks, soft furnishings, carvings and every bit of fake branding you could imagine. Guides have been replaced by sunglass salesmen and taxi drivers but the game is the same - don't stand still or they get you.

The final set of worshippers we came across on our final night. These are the beautiful people. We visited a temple of theirs, a designer bar called "Ku De Ta" with London prices that had been aligned to to give the best sunset views over the beach. Of course the "beautiful people" do not worship the sun only themselves and with no "guides" here the game changes. The new rules seem to be: get brown (naturally or chemically), wear minimal fashion gear and then spend the evening posturing for the benefit of other worshippers. We of course thought of new rules, like saying slightly to loudly "wow, look at that cellulite" as this leaves worshippers in the vicinity taking paranoid glances at their own backside all night.

Bali started for us by meeting up with Kathy (Phil's sister) and her boyfriend Jamie in Lovina, North Bali.

Lovina Beach is actually a string of villages heading west from Singaraja on the main road south through Bali & is famous for its black sand beaches. We did not really experience the beach as we arrived after sunset & got lost trying to find a local restaurant in the dark.(Only to find it, 2O yds from our hotel when we had walked a couple of miles around the block!)

We were the first tourists in 6 weeks .and this place needed the business so our plan was try to spend a million Rupiahs (60 GBP). This wonderful local restaurant was so reasonable that even after working our way through the cocktail menu and eating a massive meal we only spent 850,000. The owner & host was so jovial & funny - a great welcome to Bali!

The following day we drove along the coast road through small villages, getting fleeced by supposed guides at temples and stopping at an artists house who's art seemed largely about getting young people to take their clothes off (we left quickly and fully clothed).

Later we discovered an idyllic hotel, the Jepon Bali, that looked like a feature from 'Conde Nast Traveller' with views across black coral beaches, an infinity pool, one of the nicest rooms we have ever stayed in and no other guests. This became home for the next few days. Nothing to report other than a frightening bar bill and a lot of swimming and the admission that we would quite like to live like this a bit more! 

The north is a better place to see Bali as the south seems over developed. However the south is where the parties and shopping are and has the amazing Seminyak which we made our home later in our travels.  Jamie was particularly devastated to see the mess they have made of Candidasa Beach where an artificial barrier designed to protect the beach has in fact caused the beach to erode away - a great example of how not to develop tourism.

We then joined Phil's Australian cousins wedding party. Paul and Simi had rented a luxury villa on the southern tip of Bali at Uluwatu the famous surf beach. If we tell you what it's called we will probably have to kill you it is SO lovely! (Although we could be persuaded for a few drinks or something). With them were their families and an extended set of great friends, many of whom we know from other trips.

The wedding was held on the lawn of the villa with the sun setting over the Indian ocean. Simi looked stunning in a mint coloured figure-hugging draped satin evening dress & looked every inch a movie star (she was adamant she did not view herself as a bride). One of the highlights of the ceremony was when Simi & Paul's 8-month old son Finn squawked as he was mentioned - cute!

The tables were set in Balinese style & the air reeked of the heady scent of jasmine. As night fell, hundreds of lanterns lit the villa grounds. A big party followed late into the night with a wonderful highlight being an exciting fire dancing display. The pictures probably give an idea what it was like, but we were too busy having a great time to take too many. It was truly a wonderful wedding though - stylish, original, fun & warm.  Being Brits we naturally found the friendly barman to get our glasses regularly filled with our favourite tipple!

We found out the next day that an Ozzie guy. who looks like a younger Rod Stewart, pushed the photographer in the pool at 4 am when he had the memory cards in his pocket! Luckily. they have managed to dry them out (we think).  Thank god for digital cameras!
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