Wanna see Bali ABOVE water ?

Trip Start Mar 17, 2007
Trip End Ongoing

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Flag of Indonesia  ,
Saturday, May 10, 2008

When we walk outside, at 08h50, a nice chauffeured 4X4 is waiting for us. We have no idea where we are going, trusting the people of the hotel.
After half an hour of driving, we stop in at the water palace or Tirta Gangga, meaning Holy Water of the Ganges. When the raja of Karangasem (also the name of the town) built, it in 1947, it was on the back of slaves. There are no more rajahs or kings in Bali. It was completely destroyed during the eruption of the volcano. Today, it is almost fully recovered. The money you pay to enter (1$) is entirely used for restoration and maintenance of the palace. If you are somewhere near: visit it and take a guide (2,5$  for an hour tour). The rice fields surrounding the palace are the ones you see on postcards. The palace also contains the spring of irrigation for the rice fields.
Balinese farmers, raising principally rice, are organized into cooperative water-control boards. The average farm is 1 hectare. About one-fourth of the agricultural acreage is irrigated, the remainder being used for yams, cassava, corn, coconuts, fruits, and, occasionally, oil palm and coffee plantings.
In the same town, we see very fancy young ladies (25?) in traditional dresses, pretty and made up to perfection, walking along the street. T saw that too. What he did NOT see, was that they are escorted by body guards, 6 in total, dressed in black. School children are everywhere in their uniforms. Education is highly rated in Bali. Most schools are mixed: boys and girls.
I have to bore you with some facts about religion and temples. When Islam triumphed over Hinduism in Java (16th century), Bali became a refuge for many Hindu nobles, priests, and intellectuals. Today it is the only remaining stronghold of Hinduism in the archipelago, and Balinese life is centred on religion, a blend of Hinduism and Buddhism, Malay ancestor cult, and animistic and magical beliefs and practices. Places of worship are numerous and widespread, and there is a firm belief in reincarnation. Caste is observed, though less strictly than is the case in India.
Every town has 3 temples, small and modest or big and rich, depending on the wealth of the town. A Hindu has to pray 3 times a day. When he dies, he HAS to be cremated. If the family and/or the town do not have money enough to do the cremation immediately, it can take over 3 years before he gets cremated. Sometimes as much as 150 bodies (or bones, if a long time past) are cremated at once.
We visit Besakih or the 'mother temple' in town. It is not a temple it is THE temple. Or better: lots of temples. It is like Mekka for a Muslim. Every Balinese HAS to come to this temple once in his life time. Should you see it? I would not do it anymore. For me: it is a tourist trap. From entrance to exit. On top of the entrance free (1$, the only reasonable price we paid here just because it is printed on the ticket) you pay 0,5$ parking which goes into someone's pocket. Then: you have to be covered. I brought a Sarong. But that is not enough. We are brought to one of the many tourist shops and are told we both have to wear a Sarong (legs covered): this is true. All the rest they sold us was not necessary. You do NOT need to cover your arms: male or female, even if you just wear a top. Your Sarong, worn like a skirt, has NOT to be held by a belt. T bought a Sarong and a belt, me too: to cover my arms. T could lend the hat. Asking price: 50$, price paid: 15$, still too much. Do we want a guide? Yes. They ask 20$. I bargain till it is 10$, still too much. Then the 1 km walk, uphill, starts, which is one long tourist attraction: shops and men want to give you a ride on their motorbike: 1$. The temples: poisoned with dogs. The guide: dirty, talks a lot but it is difficult to understand him. And to believe him: cock fighting is organized once a year and no betting is done. I bet! The main temple is still much higher up. A bit of fitness is required for this, certainly in this heat. The visit takes 1,5 hours. Of course, the guide ants a tip at the end. A friendly 'no' is my answer. I explain that I paid 10$ to his boss. He points out that is not for him. I tell him we cannot pay more. Is that very nice of me? No. But I already feel 'milked' here. And in eastern countries, if you say you 'cannot' instead of 'want not' and with a small and a handshake, it will be accepted with a smile. And some disappointment, of course.
Stepping into the car, we have a moment of panic, again. Where is the camera? Do you? No. Do you? No.  Found, safely on the seat. Half an hour drive to lunch with a gorgeous view and a buffet. During lunch a little panic: this time Dr T: 'where are my sunglasses?' 'On your nose, love.'
 It was nice but I would not recommend it: 10 times the price of a local resto.
An hour later, we arrive at Puri Agung Karangasem, built at the end of the 19th century by the King of Karangasem (ancestor of the King of the first palace) and the first Stedeholder in Bali for the Dutch regime.  You can walk into the palace and see how the king (and his 10 wives) lived. They left 30 children and 90 grandchildren. It was nice but only if you are in the neighborhood (1$ entrance).
We drive another 10 minutes. The views stay nice. An old lady, walking with a stick, crosses the road with many kilos of rice grass on her back. It is heartbreaking and also reminds us, once more, how lucky we are.
We stop in Ujung at the Taman Soekasada, another water palace. We pay 1$ and guess it is free for locals since it is used for fitness! Running and exercises. Not bad.
The sun goes down already when we leave the palace: 17h30. We tank at a 'normal' station. Most tank station in Bali are ... bottles of fuel, standing in front of a hut. 
Time to go home.
Yes, this is recommendable. We paid 60$ for the car with driver. Do not even think of driving yourself in Bali. Those people are MONKEYS. They drive plainly dangerous. I closed my eyes many times. Let alone you would find your way!
Coming home at 18h, shower and to Mimpies. This is the place the Californian people, we talked to last night, mentioned: there is a Mimpies in the west of the country, with ever better dives, was the message.  At the resort, we get a price list, we take a walk around: it is Japanese. At home, we talk to Wayan, who does not come up with a better solution. Hubby is happy to stay, I want to see more of Bali, under and above the water. We go for a meal in a German resort (!) and decide: we go to the west the day after tomorrow. We even book the resort: 4 nights: 6 dives, gear, all meals, transport to and from the hotel to anywhere in Bali included: 600 Euro for the two. NOT bad.
We do book 3 dives for tomorrow: including 1 night dive. Start with 2 dives on the crappy boat. So: alarm clock at 7.
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