We catch the ferry from Jave to Bali today, the land of curly roofs. Now I’m in Lovina and am a little worried because I don’t remember much of it from when I was here 10 years ago. I’m not sure if it’s changed out of all recognition or if it’s just that I spent quite a lot of time trying out the bars on my last visit. But I don’t even really recognise them. The black volcanic sand beach, though, is still the same.
Snorkelling on some really excellent reefs. Myriads of coral scattered with Fox's Glacier Fruit fish, gorgeous sandy beaches and iridescent blue water.
It’s been nice to escape the group. Though I’ve just remembered that I’m supposed to be having a fish barbeque with them on the beach.....
Besakih, The Biggest Temple in Bali
Then onto to Besakih, the biggest temple in Bali, which has hundreds of smaller temples within it. Each of the houses also has its own intricate shrine, so the whole countryside is littered with curlicues and carvings. Shimmering green lakes and skirted statues galore.
The Klungkung kingdom was considered to be the highest and most important of the nine kingdoms of Bali from the late 17th century to 1908. This palace was destroyed by the Dutch but enough of the carved arches, painted roofs and floating pavilions remains to appreciate the amazing craftsmanship,
Candidasa, Bali Fishing Village
The route that passes all these beautiful temples with thatched wedding-cake towers. has taken us from Lovina in the north to the fishing village of Candidasa on the south coast, climbing over volcanoes on the way.
No muezzin, a beautiful balmy sea breeze and a ten o’clock start, gorgeous. Tenganan - an immaculately manicured Bali village with sales pitches for weaving included in our tour as soon as the guide thinks he can get away with it.
Terta Empul temple I do remember from before. There are tanks with scores of fountains and the locals come to bathe and generally have fun.
Then another temple, this time with hot springs and some royal tombs at the bottom of some even more amazing rice terraces.
There are several celebrations going on at the moment here too. The temples are full of men and women weaving and conjuring up baskets full of offerings, like pig’s heads and coconuts. The temple grounds at Pura Pendataran resemble giant school fetes with harvest festival going on at the same time.
There’s also of course National Day looming and the flags are still multiplying. They are now appearing on all the cars too. We only get this in England when we are playing in the World Cup.
The people are incredibly friendly and seem very gentle but there is another side to them too. There are rows of cockerels in baskets all along the waysides. They are being sold ready for the regular bloody bouts of cock fighting. And the tourist routes at the temples are all cunningly contrived so you have to weave your way through endless stalls when you exit and it’s quite hard to get out unscathed and without being assaulted by women waving sarongs. I am very tempted to treat them as if they are toreadors. But local names are easy to remember. There are only four Christian names, one for the eldest, one for the second born and so on. If a family has more than four children they start again with the first name.
The food in Bali is more varied and many places have a good stab at western style food. Chicken Gordon Blue is noteworthy on several menus. I’ve also noticed lots of western style advertising hoardings. Most of them seem to be promoting cigarettes. Apache seems popular. The guide says the people like the Red Indians.
Goa Gajah and Yeh Puleh, Bali
My last day in Bali is to be spent in and around Ubud. This I also remember. It’s just like Glastonbury - health food shops, reflexology and palm readings. The hotel is the same one I stayed at last time, nestled in the paddy fields. We visit a school where ceremony fever seems to have taken over and the teachers have given up. Some boys are conducting an interesting experiment with matches in one corner of a classroom.
Goa Gajah cave - more intricate carvings.
Then Yeh Puleh. Another festive temple, with a school attached. Ceremony fever seems to have taken over and the teachers have given up. Some boys are conducting an interesting experiment with matches in one corner of a classroom. more tombs and rice terraces presided over by delightful guardians.
There’s even more ceremony fever right in Ubud town. There’s to be a big cremation soon and the locals are building all kinds of artefacts at the palace in readiness. There’s a huge bull that will hold the casket. There is also a very tall totem pole affair from which the body will be launched. It appears that it will travel down a long garlanded roller coaster until it enters the bull. We can’t work out how the body is going to get up the totem pole to begin with, but it’s wide enough to fit a hoist inside. It’s all fascinating.
Denpasar Airport, Bali
I say my farewells to the odd ball group and head to the airport. The mad lady has disappeared. Ian is desperate to get home for some decent food (he signed off the tour as soon as it hit Ubud, saying he couldn’t stand any more temples) and Jim is staying on to ‘get some action’.
The road to Denpasar airport takes me through Kuta, the Aussie version of Benidorm. Indonesia has continued to offer more that is curious and unusual than almost anywhere else I have travelled.