Mantas!

Today, we go to Manta Point. The boat ride there is a wild ride. The boat driver does not slow down cresting the large rolling waves and the boat, and its occupants, free fall back onto the water. It takes only one spine jarring thud for me to make sure my weight is on my feet and the bounce taken up by my legs after that. Everyone is holding on tight.

We arrive at the small bay to see about ten other boats in the area. Popular place. As a diver, what this means is we need to keep track of our dive master and group more carefully so as not to accidentally follow another group.

Manta Point, Nusa Penida

We drop down and spy a manta right away. The area is a cleaning station for the mantas. They swim to a particular spot and small fish eat parasites etc off the manta. The manta will hang, unmoving, in the water while the fish do their job. Every once in a while, we see the manta jump as a fish perhaps hurts it.

Manta Point, Lembongan

During the dive we have five or six sightings of mantas, not sure if they are the same ones or different ones. They are such huge majestic creatures that we just stare at them in awe as they glide past.

Moorish Idol, Lembongan
Moorish Idol
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Day Two in the Current

Today I take my camera diving. Taking photos in the current is…..challenging. By the time I spot something cool (like a huge turtle), decide I should take a shot, zoom, I’m by it already. Then I figured out I can hide behind large outcroppings where there is no current. That works quite well, but the fish are very shy.

Lembongan, Indonesia

The current speeds up and slows down, so I pay attention for when the current slows and turn my camera and light on in preparation for some picture taking.

Nudibranchs, Lembongan, Indonesia
A Nudibranch have have not seen before!

It usually takes me a few days to get reacquainted with my camera and light again, and this trip is no different. I take many too dark shots, but there are a few excellent shots, mostly of critters that do not move much.

I will keep practising!

Nudibranchs, Lembongan, Indonesia
Nudibranchs
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Murray’s Thoughts on Sanur

It’s been a couple of days since we boarded the ‘fast boat’ from Sanur to Lembongan but I had a few notes from Sanur I wanted to include.

Sanur is a much more urban environment. Almost a bedroom community to Denpasar, its daily uproar of the city spills into this beach area. The beach is a 5km stretch of sand. With the one afternoon we had there we did not even get to the end of the beach. The sand area is quite nice, lots of room for very many people. A paved path stretches the entire beach, from one end to the other. There is a variety of hotels and venders aligning the walkway, many warung’s (small Indonesian eating establishments), restaurants, trinket sellers, lounge renters and bicycle rental places. The water itself doesn’t look too pleasant. A lot of rocks and weeds. I noted this is a low tide, at high tide the water may extend far enough up the sand to make for a more pleasant swim. It was 2.30pm and the beach was basically deserted except for a few grey hairs lounging on the fancier hotels lounges. At 6pm there were a few local types on the beach and in the water. Maybe because it was cooler or maybe they came down after work. One of the advantages of this location is the ocean breaks far from shore so the water’s edge is quite calm. I think this is the main attraction to the particular beach in a country of beaches.

Sanur, Bali
Sanur, Bali

The busiest place was one block off the beach on the street where all the restaurants were. The traffic was like any other Asian city street, constant. The sidewalks were crowded and most of the restaurants had a few patrons. I did find the restaurants a bit expensive, at least compared to Ubud and now to Lembongan but there is always one or two with reasonable prices.

Our hotel, Alit Beach Resort, has seen better days. Right on the beach it has a prime location. By the grounds and the buildings, I think it may have been quite fancy in the past. But it has not been maintained and is quite shoddy. It could be the land is worth more than the trouble of a resort so the owner is just waiting for the right offer.

For me this would not be an ideal place to spend a week or so. Chilling on the beach is not my thing. There were a few surfers out passed the water break and the waves looked formidable but I don’t have time to learn another sport so all I will do is watch and admire. There is also a spot where some kite boarders are gathered and it looks like a really good area for that with a very strong on shore breeze blowing. I did see a couple of dive shops but I did not read anywhere in my research that this is a good place to dive. If your purpose is relaxation this might be a place to come but otherwise I don’t think it is worth more that a couple of hours of touring.

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First Dive Day

Wheeeeee! What a ride!

Our first dive in the waters off Lembongan was in a ripping current. We flew over the coral and sponges and fish.

The second dive of the morning was more pedestrian in a gentle current. Murray even had time to shoot some videos. (I did not take my camera today I wanted to concentrate, I had on my brand new wetsuit.)

Here is a short video for you.

Clown Fish
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To Sanur then Nusa Lembongan

We have had a couple of travel days and a no WIFI evening. Yesterday, Made Sudarta, drove us to Sanur, a seaside beach town in southeast Bali. On the map, it looks to be a part of Denpasar’s metropolitan area. This is the location of the ”fast boat” that we will use to get to Nusa Lembongan.

After checking into our hotel, we walk the beach front and main street to get a picture of the area. There are some very posh beach resorts along the strip. We have been wondering where all the grey haired people were as we didn’t see very many in Ubud. Well, we found them! They are all staying at the posh resorts, relaxing on the beach under umbrellas. Didn’t feel the need to join them!

View from Sanur Beach

We found supper and wandered back to our hotel. I picked this hotel as it was half a block from the fast boats and knew it was, at most a 3 star hotel. As we walk to our room, I realize it is about a 1 star hotel. In its prime, the resort would have be exquisite. Cottages, large and small, huge swimming pool, gardens, restaurant all in pristine condition. Today, many of the grass roofs have holes in them. Windows in cottages are boarded up. The pool is well kept! Our room is tired looking, the sofa lumpy, the bed linens very dated, the taps in need of some CLR and there is no WIFI. But, we make the most of it and it is only for one night. We went on bed bug alert and made sure no bags sat on the sofa or the floor through the night. I did have some teeny ant like critters in my bed……gross!

Sanur Beach
Sanur Beach

In the morning, we pack up and trundle to Rocky’s Fast Boat office right on the beach, under some umbrellas. We check in, they tag our luggage and give us wrist bands and then we also sit in the shade of the umbrellas to wait for the boat. The interesting thing about these boats is that we load off the beach, so we are wading into the surf and stepping onto the boat at the back, next to the SIX outboard motors. I hiked the legs of my shorts up as high as they would go to try and not get wet. Worked pretty good. 

The trip across the strait is 30 minutes and not rough at all. The boat is filled with vacationers and a few locals. On the Nusa Lembongan side, we disembark onto the beach again and wait until the workers unload our luggage. They are very efficient at it, carrying three large suitcases at a time, about 50 kg or more!

Nusa Lembongan is more laid back than Bali. No cars, only motorbikes, scooters, golf carts and small trucks that are used for large taxis. The narrow main road is lined with shops and restaurants. There is more garbage here than we have seen so far. I think we will get along just fine on this little island.

Tomorrow, we dive!

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Off to the Countryside

Yesterday Murray arranged with Made Sudarta, a local taxi driver, to take us on a little adventure. Made (pronounced Mad-ee) picks us up at 9:30 and we are off!

Our first stop is Pura Tasman Amun, a temple built in 1634 by the then King of Mengwi. Bali used to have nine kingdoms, but the Dutch slowly conquered them in the early 20th century. There is still a royal family of Mengwi that maintains the temple. The grounds are immaculate and the buildings well kept. 

Our next stop is the Desa Coklat Factory. We are a little disappointed in that we could only peer through a couple of windows in the factory to see workers mixing chocolate and wrapping it. There are some tasting samples of milk and vegan chocolate, which we try a few. We do manage to purchase one bar of Organic 73% Dark Chocolate with Sea Salt! 

Our last stop is the Jatiluwih Rice Terraces, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. As we approach, we can see why the area is special. Layer upon layer of rice fields on every side of a large valley. Made drops us off and we walk down the paved path through the fields. There are many tourists here, almost too many for our liking. A young Dutch couple ask me to take a photo of them so I do and then we chat for a few minutes. 

We continue down the path and decide to keep going to, mostly, get away from the other folks and to find good photo ops. We wind down into the valley and the rice is so rich and verdant. We say Good Afternoon to the farmers working the fields and always get a friendly response or a “Where are you from?”. We walk for about an hour and then find our way back to our driver.

We chat with our driver for the whole trip and learn a lot of miscellaneous info about Bali. Here’s one….did you know the first born son is always called Wayan and the second born is called Made. Then the child is given another name also and is called, for example, Made Sudarta. (Wikipedia notes that there are a couple of names for each first and second etc born and that girls are also included in this.)

It is a good day of seeing some sights and also viewing the countryside and how the local people live and work. Tomorrow we are off to Sanur and then Lembongan Island.

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Debbie does Batik!

This summer, my friends and I really immersed ourselves into Shibori inspired tie dyeing. We tie dyed shirts and onesies and tea towels and bags and fabric. It was great fun, especially the part where we unwrapped our item and saw how it turned out. There were many fabulous creations.

While researching Ubud, I came across a course for batik. In my mind batik is a natural progression from tie dyeing. I found a course where I didn’t have to know how to draw and signed up. 

So that is how I found myself at Widya Batik Class this morning. The classes are run by a family, originally from Java who brought the batik knowledge with them. They are all friendly, patient, knowledgeable and helpful. 

Choose a design, trace on fabric, apply wax, apply paint, finished work

The first steps in the batik process are to pick out a predrawn pattern and trace it onto a piece of cotton. 

The next step, and the hardest, is to apply wax to all the pencil lines on the fabric. The wax is made up of mostly bees wax with some coconut oil to make it malleable. It is kept hot over heat. Applying the wax is done with a tool that holds wax in the top and spreads out the tip. I practise and practise until I feel confident to work on my own project. This step took the longest and the most patience.

Pot of wax and application

The fun part is adding colour. Again I practise and try different colour combinations. Ready to start mine! Because I chose flowers, it is suggested that I add shading on the petals in one colour and paint the petals another colour. Flowers first, seed pods next, then leaves, then the background and header and footer. It was difficult to decide on colours as I worked but the staff were very helpful in offering suggestions.

Paint pots

Once the painting is done, the work has to sit in the sun until it is really dry. After it dries, it gets soaked in a fixative solution and then soaked in boiling water to remove the wax. A quick rinse and the piece is ready to be dried and is finished. All the areas with wax are now white and are the outlines of the flowers, leaves, stems and borders.

Painting finished, ready for drying

It is quite exciting to see a batik work come to life through this process. Just like tie dyeing, it is exciting to see how the finished work turns out. I am very pleased with my creation and thank the staff at Widya Batik Class. If you are going to Ubud, I would highly recommend taking a batik class from this wonderful family.

Finished product!
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More Random Ubud

Back around 1990, Bali was on my bucket list. Time passed and Bali became a tourist mecca. Word was that it is crowded. Bali fell off the bottom of the list soon after. Precovid, after booking another dive trip to Indonesia and including a trip to Australia to visit our son we found that Bali was the entrance to Indonesia from Brisbane. Crowded or not we thought since we were there we might as well spend some time and see what Bali is about.

We chose Ubud because of the reputation it had as an artists’ colony when I first looked at coming here. I think it is a good choice. The setting is spectacular and there is access to most things people might want to do while visiting here. I do not think I have been anywhere where the tourist infrastructure is set up so good.

There is every kind of hotel you can imagine from 5-star resort type places to home stays. Some are in remote locations and others in very urban locales. Sama’s Cottages is mid range money wise but it is a wonderful place, the staff are amazingly attentive, the cottages are maintained very well, breakfast is included and it is great to have it served on your private veranda and ½ an hour after you finish, the dishes disappear. The hotel is located 300M off the main street and 50 M off the roadway. I hear no street hubbub what so ever.

I don’t think night life is big here. I have not heard any loud music other that the occasional gamelan orchestra and that is midday. I’m quite sure if we were in Kuta or the beach areas to the south of Denpasar the bar scene would be raging.

English is universal here. It is not very good for learning a few phrases of the Balinese language, we still managed to learn a use a few basic words but it is totally not necessary. Everybody, and I mean everybody, speaks English. Some as well or better than the people at home in Canada.

We have been here almost a week and we have yet to stop in at a disappointing restaurant. We don’t frequent the fancy, made solely for the tourist places. We search out establishments that are quite a way off the main street. Smaller places most tourists would walk by although not the hardcore local restaurants ones. Our luck has been very good. We have eaten almost entirely Indonesian food, nasi goreng, satay, rendang but we did opt of pizza last night. One of the first places we ate dinner was outstanding. Debbie ordered satay and I had rendang. We will head back there on our last night in Ubud.

One thing completely different than any Asian country I have visited is the lack of trash. There is no garbage on the street, in the ditches, along the rivers or on empty lots. I don’t know if there is a night crew that cleans the town or if people are just more aware and actually search out proper disposal places. I did not even notice how clean Ubud is at first but once I realized it, it was blindly obvious.

The sidewalks, as with most non first world countries, are in total disrepair. You can’t really walk along and window shop. It’s eyes down and pay attention to where you step or it is face on the concrete grinding your nose.

They actually cook the food here. As in most places, not North America, it takes a long time in a restaurant from the time the waiter takes your order and when your food arrives at your table. This irritates most North Americans. But the reason is they prepare the food after it has been ordered. So, my advise is to sit back and enjoy the time because nothing you do will make things happen any faster and you can be sure the fresh cooked food is safe to eat.

Now for one of Indonesia’s worst tourist experiences, Lion Air. We have read many horror stories about this company; the only thing is it has more or less a monopoly of some of the domestic routes. So, if you have a particular destination in mind, it is Lion Air or a boat. We have flown with this company a few times and had minor problems, like schedule time changes, which can happen on any airline. This caused us some inconvenience but it was relatively easy to work out and make the appropriate changes.

Three days ago, Lion Air cancelled one of our flights that was integral to our trip. OK we can make a change and still get to where we need to although not ideal. First, we found out the flight was cancelled through a third party. Lion Air never did email us to inform us our plans had to change. We opened our itinerary and indeed adjacent to one of the flights was ‘cancelled’. We noted that below they were kind enough to put us on the next days flight, the only other one available. Only thing is they neglected to update the other two connecting flights that are attached to the same ticket. So had we left it those two flights would have flown the day before the rescheduled flight. Not really professional I’d say.

Next on the page was a note stating we had to confirm that we accepted the change. There was absolutely no way of doing that on the web page. No button and no amount of clicking anywhere would let us confirm we would be OK with the new flight time.

Next step was to contact Lion Air by phone. The following morning after half an hour of trying we finally connected. The lady was very kind, looked up our flight and confirmed the flight has been cancelled but she, unfortunately, could not do anything about solving our problem. We would have to contact the reservation call centre in Jakarta or travel in to Denpasar, a $40 cab ride and a day wasted. The call centre line was constantly busy and we had zero success with that.

Debbie had one last ditch idea. We could go to a travel agent an see if they could sort things out. The hotel clerk offered up the name of an agent a distance away but still walk-able. Debbie mentioned the agency in a previous post and the fellow did a bang-up job. After using the travel agents’ hot line to reach the booking call centre he managed to confirm that we would accept the schedule change. Inquiring further he found the computer nor any one at Lion Air had updated our connection flights. Pretty damn poor. Further discussion and those flights were aligned with the new outgoing flight. The end result is, if nothing else goes awry we will lose a couple hundred bucks on a cancelled hotel and with a little luck make our flight to Australia on a different airline. I would like to say we will never travel Lion Air again but, in all likelihood, we will be back to Indonesia and since there is little choice, we may have to suck it up and pay for more abuse.

If we do come back to Bali after dropping into Australia I might spend some time on the north coast which I would imagine to be less crowded and still very interesting.

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Ubud’s Magic Rice Fields

We venture away from tourist central today. The Lonely Planet had mentioned a couple of ‘walks’ that we thought we should take in. One was to the ‘magical rice fields’. The other followed two rivers north of the town. We start up the Campuan Ridge Walk. The first section is a concrete path. It is walled and narrow. Every 30 seconds or so a motor scooter would whiz by. There is not room for both a ped and a scooter on the path so we have to stand aside. We make it 200M and turn around, we are not going on a walk in the forest dodging motor scooters.

Ubud Rice Fields

Plan B, Debbie spots the entrance to the magic rice field trail and we head up. 50M off the street and there are no other people. The madness of main street is a thing of the past. We walk for 2.5 hours and meet only 4 or 5 tourists. There were several locals about, tending the rice fields, painting, selling wares, building another resort or two but it is secluded and tranquil.

Ubud Rice Fields

Instead of backtracking the trail back to Ubud we walk the highway. An experience in itself, a narrow road, and speeding vehicles. But I am here writing the story so we made it. It is reasonably quiet until we turned the corner onto JL Raya Ubud and it is is back to madness.

Ubud Rice Fields

Aside from our sore feet it has been a relaxing day. The many shades of green is visually calming and the lack of humanity restores the nerves.

Ubud Rice Fields
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“Admin” Morning, Exploring in the Afternoon

Yesterday, we found out one of our Lion Air fights had been cancelled. We tried to reschedule the flight and the connecting flights but their website wasn’t cooperating and, since it was Sunday, we couldn’t phone them. Thus, it was our morning chore today.

The fellow at the Sama’s Cottages reception was a great help in trying to phone Lion Air’s office in Denpasar. Unfortunately, they could not help us and told us we had to phone the call center in Jakarta. After trying unsuccessfully for an hour to get through, we had to come up with an alternate plan. Instead of a taxi ride into Denpasar, we opted to try a local ”travel agent”. The fellow at reception gave us a location of one which was within walking distance.

We walked to Global Bali Expert (at the Bintang Supermarket) and were helped by the owner. He graciously phoned Lion Air and got all the flights sorted out. We now have to rearrange hotels, but that is easy. He charged us 100,000 Rupiah for the phone call, which we happily paid. If you are ever in Ubud and need somewhere to change money, extend a visa or fix an airline gaffe, please go there.

Monkey Forest, Ubud

Our exploring this afternoon took us down Monkey Forest Road, past, you guessed it, the Monkey Forest. We did not go in but caught some sightings of monkeys on the outer wall and around the entrance. Saw one monkey grabbing at a woman’s purse and then at a guy’s bag wanting food.

Agung Rai Museum of Art

Past the Monkey Forest we found The Agung Rai Museum of Art. There are two buildings, one with traditional artwork, and one with modern. Murray and I liked the modern better but both appreciated the detailing in the traditional pieces. We wandered the grounds amongst the foliage, pools, stream and other buildings. We came across a fellow playing a musical instrument and he offered for me to join him, so I did. We played for a few minutes and then we continued on our way.

My feet were glad when we arrived back at our little cottage. I dunked myself in the pool to cool off and now here I sit with my feet, still complaining, dangling off the floor.

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