Bali day 5 - Litsa goes BANANAS !
Welcome back everyone.
Its Tuesday - UBUD DAY ! yay
Woken early again, but by 2 dogs going at each other and one of them losing a limb to its opponent (well thats what it sounded like anyways). Look, the earplugs are only so effective, and this dogfight was a good one. The yelping and howling had the added effect of waking the roosters up, and then they got in on the act. 5am is looking more and more lovely each day.
Lots of people have been asking about the weather in June. We have had gorgeous days. Once the sun rises, its hot, but not overly, and then by lunch a beautiful breeze picks up to make the day even more comfortable. Only once or twice have I felt uncomfortable. This is definetly the best time of year to come for the weather. Its been warm enough to jump into the pool each night too, to sober, whoops, I mean freshen up before bed. In saying all the above, today..............It's raining !
Its just a passing shower, I know, as I am able to check the weather radar online. It did prove one thing though, that Sarongs from KETUTS should be washed by themselves first, as they run badly. The one sitting on the sun lounge has proved that.......WHOOPS
As its Tuesday, and the day that most of the weekends money for work appears into the account, Litsa and I are tag teaming the Laptop and Ipad paying wages, bills and doing emails for the shops and businesses back home. We are becoming quite a team at this, me in charge of the technology, and she is in charge of the money. Thats all well and good until I need some of course. The scary thing is though, I just don't see me holidaying anywhere where I couldnt get a good standard of Net access now. In fact it was one of the pre-requisites for the choice of the Villa we are in. The 15-20 mins of work though, is compensated for by the ability to have a couple of bucks to fling around Bali and have a good time, so musnt grumble :)
"Common", our extremely smiley and well mannered staff wanders in around 7.30 am as we need to be fed and ready by 8.30 for our trip to Ubud. This morning, we are back to bacon, eggs, sausage and baked beans with toast. It really is so nice to be able to get up from the laptop and perch in front of a lovely cooked breakky. One of my pet peeves is buffets at resorts and the temptation to gorge "because its there". A sensible ONE plate of food is enough.
"Nioyman", our driver for today turns up bright and early. He is a friend of a guy called 'Wayan' that my mate Changa uses all the time when in Bali. All communications with Wayan have been great, and he is very chatty, conversing well in English. Nioymans english is a little less fluent, and from the start was probably going to make the day a little more diffucult than it should have been.
We head off, and the first thing you notice on any drive around Bali is the traffic. Its total and utter chaos. The roads are too narrow for the volume of traffic, and there are simply no road rules to abide by. Its every man, woman, and child for themselves. Apparently there is a 12.8% a year increase in car ownership and yet only a 2.5% increase in traffic infrastructure (thanks Google). You can see a city thats approaching gridlock. Every intersection was mayhem. We only got through one as Nioyman had a button that sounded a siren like a Police car. Scooter riders scattered and we powered on through. One nil to Nioyman !
Waving at the walls of Kerokaban jail to Schappelle, we then headed towards Denpasar City itself. Its a very impressive place. It kind of reminds me of Bangkok before they became the 'Asian Tiger' economy and then collapsed again. The architecture is amazing. The Balinese style carried through to massive Govt Buildings is impressive.
As we started to head uphill, I kind of knew what day we were in for. I personally, when on a tour, HATE being 'herded'. It seems the standard 'tourist' thing to do on any day trip to Ubud is..... See how Batik is made, see how Silver Jewelry is made, see how artists paint paintings............ and then on the way out of each location make a purchase. These purchases also mean a commision to the driver. Each of the 3 locations we visited, were not factories of any kind, they were basically retail showrooms, with a couple of people employed at the door to either, stitch, hammer or throw oil on canvas. Sure, some of the work was impressive, and I did buy litsa a lovely ring at the silver place, but, I am not a huge fan. I would much prefer to work out my own itinerary, give it to a driver, and get on with it. My own itinerary would have by-passed all the 'artisans' and simply got me to Ubud ASAP. I also have to remember, I am travelling with other people who have yet to experience this 'herding phenomenon' so I sit back and keep quiet (sort of). As I said at the start, the inability to express myself clearly due to the language barrier was never going to see the day go exactly as I hoped (this time)
On the way "up the hill" you see the villages that specialise in rock carvings (rock village) and then wood carvings (wood village) and then kites (kite village) etc etc. This grouping of industry and outlet is pretty common around Asia, but foreign in all but the sales of cars in Australia. Once you've seen one stone Buddah on the side of the road, you really have seen them all.
First thing we notice about Ubud is how narrow the roads are, and how windy and hilly compared to the coastal zone we are staying in. I love all the rainforest canopy, and we then get into a discussion as to whether this is more 'calming' than the mayhem of Kuta etc.. one look around, and you can see it isnt, well not in central Ubud anyways.
Monkey Forest is our first stop. a bit of a highlight for me, I do so love monkeys. Their cute little animated faces, their expressions, and their ability to frighten small children. Litsa bought a few bananas, so immediately I turned the video camera on. The monkey forest was the place that we had been given the most opinions about from mates. Don't do this.. don't do that, and make sure you don't even think about doing THAT ! Well, we manged to totally ingore EVERYTHING we were told, and buying bananas was the first. Now, I personally don't think an expression like 'Pack Raped' should ever be used in a travel blog, but I can't think of any other way to describe the monkeys attitude to the banana that Litsa was now holding close to her body. You just know that the one big ugly monkey near the gate, is only that big for one reason. He will not take NO for an answer when it comes to a banana. Litsa was lapping this up with squeels of delight, seriously, she was LOVING it. Her comments were that they were very light (even the big ones) and didnt have claws, and were pretty good at finding bananas. We even bought MORE bananas as we went in, so I could get even more shots and footage. They all looked very healthy, and they certainly look well fed. I didnt really see any outrageously bad behaviour either, except the one that pee'd on an Aussie who was holding his banana too high (serves him right).
Now, when it comes to trying to steal a Monkey from the Monkey forest, you will need 3 things. 1. Bananas, and lots of them 2.) a large backpack, preferably with LATCHES not with zippers as they have clever little hands that can unzip them and 3.) A driver you have bribed to look the other way when you climb back into the car with a bag thats wriggling
I had NONE of the above........Dammit !
I really do love Monkeys, but I cannot fathom sharing a cell in Kerokaban without good toilets. Getting my own monkey will have to wait till next trip :) Whatever anyone tells you, or advises you ignore the advice and just have fun at the forest. Its truly a gorgeous place and an absolute highlight for me on the trip so far.
Arriving at Ubud town centre, we parked at the bottom of a one way street and headed up to the markets. What can you say about the markets ? Hmmmm, they were cheap ? Yes indeed. We scored 2 table runners for around $6 each and of a few other gifts, that I cannot mention here as it will spoil the surprise for the recipients. You really do have to work harder here than anywhere else I have shopped in Asia. Walking away seems to work the best, and you have to be happy to do it. To the people who managed to get Tiger Balm for AUS$1, good luck to you, best I could get was $1.50 and I walked off. The markets are very hot, and the breeze was lost in cloisters of sarongs and dresses and material hanging from the walls. We wandered for a bit, but got a bit claustraphobic so headed onto the main street.
I saw the famous IPU OTAH (I think thats the name) where the Babi Guling comes from, and we went and took a photo. I kind of knew in my heart, that I wasnt going to get to try this on my first trip. My dodgy stomach, combined with that much fatty pork, cannot see me more than 5 mins away from some good bathrooms. A 1.5 hour trip back in a car, was never going to work. Its one of those boxes I will tick when I actually stay in Ubud, and can run back to my room. And on that note, all my good friends reading this, so far, touch wood, everything has been very very good in the stomach region, except for maybe a little extra breezes from the Bintangs.
The girls and Andrew wanted to get foot massages, so we wandered past the worlds most expensive fish spa (150,000 Rupiah for 30 mins.... OUCH) and found a nice little spa on the edge of a gorge down a few steps. They all booked in for $6 foot massages and I wandered off for a gander further down the road. I am not a fan of getting my feet rubbed, the ticklishness mentioned in an earlier update is even worse around the foot area. A foot massage in Thailand had to be cut short, as I nearly took one therapists head off with an errant giggle and reflex kick. I managed to find a legit bank, with a legit ATM out the front and took some money out. Major score for the day was then going into the bank and changing some 100K notes down to 20K notes. Anyone who has travelled here will know what I mean when I say that 20K notes are like gold. Taxi drivers NEVER seem to have change when you hand them a 50K. I keep my 20K stash hidden to flick at them as say NER NER when they say they don't have the change for a small fare.....Its like a small win every now and then. I kept walking down the road and stopped for a look at Paon Restaurant. Its now on my list of must do's for the 2013 trip. If we could have organised it better, we'd have had lunch there, and NOT where we ended up. Once again, communication skills need to be improved. There are so many cool looking eateries in town, I will be back.
We summoned our driver to come get us in front of Starbucks (nice building BTW) and headed off the rice fields for lunch. The destination " Joni Resto" was not far from ubud central. When we turned into the carpark, I had that feeling I was being 'herded' again. Car after car, with driver standing by, ushering their prey into the open mouth of the food court inside. But WOW... nice outlook. We managed to get a table on the edge of the rice paddy, and with the cool breeze blowing over the stalks and the water, it was actually the coolest I have been since arriving. The menu is standard 'tourist' fare, lots of Indo dishes and a comprehensive list of western fare, all dumbed down for the average punter. Andrew and I chose the crispy duck (house specialty), litsa had a seafood goreng, and Kathrine a Chicken curry. Ducks were fried a bit too much and the skin had no seasoning like I expected. There were juicy bits, but you worked hard to find them. The sambals were nice, but once again the meals were nothing to make us sit up and say ' We have arrived at last'. The girls were like MEH on theirs, nice for but no cigar. We called for the bill 3 times before Andrew finally got up, headed to the cashier and watched as 5 people stood around with calculators arguing with each other. For such a busy place (and it was PACKED) they sure need a better system of getting the money into their till. So the verdict was "pretty view" but ordinary food, and that "feel like an absolute tourist" sensation at the end as you are ushered back into your car. Bintangs here were AUS$2.50
It was just after 2pm by now, and knowing that the 40km trip back home was going to take at least an hour and a half, we were pretty much over it. Please take us home driver, was the call, OH and by the way, can we please stop somewhere and get a case of Bintang ?
The trip back was a little more varied as Nioyman went a different way. You find yourself with lots to look at and discuss. Never boring in the car the first time in Bali. I can imagine the 3rd or 4th trip would be a bit onerous up to Ubud, but next time I will go there first, so it will be dark and I can sleep.
We stopped at a supermarket to get the beer, and Litsa ran into a shop next door that was selling the most delicious donuts at 6 for AUS$3. These were iced to perfection and filled with banana cream and Lychee etc. So cheap and yet so tasty. Nioyman pretended to drive off without Litsa, and I thought she seriously thought he was going to leave her behind. DUDE.. she has the donuts.. GO BACK FOR HER !
Back at the Villa, we said our goodbyes for the day and cracked open a beer and relaxed. Nanna Naps all round seemed to be the plan, as we had dinner reservations at 8.00pm at La Luciolla down on the beach. Kathrine managed to get something in here eye briefly and had an eye patch on that made her look like Pirate Pete. I, of course, cannot sleep when there is daylight burning, so I read, sat by the pool, read some more, and planned our day for tomorrow.
La Lucciola had been an intended dinner spot all week. Numerous tripadvisor comments in the positive and Changa calling it "lush" were enough to convince us that TONIGHT we were going to get our GastroGasm ORNNNNNNN. We were NOT dissapointed. The actual restaurant, set back from the beach by aroound 50m and accessible via a carpark, is an architectural masterpiece. Sitting at the bar, we had a cocktail each (around AUS$10 a piece) and then were ushered to our 2nd floor table. I can imagine the view during the day is incredible. The beach lights lit up enough surf to remind us where we were, and the sounds of crashing breakers really added to the setting. Wine was ordered (A cheeky Sauv Blanc from Kiwiland) at AUS$65 a bottle (ouch.. and more ouch), but hell... ITS DATE NIGHT ! and Kathrine and I are both 'binnied out' for the day. The food was excellent. Andrews Gnochi, was the best he has ever eaten. Kathrine tried the red emporer fillets and was super impressed. Litsa had Capelini, a very thing angel hair pasta smothered in her favourite seafood... crab, and she was just about drooling. I had the seafood stew, which was filled with big chunks of fish, lobster and prawns in a Saffron filled broth. Mine was stunning once I added a little bit of salt to the dish. Kathrine and I both thought the wine was lovely, and as it was well over 4 times the price we'd pay at home, it was going to be twice as strong ! We then ordered 2 dessert tasting platters to share. These were a masterpiece. I loved everything except the chocolate torte, that was way too bitter for me. Using 85% chocolate instead of 72% was a bit of a FAIL (Those were Kathrines exact words). Don't you just love how masterchef has turned us all into food heroes ?? *burp*
The bill was AUS$120 a couple. Agreed thats high end for Bali. If you took off the wine and cocktails, the meal was only AUS$10 more each than any meal we have had so far on the trip. But it was 20 times better, set in a location thats world world WORLD class. The staff were amongst some of the best trained I have ever seen. For the record, Bintangs were draught and AUS4.00 :)
We got a taxi back to Seminyak Square so we coould amble back to the Villa, hoping to find somewhere for a late night drink. We walked past everything that was open, except a place called "Zazzabar" (I think) which had a band singing covers of Lady Gaga etc. We couldnt find a seat, and as the covers were not 128BPM and electronica, we walked out. We then sat down at a roadside table a couple of doors down from our 'Gang' at "The Kitchen". Andrew ordered a 'Bali hai' Beer - only because it was cheaper than Bintang, and was dissapointed. Being a lager instead of a Pilsner means something apparently. Litsa had a bourbon and coke, and Kathrine and I went all out for the AUS$6.90 (There is that number again) Long Island Ice Teas. These actually WERE $6..90, but what they werent was consumable drinks. I was sure this was the stuff they put in scooters, or used to unblock the drains here. *CHOKE*. I even had to ask them to top mine off with more cock to make it past my lips. They were so strong. Value for money YES, tasy.......NOPE !
Back at Chez Bintang (The Villa) - We all jumped into the pool for that late night sobering swin. I lounged on the daybed for a while with a citronella candle burning close by, and contemplated the secret plans hatched for tomorrow................