moonwire

bye bye lovina, hello again sanur.

Posted in bali, indonesia, lovina, sanur by moonwire on July 12, 2009

My last week in Lovina was really fantastic. I met a Dutch guy at the Angsoka hotel,  Paul. He will stay in Lovina for 2 months and work as a teacher at a local school. When I met him at the pool, we started talking and we hung out for the rest of the week and it was a lot of fun. One morning we went into the village in the mountains on the motorbike and it was amazing. No tourists there, just local people. The views were stunning and the smell of dried cloves was all around. That’s what the real Bali is about, though Lovina was really pretty quiet the whole time I was there.

Roasting ‘babi guling’ (suckling pig) on Lovina Beach.

That night we went back into the village because some dude by the name of ‘Jimi Hendrix’ swindled us into going to a song and dance performance by a bunch of local kids. It sounded really good. He even let us read a testimonial by some woman who had been there before. Well, when they started I couldn’t believe my ears and eyes. It was so out of tune and void of any consistent rhythm and LOUD. The girls were yawning away and well, we were laughing away. Especially when they invited the guests to join in with the dancing. Only one woman hit the dance floor. Oh my god! She was wearing a longish yellow t-shirt, that resembled a bad nighty at best. You could see her big white underwear riding up her ass right through it. It was like a car crash. Didn’t want to look, but also couldn’t look away. Though the performance itself was pretty chaotic, it was great to see the kids from the village watching from the sidelines. And well, it was an evening I’ll never forget.

Sunset at Lovina Beach.

On Friday morning I had to leave Lovina in order to go to Sanur. I didn’t want to make the entire journey from Lovina to Denpasar airport in one stretch. As it turned out, it only took 3.5 hours to get to Sanur. The same amount of time it took me to get to Lovina from Ubud. So I got here really early. I had booked a room at the Swastika bungalows again. I couldn’t get the cheapo room I had before so I had to shell out for the privilege of having A/C (prefer a fan, actually), hot water, a telly with 13 horrible, cheesy channels.

It’s amazing how different Sanur is compared to 3 weeks ago. Three weeks ago it was very quiet. Hardly any people and now the place is packed. My neighbours, Australians, have 2 small kids and they scream and throw things and they all speak loud. I can hear every single word. Australian tourists are definitely not my faves in general. I never thought I would say it but the Dutch people are the least annoying in general. I must say I’m glad to leave Sanur tomorrow. I cannot imagine staying here for more than 2 days. I really think Lovina is a gem and I hope it will never become anything like Sanur in high season.

View from my balcony at the Swastika bungalows in Sanur.

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lovina (part 2)

Posted in bali, indonesia, lovina by moonwire on July 6, 2009

I’ve been almost 3 weeks in Lovina now, and though last week I had a bit of a feeling that I was beached out, it pretty quickly faded away. I’m loving it here. My days are simple. I wake up around 7 am, get brekkie, go to the pool til about noon, go to my room and chill out a bit, get lunch, go back to either the pool or the beach and watch the sunset at the beach. Back to my room to get dressed for dinner. After dinner a night swim at the pool (so lovely, nobody there, the pool has lights under water). Then go for a walk through town or stay at my bird cage and have a Bintang. By 10 pm it’s bed time.

At first I thought I want to go to the big temple, the hot springs, Singaraja… but hell no. I love doing nothing. I’m never bored.

I did only one thing and that was taking a cooking class. It was really cool. Putu, the chef, picked me up at my hotel at 8.30, we then went to the market to buy the ingredients for our dishes. We then hopped into a bemo, which is a small mini bus with benches on both sides. It’s what the locals use for their ‘public transport’. And yes, they take anything and everything on board with them. And while the bus maybe seats 8, you’ll find yourself squeezed in with 10 others and some livestock. You get the idea.

Putu looking for potatoes at the local market.

Anyway, after we got off the bemo, we walked through the village to Putu’s house. His wife was already busy preparing the garlic. So we decided on making nasi goring, vegetable curry, Balinese potato fritters and gado gado. It wasn’t hard at all. Only the grinding of the pepper, hot peppers and garlic took me some effort but it was a lot of fun. As soon as we had prepared all the basic pastes, we got cooking. Hmmm the smells. It turned out great and the food was yummy. It was a lot of fun.

Putu’s wife Sari, who had just fried the peanuts for the gado-gado sauce.


The finished product!

Balinese cooking princess at work.

Other than that, as I said I don’t do much. I met a Dutch guy here, Paul, who’s in Lovina (also staying at the Angsoka hotel) for 2 months and he does some part time teaching here (he’s a teacher in Holland). We’ve had great talks and shared some good food and drinks. It’s really nice to meet people like him. I just find it funny that he’s also Dutch. The other really cool people I met were also Dutch (the ones I met in Legian).

Yet another sunset at Lovina Beach.

So, that’s pretty much it. I’m off to Sanur for 1 night on Friday. The drive from Lovina all the way to the airport is just too long. Especially since I’ll arrive in Kuala Lumpur late at night. I’ll be in Kuala Lumpur for 4 nights, then I’m off to Yogyakarta. I had the greatest difficulty finding a hotel there. All booked. Then my friend Ami, who lives in Jakarta, told me that weekend is a long weekend for Indonesians and they flock to tourist places. I should have researched this better as I would have taken the train to Singapore and fly out from Singapore after the long weekend. But oh well. It’s done now. I only have 4 nights booked at the Ministry of Coffee in Yogya. It seems like a really really nice place, but it costs me my daily budget. I’ll have to think of another place to go in East Java before I head to Pangandaran, west of Yogya, on the coast for a few days of relaxing on the beach.

Oh yes, I do have a really nice tan.

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lovina (part 1)

Posted in bali, indonesia, lovina by moonwire on June 30, 2009

I left Ubud on Wednesday morning to go up to North Bali, Lovina Beach to be precise. Lovina is located about 10 km west of Bali’s second largest city, Singaraja. Though the drive was long, almost 4 hours (for 40 kilometres) and mostly through tiny villages and rice paddies, all this in a bumpy mini bus, it was stunning. Originally I wanted to make a stop in Bedugul to see  Mount and Lake Bratan, but when I got there, I was glad I hadn’t. It was definitely chilly up there. Though the scenery was stunning, there wouldn’t be any swimming in the lake. So we kept on going through the mountains, seeing many monkeys, driving through the clouds til we finally hit Singaraja. Then finally, after we drove through the city, the road was actually quite decent and the last 10 kilometres were a breeze.

I had booked a hotel from Sanur already, the Angsoka, which I found quickly. This town is so small, it really only consists of a few streets. There’s quite a few restaurants and hotels, but they are all pretty empty.

So, someone from the hotel took me to my room. I had to laugh a little because this hotel has some really nice bungalows and rooms and there was just one rice barn style bird cage. The bird cage was mine. For 5 bucks a night, I didn’t expect much, but it’s actually really cute. It’s about 2 by 2 metres. There’s a double bed and one little table, a fan and that’s it. In the back I have a tiny little patio with one (quite comfy) chair and a table. My bathroom is right next to it on the ground floor. It’s almost as big as my room, though I wish it was as nice. There’s only cold water, a flushing toilet (which I didn’t expect) , a mandi (a big bucket with a scoop to clean yourself after you do your business. They gave me a bog roll as well, but I’ve grown to love the mandi since I visited  Gili Meno.

My bird cage bungalow.

The pool is fabulous. Especially at night, when the underwater lights are on and nobody is there. I make great use of it. Especially since the beach isn’t all that appealing for sunbathing and swimming. When the tide is low, it’s very hard to swim and because the beach is made up from grey-ish black volcanic sand, it gets incredibly hot. I like walking on it. I just don’t like to go swimming there. There’s also too many people wanting to sell you all kinds of crap. From sarongs and clothing to bracelets and dolphin tours (dolphin ‘hunting’ is the big tourist thing here).

The Dolphin Monument at Lovina Beach.

So I basically spend my time at the pool; reading and swimming, going for walks before and after lunch and going back to the pool in the afternoon again. Then get some dinner, then back to the pool for some more swimming and the occasional Bintang.

I like it a lot here. It’s really chilled out and relaxed. No free wifi anywhere, though. You gotta buy pre-paid cards and the connection is flaky and it’s relatively expensive. I have decided I’m gonna stay here til I’m really bored of it though going to another beach town in Bali will be the same kind of deal.

There’s a lot of little warungs here with cheap, authentic food. That’s where the locals eat. I eat there, too. There’s usually just one big table and you just sit down. A dish like nasi goreng (fried rice with a fried egg and prawn crackers) is only about a dollar. And I’m pretty sure the dollar is only because I’m a tourist and therefore, chances are that I get over charged. It still amazes me that you can live here on 10 bucks a day, including a large beer.

Doing great here.  The sun always shines. The water in the pool is fresh and warm.  I have a nice tan. I’m happy here. The only problem is mosquitos. I wear long pants and long sleeves at night. Luckily it actually gets quite chilly here after the sun goes down.

Rice paddies off the main street in Lovina.

As for the food… never thought I’d say it, but I’m getting bored with nasi goreng and gado gado. Not that I don’t like it, but there’s not a lot variety.  However, just around the corner there’s a fabulous Thai restaurant,  Jasmine Kitchen run by a small group of very nice women. They have the big cushions and the low tables and they always play chill out tunes and there’s cats running around. I seriously had one of the best curries ever there. Their pad thai is also excellent. They also serve some really good Illy coffee and they always have the Jakarta post.  The service is immaculate and oh, they serve ginger tea with big pieces of real ginger (60 cents for a big pot). That place is a little gem, and because it’s in an alley and not on one of the main streets, it’s never busy (then again, the only place I’ve seen busy is the Sea Breeze Cafe. Though its location, right on the beach is fantastic, the food is pricy and mediocre.

‘Kuching kecil’ at Jasmine Kitchen.

In the next instalment of my exciting life here I’ll tell about the Balinese cooking class I took 🙂

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ubud

Posted in bali, indonesia, ubud by moonwire on June 23, 2009

I left Sanur on Sunday morning in order to go Ubud for a few days. The bus ride, about one hour, was beautiful. I did not have a room booked in advance, so after I got off the bus, near the Sacred Monkey Forest, I walked up Monkey Forest road and the first person who asked offered a room for 88,000 IDR, which is about 9 USD a night. I didn’t expect much, cause I had been used to paying at least double that, but when we got to the room, it was actually really nice. Big bamboo bed, wooden floors, big bathroom with a hot water shower, a private balcony with 2 chairs and a table and brekkie included (delivered to my patio).

So I took the room and I settled myself on the balcony with a book and felt all relaxed til I heard this kerfuffle in the tree in front of my balcony. There was this monkey sitting in it, looking at me. I actually felt a little scared (you know me and wildlife). Just a minute later, another one joined. Then I looked around and I saw all kinds of macaques sitting on the rooftops. I didn’t realise I had chosen a room that close to the Monkey Forest but it’s been great entertainment so far.

Kind of hard to see through a 28mm lens, but this is what I’m looking out on. In the mornings and late afternoons, the roof is filled with monkeys.

So here I am in Ubud. Only 3 days and I’m done with it already. It’s too busy. Too touristy.  The sidewalks are narrow and often broken up. Try moving along with the Japanese girls wearing their stupid umbrellas. Luckily, where I am is a good location. It’s at the end of the road, so it’s not so busy and there’s some really good restaurants just a 5 minute walk up the hill. I like my room a lot but that’s about it and I’ve managed to steal a wonky signal from the mediocre coffee shop across the road. There just isn’t all that much to see or do here, other than shopping (which I don’t do), eating (which I try not to do too much) and going for walks through the rice paddies (for which it is way too hot after 10 AM).

Another, probably rabid, stray dog in the Ubud market place.

Rice paddies in the middle of Ubud.

I did go into the Monkey Forest, but honestly, this was a big disappointment. It’s really a very small area, and though there’s some beautiful spots, the monkeys tend to congregate around the entrances where the people with the bananas come in. However, it was a lot of fun to watch those little bastards jumping on people’s backs when they smelled there were bananas hidden in the bags. They were quite aggressive about it, too. One wouldn’t let a woman go til she had given the monkey all her bananas. Only when he had devoured all of them, would he go away, probably looking for an other victim to rob.

I had already heard that these sweet looking creatures aren’t so sweet when they want your food so I hadn’t bought any for them. I also did go for a short walk out in the paddies, but the sun was too hot for my liking (it was also around noon, not a good time).

I basically spent a good amount of time on my balcony reading books and watching the monkeys. At night I did enjoy walking up and down the road as the day tourists were gone, the traffic was much lighter and it was actually a pretty chilled out place. But during the day… not so much.

I’m off to North Bali, to Lovina. It should be a lovely (and probably long) drive through the hills, which will also give me an idea if I want to go to Bedogul, close to Danau Bratan, volcano lakes. But secretly I hope that I will love it enough in Lovina to stay there for at least a week. After that, I might go back to the South of Bali and spend some time in Padangbai til I catch my flight out. We’ll see.

From what I understand, Lovina is a pretty laidback place but I’d be surprised if I found any wireless there. I know there is an internet café, so I’ll try to stay in touch as much as I can.

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sanur

Posted in bali, indonesia, sanur by moonwire on June 20, 2009

This is now my third time that I’ve entered Bali and this feeling of happiness hasn’t faded one bit as soon as I smell the air. Because Bali is Hindu and the ritual of the offerings (baskets made out of woven leaves, filled with rice, flowers, crackers and incense)  is very important, you’ll see and smell those little offerings everywhere. The dogs must be happy here, because on numerous occasions I’ve seen those manky little things rummaging through the baskets to get the crackers out. The Balinese don’t mind. To them, the gods have already received the offering, what’s left is just… left.

The Balinese are such beautiful people. Despite the poverty (and it’s hard to imagine when you spend time at lovely places surrounded by palm trees, flowers and swimming pools, the reality is that many live on $150 a month or even less), they move with so much grace, always smiling, polite and well dressed.

I got to the airport late at night and had already booked my hotel in advance. No matter how much I liked Legian, I wanted something a bit more quiet. Well, more quiet I got. I’m in Sanur, on the coast opposite of  Kuta/Legian, only a 20 minute ride from the airport. Lonely Planet has given it the moniker ‘snore’ and it’s right on. It’s very sleepy. Most tourists here are couples in their 40s and up. No partying at night, actually nothing going on at night, at all. It suits me fine.

I have a lovely room at the Swastika Bungalows, right off the main street. I have an outdoors bathroom with a tub/shower, a separate cold water shower, sink and toilet and a private patio with 2 chairs and a table. Though the room itself isn’t as charming as my gecko bungalow in Gili Meno, it’s big, comfy and kept very clean. Their ‘library’ even amazed me. I found a book by one of the most popular Indonesian writers, Pramoedya Ananta Toer. They had several books I was interested in, but okay, you take one, you leave one.

I don’t have much to write because I’ not doing much. I basically spend my morning at the pool, then go for lunch (and I’ve had some of the best Indo food here so far; satay ayam (bbq’d chicken on bamboo skewers), with rice cakes and veggies, served with peanut sauce and super delicious kecap manis (sweet soy sauce) with fresh hot chillies in it. Another good one was at an organic restaurant; a chickpea pizza with tomato and arugula. Not to mention the ‘nasi campur’ I had, from a little warung (stall with a few tables). I’m eating really well here and it’s yummy. The portions are generally small (according to American standards), which is perfect. I’ve lost a good amount of weight here, without depriving myself of anything.

Kids holding a kitten I found in the street.

After lunch I go to the beach, hang out for a while, or go for a walk. The beach in Sanur is great. In certain places even better than in Legian/Seminyak. However, swimming sucks in almost all places. If the tide is low, there’s barely any swimming possible as there’s the reef. In high tide, you can go about waist deep, because the reef is still there. There’s no waves. Nothing going on. Luckily, the Swastika Bungalows has 2 pools and it’s really nice. Not many people go ever in there, and the water is not heavily chlorinated and it gets warm as soon as the sun hits it.

I’m afraid there’s no stories to tell (or photos to show, as the only time I actually intended on taking some, I discovered I didn’t have an SD card in my camera). I am really just chilling out and enjoying every single bit of it. I’m off to Ubud tomorrow. I booked a flight out of Bali for July 11 so I’ll still have lots of time here. Tomorrow morning I’m leaving for Ubud, stay there for a day and see if I can get into the mountains easily, if not, I’ll continue on to the North and spend some time in Singaraja and Lovina. Ahh….This island is magic. And oh yes, I have a tan.

(Sanur: June 15 – June 21)

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legian (part 2)

Posted in bali, indonesia, legian by moonwire on May 24, 2009

I haven’t blogged much these past few days for the one and only reason that I simply haven’t been doing much. I decided to stay in Legian til Monday morning and I’m still at the Legian Village hotel, which I love. It’s only a 5 minute walk to the beach and they have a great bar/restaurant and pool. On Friday I mainly stayed at the pool, to recover from a bit of sunburn, but Saturday I was better and I went for a very early morning walk up on Legian beach all the way past Seminyak. The more up north I got, the quieter it got. Seminyak is mainly a resort town and a lot of them are right on the beach. Most of them have security guards at the entrance to the beach.

Seminyak beach.

Speaking of security, at the bigger hotels they check your car with mirrors before they let you in. Also, quite a few bars and restaurants won’t let you just in. They search your bag first.

Another thing that surprised me was the ritual of the offerings. (please note that Bali is Hindu.) I had read about it, but didn’t expect it to happen on this scale. The whole place is littered with little baskets made of banana leaves. They then put flowers, crackers and incense in it and these little baskets are left out on the beach, in front of stores and hotels. For the gods. And they are everywhere (the baskets, not so sure about the gods). I’ve seen the stray dogs munching on the crackers 🙂 Anyways, it is quite a lovely sight and it makes for the whole place smelling like incense. Quite wonderful.

People leave their shoes outside their homes/shops. Next to the offering baskets.
Anyways, I have enjoyed my time in Legian. I know it’s a touristy town, but it’s also really laid back, with great beaches and cheap food and drinks. There isn’t much to do here. I expected there to be snorkeling, but there isn’t any here; you’ll have to go to Nusa Dua or Padangbai in the south. Both Saturday and Sunday I just spent lazing on a beach chair, reading a Dutch book by Kees van Kooten which I found at a used bookshop, swimming and jumping in the waves. Got a bit of a tan. Ate nasi goring and gado gado and drank Bintang.

Seminyak beach.

Saturday night I met Henk and Sandie, father and son from Holland. Henk was born in Java and had left at the age of 12 to go to Holland. He was now back with his son, whose first time it was in Indonesia.  We had food and drinks and lots of laughs. I’m usually not for hanging out with ‘the Dutch’ but I, to my big surprise, hadn’t encountered  any here. However, I was so surprised that I made a remark and they immediately started smiling and chatting and \I moved to their table and we had a great evening. I really did enjoy their company a lot. Fun, funny, smart and down to earth people. Good times.

Other than that, I don’t have much to report about. All I can say is that I enjoyed it here a lot. When I come back from Australia I will land in Bali again. I might spend some more time in a different place before I set off to Java.  We’ll see…

I’m leaving Legian in the morning. I need to take a taxi to Kuta and then catch the bus to Padangbai. I’ll then take a ferry that takes me to Gili Trawangan. There’s fast ferries and such, but I decided to take the slow way. At least on the way there. I’m in no rush and I think it will be fun to be on a boat for a few hours. I have a really cool hotel booked on Gili T, Tir Na Nog and I’ll be there for 2 days. We’ll see how much I like it, but I definitely also want to visit the other two ‘Gilis’; Gili Air and Gili Meno. Internet on Trawangan won’t be a problem (though I’ve heard it’s slow), but I’m not sure about Air and Meno as they are much quieter (especially Meno).

I’ll report whenever I can.

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legian (part 1)

Posted in bali, indonesia, legian by moonwire on May 21, 2009

My first real day in Legian started off with breakfast at the hotel bar across the street called ‘Bar Joni’. It really is a neat place with a fairly big pool right in the middle. That’s also where I access the net from. There’s a lot of internet cafes, just no free wifi hotspots.

The restaurant and pool at my hotel.

My (free) breakfast consisted of toast with butter and jam (hah), some really good coffee… mmm, I’ve missed that, and fruit. It was already really hot at 8.30. It just never seems to cool down one bit. After brekkie I bought a SIM card. I chatted a little with the girl, Wayan, who helped me set it up. People here smile a lot and say ‘halo’ a lot. Not just the hawkers trying to sell you the ‘copy watch’, ‘copy handbag’ (it’s as bad here as it was in Tsim Sha Tsui in Hong Kong) but also random people on the beach, the construction workers at the pool here (there’s a bunch of very flirtatious young ones here. They can’t be older than 16 yet they are blowing me kisses. I could be their mother!)

In the afternoon I took a walk along Jl. Pantai, the beach road into Kuta. Speaking of the Seventh Circle of Hell. I was thinking of relocating there because it’s a bit cheaper but after wandering around for about 10 minutes I knew there was no way I was going to stay there. The streets are even narrower than here. No sidewalks, frenetic traffic. Motorbikes, cars, pedestrians. No rules. Madness. I have decided I’m going to stay in Legian til I’m ready to move away from this part of Bali. But so far I really like it. Legian is not too busy. At least there’s not flocks of  20 year old Aussie kids here. They are in Kuta 🙂

This morning I went for an early morning swim at Legian beach. It was beautiful. The water was warm, it was very quiet and I enjoyed being in the water. After a quick swim, I got some breakfast and l went for a long walk in the surf. All the way from Legian to Tuban, which is south of Kuta and that’s pretty much where the airport is. It was really nice and I got a bit of a sunburn, despite using sunscreen. You can see the strap of my messenger bag across my chest. How sexy is that?

Legian beach.

I got back to the hotel and took a shower and chilled out for a bit. Not for too long because I wanted to go back to the beach. I got myself a chair and an umbrella and went for a swim. Unfortunately, the tide was low and I had to walk quite a bit to get into the water, but it was lovely. It was warm, but breezy.. A lady came by with fresh pineapple. She cut the thing right in front of me. Very quickly she managed to get it peeled and get those little thingies (I don’t know the word for the things where the skin attaches itself to the fruit) removed. It tasted really sweet. Yum. I ate the whole thing (okay, it was a fairly small one, but still).

After chilling out at the beach for a few hours I got bored with it (and slightly sunburnt) so I went back to Joni’s bar (which belongs to the hotel) for some nasi goreng, which is Indonesian fried rice, with satay and krupuk (shrimp crackers.). Not vegetarian, but oh, did the satay ever taste good. The food is great here. I really enjoy it.

Different view: hotel pool.

Chilling out at the hotel now for a bit. I’ll go back to Joni’s later for a Bintang when it’s happy hour.

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