20 July, 2015

BALI: Part 2


We left Sidemen with mixed emotions and many a backward glance, happy to be one step closer to the wedding, yet loathe to leave a place of such beauty and serenity.

The drive to Candidasa took us fewer than two hours. If we had been travelling alone I would have made a few stops to take pictures, but we were travelling in convoy. Travelling on bikes would have been better, though it would have also required knowledge of the area and where we were going.



Candidasa (the 'c' pronounced 'ch') is an odd place. Along with Kuta and Ubud, it is one of the oldest tourist spots on the island and it hasn't done well for itself. It consists mostly of a road flanked on both sides by shops and accommodation. Beyond one flank is the beach, the main attraction of the area.

The light when we arrived as incredible bright, so the next two pictures look awful. There is too much light, everyhting looks washed out and the sky cannot be seen.

 This inconspicuous wall is what hid our accommodation from the road. It's name is Relax Beach Resort and it's a terrible place.  

The place consists of a reception room and a series of small rooms that all open onto a central pathway. The rooms are tiny. The beds just fit in, with no room to swing a cat.

 The obligatory mosquito nets were there, though I considered them unnecessary at that time of year. I may have been bothered by one mosquito all trip and that was during the day.

 This was the bathroom, an endless source of consternation and the reason for my low opinion of the place. It has nothing to do with the fact that there is no door separating it from the bedroom. My frustration came from the so-called shower, for any shower worthy of the name would, by default, allow water to pass through it in a manner representing - on the most fundamental level - a consistent spray. This contraption did not. Droplets trickled from three points on it, with "trickle" being a generous hyperbole.
We took it upon ourselves to use an empty water bottle to aid in the task of cleaning, filling the bottle with water from the tap in order to rinse our hair. This brought about the second revalation: there were tiny fly-like creatures in the tap water. We were faced with a new decision - rinse our hair with bug water, keep soap in our hair or go swim in the pool, thus defeating the idea of washing. We opted for bugs and turned to bottled-water to brush our teeth.

The place was pretty enough, as coastal places go, but the charm came from the natural landscape itself; a landscape slowly being overrun. 

The pool.

View from the end, looking right down the coast.

View from the end, looking left down the coast.

A temporary ironing table I used before the wedding. At least our hosts were friendly and able to lend me an iron when I asked for one. An ironing board however...

Slightly disappointed by the course of events, I decided to go for a walk around the town and I came to the conclusion that I had been generous in naming it such. Within twenty minutes I had walked the length of its sole road and become bored again.

One of the well-established (and slightly pricey) places bore testement to the origin of Bali's largest tourist group.

Kangaroos not being enough, the restaurant also boasted a statue of a women trying to manage at least seven toddlers. I'm unsure of the reason a restaurant would choose this specifically, unless it was trying to point out that the children who don't get enough attention cry... and so ...you should eat here rather than cook at home?

Statues of gods are a big part of Bali culture. These figures are seen everywhere. I noticed that every bridge I passed had a statue on either end of it, often one of each side landing one with a total of four guardians.

More scenes from wandering the street:

 The gate announcing one's entry into a new town/district. They can be seen all over the island.

 I love this statue. It's from the base of the gate above. Someone had made a welcome sign and then it had deliberately been corrected incorrectly to two Ls.


This is how chickens (or perhaps just roosters) are transported in Bali.

 Of course we weren't far from the farmland of Bali by any means. The opposite side of the road, just inland from the sea, still boasted the beautifully tilled fields.

One tired of Candidasa as quickly, if not sooner, than one grows tired of wearing a pair of socks. One day is enough. Possibly even just a few hours. I left the street that was reminding me more and more of a mini version of Margate (South African east coast) which is little more than a dump for tourists. I escaped with my camera to see what I could capture.
I'm toying with the idea of using one of these stone beach pictures as my new phone background.

These boats can be hired. A guide will gladly take a party out to sail around, go snorkling, go fishing or a combination.


18 July, 2015

BALI: Part 1

Bali is a small and oddly shaped island in Indonesia. Though not far from the equator, it is in the Southern Hemisphere and so grants such nighttime splendours as the Southern Cross. The culture is one of genuine friendliness which the vast majority of the population followers of Indonesian Hinduism. The four elements play strong roles in the culture, but water is of particular importance. The complex irrigation systems used for their wet-field cultivation of rice was developed around 900 C.E.
Bali has had contact with Europeans since the 16th Century when the Portuguese first came into contact with it. Then in the early 17th Century it came under the control of the Dutch East India Company. Balie wasn't free until 29th December 1949 when the Netherlands recognised its independence.

During the twenty-odd years of the Vietnam War, there was a big cultural backlash. There was a strong anti-war movement and the rise of what we fondly call the Hippies. A lot of attention was put on Asia and largely in the 70s there was a big hippie presence in Bali. This was partly due to the fact that shrooms were legal in Bali(they have only recently been made illegal, but are apparently still widely accessible). Weed may have also been legal then. It was for hundreds of years during the great naval age of the Dutch East India Company and often smoked by sailors. It's very possible that it was part of the cultural exchange in Bali. They were the first to truly make the town of Ubud a tourist location.

My Trip
There was a reason why my girlfriend and I travelled to Bali. It was the same reason that around ten other friends travelled there as well as people we had never met before, but now will never forget, from all of the globe. Two of our friends, Dave and Leanne, were getting married. Bali had not been chosed on a whim. Leanne is a well-seasoned traveller and Bali is one of hers and Dave's favourite destinations. They planned a meticulous timetable, just shy of a month, and invited their friends and family to join them for as little or as much of it as they could.

Our trip begins in Sidemen (see-da-mun).

Having taken a flight from Taiwan at 1 AM, we arrived on Bali at 6 AM having little more than a few snatches of sleep on the plane. In Bali it's good to organise transport with your guesthouse and so we had.  Our driver met us at the airport. We got in the car and promptly fell asleep for most of the drive. I retained anough consciousness to snap this picture while crossing a bridge:
What awaited us in Sidemen was a paradise unto itself.

This was our guesthouse.

From afar it had a slightly different look.

The place consists of guest rooms on different levels, an infinity swimming pool (many of the pools in Bali seem to be infinity pools) next door to a dining area and then another room where guests can book massages.

View from in the valley looking back up at the guesthouse.

View from the top looking down into the valley.

Same view, looking more to the right and  including the room of the dining area.

The next two pictures are the same picture. I had trouble getting my camera to accept the light as it was to human viewing, so I had to take two pictures with alternating light levels to show what I saw.

This is the view from the same spot as the ones looking down at the pool, but it's aimed higher and to the left looking out across fields which were once rice, but now are kept to ensure good views for the guesthouses in the surrounding  area.

This is the same picture, but with the light filtered so the horizon and sky become visible. In the background can clearly be seen Mt. Agung, the tallest point on Bali and an active volcano. It last erupted in 1963 causing great devastation.

Here is another picture I took of Mt. Agung from a slightly different point and with elaborate display of clouds. The clouds here are fantastic. At times the mountain is completely covered over.

The balcony area from which these photos were taken. In the middle behind the plant is the room in which we stayed. To the left and right are rooms taken by friends of ours.

This was our room. The mosquito net was unnecessary, possibly because we were there in Winter, though the temperature averaged 26 degrees. Attached was another room with shower and loo. There is a strong sense of space. The ceilings are high and in the bathroom there are open areas high up. Unfortunately there are also gaps high up in the ceiling between some rooms, which means conversations can be overheard.
Also, we found that the gas-heater for the water had a temperamental relationship with the shower, so the hot tap in the sink needed to be turned on to ensure the flame stayed lit while showering.
I have not yet identified this flower (or plant), but in the third area we stayed at on Bali I finally found one that was opening. That picture to come.

While we were in Sidemen one of our friends suggested hiring a guide to learn a bit about the area. I opted in, as did another friend, so the three of us set out. The guide started by leading us through some of the fields between the houses. He told us that when it came time to plant, all of one family's planting was done in one day. As it was clearly too much work for one family to possibly accomplish, the family would also their neighbours to help them. They in turn would help their neighbours when it came time for them to plant. There is a very real sense of community in Sidemen and a genuine friendliness that stretches across the island, even if it does become a little strained in the more touristy parts of Bali.

Our guide pointing out how dried grass is laid over the strips where seeds have been planted. This stops weeds taking root and growing, while the crop will simply push through from below and grow normally.

Bali has been drier than usual of late and because of this some farmers have turned from growing rice to growing chillies and other cash crops. Rice is not normally grown all year round in this area, anyway. Often to revitalise the ground for half the year other crops are grown like chillies, onions and peanuts.

Our guide showed us these leaves. They grow everywhere in the region. He recalled how, in his childhood, he would pick hundreds of these and take them to sell at the market to stall owners. They would fold them in a careful way to make a pouch to hold things like a bag. Then the top was folded over and a stick pressed through to close the bag.
He lemented the fact that the practice has died out and now plastic bags are used everywhere. It leads to more pollution.

Another effect of people not using the leaves as bags is that there isn't the abundance of compost that used to exist. He showed us this field of mixed crops. Instead of having a field dedicated to a single crop, various crops are grown together. They support each other and offer variety. In his childhood, the guide told us that children would be constantly bringing down compost to spread in the fields. Today they use chemical fertilizer. It works, but not everything has to be washed before being eaten.


This pool is one of the last remnants of a once grand hotel that existed in Sidemen. The old owner, a westerner (Canadian/American?), was forced to sell it to locals and with a fall in tourism the place went bankrupt and fell to ruin. Surprisingly this pool (the largest in Sidemen) is still clean. Perhaps the people living in farms around the area still use it.

A scooter ride around Sidemen brought us to this temple which had a surprise hiding in its depths.

Some puppies were using it as a place of safety. Being small they could slip through the bars of the gate and enter the temple grounds. Only one of them was brave and curious enough to say hi.

This odd looking tip box is a nod to their religion. This is Garuda (present in both the Hindu and Buddhist religion). He is the king of the birds and the appointed mount of Vishnu.

So I have a hobby, bordering on compulsion, for folding paper cranes. Leanne took a liking to them, so I took it upon myself to make some for her wedding as additional decoration. I made these in my spare time over two days.

For those interested in the technical side of things, this is what Balinese plugs look like. They are round. The white plug is an international adapter which works so-so.