Travelogue Bali 2008

Mendut monastery

Lotus in Mendut (click)

The Arrival

At the KLM counter in the Hamburg airport, I was welcomed with the words: "Good day, Your flight is canceled. You have been rescheduled to a flight two hours later via Singapore. Here are the complaint forms and a voucher for a cup of coffee". I answered: "That's fine. I am on vacation and want something to happen." Despite the start two hours later and half an hour between the landing in Amsterdam and the standstill of the plane, I arrived in Jakarta just half an hour later than scheduled. It was no problem to pay the visa on arrival with 50 euros. You find the Damri buses to the city when you turn left after leaving the arrival area (international). Buses with different destinations stop in the same place. My bus into the city arrived at 7:15pm and it was quite full. I could only stand on the stairs with my two travel bags for the first minutes. The trip cost only 15,000 rupiah to be paid in the bus. We got in a traffic jam and reached the Gambir railway station after 9:00pm. The way from the bus into the station passed the toilet of a warung. Inside the station, helpful locals showed me where to buy the ticket to Yogyakarta (Taksaka Pagi, Rp 160,000), which was no problem even so late in the evening.

railway station doorway

Portal to the Yogyakarta railway station

One Night in Jakarta

Then I had a moped (with all my luggage) to the Hotel Borneo or Hostel 35. The driver had an idea where Jalan Jaksa was, but no idea where the hotel was. That gave me a comprehensive overview of the surrounding streets. The room at Hostel 35 was very simple. No breakfast, television or air conditioning, not even a towel, for 85,000 rupiah. The Bloomsteen is said to cost only half as much and can hardly be less comfortable. I spent the rest of the evening in a crowded bar in Jalan Jaksa opposite the side street with my hotel (large Bintang Rp 20,000).

Mendut monastery

Mendut monastery

To Yogyakarta by train

The next morning, I entered the Gambir railway station through a normal entrance, found the right track and began to wait. The Taksaka Pagi departed at 8:45am instead of 8:15. I had to put one more shirt on because the air-condition was too cold. Most of the other passengers were elderly women with head scarves. Breakfast was brought, but I had to pay. The entertainment program was disturbing: the same advertising ever again and a movie with soldiers and werewolves. The view from the window was not too exciting: fields, villages and mountains in the background.

gargoyle

Gargoyle

Yogyakarta

The railway station in Yogyakarta, which I reached after about nine hours in the early evening, has strangely hidden doors too. One of them leads to the Jalan Pasar Kembang, where I quickly found the nearby Hotel Asia Africa. As the Borneo Hotel in Jakarta, the Hotel Asia Africa (175,000 incl breakfast) had also been a result of my internet research before the trip. And again there were better alternatives nearby. Hotel Monika (Jl. Sosrowijayan) would have been approximately the same comfort but much cheaper, and the same applies probably for the many accommodations in Gang 1 and Gang 2. The sleep in Hotel Monika might possibly suffer from the live bands that play Fridays and Saturdays in the bar Bintang next door.

I stayed a few days in Yogyakarta. The broad streets provide enough space also for bicycle rickshaws (becak) and horse-drawn carriage. The most famous street is Jalan Malioboro with small shops and large stores on both sides. There are always a lot of people on the move, especially on Sunday. I was often told in Yogyakarta, there would be an art exhibition and just today was the last day, so it would be the best to follow immediately. I have seen some of these "exhibitions" and got one free tea served each time, which apparently contained no drugs. Even after the tea I did not want to buy anything.

Mendut

relief of a ship

Relief of a ship

Of course, I also made the obligatory day trip to Borobudur and Prambanan. I had booked a car with driver and asked in the restaurant Bintang if someone wanted to participate, and an Italian woman named Diana had accepted. First, we visited the Buddhist temple Mendut (only 3,000 rupiah). We were initially the only tourists, but there were plenty souvenir vendors. More interesting than the old building with the Buddhas inside, is actually the Buddhist monastery on the other side of the street which has a beautiful garden.

Borobudur

Borobudur is a large complex. Be sure to memorize the position of your car park. The main attraction is a pyramid-shaped hill completely covered with staircases, terraces, reliefs and many stupas. These stupas have the form of bells and are made of stone lattice work, and a Buddha is sitting inside. During the ascent, we could still choose empty courses, but it was crowded on top of the building. Besides the tourists, there were many school children who photographed each other together with tourists with great pleasure. On the way back to the parking lot, we had time enough to see the museum of the ship. A real ship with multi outriggers had been built using ship images on the reliefs as a template. It had gone all the way from Jawa to Madagascar, and is now presented in a hall.

Prambanan

Prambanan

Prambanan

After Borobudur we visited Prambanan, a Hindu temple complex. As in Borobudur, the ticket price was very high (10 or 11 $ U.S.). Diana was not willing to pay so much, because the access to the buildings was severely restricted due to earthquake damage. So I inspected the battered temples by myself. There were some sheep between the ruins, which reminded me of old pictures of the Forum Romanum.

Sultan's palace Kraton

The next day I visited - again together with Diana - the Sultan's palace in Yogyakarta. It was very convenient to do this together: one could occupy places at the stage, while the other was having a look at the many buildings and courtyards of the palace. Soon a dance performance with gamelan orchestra began. The music was very strange but not unpleasant, and the costumes were elaborate. After the presentation, we visited the exhibition rooms once more spending more time. There are mainly gifts from Europe and Japan presented, but also images of former sultans and their families. It was not obvious during our sightseeing whether the Sultan himself was living in another part of the palace.

Gamelan at Sultan's palace

Gamelan at Sultan's palace

Flight Yogyakarta-Bali

It was not so easy to travel from Yogyakarta to Bali. The night bus seemed to be uncomfortable, but I didn't want to stay overnight in Surabaya, Banyuwangi or Gilimanuk. Most travellers combine this tour with a trip to the volcano Bromo, but I was not interested. I would have preferred a flight to Denpasar at noon, but there was none on Monday and Tuesday, so I booked the departure at 8:40pm with Mandala (RI579, 305,000 rupiah + 25,000 passenger service charge). I left my luggage at the hotel reception and spent the day in air-conditioned department stores, not to sweat too much. Then I took a taxi to the airport in the evening (Rp 25,000). You could buy "The God Delusion" by Richard Dawkins in the waiting area. Otherwise tastefully dressed Japanese women wore yellow and pink plastic shoes.

Two nights in Kuta

I left the airport in Bali after 10:00pm and took a taxi to the hotel Anom Dewi near Bemo Corner (Rp 45,000). It was possible to get a room there even so late at night (Rp 50,000 without breakfast). I could feel the slatted frame through the thin soft mattress. For breakfast, I went to a restaurant near the Secret Garden that had been called Bali Jegeg in the previous year and now Bali Rahayu. On the second morning, it was still closed at nine, and I had breakfast in the Bamboo Corner in Poppies 1. When I returned two weeks later, the Bali Rahayu and the adjacent buildings were burnt down.

A small beer on the beach in Kuta cost 10,000 rupiah, a caipirinha in Brasil (Jl Bene Sari) 12,000. I changed 100 euros at the money changer Dirgahayu Prima, where the colorful Ganeshas sit in front of the entrance and armed security personnel are present. Then I booked the tour to Gili Trawangan (Rp 240,000) at the Perama office. It was just before Nyepi and I wanted to avoid to stay a whole day at the hotel.

Javanese dancing

Javanese dancing

From Bali to Gili Trawangan

The bus ride to the port in Padang Bai took the long way via Ubud. In Padang Bai, we got off at the Perama station and were told to be back after 20 minutes. I used the time for fried noodles in Warung Sartika. After 20 minutes (+ jam karet) we entered the same bus and drove a few hundred metres to the pier, where we had to wait again. I had a look at Warung Kasandra but nobody was there. We used a small boat to get to the Perama boat which was similar to the one that I knew from the Komodo tour two years ago. The boat went along the coast of Bali up to Seraya and then towards Lombok. Coffee was offered on board, and later a warm meal. The first thing you see of the Gili islands is a hill with a mast. That is Gili Trawangan. Later, you can recognize the two flat islands Gili Meno and Gili Air.

Guard in Kuta

Guard in Kuta

Gili Trawangan

When disembarking you better get your shoes off because you have to walk through shallow water. My luggage fortunately stayed dry. I was standing on the beach for some time, being informed by the many hotel employees about the losmens and took the cheapest as usually: Abdi (Rp 45,000 without breakfast), which was within reach without the horse-drawn cart. It was not bad actually: terrace with a view to the garden, mosquito net, clothesline, bathroom, quiet. But it had virtually no furniture. I took the second terrace chair inside as a night table and put tooth brush, shaving things etc. on the floor.

Wall in Kuta

Wall in Kuta

Gili Trawangan can be walked around in two hours. I have seen more shorebirds there than in other places in Indonesia. The beach was partially overgrown with mangroves and other trees so that I walked on the loop road. You can happen to meet no one there for minutes. The main village of Trawangan is located in the south-east, but there are hotels and restaurants also in the north. Just after I was back from my walk it started to rain slightly. I had been lucky with the weather so far. In Jakarta it had drizzled in the evening and in Yogyakarta I had to walk three minutes back to my hotel in the rain. Overall, March 2008 can hardly be considered as the rainy season.

Snorkeling in the Gilis

I took a snorkeling tour on Nyepi holiday with a boat around the three Gilis. Such an action would not have been possible in Bali on Nyepi. The underwater world was not very different from that around Bali. I had a flashlight in my luggage specially for Nyepi, but when I came back to my hotel in the evening I didn't have it with me, and it was pitch-dark. I went snorkeling in the following days too and I remember numerous jellyfish at the east shore of Trawangan. The north shore was more beautiful but not better than Padang Bai and certainly not better than Tulamben.

Kuta beach

Kuta beach

You can rent bicycles in Trawangan (Rp 35,000 for a few hours) but you don't actually need one for the small distances, and parts of the road are so sandy that you can not drive. In some bars on Trawangan, you get the large bintang for 15,000 rupiah, but there are many more expensive bars where a coffee costs 15,000.

Back to Bali

I was supposed to be on the beach at 6:45am for the return trip to Bali. I could have as well shown up one hour later, because the boat did not before eight. Maybe it was because Perama had to deploy two boats for the many passengers. I don't understand why both boats went via Senggigi although almost all passengers wanted to go to Bali. We could not anchor in Padang Bai because the port was full. I came ashore at 2:30pm. The aggregate time of travel from Gili Trawangan to Bali yielded eight hours.

I stayed at hotel Kerti, as every year. For the first two nights, I had just a bungalow, where I paid 50,000 rupiah incl. breakfast. The large wooden house where I stayed later, cost five or ten thousand more. The house next door was under construction, but the noise was limited to times when I did not want to sleep. Kerti will probably soon offer rooms with hot water. There was construction work going on also on the beaches. Someone is building a house above the Blue Lagoon, which does not bother me too much. But above the white beach Bias Tugal there is a hotel being built, which changes the spot radically. The forest on the hill is already cut, and the area was getting terraced during my stay in Padang Bai. Most of the beach warungs were demolished. The waves compete with the excavators and trucks in making the most noise. The worst part was the way to the beach. Last year it had been a shady path. Now I had to hike through the dust, exposed to the sun. Let's see if we still have access to beach when the project is finished.

Beach of Gili Trawangan

Trawangan beach

Snorkelling in Bali

The water was not noticeably affected by the changes. At Bias Tugal, I saw some sea turtles, which I didn't see in the Gilis, and last year's fish were still there. I even discovered one more occurrence of the "Nemo" clown fish amphiprion ocellaris, but my combination of digital camera and "Ewa Marine" plastic bag didn't work so well this year. There was no water coming in, but perhaps the water pressure pushed several buttons at the same time. Anyway, I got hardly any underwater pictures.

I also went from Padang Bai to Tulamben by bemo again. I had to pay Rp.20,000 to Amlapura and from there to Tulamben 15,000. The prices were the same on the way back. I carried only the most essential luggage, not the unreliable camera, but the underwater world was so magnificent that I had to come back two days later. This time Dade picked me up with his moped. Despite the strange name, Dade is German. I knew him already from two years ago. In Tulamben, even the divers enter the water from the beach and after a few meters they are at the wreck. Doctorfish and other medium size fish surrounded us expecting food. Having reached the wreck, we already saw the school of jack fish, which is always there but not always so close to the surface. The jacks are not shy and let you come close at arms length. From the wreck with the many divers we swam east and saw some black tip reef sharks, which I had already seen two days earlier, when also a white tip reef shark was there. Still further east, where the muddy ground changes to a reef, we saw shells with bright blue "lips", clown fish and another school of jack fish. This time the camera had ceased to work as soon as it was in the water.

On the way back, we drove against a dog with the moped but Dade could avoid to fall. It was raining in the mountains and we had to stop and wait. It didn't look much like ending at first, but after perhaps half an hour, which we spent in a tiny warung, we were back on the road. Down from Tirtagangga, the weather was getting better and between Amlapura and Padang Bai we even got dry.

News from Padang Bai

A new port for cruise ships near the oil harbor is under discussion, but they still come to Padang Bai. Everybody who owns a shop near the jetty leases it for a day to dealers from other parts of Bali. Hanging out in Warung Kasandra, we had something to watch when nicely dressed cruise guests left their buses and were immediately hassled by hawkers. Then a gang of bikers from Denpasar in black leather brought their own whiskey to the reggae-bar next door to mix it with coke. Ironically these wild guys were more interested in the knickknack of the hawkers than the tourists were. When the rockers wanted to leave, one of the motorcycles did not start, but unfortunately we had no more of the otherwise ubiquitous jumping crackers "dinosaur poo" to test the the rough guys' humour. I bought something too: a blonde doll that can sing, walk and swing her hips. When the "Bollywood" music stops, you just clap your hands and a new song begins. I delivered this marvel of technology later as a guest gift to Bill, an old Dutchman who runs the Marco Inn.

Bias Tugal

Building lot "Bias Tugal"

The restaurant Megibung is no longer owned by Karl, but continues under a different name and new management. Steve (formerly Gecko Dive) has left Padang Bai too, but is still involved in the newly opened "Ali in Bali". Pak Pica's Warung Kasandra hasn't changed much. The tree on the square has grown bigger, and a blue table stands underneath. The postage for postcards in Bali is higher than in Yogyakarta. That must be due to the longer route, but I was a bit surprised.

Return journey

After two weeks in Padang Bai, I took the bus to Kuta, not the Perama bus but the other one. I was lucky this time that it did not go via Ubud and took the coastal road, but there was so much traffic that I didn't save much time. They drop you in Kuta quite exactly at the spot where I had left the taxi from the airport, but this time I didn't check in at Amon Dewi but at Taman Ayu in the street between Poppies 1 and 2 (45,000 including breakfast). This is actually a beautiful hotel, and I also had a nice room neighbours, but my room was on the first floor towards the street and was quite loud around the clock.

Weg nach Tulamben

East Bali

My return flight with KLM from Jakarta was scheduled for Easter Monday 7:00pm. While Tony had told me I should buy the tickets as early as possible, I didn't do so in Padang Bai because the tickets would have been fetched all the way from Denpasar. So I went to a travel agency in Kuta on Friday and asked for a flight. They told me I was lucky, there was just one free seat and it cost 1,244,000 rupiah. That sounded like a fraud. The price was almost four times the usual, but I had two hours left to decide. In the other travel agencies, which I checked to be sure, they told me the plane was full on Easter Monday, but I could fly for a little more than 1 million rupiah on Sunday. So I went to the only ATM I know in Kuta that delivers more than two million: east of Bemo corner, behind the bridge on the right side. I got 2.5 million rupiah with 4.99 euro EC-card fee. An ATM in Jalan Pasar Kembang in Yogyakarta had a maximum of 1.2 million and 4.80 euro fee.

Bali women in the rain

Rain in the mountains

So I paid the ticket, got a kind of receipt, and the seller closed the shop and got on his moped to fetch the ticket from the print office. When I came back in the evening the shop was still closed - even in the next morning at nine. I noticed a sign "Dikontrakkan" (for rent). But at ten everything was ok. On the day before departure, I bought coffee and salaks at the Gelael supermarket.

I went to the airport as usual with a Perama bus, being the only passenger this time. The flight with Lion Air (Wings) offered more legroom than ever. There were neither food nor drinks served. I had a lot of time in Jakarta to figure out how to get from the domestic to the international terminal (there are free buses). In Amsterdam, I was amazed about the size of the airport once again. This time my flight was not entirely canceled, but when we had already reached the plane with the bus, the driver told us after a few minutes, that the plane was out of order and we had to take another one. That took one more hour.

 

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