Posted from West Nusa Tenggara, Indonesia.
Bali is a beautiful island geographically spread in-between the Indonesian islands of Java (big neighbour) and Lombok (small neighbour). According to the last census, the island has 4.5 million inhabitants and its population has been on a rapid increase over the past few years. The distance from its northern to southern tip is approximately 112km and it takes 153km to travel east to west. The population of the island associates itself mostly with Balinese Hindu religion (over 80%) whilst the rest believes in Islam.
The capital and the largest city in Bali is Denpassar, which is also where we landed after a long flight from Abu Dhabi. Some first learnings settled on us pretty quickly. The Indonesian currency must have undergone fairly significant inflation – 1GBP fetches nearly 15.000 Indonesian Rupee. Hence we have withdrawn our 3 million rupees right at the airport and suddenly felt rich!
This is a cash economy – forget credit cards. Although in some places it is surely possible to pay by a credit card, I haven’t really seen anyone doing it. Cash is the dominant payment vehicle. Barter is the way to go. The prices are already fairly low for Europeans, but negotiating the price can get one pay a quarter of the already fairly low price pitched by the locals.
Our first destination was the Balinese cultural centre – Ubud, where we settled for four days. Ubud is home to Balinese art and handicrafts and a vast number of international and Indonesian restaurants giving out an unforgettable culinary experience, and not least also to museums and dance performances.
After we partially overcame our jet leg, the Royal palace, the local information centre and the famous Monkey Forest were the first targets on our Ubud walk. The Ubud macaques are small apes 6-10kg in size and effectively waiting for tourists to deliver lots of food and entertainment to them. Some visitors get slightly scared by the monkeys’ insistence and persistence (including Flavia!).
Our evening programme was then the Lagong dance, in which young teenage girls performed a few traditional dance sets. The coordination of body movement with facial expression was stunning.
Our day two was about further cultural discovery via a long downhill biking tour. This is where we visited a local coffee plantation (and tried the world’s famous coffee that is processed after it has travelled through the Mongoose’s digestion tract and extracted from its poop!), rice fields, typical Balinese household, met locals and finally got to understand a bit about the traditions, such as why families keep living together, the importance of offerings to gods, the stories behind reincarnation, etc.
On the last day in Ubud we have hired a driver – Edi – who brought us up north to see the Ulun Danu Lake Temple and Jatiluwih Unesco protected rice fields. We have brought with us also two friends Joost and Liselotte. We met Liselotte over 1.5yrs ago in Australia whilst doing a three day trip to Kangaroo Island and here we were in Bali again! Amazing!
The next day in the morning we left Ubud and headed east to settle on Lombok’s Gili Island of Trawangan with the sole objective of relaxing on the beach and enjoying the sun.