maandag 2 juli 2012

Indonesia: day 3 & day 4

My first night in Indonesia was good. Soothed by the airconditioning I fell asleep immediately, tired of the long trip to the other side of the world. I woke up full of expectations of what this beautiful island would bring me.

Before heading to day 3 though, I realised I forgot a little something in my previous travel blog: a meet with two snakes! Don't worry, we didn't stumbled upon them in the wild, they were carried by two people of some kind of snake shelter home. You could hold the snakes around your neck (or even on top of your head) for a photograph. At first I was a bit scared (they're still snakes, you know...they looked quite poisonous in their yellow and green colours!), but oh well, just went for it. I was flabbergasted by how tame, lazy and slow they were, I actually wonder if they were drugged for this purpose. Anyway, it was funny to feel them creeping over my shoulders, the sluggish movements of a snake really have something hypnotizing. After taking some pics we provided the required donation for the shelter home and said goodbye to our new lisping friends.

Day 3 - Tuesday: Let's surf!

The Gemini Star Hotel had no breakfast included, so we decided to eat something in one of the many little restaurants again, some of them offer breakfast too (and by that I mean the European version of breakfast... I like rice, but rice for breakfast is a bit too much for me. Besides, I already had eaten enough rice in the plane for a couple of days!). Mark had noticed Kopi Pot a few days earlier. Kopi is Indonesian for coffee, so it sounded promising for us coffee lovers.

On the first floor terrace I ordered Indonesian pancakes (the first of many), with a fresh fruit salad and iced coffee. Yummy! Mark had sandwiches and coffee...both meals were delicious and gave the energy boost we just needed (regarding we slept quite long... :P). A lot of Indonesians eat pancakes for breakfast, which are pretty much the same as the European ones we know. The fresh fruit (in salads or juices) can be found on every menu for very little money. The coffee is quite tasty too! Indonesians have a different way of making it: they put the ground coffee in a cup and then pour hot water over it. The grounds sink to the bottom, leaving a little layer of 'mud'. This means you have to be careful not to drink your full cuppa, or you will have your mouth full of grounds with the last sip!

Our plan was to arrange a surf lesson for the afternoon, both eager to learn how to master the waves. Kuta beach is a perfect place for beginner surfers, with a constant flow of relatively small waves. Mark, who had been to the beach a couple of times before, had made friends with a local woman selling Bintangs (Indonesian beer) and other drinks. Not knowing the name of this sweet little woman, he called her Bintang-lady. There are loads and loads of these locals on the beach, offering you a selection of cooled refreshments, a seat on some old plastic chairs and a bit of shadow under a parasol. A lot of the locals know each other as well (later we found out that many work for one 'boss', who gets most of the money), and they will stay with you when you sit down...but not in an awkward way. It's actually quite cosy, the locals are often interested in where you're from (to subsequently let you hear their best 'Dutch') and where you're planning to go during your holiday. Bintang-lady made us settle down as soon as she spotted Mark, and called in someone who could help us with the surf lessons. We were introduced to Mr. Long-Long (who was - guess what - even smaller than Bintang-lady), a guy who rented surfboards. Mr. Long-Long found himself quite funny, the silly man couldn't stop making jokes and urging Mark to please bring back a mermaid from the sea. Duh.. :P Anyway, after the neccessary negotiating, we arranged a one hour surf lesson for both of us, followed by one hour of practice by ourselves. Armoured with our huge (the bigger the steadier!) surfboards we headed towards the sea!

Some Indonesian guy whose name I don't remember (not Mr. Long-Long) explained to us how to get up on the surfboard. After practicing a bit on the beach first (pretending you're paddling while laying on the sand feels pretty awkward by the way) we were ready to try it for real. Shortly said it's al about waiting for a good wave, paddling like crazy and trying to stand up. Our teacher helped us by giving our surfboard a good push when a nice wave arrived. That way you don't have to paddle like your life depends on it, so you can focus on getting on your feet. We were both suprised by how quickly we succeeded to stand up (and stay that way for more than just three seconds). Later, when we were practicing by ourselves, we found out that it's a bit more difficult when you have to paddle al by yourself (we also found out that surfing is quite exhausting when nobody's pushing you :P), but still we managed to master some waves. Yay!

Tired, abraded (I had a real surf accident, another newbie surfed just right into my head!) and with no feeling left in our arms we sank down in our plastic chairs again, while Bintang-lady served us some fresh and well deserved Bintangs. Aaah...we felt so proud of newly acquired surfing skills! I would LOVE to become better at it and practice way more. As soon as I got back home from my holiday I checked the Internet to find out if golf surfing is at all possible in the Netherlands. Seems it actually is at a few places, though only with specific weather conditions. Plus it's quite a bit colder than in Indonesia, and also more expensive. Hmm...well, who knows! 

That evening we hooked up with an Australian friend of Mark and his Balinese girlfriend. We agreed to meet at a Mexican restaurant at one of the Poppies, where we had a delicious dinner together. It was nice for Mark to catch up with his old Aussie co-worker William, while his beautiful girl Lou gave us some useful tips and told a bit more about the Balinese daily life. We were planning to rent scooters the next day, though we were still a bit afraid of the chaotic traffic. Lou told us she was driving the scooter since she was about five (?!), her brother just got a motorbike for his birthday (those are even more dangerous :P). I think a lot of residents of Kuta (and many other Balinese places) never own a car in their life. The islands aren't that big, you can get pretty far on a scooter. You can even transport your whole family on it. Seriously: the smallest child precedes, than comes the father (who drives), another child is being pushed between it's parents, and at last comes the mother, who sits on the very end of the saddle. Works perfectly :P Anyway, after some more Bintangs and cocktails with said goodbye to Lou and William, and headed back to Gemini's. We were held up at the Green Box (the tiniest cocktailbar you've ever seen, completely in green) for more drinks and a talk with two crazy Canadians, but finally we reached our bed for another night of air-conditioned sleep.

Day 4 - Uluwatu

So...we wanted to hire scooters the next day. You can practically hire those vehicles at every corner of the street, while I can't think of a place in my hometown where they would be available for rent! We decided to hire only one scooter so Mark could drive, since I tend to be a bit clumsy every now and then (to put it mildly :P). With the Balinese traffic in mind, jumping on the back might be a better idea for me. Our destination was Uluwatu, a temple at the south end of the island, also called the Bukit Peninsula. It took us about 1-1,5 hours to get there...and we arrived safe and sound! Mark has been driving the scooter before, to deliver pizza's during his time in Australia, so that experience came in handy. It's funny how quickly you get used to traffic with no rules. Before you realize it, you're taking precedence like everyone else, overhauling other scooters going slower than you (because they have their complete family aboard :P) and honking the klaxon to let nearby road users know you're approaching. Did I also mention people drive on the left side of the road in Indonesia? Just like in Australia, so again, good thing Mark was driving. 

Uluwatu was definitely worth the visit. This temple was build in the 11th century, on a steep cliff 70 meters above the Indian Ocean. How's that for a nice location? The temple is an important Hindu place for the Balinese people, but also quite popular with tourists, who often come to see the sun sink in the sea at this beautiful and peaceful place. We arrived early in the afternoon though, which meant it wasn't too busy, and we had al space and time to discover the 'pura' (Indonesian for temple). A lot of 'wild' monkeys inhabit the temple site, prying at camera's, sunglasses and other small glimmering items. As long as you look closely after your possessions, the little animals are pretty funny. There are some big old ones, too lazy to even move a feet, while little baby monkeys run around, play pranks and pick fleas at each other, concurrently following the passing tourists with a curious eye.

We wanted to relax at one of the beaches on the west coast of the Bukit Peninsula after our visit to Uluwatu. There were quite a few of them according to the Lonely Planet, some of them still pure and free from tourists (except for surfers), although a lot of building (both commercial and touristic) is going on at the Peninsula. We ended up at a place called Uluwatu beach or Suluban beach, which we found more or less by accident. It has just one small entrance road, only passable by feet, leading you to a sweet little surfer's village on the cliffs. A lot of tiny shops with surf gear, clothes and souvenirs are shattered over the rocks here, varied with cafes and small restaurants to get the necessary refreshments while you can enjoy the amazing view on the sea. An old stair leads down to the beach, set in a sort of cave. I actually felt like entering a Pirates of the Caribbean movie or something! The surf is quite far away from the shore and only do-able for experienced surfers (though amazing to marvel at for us wannabe surfers). The tide in the entrance of the sea was quite strong, so we had a pretty wild swim there, heheh. A lot of little Indonesian boys were playing in the tide with their body boards, I loved watching them laughing out loud every time a wave threw them back towards the shore!

After having lunch at one of the restaurants on the cliffs (with watermelon juice again, of course!) it was time for us to get back to Kuta, if we wanted to avoid driving in the dark. When you hire a scooter  in Indonesia, you shouldn't automatically count on working headlights (or brakes, or a full tank, or good profile on your tires). So off we went, heading back north and blending into the busy traffic again. We saw someone with a bunch (a HUGE bunch) of balloons on their scooter, like those ones you can buy in hospitals. It was a miracle the thing could still drive (instead of rising up into the air). It was just one of the countless things I observed whilst sitting on the backseat. Tired of the day full of new impressions, with my arms around Mark, I watched the Balinese scenery passing by in silence, hypnotized by the sweet scent of Hindu offers, gazed and sometimes waved at by Indonesian children. These late afternoon moments I felt so completely satisfied and happy... The sun slowly sank to the horizon, and we arrived at Kutah just in time to see it submerge into the sea.

Another day passed by at Bali. A bit tired of the liveliness and chaos, we decided it was time for us to move on to the Gili's for some relaxing. We booked a transition by fastboat (these boats are still pretty new between Bali, Lombok and the Gili's...they're more expensive than the usual slow ones, but well, wáy faster), and arranged to be picked up early the next morning at our hotel. Organizing these kind of things goes so easily with the just enter one of the many little transport offices, sign a paper and set a time for pick up. You leave with only a small scrap of paper (representing a 'receipt'?), wondering if you will really be taken up the next morning. But somehow it al works out! I must say...I wouldn't have any problem getting used to this more relaxed way of living and working, compared to the Dutch urging lifestyle, compelling you to plan things months ahead. Maybe it's time to emigrate? :P

2 opmerkingen:

  1. Great story! And again ..... an accident. How do you do it ... somehow I think Mark has something to do with it. Be careful! But fortunately you got to see the sun submerge in the ocean ... a hobby of the both of you :-). Oh and I love pancakes in the morning!!

  2. Hadn't fully read your story yet, but just now I did. What an adventure your journey must have been; great memories for years to come. The way you describe all the things that happened is so lively. Love reading it!


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