Sunday, February 22, 2015

Day Five - Not very exciting

Shopping, massage, and the trance-dance/fire show. 

The first two just as you'd think they would be, and then during lunch the power went out in Ubud. Inconvenient timing as I hadn't been to the bank, but up at the top of town there was a bank that was running on generator and somehow also had a satellite connection, so the ATM's could work - other places had generators, but were apparently reliant on local Internet relaying that was also down.

With money in hand, we watched the show, which was interesting, though not what we expected from a "fire dance", with a lot more narrative and chanting about the course of true love and the devil's interference with it. Again, cool dancing. Then a short but awesome segment of some dude in bare-feet kicking burning
coconut shells around and stomping on their embers.

Power finally came on, so a quick dinner, and then back to the hotel.

See.. not very exciting

I bet you wish you had that 3 minutes back.^^

Dinner by Torchlight

Saturday, February 21, 2015

Tour-ette's Syndrome "Bali-Bali is NOT "bbali-bbali"!

Day 4 of full tourism was spent on a, tour, because if you don't put the 'tour' in 'tourism,' what do you have?

We got up for a pre-tour breakfast and the lovely fellows who run the hotel had made us something special to mark our anniversary, Balinesian pancakes, mangos, strawberries, and a scoop of ice-cream, all formed into the shape of a heart. Yvonne was entirely swoony about the breakfast, though not so much that she didn't despatch it with great vengeance and furious anger.

Then, into the shuttle bus (this time it was only the two of us), and off to a painting cooperative, wood-carving place, and silversmith. Here we bought a few things (no doubt earning our driver a bit of a kickback), and then piled back into the van to head to the Museum of Natural History (I think?) in Denpasar. On the way, it began to rain furiously, at points flooding the road. Snug in the van, we just enjoyed how it changed the scenery.

The Museum was pretty ordinary, and for the first time here we were kind of hounded by an artist/tout who wanted to sell us an Indonesian calendar for 20 dollars. What he thought I'd do with an Indonesian calendar was unclear, though he vigorously lobbied for it.

Then, the traffic jam from Hell and the decision to cut out the visit to "white sandy beach" in order to make sunset in a temple on the ocean, and then dinner on the beach. Even cutting the one destination, were were at least 2 hours in a traffic jam, part of which was caused by a police action that inexplicably stopped traffic on one of the main arteries downtown.

The temple was cool, if overrun by Chinese tourists, who make Korean queuing and walking behaviors seem highly civilized, and one stupid young woman even got into a threat/fight with one of the local monkeys, which the monkey won in resounding fashion, screeching and baring his teeth, which caused the girl to almost fall over in her retreat from the concrete path to the dirt.

We waited for a sunset that was pretty obscured by clouds, and then high-tailed it out ahead of the people watching the fire-dance (we have tickets to a local version for tonight) and off to the beach, which was quite nice. The tables were on the sand, there was traditional Indonesian mask-dancing, one of which was really awesome. It features super-scary music with a gamelan, drums, and some other instruments I couldn't name. There was a 5-6 note central riff that almost sounded like the tune to a children's sing along, but it was surrounded by menacing (think Sympathy for the Devil) drumming, and slightly off tone music surrounding it. The dancer was also wearing some amazing vibrating extend-fingernails, and the whole thing was quite chilling, though for all I know to Indonesians it was the innocent story of young love.

Tragically, no photos of that until I return to the homeland.. I took them with the iPhone, and can't find a decent software to get them on Yvonne's computer (and dare not call down roaming charges).  Instead, below, find pictures of three more monkeys.

It was a seafood restaurant, so Yvonne ordered steak and beef sate.^^

Back to the hood for one drink, exchange of gifts (all carved wood, since it was our wood anniversary) and then sleep, as we were both still pretty burnt from the previous day.

Friday, February 20, 2015

Lord of the Rings (of sweat)

Thursday was to be our toughest day in Bali. Together, we would climb grim Mount Doom Batur, and the day before my wedding anniversary I would toss the hideous gold ring I had been carrying for nearly 5 years into the oblivion of the pit. I would be free from the tyranny of the elder magicians (In this case John Fike) of our world!

Yvonne in the coffee shack
Because we wanted to take the 'Sunrise Tour' we had to get up at 1:40 AM and catch a small vehicle to to the eco-park which contains the volcano. On the way, we met our party, 4 savage warriors from the East (Ok, Chinese Singaporeans) and one pipe-smoking Hobbit (a Canadian, but I think I'm being accurate with the first description. We had to rather pile in to the van, since originally there had only been two Chinese Singaporeans expected but they had, as they do, multiplied over the night. As we got in to the van the driver whispered to us, conspiratorially, "don't talk price, they paid more," a notion I'm sure he passed along to the other two groups as well.

The trip up was dark and on a road that was largely unpopulated except for an amazing number of unconcerned dogs, who lollygagged, slept, fought, and ambled, always in the dead center of the road. At about 3 we stopped off for a quick breakfast of coffee and Balinesian pancakes. For some reason we were the first tour group to the spot, but also the last to leave. This gave us, I suppose, a chance to get to know each other.

Then it was up and over, to the base of the volcano, and for some a trip to one of the most odoriferous toilets in South East Asia. Nicely done, Bali!

Sun breaks free
Then, mustering and  a handing out of flashlights, one of which Yvonne touched, so it instantly went dead. She got to walk about half the way up the volcano without a light. I tried to walk behind her and illuminate for both of us, which kind of worked. The walk started out flattish, but quickly picked up angle as it went and the oldest of our group, a Chinese grandfather, quit early on when he spotted a bench near the side of the trail. His wife, who was probably a few years younger than he was, was surprisingly spry, and clambered up the trail like a spider, particularly rocking out on the way down. By the end of the trip up, on of our guides was practically carrying Yvonne, whose legs wore out and whose height was a problem on some of the bigger steps/steeper pitches. The volcanic rock was sharp, so you had to be careful using it for handholds, and by the time we got down we saw a lot of people with bloody finger and knuckles, among which Yvonne was one.

Still, the view of the top (at a hair under 6,000 feet) was pretty spectacular (and I'm glad I brought as sweatshirt as I was soaked in sweat and it was pretty windy). You can look out for about 270 degrees with the top of the volcano behind you, and as you are above the clouds, you get to watch the sun ascend from them. You are also looking down to the lake, which is an amazing view even before the sun rises as it reflects the lights on the shore all the way up to the top of them mountain.  Many of the tours prepare a small breakfast for their customers, and enterprising children are at the peak selling Cokes to weary trekkers - in fact, two of the guides were quite young, one probably barely 12 years old. Once the breakfasts start being prepared our old friends the monkeys show up, and they are well behaved to humans, but fight with each other and are quite intimidated by the free-range dogs that also live on peak and beg for scraps. They are
also fearless, quite content to take food directly out of your hands.

Indonesian rural
The trip down was quicker, though no less fraught, and again the tour guide was aces helping Yvonne - actually holding her hand most of the way down. The middle of the walk out is through various fields of crops, insolent chickens, random dogs, and trees.  Then a long, flat walk out to the parking lot, and a trip back leapfrogging scores of sand-trucks which are attending to the massive construction (alas) taking place in the area.

When all is said and done, you are back at your hotel by about 10 in the morning, feeling you have accomplished about two days of things, so we spent the rest of the day wandering about town, coffee, lunch, beer, and a relatively early sleep after splitting up to shop for anniversary gifts.

The volcano trek was certainly worth every Rupiah we paid, though I think it is one of those, "They told me it was fun, but I think I'd only do it once" events.^^

Having survived that trial by fire? Tomorrow is my 5-year wedding anniversary...

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

A flea-bit peanut monkey, and other thrills of the road..

Tuesday began with a breakfast on our lovely veranda. Then it was off to explore greater upper UBUD. This
"They killed Kenny! Bastards!"
actually took a lot longer than we expected, partly because there are quite a few stores, and also because Yvonne insisted in going in each one, inflaming the hopes of shopkeepers by having them pull down clothes until the pile or rejected clothes towered above her, and then smiling, thanking the shopkeeper, and saying "today we're just window shopping" (pointing at me, in an attempt to include me in her behavior) and sailing out the door like the Duchess of Windsor into a high tea.

We succeeded in getting all the way up the street and then back down to the Monkey Forest. There was a very small used bookstore, and because the hotel has no TV, and the weather report called for rain, we each bought a big book. Eventually, we also did buy some clothes, Yvonne getting a pair of traditional-ish pants and a shirt, and me a batik shirt. We also had coffee and drinks along the way, and for lunch suckling pig and Chicken-rice. The previous night Yvonne had ordered Crispy Duck, which turned out to be crisped in some horrible fish-oil, but the lunch was quite good and the restaurant overlooked a rice field ringed by scenic farm buildings/wreckage

Then, as it was the absolute middle of the day, we headed to the hotel for an hour or two, to cool off.

At about 2:30 off to the Monkey Temple, where Yvonne must have taken the opportunity to smear banana creme in her drawers, because she became the immediate interest of every monkey in the place. This meant being mugged for a banana just as she bought it from the vendor and  jumped on and stolen from by a monkey in the temple area. But this was merely a case of saving the best for last, as when we were about 2/3 of the way through the place, and unfortunately I was a bit ahead, so could not photograph it. Yvonne stopped and got jumped and pickpocketed by a monkey who she let unzip her purse and steal all her Indonesian Rupiah! Fortunately, the monkey quickly determined it was not edible and dropped it on the ground. But, that action had alerted all the other monkeys to the possibility that there was something good going on, and as Yvonne scurried around trying to pick up the loose bills, she found herself in the middle of a bunch of monkeys hurrying towards her to get in on the alleged bonanza. After scooping up all the money she could see, Yvonne scurried off to catch up with me and wonder why I didn't stay to take pictures of her attempted donation.

We left and Yvonne, over a calming gelato, counted her money, which seemed to all be back in her purse.
One kind of cock
Then it was off to another cafe which overlooked yet another rice-field which was alternately filled with cavorting chickens and dogs, although the dogs never went after the chickens as we (well, I) hoped. On the way out the help came hollering down the stairs waving my hat, which I had tried to leave behind. We immediately headed off in the wrong direction, which I quickly realized when I spotted an enormous liquor store that I had never seen before. I fought back the urge to spend a lot of money there^^ and we walked back to the cafe across from our hotel.  There, I realized I didn't have my reading glasses. A short moment of panic, and then I asked Yvonne to order mea daquiri because, well, why not? and ran back to the first cafe to see if I had left my glasses there. No luck, and on the way back I stopped in a drug-store where they did not have reading glasses, and could not produce the name of a single store that they thought might have reading glasses. Ooops.

Another kind
Got back to the cafe where Yvonne was sitting, received a daquiri that tasted exactly like the margarita I had got the night before, and noticed that my glasses were sitting on the table. Yvonne shrugged, "They were in my purse." And watched with interest as I drank my margarita. It was happy hour, so I finished it and ordered again, this time making sure the waiter knew I wanted a daquiri, and, when my margarita came, I drank it anyway. Then, off to an overpriced dinner of Nasi Goreng and the Indonesian version of beef-stew, and back to the hotel, as usual.

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

The Journey of 1000 miles begins with

Yvonne messing shit up (though it used to be a hangover)

This time, off to Bali and Yvonne insisting we get on the 7:20 bus from the Hyatt, and so waking up at 5:30 to ensure we do, and making damn sure to wake me up as well even though I had showered and packed the evening before.

But Yvonne wanted to make SURE we were prepared, and despite the fact I had been up slightly past midnight finishing some editing jobs, there I was awake.

And walking towards the bus stop.

When my lovely middle-aged bride yelled, "Oh I forgot my (pharmaceutical name redacted, but necessary for a 5th year wedding anniversary) and ran back to the house.  Then, came trundling back up the hill about 100 yards behind me until the time I got to the front of the Hyatt and could see the bus at the stoplight, waiting to make the turn, and then the final turn, into the Hyatt... from 100 yards behind me, Yvonne managed to turn her arrival into 5 minutes later (i.e. 5 minutes after the bus had left), shrugged and said, "Oh well, we'll catch the 7:45."

I refrained from killing her, as I was too tired.

Incheon Airport being what it is, we sped through everything, and it did not end up leaving us in Korea, but it was a inkling of what was to come.

The flight was not noteworthy, except an Asian Airline did not crash, and we picked up a cab and headed out to Ubud, which had been recommended to us, which turned out to be an epic journey through Denpassar and some version of 1.5 lane motorbike and lorry Hell, and to the hotel.

Where they asked us, "did you see your driver?"

Us: "Driver?"

Them: "Driver."

Us: "What Driver?"

Them: "Your Driver!"

Us: "Eh?"

Them: "The Driver you requested"

(Note: Driver is capitalized because it seemed such an important word)

Turns out that our initial request for airport service (in the little box in Agoda) had been covered, but no one had got back to us. So, in the scrum of 50 drivers with little signs at the airport, there had actually been one for us.

Oh well... we paid a fortune (only in Indonesia terms) for a cab.

Then, it was out to get a bite to eat, and to wait for what the morrow would bring.

NEXT: Yvonne is mugged (twice!) by monkeys, and in one case is actually pickpocketed. Then there's the reading glasses thing.. heck, there may even be photos..