Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Bali's Crazy Scooter Driving

Bali, Indonesia

Sorry, we have been lazy with our blog lately. For those who think this blog is interesting, we apologize but there has been a lot going on here.  We hope to update more often.

We just returned from a nice long weekend in Bali. Easter weekend here in Australia was a 5 day holiday this year with ANZAC day (Australia and New Zealand Army Corps) falling on Easter Monday. Nancy and I decided to take the opportunity and head to Bali for some wedding planning.

It was a jam packed weekend visiting potential hotel locations. We arrived late Thursday night in Denpasar, the capital of Bali. A friend arranged a "rental" car for us which was a local's mini van. We were advised it had no insurance and if pulled over by police to state that we owned it. That's just the way things run around Indonesia. It was also my first go with a manual transmission vehicle with right hand drive. It is really odd switching gears with your left hand.

We headed off to our first resort to check out, which was in an area called Seraberata. It is about 55km from Denpasar up the west coast of Bali in a beautiful remote location. The drive was a bit hair raising, driving in Bali is a bit like playing a video game. Roads are very narrow, very windy, and full of pot holes. To add to the excitement there are dogs running around, scooters riding the wrong way and almost no street signs. You have to be incredibly alert and never, ever take your eyes off the road. The 55km trip took us 2 hours of driving. It was a long drive with never a dull moment, we saw one bus half over a cliff and had to navigate coconuts falling to the road from a truck while driving.

The effort was rewarding, we ended up at a beautiful small resort on a peninsula. The beaches in this area are dark black volcanic sand with glittery gold bits, the feeling on your feet is really different. The sea was powerful and awe inspiring and except for the few fishermen, not a person in sight for as far as we could see.

We enjoyed a 90 minute massage in a hut on a point high on cliffs above the ocean for only 200,000 Rupiah (about $20). The hut on the right is the massage villa, the building on the left is a honeymoon guest house.

We spent the next few days in Ubud, which is a small town in the centre of Bali. Ubud is known for its arts, culture and craftwork. It is also known (for good or bad) as where the book/movie Eat, Pray, Love was set. So yes we did eat great food, and pray, but only when on the scooters. And love - that should be obvious shouldn't it?? Ubud is a town that can be hot, steamy, chaotic and busy. Frequently there are scooter traffic jams around town, it can be faster to go on foot than by car or scooter.

Have you ever seen a parking lot like this?

The other side of Ubud can be very different. It can be very peaceful, calming, and has many hidden treasures. The dingiest looking restaurants from the street can open up into the most beautiful patio backing onto a rice paddy in the middle of the city - a balinese oasis. The perfect place to enjoy local ice cold Bintang (Indonesian for star) which comes in my favourite "Big Bintang" 620ml size.

Rice paddy in middle of town...

Ubud has great variety of foods to suit all tastes. It is a quirky town of locals and expats. Accommodations can range from the simple guest house, to ultra luxurious resorts. In the same week, you can take a cooking class, go white water rafting, hire a scooter for a tour, shop for bargains, or enjoy some great live music. All of this is within reach of beaches, diving, volcanoes and temples. 

We visited Monkey Forest in Ubud which is a sacred site, but as expected, full of wild monkeys. A bit unnerving as they crowd around you, kind of like going to a deer feeding park - but monkeys! Here is a monkey terrorizing a tourist for his bananas, complete with a baby in tow.

The last few nights we stayed in some really cool places around Ubud that were great value for what they were. We had everything from jungle valley views, to thatched roof huts, to outdoor showers.

But in Bali, it's all about the infinity pools...

We finished off our weekend with a scooter ride back from Ubud to Denpasar where the airport is, about a 25km ride. We only had one scooter, so it was me, Nancy, and two large backpacks on a 50cc scooter through crazy Denpasar traffic. Navigating can be tough, a local SIM card in the iPhone for service and Google Maps got us around without issue.

For those that will hopefully come here for our wedding, never fear, we will have a real car for you (and will get you at the airport).

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