Coming back to Bali was quite different from our first trip. This time we knew all the scams and how to get around. I made friends with the drivers who wanted to sell me “transport” and sat with them in the shade. I smiled and said “tidak” to the guys in the shops trying to drag me into their stores. I even walked from the airport to Kuta (20 minutes) instead of taking an overpriced taxi.
We took a succession of bemos to Padangbai, the bay town where you can catch the ferries to the Gili islands and Lombok. The town was super cute with a series of alleys instead of big streets. We stayed in a bungalow with windows and no screens and slept under a mosquito net.
We ended up staying 2 nights because the trip from Tana Toraja to Bali was so long: 8 hours by bus, 3 hours by plane, then all day by bemo. Padangbai would have been a fantastic place if it weren’t for the awful mosquitoes. I covered myself after dark from head to toe and still got bites. Get me out of here!
We took the medium-fast ferry (5 hours) to Gili Air, the quietest of the 3 Gili islands. Somewhere around 300 people live on this island, so it’s very quiet and peaceful. We arrived at night and walked in the (very) dark with some folks we met on the ferry door to door to all the guesthouses looking for a vacancy. We found a “single” room, which was more than big enough for us for $8 a night. It was a bungalow room also with only a mosquito net and no screens, but this time no mosquitoes! Our bathroom had no sink, instead just a drain in the floor. Otherwise, it was totally fine and comfortable.
The next day we went to find a dive school that would take us out – we found one and that would take us out the same day.We rented bicycles while we waited for our dive time and went around the eastern part of the island (the whole island is only about 2 km wide). While we were out, we found another dive school that we actually liked better and scheduled a class with them for the next day – Peak Performance Buoyancy.
The original dive school took us to a dive site called Hans Reef, so close to the shore we probably could have swum there in the amount of time it took them to push the boat out of the sand bar. The reef was quite pretty but nothing like Bunaken. The current was quite strong and the reef was on the bottom in “bombs,” round balls of reef on the bottom surrounded by sand.
The most exciting part of that dive was it was our first dive without an instructor! We’re divers now!
That night we ate dinner at a place where you could watch a DVD in your own little pondok (raised platform), so we watched a weirdly subtitled Australian movie. The movie was probably subtitled from Australian English into Indonesian and then back to English. Our favorite subtitle was for “I don’t know”: “I not soybeancake” – a funny play on “tahu” the Indonesian word for both “no” and “tofu”, depending on how you pronounce it.
The next day we went to our buoyancy class with Manta Dive. I felt like we really got a lot out of it, especially since my goal it to learn underwater photography which requires really precise buoyancy control. We went again to Hans Reef.
We signed up for a second dive with them on the same day, this time going to “Shark Point”. This dive was incredibly challenging as the current was intensely strong – we were fighting to stay still so hard that our oxygen was used up in about 3/4 the time. The best part of this dive was that we saw 5 giant sea turtles on the reef! For some reason, seeing these beautiful, peaceful creatures made me so happy. It’s interesting that when I’m diving, I feel like I want to swim in the schools of fish like one of them. When I saw the turtles, I fought off the urge to swim with them!
Another cool thing we saw was an “eel garden”, the ocean floor was covered in small eels with their heads poking out of their holes looking into the current. Here’s an image of an eel garden off Google Images:
When we were done with the dive, we went back to our bungalow, grabbed our Swiss friends from the ferry, and went to dinner together.
Here’s the sunrise on the morning we went back to Bali:
The next day, we left to go back to mainland Bali and meet up with Tracey. We got to Ubud and got the room right next to Tracey at the Ubud Terrace, the same place we stayed previously in Ubud. Our room was palatial! Bathtub, hot water, real, flushing toilet, separate sink and mirror room, and 2 beds! No aircon but you don’t need it in Ubud.
The next day we decided to share a room with Tracey since she also had a room with 2 beds. Even with 3 of us in a room, it was still large enough to accommodate us and all our stuff comfortably (though I guess that isn’t too hard since we’re all living out of backpacks!). We all stayed in Ubud for a week, traveling around by scooter to temples and walking around Ubud.
One day we went to Tampaksiring to see Lee, the friend of Amacker’s who we visited last time we were in Ubud. We also finally hit the temple right next to Lee’s place, currently our favorite temple in Bali. It’s one of the oldest temples in Bali and has mysterious origins.
A couple days later he invited us to dinner at Naughty Nuri’s, a fun bbq place outside Ubud where we got very drunk. 🙂
One of the absolute highlights (besides seeing Tracey, of course!) was seeing our old friend Amyjo, who we worked with at Google so long ago. She is a personal nutritionist/yoga teacher/who knows what else to the rich folks who stay at the resort where she works.
One of the cool things we did in Bali was that we went to a cremation ceremony. A man from Denpasar died and was to be cremated, since everyone is invited it’s ok for anyone to go, even tourists. A cremation is a huge occasion where everyone from the town comes and offerings are given. Depending on how well off the person was, the ceremony can be simple and serene or huge and ostentatious. This one was definitely the latter.
It started with about 30 men carrying a giant bull on a platform around the streets. They made a game out of it and even had a water fight in the street at the same time. Once the procession started, it got more serious with the women family members being carried on chairs, tons of women with offerings on their heads, and the band playing creepy (well, I think it’s creepy) gamelan music.
Once the procession reached the cemetery, the men tried to put the bull into the covered platform only to find that the horns were too high! The crowd waited with baited breath – what would they do? After what seemed like an eternity, someone sat up on the bull and sawed the horns off! The day had been saved, the bull was put in the cremation tower, the body put inside the bull, and the whole thing lit on fire.
It took no time at all for it to burn, especially as they had a container of kerosene constantly spraying on the fire.
Next up – Seoul, South Korea!