Monday, November 29, 2010

My Balinese Dream Boat

No not a woman (well, maybe the 'other' woman) but a real Balinese boat. You can see my 'project' boat in the last couple of pictures!

The first couple of pictures are of one of these Balinese boats in action on the Java Sea on the north side of the Island and where we all spent the night after the grueling scooter trip (then we had to return!). It is one used to support tourist dives and from the looks of it, the compressor and the boat itself should've been scrapped decades ago, but then again...this isn't America. Would you trust your breathing to that hunk of rust?

Hey Richard, just a little project to keep you occupied. Come on over to Lovina, Bali and get your paint scraper and primer handy.

The next few pictures are of what the finished boat should look like when I'm done. Yep, beautiful isn't she? Floating peacefully on a mountain lake in the middle of Bali. If you look closely, you can see the white roofs of a large temple, which is about as close as I was able to get to it. This was one of the few stops during our scooter sojourn across Bali that I'll write about later.

Saturday, November 27, 2010

A Day at the Zoo

This may sound corny, going to the Zoo while in Bali, but actually it was a lot of fun. The same tour guide from the previous day said he was taking a few people to the Wildlife Safari and had room for one more. I thought why not and joined the group.

Not only do they have opportunities to feed camels, elephants, etc. but you can ride an elephant, too! I did that but no picture available. There is also a tram that goes through different habitats such as Asia and Africa, water part (forgot my swimsuit, dammit!) and a few other rides for the kids. I wished I'd remembered my swimsuit (or cozzie short for swimming costume in Australian) but at least Bin Tang was served cold and often. I did survive.

I'd recommend going on this even thought it's expensive. It will last you all day. Before the zoo, the driver took us to a Balinese Dance performance. Again, we got a soap opera like explanation of what was going on and it was interesting. I took some pictures and videos that I'll see if I can download to this blog next. The sounds and action are very interesting and certainly different.

More adventures later.

Friday, November 26, 2010

The First Big Tour

Naturally these pictures are not in order but I'll try to give you an idea of my first tour in Bali. I grabbed a map (I guess I have a thing for maps) from a small touring company on the way to the beach. It's owned by a very nice guy and on the map are several different tours and activities available. One of the activities is a Balinese cooking class that was tempting although he did mention it was run by his sister and there were several cooking classes so I did some shopping and never did make time to take a class. Typical, I know.

Anyway, this tour is of an ancient (age unknown) seaside temple. It was amazing and all the intricate carvings in stone had been worn smooth by the weather, it didn't take much imagination to see how it must have looked when first built and that it is so old, no one seems to be able to set a date when it was constructed. It is so sacred that men must wear a sarong to cover their knees and everyone must wear a sash. In the picture above, I'm the one in the sarong.

There was also an elaborate fire dance that went well into the night. I'm glad it wasn't the full version that we were told takes several days and the short version was plenty. The plot is from an ancient Hindu sacred text and reads like a soap opera with a villain trying to steal the beautiful princess and everyone taking on various disguises or forms. The music consisted of the 40 men chanting, no instruments are used.

As it went into the night, several piles of straw were lit and a monkey character kicked these burning piles sometimes hitting the chanting men or the audience. It was exciting and naturally I had a front row seat that didn't seem all that attractive during that particular dance. No wonder the priest shown is the last photo blessed the event in the beginning.

After the dance, we headed to a strip of restaurants that have the tables on the beach. It was great and I apologize for not having a decent picture of the set up, but it was dark and lighting was kept to a minimum so everyone could enjoy the stars. I did get a picture of one of the roving bands who serenaded unsuspecting eaters much like a Mexican mariachi band. In fact, I may sound like a broken record in comparing Bali to Mexico but it is strangely similar. I've told family that sometimes I felt like I was in an old Star Trek episode involving a parallel universe! I'll show later a picture of a couple young kids and an older woman in front of colorful material and you'd swear I took the photo in Mexico or Guatemala.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Bali Hotel Room - $30 Toilet (non) Humor

I thought I'd share just what $30/night will get you in Bali in the off season. Actually I was between seasons with the winter season ending and schoolies just around the corner. 'Schoolies' is when Australian kids graduate from high school and go off on some exotic, semi-adult adventure similar to our own Spring Break, but only they only usually go once. If they return the next year or so, they are known as 'twolies.' Of course, some never learn or want to relive their glorious past high school (being unable to achieve greatness in adult life) and return much later. They're referred to a 'droolies.' Guess what class I'm mistaken(?) for.

Anyway, as mentioned in the previous post, not all is as it seems in Bali. The outside of the hotel in indistinguishable from the shops on either side. Only a small sign above the entrance indicates a "garden" hotel. But once you pass reception, you're greeted with the lush gardens shown earlier with a Asian style bright red bridge over the koi pond and a view of the swimming pool that is the only thing that saved me from the savage heat and humidity (along with cold Bin Tangs). You think you've reached an oasis, that is, until you enter the room.

It wasn't too bad really. As you see from the last picture, it has a refrigerator, air conditioning (just above the door way, not pictured), a nice big wardrobe, desk, mirror and a TV that got one channel although I know there must be more stations. But is was the toilet that impressed me. It was outside!

You had to go through the back door to enter an enclosed area with a high rock wall where the opening above was covered in the best, prison-issue chain link fencing that had been bent back earlier by someone who most likely wasn't supposed to be in the room. The back door/bathroom door could be locked from the room side to delay unauthorized entry.

Half the bathroom floor was covered in tiles surrounding the tub however when I took a shower, water spilled out over the tub, under the shower curtain and pooled up in the middle of the tiled area where the drying rack is located. The rest of the floor was dirt up against the wall and it wasn't until I'd been there a few days that I realized the dirt was there for a cover the septic tank! I started looking at the piping coming out of the dirt and sure enough, that's a modern septic tank set up.

Also, the air conditioning unit is located there allowing the water that condenses off the unit to conveniently drain into the dirt, forming a deep hole near the bathroom sink. I just had to take a picture of that as well. Not only do you get the pleasure of listening to the A/C unit working at full capacity anytime you visit the facility, you get to experience the heat it throws off which is kept in the small, enclosed space known as the outdoor toilet.

I shouldn't complain about the toilet as it was modern and worked, unlike quite a few I came across during my trip. One toilet at a shopping center didn't even have the fixture, just a hole in the tiled floor where something used to be. No running water either, just a bucket with a scoop which previous users doused the entire floor after they had finished. Yep, that's living in the third world.

I really liked Bali and hope I can return. It's just that I find it funny how most of the rest of the world doesn't take as much care as we do when it comes to a basic necessity. I don't mind really, it just gives me a good laugh and hope it does you, too. That's the reason I took a picture of myself in the mirror. Naturally Balinese are much shorter than we are and that was simply a reflection of how quite a few things are built. I really nailed the top of my head exiting another toilet at a restaurant because of the incredibly low doorway. Ouch!

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Bali - Day 1, and 2, and.....

As I have mentioned before, I had to leave Oz within 4 weeks of being unemployed. I was able to get a visitor's visa but had to be out of the country to apply so the nearest (cheapest) place to go for me was Bali. Yeah I know, tough assignment.

Naturally these pictures are not in order however they do reflect my first few days. As warned by so many Aussies who have been to Bali, the first several days are disorienting. It was damned hot and humid and I spent most of my time in the pool conveniently located next to the bar (see photo above). I stayed at the Mastapa Garden Hotel in Kuta which is about a 10 minute walk to the beach. Every morning the staff would sweep the gardens and paths of Plumeria blossoms and leaves while the birds, both caged and free would chirp in the new day. Breakfast was included and was a choice of either American, Indonesian or Continental which sounds good, but as with everything in Bali, not exactly what you'd expect. It was all good though and would get you started for all the new adventures.

The garden and pool were such a nice, quiet oasis from the frantic traffic and relentless buskers and heat outside. The walk to the beach was fraught with being hassled by everyone wanting to sell you everything and anything from the perfect night, a stack of CD's and Viagra to the actual woman herself in the form of a love massage (long time). I did get a couple of legitimate massages for about $5/hour, one on the beach! Bin Tang's (or Bali Hai or Anker beer) was about $3 per 1.5 litre bottle! Needless to say, I took the savvy traveler's advice and stayed away from the water. In spite of copious amounts of beer drinking (for medicinal reasons, of course) I'm still in the 220's which I haven't seen for decades. My disappearing act continues.

Like other ancient cultures, Bali is so full of the past which isn't entirely paved over by the present. Everywhere you go are shrines with people actively placing offerings at them several times a day. The little square, reed baskets contain all sorts of blossoms, candy, cookies and incense to please the Gods and ancestors. Like all travelling, the smells are so different from home. Incense wafts over everything including the open sewers that seem to be so common in the so-called undeveloped world.

I'll continue to post more pictures and hopefully more coherent descriptions of my Bali adventures during the week.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Jo's Shed - My Temporary Home

G'day Again. I thought I'd post some pictures of where I'm staying off and on for the remainder of my time in Oz. As I mentioned, Jo is allowing me to stay in her shed in exchange for doing chores (some death-defying) around her place.

The first picture is the door from the patio into the 2-garage door shed. As you can see, my old lounge (sofa) and one of the single beds are just past the 2nd refrigerator Jo uses for her work (and I use for a few convenient coldies). The old lounge with some of Jamie's empty energy drink cans. Notice the dog has worked on one of the arms already.

The final picture shows the bed nestled in between my old table and freezer, complete with small TV and bale of straw for the chook pen. Yep, nothing says home like a bale of straw.

This is temporary and soon I'll be in Bali and then back in Oz and on the road. At least, that's my plan providing money holds out. I was tempted to see if I could work under the table for a painter for $150/day, but I'm sure I'm not qualified. We'll see how things pan out in the next 6 weeks of forced (thanks to the IRS) unemployment and travel. More updates soon!