From Java I continued my trip East, taking the ferry across from Ketapang to Gilimanuk, before a crowded bus ride down to Denpasar. The bus was allegedly air conditioned, but the only hint of fresh air came from the open door directly opposite me, as I sat sideways on the seat to better accommodate the 3 of us who had been made to cram into the 2 seats at the back of the bus. I guess the bus was about 50% over subscribed, but it only broke down once. All in all, I’d say it was a good trip.
I decided to base myself in Seminyak for a few days, just a short drive from Denpasar and the immigration office which I needed to visit to obtain a visa extension, and a short trip up the beach from the hectic party resort of Kuta.
The first thing that struck me about Bali was the amount of English people. I’m half way across the world and there’s a higher percentage of Brits here than in London. I didn’t like it…at first.
Seminyak is probably one of the swankiest areas in Bali, everything has a very new age feel and the hipsters of Hoxton would probably feel right at home here in the numerous speciality coffee shops, bars and restaurants. Despite the vibe being very different to what I’d experienced so far in Indonesia, I had to take it for what it was, and soon started to enjoy the fancy, westernised area.
After the exhausting end to my Java trip, I had a lazy day on the beach, surfing (without snapping the board this time) and enjoying a beer watching a spectacular sunset. There were plenty more of these over the week I spent here.
As soon as Monday morning rolled around, I had my first trip down to the immigration office. Just as I’d been told I needed for entering the country, for extending my visa I was also required to show proof of onward travel, so just before I went down to the imigrasi, I logged on to sky scanner to book another cheap Air Asia flight, but, as I’d done this previously, and forgotten to cancel the flight, having not shown up at the airport meant I was now on their ‘null fliers’ list, so I guess I’m not flying with them again until I’ve paid some sort of fine. This time my dummy onward travel ticket was a ferry for the hefty price of £20.
Aside from this, the visa extension process was easy. I had to make the 20 minute scooter ride three times, and 5 days and $25 later, I had an extra 30 days stamped in my passport.
During these 5 days, I had a scooter and plenty of time to kill, so went off exploring the island and braving the trecherous road conditions of Bali, where scooters run wild on the pavements and vans force oncoming cars and bikes off the roads. All very exciting.
My first trip was to the southern most tip, Uluwatu, where a Hindu temple stands at the top of the sheer cliffs, overlooking the gigantic breaks that makes this area a surfers paradise. When I left the temple to go and find the surfing hotspot, a group of monkeys were hanging out in the entrance to the car park. These clever little bastards have become so used to tourist visits that they know to look in people’s bags and pockets for food and drinks. One of them had clocked the bottle of water in my hand, and as I covered it from snatching distance, he decided to take revenge by jumping up to my face and snatching the sunglasses from off my head. I could only watch as he ran off, snapping the frames and lenses in revenge. As I watched on, his mate came behind me, snatched the water bottle that I’d been so careful to guide out of my hand, unscrewed the lid and started drinking. The little bastards. At least they weren’t my Ray Ban’s.
I decided to leave before I lost anything else. On my way back, I stopped of at the Bali Cultural Centre, to see a performance of traditional Balinese dancing, where the dresses are ornate and the moves are so intricate they incorporate the movement of the eyes and of individual fingers.
The next day was a day off from the imigrasi, so I went off in the other direction, to the centre of Bali. Pure Ulun Danu Bratan is a temple over looking a lake way up in the central highlands. The views on the drive up were almost as incredible as the views from the lake itself, and driving through the jungle terrain felt like a completely different island, far removed from the beaches in the south. Also in the highlands were a number of spectacular waterfalls, hidden right in amongst the greenery of the tropical trees.
Day three, back to imigrasi for a photo shoot. Unfortunately I felt more like a criminal getting a mugshot than a model at a photo shoot in Bali. Once I’d been released, I went back down to the southern tip of Bali, this time to the east side and the resort of Nusa Dua, where the beaches are golden, the sea is blue, and the waves crash into the rocky jetties that lean out to sea. It has a totally different atmosphere to the resorts on the west coast, and is probably much more suited to family holidays and couples retreats. Beautiful, certainly.
Another day in the highlands followed, starting off driving up to the town of Ubud. Ubud is a cultural and art filled delight and really requires a few days to take in everything there is to offer in this area. In hindsight I wish I had spent more time here, but I can’t get everything right. The land around Ubud is filled with luscious green terraced rice fields, sprawling off in every direction over the ups and downs of the highlands. For me, the highlight of this area was Gunung Kawi, a temple hidden in the base of a narrow valley with rice fields growing like cliffs up from the river. Sculptures had been exquisitely carved out of the rocky cliffs at the base of the valley, and made up the central focus points of the temple.
I finally managed to pick up my passport on the Friday, and, fortunately my appointment time was in the afternoon, giving me just enough time to recover from the previous night of experiencing the chaos of Kuta at night time. As the afternoon drew on, I made it up to Tanah Lot, yet another waterside temple which they evidently love over here. I think Bali has too much of a reputation as a party island, but I saw enough to know how diverse this small island is, and just how intact culture and traditions still are.
And more importantly I have now replaced my stolen sunglasses.