Riding Tigers: REPORT #16
|January 11, 2000, from Bali, Indoneisa|
US$1 = 7000 rp
We have arrived without incident in Bali on a rather turbulent flight from Bangkok. We took a private taxi from the Airport directly to Ubud thus avoiding the mess of Kuta Beach. Bali is indeed a very cool place. While it faces an unbelievable amount of tourism is still manages to cling tenaciously to is traditional Balinese culture. Very nice to see people who have not forsaken their traditional dress in favor of western clothing.
Ubud is the cultural and culinary capital of Bali and a must for anyone visiting this island paradise. Our days were spent roam the countryside enjoying the scenery, doing a little bird watching and dealing with the constant sales pressure that is intended to separate you from your money...Bargaining is essential if you want to have any money and unfortunately its can be hard to maintain your manners in the face of their very aggressive sales techniques.
The evenings were spent watching traditional dances or traditional shadow puppet performances. I very much enjoyed and appreciated these performances. We spent three nights in Ubud staying at the Saren Inn on the Monkey Forest road where a nice room with private bath and hot water is currently going for 40,000 Rp bargained down from 60,000 Rp.
By luck we have arrived during the biggest festival of the year and so everyone is in full traditional dress. Stumbled on to a cock fight which is extremely popular on the island. Attended by males only the betting was fast and furious and the fight itself lasted a very brief 15-30 seconds. While many claim this to be very cruel, I refrain from imposing my cultural standards in such a bizarre land. It appears the fighting cocks are well cared for and get as much attention as a family member. the loosing rooster goes home with the owner of the winning rooster to become supper...
We left Ubud and proceed to Gunrung Batar, a very active volcano that is extremely impressive to observe. I climbed it this morning starting at 3am to catch the sunrise and observe some eruption up close. Just to give you an extreme example of how you have to bargain, when I began the process of finding a guide I was quoted a price of 65 US dollars for the trip. Approximately five hours later after tea and a walk and much conversation with the guide I had the price down to a reasonable 8 US dollars...I was stunned at the number of people who paid this truly astronomical asking price...The hike up takes about 1.5 hours to the summit. this activity would be prohibited in the western world as too dangerous and when a huge eruption occurred that showered molten boulders the size of footballs down around us, luckily none contacted my head, I began to wonder about my own personal safety...Fortunately all was fine in the end and I would say that looking down into an erupting volcano is an unforgettable experience...The money grubbing touts and hawkers rule here so we got the hell out of town as soon as we had climb the volcano. We caught the bus to Lovina a coastal town known for dolphin watching and black sand beaches. Nice reefs for snorkeling and i anticipate being here for a few days to get in some good snorkeling.
Beer: I have tried three different Indonesian Beers. Bintang is the best choice while Bali Hai and Anker resemble the urinary discharge of a skunk, give them a pass for sure.
Cost: if you bargain hard and consistently things are cheaper in Indonesia than in Thailand. If you don bargain things maybe more expensive than the western world, the choice is yours. If bargaining is not your cup of tea, don't come or bring a bag full of money...Personally i don't mind bargaining its the constant lying and deceiving of the people that is a bummer...very nice people don't get me wrong but too consumed with getting money out of tourist...
We are gradually making our way to Java and should make the ferry crossing in a few days. Our plan is to go to Yogajarkata to see the largest Buddhist monument in southeast Asia...got to run for now but will post another update soon...still having a blast with no problems to speak of other than occasional rip off of a few bucks...stay tuned and thanks for stopping by....I have seen no evidence of the recent unrest in Indonesia...
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