A strangely natural, but overdeveloped island that was seriously lacking tourists. Beautiful landscapes were apparent throughout the island, but yet did not seem to meet the picture I had envisioned, which included pristines beaches. The people were nice, but most were only interested in your money. Traveling in Bali was expensive, yet inexpensive. A Yin and Yang definitely existed there in both extremes.
At first I was taken aback by all the shopping malls and tourists I saw when I was taking a taxi to meet my friend in the surfing town of Kuta, a mad place. Desparate to escape the madness we left for the nearby town of Ubud which was touted as the cultural center of Bali, only an hour away, where an artists guild existed with numerous arts and crafts for sale. As crazy as Kuta seemed, Ubud was to that extreme calm and quiet. Only spending one night there Lucy and I visited some a site with ancient carvings in the stone face of a hill, which was set within a beautiful enclave of rice fields and steep terrain covered in lush vegetation. Anxious to see more of the island and to find nice beaches, that weren't littered with surfer dudes loitering in the water waiting for the next big wave (Kuta), we hired a private car (the expensive part of Bali: "Transport") to take us to the diving town of Tulamben. Transport is what the locals called taxi's, and while touting their services "Transport! Transport!", they would move both their hands as if wrapped around a steering wheel driving.
Tulamben was the first ghost town we visited. Only a handful of "resorts," most with sketchy dive operations. We chose one resort on the beach of rocks and booked some diving for the next day. With diving booked, we could essentially name our price for the rooms because the cost of diving brought in so much more money than the room itself. This area was the best shore snorkeling I've ever done. Just a few meters out was a decent reef with plenty of new fish I hadn't seen before, and I wasn't even diving yet! Diving the next day was excellent. We dove on the USS Liberty wreck. Covered in all sorts of corals we saw frog fish, pygmy sea horses, tons of typical reef fish, and the big kahuna himself, a Napolean Wrasse! This is a person sized fish, so it's pretty neat when you see one. At the second dive site we also saw large stone fish and a mega sized eel! This thing was huge, like the kind you see on discovery channel. I was very impressed because it was so much larger than the one's in Thailand. But after diving I knew what my guide book meant when it stated that inexperienced divers should go with a reputable dive shop. No dive briefings from our Balinese divemaster, no safety equipment, etc etc. I told Lucy if anything goes wrong, come to me, not the divemaster guy. This place wasn't a registered dive shop either, so no insurance. It seemed to be pretty common for shops just to be built around a divemaster. Anyway, the nights in Tulamben were something to be desired. A literal ghost town we only had ourselves to keep each other company.
After diving we took "Transport" to the famous Batur Volcano for a hike, but man I get mad when people try and rip me off. A guide was "required" to climb up this volcano which only took about 45 minutes to hike up, and was relatively easy, but this group of balinese decided this is how they were going to make money by forcing tourists to take guides up the mountain so no one gets lost or hurt. AND they had the odasity to try and charge us 40.00 USD a head to climb this volcano. After bartering and getting the price down to like 20.00, I threatened not to go because I couldn't stand to ripped off. After my threat they dropped the price to 25.00 for two, but I still felt jipped. This was the first big instance where I was introduced to the greed of Bali. The hike was as simple as I had imagined. Never the less the views were very nice, and it was nice to get out in the nature more than we had been. I was actually in a real, active volcano. Check one more item off the things I've done in life list. Indonesia apparently has a large number of volcano's throughout its island nation. Several more could be seen from various parts of Bali on other islands. Also, on the climb a young teenager accompanied us on the hike only to offer us warm coke at the top of the mountain for some inflated price. He was easily bartered with though. I felt we should at least buy something from him for taking the trouble to climb the mountain to maybe sell a coke or two. There were other teenagers up there doing the same thing. Our guys brother was there, and quite funny because he knew a lot of the main cities in the US: Chi-cago, New York, Los An-geles, etc. And he greeted me with "Whut's Up Bro!" I got a kick out of that. Getting full use of our money and guide we stayed at the top of the volcano appreciating the views and sleeping for about 2 hours. Yep, 2 hours. After visiting the Batur we completed the days journey in Lovina, hopefully a more happening spot, and I'm sure our driver was ready to get rid of us too because we weren't willing to be suckered enough to provide him with large commissions. We were dropped off at a place in Lovina where we thought the people were very nice, but looks can be decieving.
Bad experience number two. Another "guide" wanted to sign us up for some diving, and was supposedly the husband of the manager. We said we would talk in the morning, and we did. When we elected to look around first and see the dive shops first hand, the man eventually erupted and call us liars and no good American and no good English. I was shocked. Was he shouting at us? Not willing to get into it with the local I let him rant and rave, and in the end he told us to leave the resort, and we did not wanting to risk further confrontation. We found a much nicer place anyway, but was disappointed to have to tell the manager lady, who seemed so nice, about the incident, but I don't think the guy was really her husband. In Lovina we pretty much kicked back, did some diving, took a tour around to some of the sights like waterfalls and hot springs, and bided our time until we found some place more exciting to go to. I must say the diving on Menjanan Island was very very nice, and I saw my first Lion Fish which was really awesome. The plethora of coral was just amazing though. During the day the town was dead, but at night people showed up a bit to make the evenings more entertaining. The restaurants there were quite cheap, and the sea food was quite good. For 2.50 USD I had a big plate of fish, squid, shrimp, and some other sea creature that tasted really good. After about 5 days there it was time to go, but where?
We went back to Ubud for two nights, but I was sick and freaking out I had Dengue Fever or something really bad. I got over it in about a day and half. I went to see the doctor to get all sorts of drugs to kill any foriegn element in my body. They seem to use antibiotics for everything though. After Ubud we searched for a nice beach again, having not yet been to one. We went to Sanur near Kuta and was sorely disappointed, then left immediately going to Tanjung where the up-scale resorts blanketed the beach so the less priviledge people couldn't have access to it. We stayed in some budget hotel which was pretty expensive for us, and it turns out the beach wasn't even that beautiful. We left the next day. Back to Kuta as the home base we ventured to Dreamlands for the day. A place with that kind of name must be magnificent. Along the way we could see development creeping further and further south to the pretty untouch portion of Bali called Nusa Dua. A huge road was built in anticipation of all the development that would go on there. People could by land and build huge mansions, and some did. Finally to Dreamlands, the beach was an absolute dream. Placed below 100 meter high cliffs this beach was picturesque. Blue water, white sand; it really was a dream. Playing in the water and finishing my book that the guy in our bungalow gave me Lovina, The Da Vinci Code, we stayed there for maybe five solid hours, while our driver waited for us. We paid him good money though. Soon to be an over visited place like the rest of Bali, this location for the moment still fulfilled the name it was given. Later that night Lucy and I celebrated our departure with a night out, but the sun really zapped my energy so much, it made an early night for me.
All in all I would say Bali is more for people on short holidays and package tours rather than travelers like myself. I think that tourism has hurt the island more than it has helped it because of a lot of irresponsible development, and now there are literally no tourists on the island severly hurting the economy. In some places on the island I could bargain for something of value knowing I could get it cheaper than what it was truly worth because some people were so desparate. It's an interesting culture, which I really didn't take the effort to learn in depth about. Something interesting though is that there are about only 8 Balinese names used based on which sex and order a child was born in. For a guy, G'day would be first child, Ketut second child, and Ma-day third child. The same name for women except of the first child would be named Ko-mon. And three children were expected when a couple was married. Also, offerings were a daily ritual, and had to be bought daily as well. Those sort of things add up over time, $$$. Welp, that's it for Bali. I'm in Kuala Lumpur Malaysia now getting ready to head over to Borneo to do some diving off an old oil rig. Hopefully I'll be able to post some pics up soon, but no promises. I already got in trouble for supposedly making a promise before in Bali. Until next time...