1987 Indonesia – Bali

The ferry trip to Bali took just over 30 minutes. and after arrival it were another 2 hours in the cramped bus to Denpasar. The scenery we witnessed was so much different than Java, it all seemed to be so much greener or was it just our imagination? 

We arrived at dusk in Denpasar and initially had some problems finding a bus which brought us to our hotel in Sanur. We thought we had got used to the touts by now but the ones at Denpasar bus station had certainly made hassling to a refined art. Finally we found a nice guy who was willing to bring us to Sanur at a reasonable price. In Sanur our first hotel of choice was fully booked but fortunately the second hotel. Laghawa Beach Resort, we checked out had a bungalow with 2 rooms available. What a difference with the day before at the Bromo. It had been a long day and after a refreshing shower we went to the restaurant for our first Balinese meal. Not much later it was time to go to bed.

After a good night of sleep and breakfast we started to explore Sanur. There was a lot to be seen and after some hours we could no longer resist the inviting restaurants and once seated we were tempted into some delicious cocktails, it was a holiday after all.

In the afternoon we made a stroll over the beach and relaxed at the pool. After all our traveling it was nice to use a day for relaxing. In the evening we met again with Paul and Charity and enjoyed our farewell dinner, a dinner of course that could not have been complete without a number of delicious cocktails. We slept well that night.

The next morning we took a bus to Denpasar and then travelled on to Ubud. There we went to Guci Guesthouses, an address we had received from a girl who we met on top of the Bromo. Guci guesthouses was located in the middle of the rice fields and only a small sign beside the road revealed it’s location. It was absolute paradise to us. The owners, Ulli, a German woman and Nyoman, her Balinese husband were very friendly so we immediately felt at home. The place was basic but extremely cozy.  The bungalows as well as the furniture was made of bamboo and the bamboo was located within it’s own private garden. No electricity, no warm water but what the heck, this was truly paradise!

We decided to walk back to the center of Ubud, which took us about half an hour. The scenery was amazing, rice fields as far as we could see. Wow. Before we arrived in Ubud we looked around in the monkey forest but after our experience with the monkeys we were a bit more careful.

We spent some time in Ubud looking around after which we went to the tourist office in the center of the village. There we took a bus to Bona Gianyar. We had booked tickets for our first Balinese performance, the Warga Sekehe Kecak dance.

we found good seats and suddenly we heard from the back of the stage kecak kecak, kecak…. Men dressed in black and white sarongs entered the stage and the performance had started. The men were fighting against an evil spirit who had captured the kings daughter. With the help of a monkey army they succeeded and released the kings daughter.

Although we had originally only planned to stay one night  we decided to stay longer in Guci guesthouses. “A place you will feel at home” was written on their business card and that was for sure the understatement of the year. Breakfast was an absolute delight. Different fruits: pineapple, banana, jeruk, papaya, mango, apple, all fresher than fresh picked up at 5:00 in the morning from the market. Coffee and a sandwich, we could think of no better way to start the day.

In Ubud we took a bemo to Batubulan so we could visit another performance, the Barong. Again we were lucky and had perfect seats so we could enjoy the spectacular costumes and masks. Thanks to a leaflet we could follow the storyline and we were lacking eyes to see everything.

As in most Balinese stories also the barong deals with good against evil. Of course the good always wins but this time it was a close cal. At one point the evil witch became so angry that she bewitched the krisses (knifes) from the men who then started to stab themselves. Fortunately a priest was present to break the spell and the story finished with a happy ending. 

After the show we went back to Denpasar and soon found out there was not a lot that interested us so we continued on to Sanur and made another stroll over the beach. As this was unplanned we had not brought our swimming trousers but a short visit to the pasar (market) solved that problem as well so we could swim in the sea.

At the end of the afternoon we went to visit Paul and Charity and together we went to a restaurant for a dinner dance performance. It was a wonderful evening with good food, a nice performance and good company.

The evening went by far to quick and once again we said goodbye to Paul and Charity. It was easy to get a bus to Denpasar but once we arrived there at the bus station we found the whole place was deserted. We had not realized it was already that late. It took us about an hour before we could find a driver who wanted to bring us to Ubud and by then we were panicking a bit so we eagerly paid the high price the man wanted for a trip to Ubud. We were dropped of in front of Guci guesthouses where everybody was already sleeping. Not much later we also fell asleep, pleased our adventure had ended well and did not have to spend the night at a deserted bus station.

Next morning over breakfast we decided to get our motorbike drivers license so we would be a bit more independent. Once again we drove back to Denpasar to go to the police station and do the test. After huge amounts of paperwork were filled in we could do the driving test. Of course both Charl as myself managed to fail but a 5000Rp note in our passport did miracles… Next challenge, the theory test. Neither of us had the chance to read through the questions as the policeman who took care of the additional contents in our passport came to see us and gave the answers. A, C, D, A, B.. Congratulations, you both passed…. Fingerprints on our drivers license and off we went.

On the way to Ubud we made a short stopover in Mas, a small woodcarving village, where we bought two barong masks. After having seen the dance performance we thought this would be the ideal souvenir to take home. In Ubud we enjoyed a wonderful lunch after which we were on the road again. We decided to stay in the area of Ubud and our first stop was Goa Gajah, the elephant cave.

From there it was only a short drive to Yeh Puluh and we realized  very quick it was difficult to concentrate on the road but also enjoy the spectacular scenery around us simultaneously.

It had been a fantastic day. After dinner we joined Ulli and some other guests on their veranda and spend a wonderful evening chatting.

As we had quickly adapted to the next day started again with a wonderful breakfast. After that a long trip ay ahead of us as we had decided to visit Bali’s mother temple, the Besakih. The maps we had bought proved their use and within an hour or so we arrived in Gianyar where we had our first stop for something to drink. Next stop: Klungkung. We did not drive to fast as there was so much to be seen, up to now the landscape was still flat  but that changed quickly after Klungkung. The road was meandering it’s way through the hills and we had plenty of stops to enjoy the scenery.

Finally we arrived at the Besakih and we were lucky enough to witness a ceremony. Quickly we put on our sarongs so we could follow the crowd to the temple and see what was going on.

It was an enchanting experience to witness the prayers and offerings and before we realized it the sun had started to set. It was time to go back to Ubud. With the sun setting it seemed that all insects started to buzz around so we had to put on our sunglasses to protect our eyes from them. That did not improve our vision but we arrived in Ubud without incidents. 

After a refreshing shower we went out for dinner after which we called it a day. Next day would be a long and exhausting trip to the north of Bali.

Another splendid breakfast, packing our stuff for the next 3 days, saying goodbye to Ulli and Nyoman and once again we were on the road. Although we had planned our route together with Ulli and Nyoman we managed to get totally lost only after the bridges over a small river did not look like proper bridges anymore we realized that this was not the proper road…

To make things worse my bike did not function anymore and although we had been driving more than an hour we did not manage to get 5km away from Ubud. Maybe that was a good thing as we left my bike behind and went back to Ubud to our bike rental. They joined us and found out the sparks were oily so I was given a new bike. This time we were given new instructions on how to drive to Singaraja and things worked out much better. 

However….. Shortly before we arrived in Mengwi Charl had to make an emergency brake to avoid a car and as I did not see that in time and as I was driving behind him…. I crashed straight into him, fell on the street with the exhaust of the motorbike on top of my leg. That hurt!!! My trousers were ripped, I had some scratches on my knees and a burned spot on my leg. 

People quickly came to help us and after we recovered from he shock we decided to continue our trip to Singaraja, so far we had not been that lucky but from here on things went smoother.A couple of hours later we arrived at Lake Bratan where we had a late lunch and enjoyed the scenery.

By now we were high up in the mountains and had to start our descend to the coastal area. By the end of the afternoon we arrived in Singaraja. There we had an appointment with a pedanda, a high priest. He’s a good friend from friends of mine in Heerlen and once we told them we would go to Bali they arranged the visit for us. 

The welcome was heartwarming. As my trousers were ripped both of us decided to wear a sarong when we met the pedanda, something he highly appreciated. The pedanda, who spoke fluent Dutch in an old fashioned style, was a wonderful person and we really enjoyed the time together with him. He was happy with the presents we brough with us, both from our friends and from us. Dinner was delicious but according to Balinese custom the evening was finished early. By 20:30 we were in our room, wrote our diaries and went to sleep.

Next morning we were woken at 6 o’clock by the chanting of the pedanda and his wife. They were praying in the house temple. By the time we had mandied (the Indonesian alternative for a shower) we were greeted by them and he told us about places of interest in the area. Also we were invited for lunch.

First stop of the morning was Lovina beach, once again we were lucky to witness a small ceremony.

Our next stop was the only Buddhist temple in Bali. Although it was decorated with typical Balinese ornaments it was totally different than the other temples we had seen so far.

During lunch the pedanda entertained us with riddles and old dutch poems. You could see he really enjoyed speaking Dutch and we all enjoyed each other’s company. On his advice we had an afternoon nap and although we did not feel tired we still fell asleep. Later that afternoon we made a short trip to Singaraja but to be honest we were not impressed by what the cty had to offer.

During dinner the day before we discussed the difference between European and Asian food. This evening the pedanda surprised us as his staff had cooked a wonderful European style dinner for us. Once again riddles and poems were the topic of the evening conversation. 

When we woke up the next morning the pedanda was not at home. As usual on a Sunday he and his wife went to a temple to pray. Breakfast was being served and the both of us enjoyed a relaxing morning. 

At 10 o’clock the pedanda returned home and joined us for coffee. He asked us to make a couple of pictures for his album after which it was time to thank him and his wife for the hospitality and say goodbye. Both of us found this not easy, although we only met the pedanda 2 days ago he showed us so much friendship and hospitality, something one hardly experiences in the west.

Once again we were on the road. We had decided to take another route than two days ago. As soon as we left Singaraya we were surrounded by mountains again. It took us about 3 hours to arrive at Mount Batur. We had a spectacular view over the vulcano and crater lake. Although our initial plan was to climb mount Batur we dropped that plan as soon as we saw it. Insted we opted for a wonderful lunch whilst we were overlooking Mount Batur.

By the end of the afternoon we returned to Guci Guesthouses and received a warm welcome by Ulli and Nyoman. We enjoyed a cup of tea together after which we took a refreshing shower and headed off to Ubud. There we ordered a smoked Duck dinner for the next day (It had to be ordered 24 hours in advance) and had a couple of arak-attacks (local cocktail) in a small restaurant on Ubud main street. 

We bought a bottle of rice-wine to bring back to Guci guesthouses and spend the evening with Ulli and Nyoman chatting whilst frogs and gekko’s formed the orchestra that provided background music. How good can it get?

Next morning we decided to go to the south of Bali, Ulu Watu, a cliff temple. By now we got used to driving in Bali and also were getting quite good in finding our directions. We passed Denpasar and Sanur and arrived at Ulu Watu. There we dressed up in our sarongs again, otherwise we would not be allowed to enter the temple. 

The temple itself was fine but it were the surroundings and the view over the cliffs that made it spectacular. The view over the Indian Ocean was to die for and once again we had to laugh about the playfulness of the monkeys which were present all over.

The afternoon we spent at Kuta beach. Although quite crowded it was beautiful but before we lied down at the beach we enjoyed a fantastic seafood lunch in one of the restaurants.

Relaxing at the beach was a state of art. Constantly we were asked whether we wanted to drink something, maybe buy a nice souvenir or have a massage… The last thing got our attention, it was very difficult not to fall asleep whilst enjoying the skillful hands of our beach masseuse. 

We could have enjoyed Kuta for much longer but we had made a reservation for a typical Balinese duck dinner, something we would not want to miss for anything in the world. Once back in Ubud we refreshed ourselves after which we rushed of to the restaurant for a lush and sumptuous meal. We had expected to eat duck but had not realized it was a multiple course meal, one delicacy was followed by the other, one was even better than the other, the only shame was that the portions were so big we could hardly handle them. 

The next morning when we woke up we were in a sad mood. We had been looking forward to this holiday so long and indeed it had not let us down for a single moment. But we had to face reality and this was already our last day in Bali. To make the best of it we decided to visit Tanah Lot, a temple on the south west coast of Bali.

As it was high tide the temple was surrounded by water and huge waves were crushing on the shore. Our last place to visit in Bali had not disappointed us.

Back in Ubud Ulli and Nyoman joined us for our very last dinner. As we had enjoyed such a wonderful time together we had decided to invite them for last dinner in Bali. Something that has become tradition the numerous times I visited Bali afterwords (and something I could only have dreamed of on my first visit). Once again a fantastic evening but then, it was our last evening and that still affected our mood a bit. 

The next morning we realized it was all over. After breakfast we spent some time with Ulli and Nyoman after which it was time to go to the airport.

Den Pasar – Jakarta – Abu Dabi – Brussel. When we took off it was over 30 degrees, More than 24 hours later we arrived early in the morning at Brussels with only 3 degrees. How big a shock can be… Our taxi was waiting for us but we could not get used to the cold.

Tired, cold, but also extremely happy and with a big smile on our faces. What an adventure this had been….

Breakfast was served at my parents place and we were sure their ears were hurting that morning from listening to all our stories.

This trip had been in the making for many years, now we had done it things were a bit surreal, have we really been there, is it really over?

Once upon a time……