Tag Archives: Bali

Luwak, Rice Terraces, Hot Springs and Waterfalls

The next day I went with a driver to do some sight seeing. We did a coffee tasting north of Bali. There I tasted Coconut coffee, Vanilla coffee, Ginsen coffee, Balinese coffee and also some teas like Lemongrass tea, Ginger tea, Tumarec tea, Mangosteen tea. The Ginger tea tasted like Surinam “Gember Bier”, but then warm. I tasted some Rosela  and some real chocolate cacao without sugar as well. And believe me, whithout sugar it has nothing to do with the chocolate milk as we know it hahaha. All of the substances were good for some part or organ of your body. One type of coffee was good for the heart another type of tea was good for the stool, yet again another one was good for the blood circulation etc. I guess I am a very healthy man now. Lol! But… the main character of the coffee tasting show, was… the Luwak coffee. The Luwak, a cat-like creature, selects the best berries to eat, in his stomach enzymes seep into the beans, it then poops out the beans and they make coffee out of that. Luwak coffee, unlike the Balinese coffee has low caffeine, but still Balinese coffee tastes like water after you drank the Luwak coffee.

We visited Bedugul where we went to the Pura Ulundanu Beratan Temple. The Tree scandia (Balinese singing) on the background gave it a special feel. I noticed that all of the temples in Bali have a splitting gate. Like the entrance is made out of one piece of stone carving, which was then horizontally split in half to create an entrance. I asked the driver about this. He explained me that it has a symbolic meaning. When you pass the splitting gate, you also have to split your personality in the good and bad side. And leave your bad side behind. Many entrances to buildings have this type of gate and even each village has one. Wow! Impressive!

We went to Munduk a place you visit only for the view, but did I say only!? I fel in love with the view. Green hills and rice terraces. We drove past clove and mango trees on the way and each view is more beautiful than the other. I will definitely come back to this one.

After that me and the driver were getting a bit hungry and wanted some Satay. According to my driver the Goat satay was the best. Kambing as they call it. We didn’t managed to find a place were they sold it, but because we were close to the Banjar Hotsprings I decided to first plunge in to the natural Banjar hotspring and look for the satay afterwards! It was nice! I saw this one in travel programs a lot. Funny to actually be there now. After that we continued our search for satay. The driver told me to look for smoke. As we were driving up and down hill through villages, we focused for any signs of smoke alongside the road. At this point we both had one common goal: Satay! Haha. Finally I saw some smoke. Satay! Unfortunately we had to settle for chicken Satay, but it was no punishment, actually it was really good. The only thing I noticed is that the satays here have tiny little meat on them. So even after ten satays a was left still a bit hungry.

Next stop, the Git Git waterfalls. The driver informed me that there was a guide at that place who would bring you to the waterfall, but you had to negotiate the price with him. I asked him what was like reasonable. He said 100.000 is too much. As soon as I put my foot on the ground I was approached. This guide offered to show me all the three waterfalls for only 150.000 each. So this means 450.000!? And wasn’t there only one waterfall? Wow, this guy was really insulting my intelligence Hahaha. After some firm negotiation he offered to show me two waterfalls for 100.000. Then I figured that I came to see the one big waterfall and you can’t even swim in the other one. I finally said I’d do one for 50.000. He said 80.000 for one, which was still far from reasonable, but to cut him some slack and to contribute to the village I went for 70.000. When he walked me to the waterfall he smiled. “It was a good choice to only do the one waterfall”, he said. “The others are small and not even really nice.” Like really!? Can you believe this guy!? Hahaha. The waterfall was amazing though. I jumped of the rock in to the 5 meter deep pond beneath the waterfall. Went swinging on a rope to release it at its peak and fall in the water. Lol! Crazy, childish, but fun!

Later on, we saw another smoke surrounded stand. Satay! And this time it was the Kambing satay! Jeej! ;-) The driver waited around the corner and I went alone to order the satay. We were in a remote village and the stand was run by a few teenagers. Probably the children of the owner. They were really surprised when I ordered, and giggled the whole time. They didn’t understand a word of what I was saying, found my accent funny, but understood that I wanted 20 satays. They showed me the price on a calculator, giggling again. And then when I left, one of the boys said in a bit nervous, but clear manner: “Thankuu ferry mutsj!” and the others chuckled loudly. Proud at their brother that he just spoke English with a falang! Hahah. Funny! And the driver was right, it was really nice! But to be honest, I like the chicken more. Hahaha. We stopped at one of the rice terraces along the road. The driver had explained me all about the rice terraces, how they needed large sums of water at the beginning when they are still young, how the water dries up later. He also explained what the flags were for, which you see on all the rice terraces. The flags were all connected to a system of threads. Sometimes a flock of birds or a swarm of insects attack the rice terraces. When this happens, the farmers pull the main thread so all the flags start moving, thus scaring the birds or insects away. Pretty genius! And because he had promised me to show me how the rice really looks like when it is growing, he stopped here. We took a stem and he showed me the rice inside the sheaths and explained me how they use machinery these days to extract the rice. In the past, they used to smack the stems against the ground manually, to get the rice out. And finally he told me about the Arak which is an illegally, local brewed ricewine.

On our way back, I played some relaxed Jazz music, while I was content fatigue, I saw a few kites in the air, the sun was setting while we drove alongside rice fields and other beautiful landscapes and I was thinking about my trip thus far. It has been more than I could ever dream of. If you asked me what I would have liked to add to it, or what it lacked I couldn’t name anything. The perfect ingredients. I felt really thankful!

We arrived near the hotel. I went to eat at my favourite restaurant with the slowly wabbling lampions. I tasted pisang goreng (fried banana), which I know from back home, but with grated cheese. Strange combination, but really nice! At the restaurant I also tried their famous black bean rice pudding, which is also lovely. Hmmm, my mouth starts to water again as I am writing this.

After diner I went to a traditional Kecak Fire and Trance Dance performance in Pura Taman Sari, performed by the group Sandhi Suara. The performance was held in an open air temple by night. I didn’t understand a word, but still I could follow the story a bit. At least I knew who the villain was. Haha. At the end they burned a pile of coal until it was glowing. Then a man with a stick horse circled around the pile of coal, supported by load singing. He then suddenly kicks the pile fiercely in to the audience, making blocks of coal just come to a stop a few centimeters in front of my foot. Of course I was on the front row and of course I was wearing short pants and slippers. Hahaha. They scraped the still glowing blocks of coal together until the pile flamed again and turned in to a glowing heap. Then the man with the stick horse repeated his kicking again. They did this like five times and each time the audience anxiously waited not to get burned. One time a female in the front row had to jump up however, otherwise she would surely got burned I think! Like wow!! #noregulations I still loved the show though! Amazing experience!

Back to Kuta. I planned on going back to the great Hotel I stayed in before. The owner told me just to call him one day in advance and he would make sure I had a room. No need for Booking.com So I did. Done deal! Only the morning I left for Kuta I saw I had a txt message from him saying, he forgot to check the availability and that there was no room and at thousands of sorries. What!? So I got of the bus, arrived in Kuta, the bus left and there I was with my backpack and daypack and no place to stay. I quickly arranged a new hotel, which was ok. I stayed in Kuta for two more nights and then it was time to head for… Singapore!!

Culinary Ubud and Tulamben

I took a cooking class in Ubud. On my way to the lessons I saw two fighting monkeys. It was quite funny as they kept on going. I was almost late because of this. Haha. The cooking class was great.  I was the only one showing up so it became a private class and we had all the time. I learned about all the spices, vegetables and the cooking styles. I made Basa Gede, Menanak Nasi, Sayur Urab, Opor Ayam, Bali Satay Lilit and Pisang Goreng, which I got to eat all by myself. I rolled out of the restaurant on to the streets stuffed with delicious food. It was so much they gave me a doggybag full of my delicious (even if I say so) food. When I got to the guest house I saw a woman and her child begging at the oil station across the street. I knew about them, because they sat there every night and the guest house staff explicitly ordered me not to give them any money, because it doesn’t help them at all. Gangs, who put them to beg there, take all the money at the end of the day. Horrible!! So if you give them money, the gangs will only continue their practices. I walked over and gave them my bag of food and luckily the woman really appreciated it. Guess the gangs won’t be able to take that away!

The next day I went for Shipwreck diving in Tulamben. A city on the North-east coast of Bali. Just off shore lies a wreck of an US Army ship that was torpedoed by a Japanese submarine in 1942. It was a two and a half hour drive from Ubud. On our way we had a beautiful view of the holey mount Agung. The driver played a cd with 90’s dance hits. The cd was stammering and stuttering all the time, but he didn’t mind. Then I heard the cd was actually a recording of a Dutch radio dance radio station. The one with three numbers, starting with number 5 and ending with 8. Hahaha. Funny! The Shipwreck was immense. We went down, and at first I had some trouble clearing my left ear, but then suddenly you see a gigantic object beneath you. A huge sight and also a bit of creepy, if you realize that dozens of bodies decayed here between these iron walls. It looks like a big monster, all covered with coral, but you can still see the contours of the ship. The windows, the deck and the front of the ship. We even went inside the ship. There are also a lot of sea creatures on and around the ship, even more than at the Great Barrier Reef and just before we got up, we even saw a real Barracuda.

The World Cup is also living here! I asked the driver which country he is supporting. Unfortunately Indonesia doesn’t attend. Indonesia is bad at soccer he told me, they are the best in badminton. Most of the people support Germany. I was like… huh!? Until this day I still don’t see the link, but his words were backed up by the fact that most of the flags hanging outside the houses in the villages were German! Hahaha.

Eat, Pray, Lost

I left the crowded, touristic Kuta for Ubud. Only after I decided to go here I found out about the famous Eat, Pray, Love movie with Julia Roberts that made Ubud extra famous. They even have the Eat, Pray, Love trail, of which I still don’t know what it is. I watched to movie though. :-)

Like Kuta the streets of Ubud where also decorated with Penjors, but clearly more authentic ones than the ones in Kuta. Again the smell of incense, delicious food and burning compost hugged my nose. And at some places you are also surprised by the smell of clove from the kretek cigarettes. The serenity was special. I got myself a map and decided which places I wanted to visit the next couple of days. I plotted them on the map and talked to the guy from the guesthouse. He looked at the dots plotted on my map. “You can take a tour, but then you won’t see them all, and you will be bound to a strict program. You can also go with a private driver. Than you can see them all, but it will cost you way more.” “Is it possible to do it by myself with a scooter?”, I asked. “Yeah, sure! For example from here to the Git git waterfalls is only 2 hours driving or maybe a bit more” I don’t know why none of the alarm bells in my head went off, but it sounded quite doable. Me on a scooter, without GPS, only a paper map. Hahaha. If I had only imagined me driving on a scooter in Holland from Rotterdam to Groningen, I would have put this idea straight out of my head. But not then, not in that place, not in that time. I decided to go for the adventure!

I wanted to visit the Mengwi Royal Family Temple, the Jatiluwih Rice Terraces, the Git Git waterfalls, the famous Banjar hotsprings , the beautiful Munduk area and Bedugul, with the Pura Ulundana Beratan Temple in the lake. A total of maybe 5 hours driving, but I would split it up in two days.

I packed my little day pack with swimming clothes, camera, cash, snacks, water, a vest, a map and more handy things. I was excited. I loved it! Driving the scooter alongside this beautiful landscape gives you a real sense of freedom. However I couldn’t even find my first stop, the Mengwi Royal Family Temple. After asking a few people I was lucky one guy offered to drive me there. I just had to follow him, but that wasn’t as easy done as said. He was a seasoned driver, overtaking trucks, pushing our bikes between cars etc. I managed to keep up with him, but more so I understood why I didn’t find it. We went uphill, downhill, in to an alley, on to a large road, went left at a rice field, through a village then back on a main road… like what!!? And suddenly he pointed to the right, there it is! I thanked him, locked my scooter and enjoyed the Mengwi Temple. Next stop were the Jatiluwih Rice Terraces. It was already getting late, and I had only done just one stop. It became a race against the clock, because I wanted to get there before sunset. I drove and drove, and again. Impossible to find it. I asked a girl on a scooter for directions. She only spoke Indonesian, but she recognized the name Jatiluwih. She said something in Indonesian, which sounded like “Slamanplakat” and drove off. I was not sure if she told me to follow her, but it seemed like it, so I did. After only one minute she stopped and pointed to a unpaved road. With hand signals she explained me that I had to follow this road all the way to the Rice terraces. One thing that I have learned during this trip is to sometimes just don’t ask questions and just have faith. It was dusk already and I was hours away from my hotel and had no clue how to get back. But for now I was focused on getting to Jatiluwih before sunset. I drove the road which had a lot of curves in it and took me through some villages where people looked at me like a brown alien on a two wheel spaceship sweeping by. The road took for ages, but suddenly I saw this immense sight on my left side. Jatiluwih!!! I was there! I turned off the engine and enjoyed the now! Beautiful! Look at the picture of me in total calmness looking out over the Jatiluwih Rice Terraces. Little did I know about the quest that was lying ahead. Whooehahaahahaaaah ;-)

It was now about 6 pm and the evening was kicking in. It is known for a fact that it can get really cold on a scooter when the evening falls. Luckily I had my vest with me. I put on my vest, turned on the headlight of the scooter and started my journey back to the hotel. I don’t know how many times I said the word Ubud, but it felt like thousands. I would stop at a little shop and ask for directions, but I was pointed out in different directions each time. May be because they didn’t understand me, or I didn’t understand them. When I was driving for 25 minutes in one direction, another person would tell me that I was completely wrong and that I had to go all the way back and from there take another route. I started to ask people for directions every 100 meter, because I didn’t want to loose any more time driving in the wrong direction.

It also didn’t really help when people say: “At the traffic light, turn right” when they actually mean a traffic crossing without any actual traffic lights. So I kept on searching for actual traffic lights getting way out of route. Or sometimes they would say, follow this road all the way and then turn left. Not telling me about all the little side streets and curves in the road, that make you wonder each second if you should have turned left already.

At first the whole thing seemed quite funny and I loved driving the scooter. But I noticed it was getting darker, shops started to close and the streets where getting quieter and I still was really far away from my hotel. Also it was getting colder by the minute,

And then finally I saw familiar surroundings. I knew for sure I was here before. These were the roads I travelled when I left Ubud. I was exhausted but glad I was close. Relieved, I stopped again, happy that this would be one of my last times asking for directions. But then the guy I asked said: “Ubud!!? Pffiiiieeuw. You are ferry faw my friend. It is 1,5 hour drive from here!” This can’t be! I was sure he was wrong, but when two other people confirmed I felt a slightly despondent for the first time. And this is were I really missed my iPhone with GPS. Thoughts running through my head, may be I should try to find a place to sleep? But where? There was only road en some villages, most of them completely dark and empty because everything was closed.

Was this funny adventure going to turn out in a little nightmare? No! I got myself together and again followed the directions people gave me, hoping they were right. I also tried to use the map now and then, but it was useless, because I didn’t know where on the map I was at. But then a new problem presented itself. My scooter was running out of petroleum. The only thing I could do was keep on driving, hoping I will find some place to fill up my tank. Otherwise I had to sleep alongside the road with my scooter? Hmmm. The road was still dark and there was no real sign of life in some of the villages I drove through. I just kept on going, kept on going. And… there it was. A real town. There was a night market going on. I found petroleum within minutes and was happy to know that there still is some life in Bali. My hopes got up. I drove for what felt like hours. I came across a lot of temples, where I heard the typical Balinesian Gamelan Gender Wayang sound. Ceremonies were being held because of  Galungan. People gattered in the temples.

I kept on going and asking people for directions. And funny enough, even if the man I was asking for directions in an unknown village, in the evening, with almost no one in the street, was holding a machete, I didn’t felt unsafe for one moment. Luckily their predictions got shorter and shorter. “One hour that way..” “…Only 20 minutes from here”, “Like 5 to 10 minutes..” until.. “Turn back and take the first left, it must be there”. Jeej! And even though I was in the street, I only recognized it as soon as I saw the sign of the Guest House and man was I happy to see that sign. I made it! I finally made it! A whole load of pressure just fell of my shoulders. Now my hunger feelings dared to step in, which I probably was ignoring all the time. I drove to a nearby restaurant, and I would never forget how perfect the music sounded, how sweet the food tasted and how relaxing the cool breeze felt, which made the white lampions in the restaurant slowly wabble.

Eventually I only got to do two things on my loooong list. Guess I have to go for the private driver after all, but at least I have another memory in my pocket. Hahaha

Sambutan Kanggo Kuta, Bali

My trip from India to Indonesia did not go without its setbacks. I developed a habit of not printing out my flight tickets. I only write down the flight number and Ho(s)tel address on a piece of paper. This worked for me pretty well, so far. I booked two separate flights. One from Kochi to Kuala Lumpur and the other one from Kuala Lumpur to Bali. However when I arrived at Kuala Lumpur, at the immigration desk they asked me some of the usual questions to see if I was not going to do any funny stuff in their country. “Are you here for business or holiday sir?” “Holiday” “How many days are you going to stay” “Eh, this is a transit, I have a next flight in a few hours” “Can I see the ticket for your next flight?” “Euh, I have this piece of paper with the flight number, but I still have to print it out…” and boom, I was crowned a suspicious person, within these couple of seconds. Hahaha. They were somewhat sceptic about my story. I had to go to a small office to get a stamp. There I explained my story and they sent me to another desk. After being sent from pillar to post for almost an hour I finally got the girls at one of the desks to print my ticket. Pfffieeuw! I was off, but I will be back though.

Like I told before every country has it’s energy and when I arrived in Bali, Indonesia it felt like a sweet welcome embrace. The sun was shining fiercely and the mixed smell of incense, burning compost and delicious food caressed my nostrils. I loved the smell! The streets were decorated with penjors, tall, curved bamboo poles decorated with coconut leaves with an offering at the base. This was because of the Galungan celebrations which are held every six months. The penjors symbolize the battle between good and evil, which is won by good of course. Also every day people put offerings, called Canang Sari’s in front of their doors. Nicely small tray made out of young coconut leaves and decorated with colorful orange and pink flowers. There were many stores with a lot of Absolut Vodka bottles displayed, but later I found out that actually these bottles contained petroleum for your scooter. I was already thinking why this vodka had a brownish color Hahaha.

The taxi took me to Kuta. The overly touristic party district of Bali. Sun, sea, beaches and banging dance music pumping out of the speakers. I would spend my weekend here and then head over to the more authentic and culture rich Ubud to see the “Real” Bali.

The first thing I did when I arrived at the hotel is go for the local food! I ended up in this back alley market and ordered a Bakmie Goreng (Balinese Stir Fired Noodles). The waitress asked me if I wanted it not so spicey, a bit spicy or spicy. I said: “A lot of spicy, I like spicy!!” You can play this joke in the Netherlands, but saying that here in Bali is like signing your death certificate. She smiled and after a few minutes brought me my order. I took the first bite and immediately I chocked, my lips burned, my throat was full of fire, tears coming out of my eyes and sweat dripping down my head. Clearly aware of my struggle the waitress asked from the behind counter: “Too spicy sir?” I refused to give in, so I answered with all the little bit of voice I had still left in me: “No, I like it like this! Spicy..” I took the challenge and ate the whole plate. Hahaha.

I noticed that the portions they serve here are relatively small, sometimes leaving you still a bit hungry after dinner. Also the food is not steaming hot when served, but rather lukewarm. And I really had to get used to eating with a spoon and fork, instead of a knife and fork. However with rice on the menu it was pretty practical.  You also really stand out here. There are hardly any other black people on Bali.

Legion street was where it all happened. This was the main street of Kuta. It also houses all the clubs. Sky Garden, with it’s three story building being one of the most famous. As an extension of Kuta you have the Seminyak area. A neighbourhood with also a lot going on. At one time I was in one of the clubs at Legion street and saw a little man in the corner with a whole entourage of people, looking and acting like Mr. Chow from the Hangover movie. He was jumping on the couches, slapping people on the buttocks and just going berzerk. I got in a conversation with him and found out he was the owner of the place. Shortly after that he pushed the mic in my hand to mc. I hosted the party for a few minutes hyping the crowd. It was fun!! Hahaha

Kuta was fun, but it has nothing to do with Bali. So I went for Ubud. On my last day in Kuta I decided to go for some crab, which I haven’t eaten for years, but when I walked out of the hotel alley on to the main street two people on a scooter crashed in to a row of scooters just two meters left from me. I was like really!!?? Luckily no one got hurt, but it looked like an action flick. I only had to dive to make the scene more powerful Hahaha The crab was ok, even though it had barely any meat on it. It had some nostalgic feel about it. Hahaha