And now for something completely different...Asia!
I'll skip the bit about geting to the airport as there's so much to say about arriving in Bali. A quick rundown is - up early-bye bye Tosh-shuttle to airport-coffee-jetstar plane (with free meal and drink this time)-landed in Bali!
As the plane was nearing Bali we could see the beautiful island out of the window, with lots of fishing boats scattered in the water (Dave thought they were floating houses, but they were just boats with roofs). The first thing we had to do when we got off the plane was pay for our visas - it costs us US$25 each to visit for up to 30 days, although we're only here for a week. Then we had to take our paper visas to the immigration desks where they did all the official stuff. We also had to fill in an arrival card which warned that if you're caught with drugs in Indonesia the sentence is death! Then it was time to collect our luggage. We could see quite a lot of uniformed men in the baggage claim area who we immediately recognised as porters, who offer to carry your bags then demand a fee. We'd done our homework so managed to avoid them and carried our own bags outside. Our cleverness stopped there, however, when we were charged too much for the taxi to Ubud - it clearly said 190,000 Rupia on the price list in the office (about £14), but they charged us 225,000 for some reason and when we questioned them it was too late (we should have said no straight away, but we were still a bit Bali-shocked having just arrived!). So we paid the money and were given our ticket to give to the taxi driver. As soon as we turned around 2 men took our bags and started to lead the way to the taxi rank. I said 'thankyou' as I assumed they were part of the taxi service…then Dave pointed out that they were porters - doh! When they asked for their tip, Dave got into a mini argument with them while trying to find a note small enough to give them. They laughed when he tried to give them 5000 (30p!), and told him to give them 'the red one' which is 100,000 and worth £7. He obviously didn't agree to that, but ended up giving them 20,000 which is about £1.40. We decided that next time we will put our rucksacks on our backs straight away to avoid any of this hassle - our arm straps were still zipped away so we were carrying them by the handles.
When we told the taxi driver where we were going he said it was a very long way, one and a half hours, so we better have tip for him - no chance! The drive to Ubud was interesting to say the least. The traffic is crazy, and there were mopeds zooming everywhere. Our driver kept tutting everytime he was stuck behind a slow car, or when a moped cut in front. As it was raining, most of the moped drivers were wearing ponchos over their helmets which was quite a funny sight. As we got nearer to Ubud we saw lots of women carrying stuff on their heads - I don't know how they manage that!
Finally, the taxi arrived in Ubud and as we were driving down the main street I spotted lots of shops I'd like to look in, hopefully all selling their wares at cheap prices! I've been looking forward to the shopping in Asia very much! We arrived at our accommodation, Mawar Homestay, grabbed our bags and walked away from the taxi before the driver got a chance to enquire after his longed-for tip! We walked up the steps to the Homestay which is also a gallery and set in beautiful grounds, and waited by what we assumed was the reception desk. Before long, a bald Balinese man wearing sportswear approached us asking if we had a booking. When we said yes he called to a young boy and told us to follow him. The young boy took my bag (Dave had to carry his own!), and carried it effortlessly above his head up the stairs to our room on the first floor. He showed us into our room which had 2 double beds and an en-suite, and brought us clean towels. We were wondering where we had to pay, but he said we pay when we want to check-out - very trusting! We spent a few minutes settling into our room, but we were both eager to explore Ubud so headed out for a wander.
We wanted to buy tickets for a traditional dance show which are on every night. On our way to the tourist information centre to buy our tickets, we were asked a lot of times if we wanted a taxi. I think we're going to get a lot of that! On the recommendation of the man in tourist information, we bought tickets to a Legong and Barong style dance show at the Ubud Palace just across the road for 80,000 each (about £6) for that night - sorted! Opposite the tourist info place is one of the entrances to the massive market, which is where we headed next.
You HAVE to barter in the market as the prices they give you are hugely inflated. You're meant to start at a quarter of what they say and go from there. We weren't feeling very confident yet so just browsed while getting a bit lost in the maze of stalls. But I did see a lot of things I liked, that I will come back for! A lot of stalls sold tiger balm so I decided to try and get some. The first woman near enough told me to go away when I named my price (70p!), but I managed to get some for just over £1 (we did wonder if it was fake, but some extensive googling confirmed it was the real deal - and it worked on our mozzie bites later!). We went back to our room full of excitement about this new country and how cheap everything is.
Later on, we went out to find somewhere to eat before the show. After ruling out a few 'expensive' tourist-trap places (£7 for a main meal???), we decided on a Warung (small, family run restaurant, usually attached to the famly home) called Fortuna which overlooked the busy street and looked warm and inviting. One look at the menu and we were both smiling - our large (about 1.5 pints) bottles of the local beer Bintang cost £1.75, starters £1 and mains £1.50 - lovely! We had to wait a while for our food, probably as it was being cooked from scratch, but it was well worth the wait. We had a kind of chicken spring roll for starters, then for main I had the traditional dish of Mie Nasi Goreng (chicken satay noodles) and Dave had one of the specials which was a coconut milk-based chicken curry. I can't describe how good the food was. You'd easily spend £60-70 at home for a meal like that, and it probably wouldn't taste as good. We had to hurry towards the end as the dance show as starting soon, but we told the chef how delicisou it was('Enak!' in Indonesian).
At the Ubud Palace, we bouth 2 more beers from an old woman selling drinks from an ice bucket, and took our seats for the performance. Luckily, as we walked in we were given a programme which describes the story of each performance. The orchestra, made up of Balinese men, lined the stage on both sides, playing a variety of strange looking instruments. One man was singing/narrating into a microphone, but as he was speaking Indonesian, we had to rely on our notes! The costumes and make-up of the performers were amazing, as well as how they make their eyes look so big (eye-popping is a tradition feature of the dancing), and some parts were quite funny - the monkey whose job it is to annoy the dragon especially! The setting of Ubud Palace was also spectacular - the backdrop was the front of a huge temple, dotted with candles, and the performers came in and out of the door of the temple. It was open-air so it was a very comfortable setting, and a lovely place to watch the amazing performance.
Afterwards, we walked back to the Homestay, stopping at a convenience store to buy 2 more beers and a big bottle of water which cost 18p! We sat on the balcony drinking our beers and reflecting on our first day in Asia - we think we're going to like it here!