I thought I would update my "offexploring site" and as you may know, Kristina and I have recently been on holiday to Bali.
We had a wonderful time and it was surprising to find such a different and interesting culture so close to home.It was really good to not have to spend 24 hours on a plane as it only took 5/6 hours from Sydney.
I was happy to find how friendly the people are in Bali and always smiling.On arrival at our resort "Villa Lumbung", it was great to see that the pictures on the internet were as good as the resort.In fact, the pictures didn't really do Villa Lumbung justice.What a lovely place to stay, set in lush tropical gardens with two pools, one having a swim up bar, which we made use of, a whirlpool and waterfall and little walkways with bridges crossing the pools.The family bungalows were built in traditional Balinese architecture and you really knew you weren't in Australia anymore.The weather was tropical but not too sticky and you just felt surrounded with warmth.The resort was outside of the usual tourist areas and so was quite tranquil in upmarket Seminyak.
We had an amazing five days in all, first day a tour taking in the traditional Barong Dance, then to three villages that specialise in Batik painting, wood carving and Gold and Silver smithing.Then onto Kintamani to view the volcano there and have lunch overlooking the valley and Batur Lake.After lunch, we were driven to Besakih, or Mother Temple which was quite spectacular with its many Hindu and Meru (Pagoda) style temples, 26 in all.We did a lot of climbing stairs and walking around and by the time we got back to the resort we were fairly tired so we decided to have dinner in the resort restaurant, which was delicious.
The next day, after having a relaxing morning at the resort by the pool, we decided to go into Kuta, full of tourists and bazaars where you bargained for souvenirs, etc.We had lunch in the Hard Rock Café. After checking out Kuta beach, we got a taxi back to Seminyak and we went to a local spa and had massages and facials, so relaxing.Later we went to downtown Seminyak and had dinner which was top notch and so cheap.
Our next day, we were picked up for our elephant ride which was great fun, the elephants were so gentle and I enjoyed feeding them.A big surprise was "Ajit" the honey bear, who also was very gentle and extremely friendly so we had our photo taken with her. In case you are wondering, Ajit wasn't chained up in anyway and was part of the Elephant Safari Park which has strict rules concerning cruelty to animals.
We went back to our hotel and lazed around on the sun lounges in our swimmers and then to our surprise the driver came to collect us for our Bali Hai Sunset cruise, it said on the voucher 5.45pm and here he was at 3.30pm. Apparently, 5.45pm was when the boat leaves the harbour, there was no reference to a pick up time, we were told to be ready in 5 minutes.Well, what a rush that was and we made it, the driver had to pick up others along the way so he wasn't impressed, he drove really fast even over the bumpiest roads I have ever been on.All you could do was laugh.
The cruise around Benoa Harbour was very pleasant with the sunset and the entertainment was really good on board.I have never seen musclemen flexing their muscles in a cabaret show before so that was something new.
Our next day, we arranged to have a private driver pick us up so we could see all the places of interest that we hadn't seen on our first tour.This is a much better way to tour as you don't get taken to fancy and expensive shops where the tour guide gets a commission for taking you there.Our driver "Wayan" was an exceptionally nice man who had the patience of a saint.We decided on a loop trip, driving to the East, Seminyak where we were staying is on the west coast of the island.So our first stop was quite a long drive but worth it.We visited the Klungkung Regencyto see Kerta Gosa or "Hall of Justice" dating back to the 17th century, it was very interesting with all the depictions of punishments painted on the ceiling of the main building.There was also a museum and a Hindu temple.There are temples everywhere in Bali, as you travel through different towns and villages.There are three temples to each village, so lots and lots of fascinating buildings and so traditional - I loved it.
Next, we headed to Ubud, the cultural centre of Bali but before arriving in the centre of town, we visited "Goa Gajah" or the Elephant Cave, which dates back to the 9th Century which is a Hindu Shrine and also there were three pools with statues of women with water coming out of jars which were considered to be the fountain of youth.
Then, on to the Monkey forest and that was a lot of fun with the monkeys wandering freely all around, it seemed strange to be walkingamongst them.They were really interested in Kristina, I think they were attracted by all the colours she had on.I touched one's foot and he bared his teeth at me, big ones too. When we came out of the Monkey forest, there was our faithful driver Wayan, waiting for us, he suggested we have lunch in Ubud and then visit the markets, he asked how long would we be and I said an hour and a half and he said, "No, no, you will need longer than that, take as long as you like, I will be right here when you are ready."What a lovely man!
Anyway, off we went to lunch and the markets and came back with loads of souvenirs as usual and then we were away again to Tanah Lot, supposed to visit this site at sunset but we were a bit early arriving at 5.00pm but our driver again, said he would wait for us.We watched the sunset over the temple by the sea and then we noticed a sign for a snake farm, Kristina wanted to investigate so we ended up having our photo taken with a huge Python which was so heavy and a lovely green iguana.Our driver took us back to our resort and we agreed, it was the best day of our holiday.We gave him an extra 100,000 rp.
Our last day (sad) we spent packing and took a taxi down to Seminyak beach which we hadn't even seen yet but a beach is a beach and we have lots of them in Australia.Back to the resort for a drink at the swim up bar and then, off to the airport carrying all our souvenirs, batik bags, paintings, wood carvings, barong masks, a traditional sword, 2 samurai swords, wooden puppets,dresses, t-shirts, miniature temple umbrellas and dragon kites.Would you believe, out of all these souvenirs, the kites were deemed to be dangerous weapons and we had to put them in with our checked in luggage !!!
All in all, we had a really great time the only thing wrong was that we would have liked to have stayed longer.