Well Munduk was indeed hilly and waterfally and very beautiful. Our cheery driver helped us bargain down the price of our hotel room from $45 to $30, leaving us with a three room suite with two large queen sized four-poster beds and an absolutely stunning view over the surrounding hills. The hotel was set on a steep hillside, so sitting on the balcony, you felt like you were floating over the bushy trees and bright red poinsettia below. After lunch we did a small hike through jungle to a nearby waterfall. We passed giant bamboo, coffee plantations, and a rushing stream where a gaggle of children splashed with great abandon. That night, we had dinner in the rooftop cafe and chatted with other travellers about where to go in Kuala Lumpur. The next day we picked another hike from the hotel's list of eight guided hikes. Our guide, Putu, a painter and tattoo artist, seemed to be known by every single person we passed. Ironically, he also had a particular fascination for Haida art. Through Putu we learned to identify the plants of coffee, clove, vanilla, pineapple, avacado, cacao, ginseng and macadamia (all of which were out of season, so we didn't see much of the crops themselves). Apparently, 75% of the land in Munduk used to be rice, but people switched to clove because it's easier to grow (i.e they only need to harvest once a year vs three with rice). However, excessive rains have prevented the clove trees from producing this year (one tree can yield $150 worth of product)...so it's a huge loss for the region. I tried to get from Putu how then these already poor people survive such devastation. He didn't really have an answer. They just do. Putu also told us that people use the bright red flowers of poinsettia and hibiscus to delineate property. And did you know that banana trees grow in about five months and the whole tree must be cut down when the fruit has matured? I didn't. In fact the whole experience was very humbling. How could I get to forty without knowing how rice grows?
Abbey was a total trooper on the hike - with snack breaks and occasional rests on Mike's shoulders. We returned exactly three hours later. Resting on the the balcony, our view suddenly had a lot more meaning. We picked out the various plants we'd been taught to identify and very clearly saw how the carefully terraced lands had been transformed to host clove trees. That night we hummed and harred about where to head next. We wanted to be nearer the airport for the flight to Malaysia, but not stuck in the tacky tourist trap of Kuta. In the end we opted for Seminyak, as it was not too far from the airport and provided something we had not yet done - spend time in a biggish city. However, when our taxi dropped us off, it very quickly began to feel as if we'd made the wrong choice. Everywhere we inquired was either full or too expensive. We weren't used to this - we had finally hit the tourist season. And the place itself seemed sort of obnoxious. The traffic was crazy, the tourists looked...spoiled (probably unfair, but I was looking through a grumpy lens), and most of the shops were high end boutiques. Tired and frustrated, we wandered through the streets, stopping to inquire in hotels, only to be met with apathetic gazes. They didn't want or need our business. I started to wonder if it might just be better to bail on this town altogether. But, of course, we couldn't ignore the possibility that maybe the next place might just be the same. Finally, we found a reasonable hotel not too far from the beach and soon discovered it was sitting in a pocket of really good restaurants. The traffic kinda kept our radius of experience small, but this, in the end, was fine. We had one really great day on the beach - which was vast and excellent for both small Abbey-sized waves and big Jen&Mike waves. We rented a boogie board and had the best time surfing the breaks. The other day was spent doing administrative odds and ends. We sent off postcards, did laundry, and trimmed the unused and unnecessary odds and ends from our bags. From our Southeast Aisa guidebook we ripped out the countries we didn't plan on going to. We dumped medicines we couldn't possibly get through. And even Abbey joined in the shedding - books and small toys and old drawings. Mike, of course, took this on with gusto. I did find it satisfying, but honestly, I'm too much of a what-if person to really make a dent. We have to catch a taxi to the airport at 6:15am tomorrow, so I should go to bed now.
Next stop Malaysia! I honestly have very little idea what to expect. We've heard the food is amazing and the mix of cultures and architecture make it very unique. As we are required to show a ticket out of the country, we actually have somewhat of an itinerary. First, we have booked four nights in the major city of Kuala Lumpur. We then head south to the port city of Melaka. Then up to the Cameron Highlands. Then further north to Georgetown. Two weeks in total. We fly from Penang to Bangkok on July 12th. By then, we should have a better idea of where we're going within Thailand, and when we will head back to Bali before our flight home. So this is half way! It feels simultaneously long and short. Exciting but sad. Already nostalgic. I'm trying not to think about what happens after all this. There's time enough for that later.