Difficult tides in the Bali port require us to anchor off-shore and use the tenders. There is even a possibility if the tides are severe that we may have a suspension of tender service during early afternoon. That turns out to not be the case but we were repeatedly reminded just in case. Apparently the tides can get so low that even the tenders can't get into the docks.
Our location here is 8º 31.36' S and 115º 31.24' E. We have travelled 15,419.8 miles since leaving Ft. Lauderdale!
I met Brian and Pat at breakfast and we decided to share an unscripted adventure. Without an excursion we were free to go where we chose when we chose as long as we returned by 6:30 PM. Otherwise I understand it is a short plane flight to Brunei. (Actually not so short, over 1000 miles.) We were some of the last to pick up numbers (just like going to the butcher - pick a number and wait your turn) for the tenders and they had a long ride to the dock so we didn't actually get ashore until almost noon. Then the fun began!
We were told to expect persistent vendors on the dock and they weren't kidding. People crowded around us and were trying to get us to take things, " it is free for you. A welcome gift...." Also, drivers were very persistent trying to get us to go with them. We kept walking farther away from the dock but it seemed that they would never let us go and after a hundred yards or so Brian and Pat were growing noticeably upset. We really had no plan other than to go ashore and I guess it showed to the crowd so they kept after us. Brian said maybe we should go back to the ship and just forget it. We started back in that direction but by the time we were almost back to the dock a driver who had been hounding us had dropped his price for the day from $60 to $40. I really wanted to do something in Bali so I offered to pay half if Brian and Pat would pay the second half. They agreed and off we went with I Wayan Sudiarta (I have two of his business cards. One he stuck in my hand early in the negociations and another he gave me toward the end of our day together.) We would have an adventure after all. Yea! I think....
I was only vaguely aware that there had been some trouble with terrorists in Bali at one time in the past. In fact, I might not have recalled it had it not been for Wayan bringing it up early in the trip. Not good PR on his behalf but we had agreed to a deal and I really felt pretty safe with him. He had a cousin in the back of the car (never did figure out why but I figured maybe Wayan felt better with a partner). And I sat in the front while Pat and Brian sat in the rear seats. Bali is not a place for the feint of heart as far as driving or passengering goes. (My spell check doesn't like "passengering" but it just seemed appropriate.) There are narrow roads and a ton of motorbikes and bicycles. Oh yes, they drive on the left side like the Brits. Fortunately for Pat and Brian the visibility from the rear seat wasn't that good to the front so I was the one with the exciting view. Being raised near NYC I found it entertaining most of the time. I commented on how well our driver did in not upsetting us and he said he was gaging our response and making sure not to upset us. Apparently he could drive faster if we were up to it. We didn't encourage him to do that. We passed enough traffic to keep it interesting but we occasionally were passed in turn. The Balinese are very cooperative in lane use. Quite often he would pull into the oncoming traffic lane and the mopeds would just move over toward their curb to allow us to use their lane to pass. I can't see American drivers being nearly as nice to each other. In fact we would probably be making gestures and blowing horns at anyone who dared to encroach on our side of the road. I guess they have developed the system to speed up traffic flow on busy roads which won't be widened any time soon. Interesting.
Early in our trip we needed a restroom. Wayan (I understand this is a caste name but he said we should call him that. The Balinese are mostly Hindu and they have a caste system. Unlike the one in India - last I heard - the Bali system has no "untouchable" caste but they do have castes.) may have misunderstood us at first and asked if we had not eaten lunch. We hadn't and said he could take us to a restaurant (we know where there is food there are usually restrooms). He cut crosstown and in a few minutes we stopped. He had taken us to the zoo. No, this wasn't a horrible misunderstanding. There was a lovely restaurant at the zoo. Wayan apparently knew the people running the zoo admission and told them we were there to eat, not visit the animals so they didn't charge us an admission for the zoo.
This turned out to be the highlight of our trip for me. The restaurant was empty. One other table in a huge dining area was occupied. Since it was the zoo, they had animals. I like animals. Ergo, great time. The restaurant was open walled. It had a high roof overhead and perhaps 30-40 tables of various sizes. At the edge of the restaurant near where we sat was a table and a zookeeper with three of the cutest little critters you could want to see. He offered to let us pet them and play with them. Who could resist. They were about the size of housecats with long prehensil tails. Their faces looked somewhat weasel like. They were adorable and we let them climb on us and had our pictures taken with them. They are called binturongs. Another name for them I later found out with the help of Google is Asian Bearcats or just bearcats. I knew I had seen them somewhere before! I had been at a soccer coach clinic at Plano High School a few years ago and they had a stuffed one in their gym lobby because the bearcat is their mascot. I like the live ones much better. Too cute!! I also got to have my picture taken with a blue cockatoo on my shoulder. We also saw some other animals which were in the area. Some birds, mynas and golden orioles, and a Komodo dragon and a very large colorful Iguana.
Oh, the food was great too but very spicy. Brian and I were up for it, but Pat had a tuna salad sandwich. Not everyone is adventurous when eating in foreign countries. Pat doesn't like spicy food. Brian and I also sampled the local beer, Bintang. Not bad. We had two. This is also the first place we found Coca Cola for less than about $2. It was about $1. Gasoline here is actually cheaper than in the States too. The government is supporting the price at about 2/3 what we pay in the States. The economy here has been in some trouble for some time. One of their main sources of income is tourism and the terrorism thing has put a big dent in that.
After lunch we piled back in the car and went to a town called Mas, This town has wonderful woodcarvers. Generations of skill and tradition have been handed down here and they do lovely work. We bought a few things in the showroom after observing how the artisans do their thing. Watching woodcarving isn't nearly as exciting as watching glassblowing but it was interesting. Almost everything here seems to be done in the old way. Another thing we noticed is the many temples. I asked and Wayan explained that in Hindu tradition when a man marries he must build a temple for his new family unit. So you might see one of every two or three houses with its own temple. These could be very elaborate or just a couple of ornate pillars and a little other ornamentation. It reminded me of some areas of El Paso and also Juarez where may people have a little shrine in their yards. The population of Indonesia (Bali is one of about 13,000 Indonesian islands - 7000 or so inhabited.) is mainly Hindu unlike Indonesia as a whole which is mostly Muslim.
Next our guide took us to nearby Ubud. He thought we would be interested in paintings. We pulled into the parking area of one of the "studios". The artist was busy at work with many canvasses nearby but nothing really called to me and Pat and Brian said they had no interest in going into the building which housed more of his work. We decided we'd rather spend our time taking a drive through the countryside than looking at artwork we wouldn't be buying. We also passed on the silver and goldsmith town (I forget the name).
So off we went to look for scenery (or scanery as Wayan pronounced it...I tried to help him with that before we finished our day together. English is a devilishly complex language to pronounce isn't it? Notice the British influence in my last sentence? Been hanging around with too many Brits lately I guess. I'm almost done saying, "no worries" though. As we put miles between us and Australia that seems to help.).
As we drive (the countryside was a bit of a drive) I notice a lot of dogs just seem to plop down in the middle of the road and barely move out of the way in time. Wayan says they are "wild" in that they aren't owned by anyone but apparently live among the population without creating a problem (other than to nervous drivers - Wayan wasn't one of these). He also was explaining that the cows we saw were sacred to Hindus but other religions were allowed to raise them for their meat. I thought that was amazingly tolerant for a majority population (about 85% Hindu I believe). Perhaps our religious right could learn something from the Hindus. For that matter so could the Islamic extremists couldn't they? One other thing that jumped out at me
(figuratively) was that although they were doing roadwork on sections of roads which had potholes, etc. that the work was being primarily by hand. I saw no bull dozers or back-hoes. Just picks and shovels and pry-bars. This is not a wealthy country but it seems to be a very pleasant population for the most part. Wayan tells us that they are trying very hard to encourage tourists to return. We stopped to take
pictures of some rice paddies and were again set upon by a small group of women and children with baskets to sell. Their intensity was not unlike that on the dock. I suspect the poverty here is largely to blame for that. I bought a small basket for a couple of dollars (20,000 rupiahs).
The "scanery" was beautiful despite some low hanging clouds threatening rain. The majority of the arable land is in use for rice or other crops. Many terraces, some very small, are created on the hillsides to use pretty much every available square inch of space. We saw one elderly farm woman who had removed her top to rinse it in the stream. We had stopped to take pictures and she didn't seem in the least concerned. We also saw many people carrying baskets and bundles of stuff on their heads. Many of the men wear what looks like a skirt. It is a wrap around piece of fabric. One guy we passed on the roadside obviously needed a restroom too but since none were nearby he had no problem relieving himself from under his "skirt". Somehow it didn't seem out of place in this rural setting and different culture.
After our scenic tour we returned to the dock and eventually the ship. I went straight from the tender to the dining room because I was already late about 20 minutes for dinner. I don't think it hurt me to skip the appetizer course. Perhaps I should do that more often, but in fact I think it would be better if I could skip the dessert course more often. Hmmm. The show after dinner was a comic magician. He was pretty funny.