Monday, 23 September 2013

Munduk

We started seeing some nice scenery and our expectations grew high. We reached Munduk fairly early, considering the lack of directions and the condition of the up/down potholed roads. Found the first guesthouse with a window covering the whole wall, with a beautiful flower filled balcony, right on the edge on a huge valley with 2 mountains on the side. I couldn't stop smiling, which made price negotiations a little bit difficult :) I think every time I looked at the scenery, I was smiling, and I was waking up with a smile. How the nature could be so beautiful, and how do the tourists overlook it, is beyond my comprehension.
In the morning we went for a short waterfall hike, then we met some (probably the only) tourists on the way who had a map, and followed them down down to another waterfall. I was very worried for our hike back up, considering how much down we went and our lack of water, since we thought that we'll only go to 1 waterfall, but luckily the path went out straight to the road and we only had to walk steep 3 kms up it :S Considering my interest in walking uphill, I stopped the first local on a scooter, and asked him to give me a ride to the parking lot, I waved Kostya hello on the back of the bike, and then went back to rescue him :)
No more hikes for today, I'm tired. Instead we drove to botanical gardens which is a branch of botanical gardens in Bogor to which I couldn't get to for 2 day from Jakarta. We stopped at a beautiful view point of two lakes where I had a yummy lunch and looked in amazement at an Indonesian girl having her lunch facing the road and not the valley with the lakes. Botanical gardens were beautiful, big, green, organised, spotless, with no motorbikes allowed, no people, we almost had it all for ourselves. Too bad it's the rainy season and most of the flowers don't bloom.
I went to an important temple which was kinda boring and then it started to rain. I was all wet, I was cold, but I guess I'm used to it. Then as suddenly as it started, it stopped, and we stopped at the 2 lakes viewpoint again to enjoy the view of the angry clouds hovering above them.

https://picasaweb.google.com/100036016632387453128/Munduk

Wednesday, 18 September 2013

Batur & Lavina

We bought fruits on the way, as always Kostya bargains Russian style. LP says that guides could be a nuisance, and that tourists are ripped off. I'm never worried about it when I'm with him, he won't allow himself to be ripped off not for a penny. Arrived at yet another volcano, Botur. What a beautiful viewpoint! The craters are inside a larger crater with a blue lake on the side. We absorbed the setting at a cliff restaurant where even there Kostya took off 50% off the price for tea. Then we watched a local girl pray to a statue while decorating it with flowers, and drove down the crater walls into the heart of the volcano.
For the volcano trek, we took the price down to $30 for 2 people, and met a couple who will pay $45 each! But even $30 for 2 is a lot, so we'll do it in the morning on our own.
We got lost! the directions don't make any sense, there are no roads which exist on the map and nobody to ask for help cause nobody speaks any English. We drove a huge circle around the volcano, and came back. On the way I came face to face again with normal Russian rudeness, and I'm feeling like enough is enough. Why should I be in a bad mood on a volcano?
Stopped at a beach town - Lavina, for a night cap. What a nice little place. It wouldn't be nice to come here specifically, but for a random night cap, it's quite a place. On the way we stopped at a local warung to have rice with veggies and chicken. A huge plate cost $1. The owner was very happy to welcome us, took our picture and shook our hand. It's almost always a pleasant surprise to eat with local people, though you usually can't get anything more than fried rice or fried noodles. Lavina, a backpacker corner in the middle of local north coast. Very lovely guest houses, big, clean, green, swimming pool, cheap, great! And our guest house looked like it was built in a fairytale. Black sand beach, cute restaurants offering fresh sea food to the sound of life acoustic guitar.
I signed up for LP recommended diving site, I thought to skip it because it's expensive, 125 euros, but after a complete lack of interest from my side to his "best" and "only for me" prices, I agreed to go for $60 for 2 dives, and what do you know, they signed me up. There were only the 2 of us with the guide, everyone else was snorkeling. Unlike Koh Tao where you see more divers than fish, here we had a huge never ending wall all to ourselves. It was a feast for the eyes, though we didn't see any big fish, the amount of varied corals on the wall was very impressive, like a coral forest, I didn't know where to look or what to focus my eyes on. Once I decided to count how many different corals I see in say 2 sq mt and I lost count. Our guide didn't bother us with too many questions. Are you ok? How much air you have? Come here! Stay level! Are you ok?? He just asked us when we descended and left us alone. Usually when you're at 50 bar, it means almost out of air, time to come up. When I reached 50, I asked my buddy how much he has, he also said 50, and then put his index finger to his mouth ... shhhh ... we'll come up when we'll come up. When we came up, I was at 25 bar. The next dive wasn't as impressive as the first, but here I decided to explore everything on my own. I would hover around a coral or a fish in the cave, away from my buddy for a minute or so, then see where they are, swim close to them, and start the rediscovery again. Not very advisable to stay away from your buddy on such depth (advisable distance is about 2 meters) in case of panic or malfunctioning equipment, but I don't know ... I don't feel much in danger.
When I got back to town, I was hoping that Kostya would like to stay another night, but he disliked the owners for some reason and we hopped on the scooter for the mountains.

Sorry for too many sunset pictures :)

https://picasaweb.google.com/100036016632387453128/BaturLavina

Saturday, 7 September 2013

Ubud

And again we rented a bike to do a loop around Bali, mainly to get away from the tourist trap, but not before surrendering our passport for another month visa extension.
There is a lot of police on the way, mainly to stop the poor tourists for road "mistakes" and of course ask for a bribe. I almost convinced Kostya to dress like the Balinese people do: long pants, long sweaters, gloves in the 30 degree weather, just so that the police won't see our skin color... or to do a fake police report for $20 that everything's stolen, including our wallet which contains the international driving license. But unfortunately it was Saturday and this office was closed till Monday, we decided to risk it, rented a bike and off we went to the under-explored, under-visited beautiful Bali, Bali that unfortunately most people skip due to fear, alcoholism, club-ism, shopaholism ... or rather fortunately for people like us that such conditions exist.
The police didn't stop us thank god, but somehow we stopped near the police to look at the map. I quickly flipped to the map of the area and immediately asked them how to get to some temple, to get their mind off the idea of a potential bribe. Then they shook our hands, wished us a great journey, and through clenched teeth I repeated to Kostya quickly "Drive off now, quickly, quickly, start driving!" ... feeeeewf!
Ubud is a cultural town as opposed to the party town of Kuta, and on the arrival we started seeing lots and lots of sculpture, glass, paintings galleries. We stopped at one, but it had so many birds in cages that I felt like I was in a bird prison, I told the owner that I feel uncomfortable being there and we left.
Ubud is beautiful! There are a bunch of temples, gardens, it's super green, galleries, jewelry shops, cheap and amazing cafes with nice decors and unordinary menus. It's so beautiful, so detail oriented, so relaxing, it's amazing.
In the evening we had a smoked salmon salad with rocket, potatoes & capers for $2.50. Then we went to get culturally submerged in a Balinese dance show. It was all fun for 20 minutes, but then I got bored. There were about 70 men sitting in circles chanting and waving their hands, while in the middle some guy chases a beautiful woman with popped out eyes and completely unemotional face in an ever slow motion.
Next morning we went to the monkey forest. I'm officially scared of monkeys! And they're everywhere, alone, in couples, in groups, sleeping, eating, playing ... and who knew that monkeys are excellent divers. They were all chasing each other around a tree, doing back flips into the pool and emerging at another side. It's fun and all, but I'm feeling anxious and all I want to do is get out.
After the park we went for a LP recommended walk around Ubud, into the center of traditional lifestyle. Maybe for a regular traveler it would be interesting, but for us nothing new and nothing special, and way too hot!
A few hours later back in Ubud, I visited 2 museums, but again, left disappointed. Except the view in one, and an old photograph of Bali in another, there was nothing special.
In the evening we bought local wine, chocolate, grapes, nice cheese, sat in our garden porch listening to soft music having the best dinner ever. "Indonesia wouldn't be Indonesia without you" ... both of us say this. So easy when both of us have the same taste in almost everything. Hotels, restaurants, activities, same schedule, same interests, same limits, get off the tourist track desire and get your nose into trouble characteristic :) I think we started fighting less, that's the only problem, sometimes we don't understand each other. Say one thing, mean the other thing and understand something completely different. I think it's the Canada/Russia mentality difference.
We're moving on. We have a long way to go, and unfortunately due to time constraints we only picked half of what we wanted to see. I guess the other side of Bali will have to wait for the next time. Had an easy road to an ancient monument. 10 shrines are carved into rock face, it's ok as a midpoint stop, but nothing too special. A local lady motioned us to "come here" and took us through rice fields to a small waterfall. Lifted her shirt to show her breasts (go swim naked). It was hot, there was no one in site and the nice cool water looked tempting, she moved away a little bit and gave me thumbs up while picking through the bushes to encourage me :)
Next was a temple with holy/magical springs where people get blessed just like in India, and put rice on their foreheads, behind the ears and drink the holy water. It was alright, but the best thing was the ginger coffee that we tried, highly recommended to try at home! And the steep manicured lawn on a hill with a modern house on top which looked cool amid the temple roofs. The holy man was walking and picking through the offering plates, and I see him picking rice, egg, cookies. So good to be a holy man, live a life for free.

https://picasaweb.google.com/100036016632387453128/Ubud#