Just arrived in Kathmandu Nepal hotel 10 minutes ago, after a 7hr through the night layover in Mumbai after leaving Hong Kong last night. Wow … sensory overload here! Lots of planning in the next few days, but we’re really excited to be in such a place. The entry below is the last from Indonesia.
We had just more than 24 hrs after getting back from Kalimantan before our departure to the Philippines. The near-airport town of Kuta is not a place you’d want to spend time. Full of tourists, tourist shops, over-priced food, and a very dirty beach. Ironically though, it is the Kuta beach that put Bali on the tourist map decades ago. We knew that the peninsula that juts out at the south of Bali was supposed to be beautiful, laid back and ringed by cliffs. So we went to Bingam beach in the Uluwatu area. We imagined we were in a Greek seaside town because it is a maze of little paths leading past little guest houses and restaurants perched above the beach. We mostly just chilled out here -swimming, snorkeling but mostly enjoying bbq fish beachside.
The architecture here was quite stunning – houses seem to hang off the vertical cliffs. Yoga studios and spas abound. And it was soooo quiet, which can’t be said for many other parts of Bali. Kaia and Jake made some more “buisiness” cards because we were almost out. I’ll share some photos of those in a separate entry.
Uluwatu is most well known for its spectacular Hindu temple jutting out into the ocean. Tourists and locals alike flock to the temple for sunset and we joined them.
We loved the location but could have done without the macaques (monkeys). A guard warned me to take my glasses off before the monkeys did. I thought this rather impossible until about one minute later when I heard a very animated lady shouting that “he took my husband’s glasses”. She found a different guard who without missing a beat got a banana (kept specifically for this purpose) and coaxed the monkey back down from the tree and traded the banana for the glasses. So smart these monkeys! On the walk out we met a woman who had been bitten badly at the “sacred” Monkey forest in Ubud the day before and lost her glasses here – she wasn’t too impressed.
We really liked Indonesia. Up till this point on the trip Vanuatu had been my favorite country. But Indonesia now holds that place for me, Jake and Kaia. Why? The diversity and the people.
– cultural diversity (Hindu, Islam, Christianity) that was apparent in day to day life. The ubiquitous Hindu offerings remind you of the humble and peaceful nature of the Bali folks.
– delicious, cheap and easy-to-find food that changed notably from island to island. I can’t wait to try to whip some of this stuff up at home!
-Bali is quintessentially “chill”
-fantastic geographic diversity from island to island (beaches, jungles, rivers of all sorts, volcanoes, cliffy seashores and the rice terraces (my personal favorite))
– AMAZING diving and snorkeling
– we always felt safe (though we did not travel to most of the big cities)
– subsistence farming and fishing everywhere you look
– Kaia even commented that she had gotten used to the Indonesian (squat) toilets! She explained to me that in the women’s washrooms in airports there are both kinds of toilet with a sign on the door to distinguish. Elsewhere, flush toilets were more common, but usually without toilet seat or toilet paper.
-More than anything we loved the way we were received by the people. They seemed genuinely interested in who we were and were so easy to approach. The “friendly locals” cliche is much over-used. And we’d encountered lovely open folks throughout our journey. But the Indonesians’ faces lit up with smiles as we approached. I think it was more about Kaia and Jake than me or Yvonne. At times we were well off the tourist track, and for most of our time very much off the “family” tourist path. K&J were real novelties – you could see people’s attention zero in on them. They would sometimes ask for photos with the kids. This was fun most of the time. But at the Surabaya airport returning from Kailimantan, it was a steady stream of photo requests (they got pinned down and Jake walked away after a few minutes). It is a very healthy tourist experience to find oneself at the other end of the camera and to be left wondering “what exactly is it about what I represent that they want to photograph?”
– we were encouraged by optimism Indonesians hold for their new president Joko Widodo’s commitment to tackle Indonesia’s HUGE corruption problem. Initial signals look good.
Indonesia is not without its challenges though. It is drowning in refuse from the new “packaging” disease that comes with western style materialism (hastened no doubt by the growth of tourism). Jake has described the desperate plight of its forests and critters from foreign driven deforestation. You can see that the balance between maintaining the strength of traditional culture in the face of modern conveniences is not easy. And we found the smoking habit of most Indonesian men downright repugnant. Our dive masters, tour guides, taxi drivers and so many others that we enjoyed the company of all smoked like chimneys. They had some broad understanding that it wasn’t great for their health, but were not concerned enough to do anything about the habit. I guess they are now where we were in Canada 40 years ago. But with 250 million Indonesians, the cancer deaths of men are difficult to imagine. Just have to hope that women don’t start up!
Indonesia is VAST. We saw parts of 4 islands. But we have little idea what 98% of the country is like. And we’ve learned that it likely quite different from island to island. And pretty fantastic all round. As Arnold says … “I’ll be back!”