Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Palou Bali: Tropical Paradise

Our good friends Keith and Candy recently [September 9] came to visit us in Singapore from Boise.  It was Candy's second visit to Singapore (a previous business trip), and Keith's first.  We sweetened the deal by suggesting we travel to Bali (Indonesia) together, only a 2+ hour plane flight from Singapore.  This was under the guise of celebrating our respective 20 year anniversaries that happened this year in an exotic location-- their anniversary date separates ours by one week.
Palou is the Indonesian name for island, and Bali, one of many islands comprising the nation of Indonesia is a popular and favorite tropical resort destination.
The trip was great!

We flew to Bali on a Friday afternoon, and arrived in the evening.  Our exit through immigration took longer than it should have--  a warning was given about this in The Lonely Planet guide book, but it is not always an issue.  In our case we managed to end up in the line manned by the chatty immigration officer, who was striving to be the personable good will ambassador for Bali.  Lucky us.  If you go to Bali, you should bring your chill pills (but nothing else--  Indonesia applies the death penalty for drug trafficking!), as things don't always happen or move along at optimum rates.  We had ours, and we were there to relax, so we were carefree about the delay.  We stayed overnight in Sanur, a beach resort village outside of Kuta and Dempasar, the capital and largest city in Bali.  Bali is a popular resort destination for Australians and Europeans (particularly French and Dutch).  Kuta is the party destination for "young, hip, and brash" Australians, so as aging baby boomers we opted to avoid Kuta and stay in more calm, sedate locations.

Bali Tourists--  L to R:  Elaine, Jim, Candy, Keith.  This was taken en route from Sanur where we stayed one night to Amed, at a village named Candidasa (pronounced "Shandi-Dasa").  No, I haven't gone Texan.  The sun in Bali is particularly strong--  I think more so than Singapore.  I decided the baseball style cap that I brought was insufficient.  My first trinket purchase of the trip was this straw hat, requiring hard bargaining on the price-- no one pays the list price here.  I negotiated down about 30%--  I'm sure I got taken, as subsequent purchases all were knocked down about 40%.  Probably got taken on those too, but nearly everything was inexpensive by comparison with Singapore and the U.S.
Upon exiting the airport it is readily evident you are no longer in Kansas.  We had been advised by our friends here in Singapore (originally from Bali) not to drive, and good advice it was.  The roads are OK, but the signage is nearly non-existent, and in some cases you just had to know where and when to turn. Gestalt, I guess.  Maps are vague, and not all roads are shown.  (I did find a shop selling a good road map later in the trip)  Furthermore, my Indonesian language skills, both written and verbal are non-existent.  There are many cars, but hoards of motorbikes and scooters, which swarm about like bees around a hive.  Fortunately it is easy and relatively inexpensive to arrange transport in hired cars, which is what we did for our stay on the island.

We stayed only one night in Sanur, a village that is only a 25 minute drive from the airport.  This is a well developed area-- the beach is OK, with a reef quite a distance offshore.  The resort hotel was nice, and a good introductory ease into Bali.  However we spent little time here, and left about noon with our hired driver, Guday (his name), destined for the small and remote village of Amed.
We ate a nice and inexpensive lunch along the way, and also bought for our driver (An unspecified but very acceptable part of the transport fee).  We arrived after a scenic and leisurely drive to Amed at the Baliku Amed Dive Resort,  in time to witness a spectacular sunset.
Macaque Monkeys--  Along the route to Amed, just past Candidasa we passed a band of monkeys.  The monkeys are hanging out in an area where they are fed, and obviously an attraction for tourists.  A bad idea--  these monkeys are also in Singapore, and they have become a significant nuisance.  Note the trash--  although this is perhaps a consequence of the monkeys, it is not unique to this particular location (which came first, monkeys or trash?).  One very distressing phenomenon in Bali is the enormous amount of litter and trash EVERYWHERE!  It is perhaps inevitable in an environment where there is not yet pervasive modern infrastructure and services, and the average monthly income is only US$100.
Terraced Rice Fields--  In the valley leading to Amed, coming from Candidasa.  Amed, just a few kilometers away, is by comparison quite arid.  This is a classic picture scene for Bali.
Amed Sunset--  A view across the bay from our villa at the Baliku Amed Dive Resort.  Ah, now this is why we came to Bali!  Didn't I see this in Rogers & Hammerstein's South Pacific?

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