Sunday, 13 November 2011

Bali 2

Our transfer to Ubud was booked for 11:30, so we had a leisurely breakfast, pack and final photo session before departure.  Our driver took us up into the hills to a delightful villa on a hill top with stunning views over a valley of rice paddies, forest patches, villages and up to low peaks.  We had a lovely lunch, brought up to us, sitting in an open verandah with the vista in front of us.  The garden was delightful, with many flowers and orchids.  Back in the Toyota, we headed towards Ubud – the roads are small and motorcycles plentiful, so you do not get anywhere fast!  Our driver was keen to show us the delights of craftware and we agreed to stop where they had woven materials.  We liked some of the trays etc. and selected some for a little bartering and came away happy.  Alila Ubud was no disappointment, located at the end of a bricked road through small rice paddies and palm trees. Our de luxe room has a huge bed and a separate open air shower room with a large stone bath big enough for both of us.  We booked in for dinner and for the following evening, which was a “Spice market”. 

The next morning, we were about to join the shuttle into Ubud, but it was full and we then were given an exlusive tour of the art and craft shops around Ubud.  Bartering is required, but there was a feeling of systematic money removal behind our visits that was unsettling.  The tourist industry is clearly the major industry here, but not at Manggis, where the feeling of calm was real.  That said, we were given some insight into the Hindu religious organisation and that of the village and individual family compound.  We visited a very smart art gallery and were very taken with some traditional views of Balinese village life – I ended up buying a large picture that might fit the bathroom (!!! and possibly paying more than we should – we will see).  We also received a sealed certificate of authenticity and the picture was professionally packaged, so we shouldn’t be disappointed.  We were dropped in Ubud centre later, at the hotel shuttle pick-up, and had a bite at a café.  It was fairly hot, but we braved Monkey Forest Road and did go in to the monkey forest, where there were lots of monkeys!  We then strolled back up the road, buying Sprite en route and then went into the market – full of craft and other stuff designed for the passing tourists.  There is an element of desperation here that doesn’t fit with the beauty of the landscape outside town and the supposed calm of the island.

We had arranged a driver for the second day, cousin of the manager who had accompanied us the day before.  Our pick-up was at 10:00 and we were soon off, first to an ATM, then to our first of two temples.  The temperature was climbing, but the walk down was fine, even if we were accosted regularly, first for sarongs – “best price” – then on our way back for craft items – “ein dollar; one dollar”.  The temple, Gunung Kwai, was cut from the rock, obviously very old with a stream running through it – a lovely location, with butterflies and greenery and tiny rice paddies in the valley bottom.  It was hot walking back up steep steps and we needed the air-conditioning.  However, it was only a short drive to the second temple – Tirta Empul – of the springs.  This was on the flat, but it was hot and Hilary was getting hotter.  We toured the temple, but did not go into the springs for an all-over wash – tempting, but we were not dressed for this.  On our way out, we were routed past the craft stalls again.  We might be used to the National Trust shop, but here you run the gauntlet of 40 or more stalls – one dollar; special price.  Back in the blue Toyota, our driver had some bottles of water part-frozen – a life saver for Hilary, who cooled down rapidly with these applied to her neck.  We then headed north and into the hills, where they grow mandarins and other fruit.  We were heading for the caldera of Batur and the village of Kintamani, where we stopped for a late lunch.  The views across the volcano, with lake Batur and the new peaks, 1, 2 and 3 (latest flow in 1963), were stunning.  We treated our driver, Wayan Suartana, to lunch – a buffet, which was good.  Then back to the Alila via another ATM(!) for tea and some R&R.  We enjoyed a swim and a bar supper, followed by a relatively early bed. 

After our tours of previous days, we will stay close to the hotel today.  After a fruit and semolina breakfast (!), we set off for a stroll along the brick road through the rice paddies to the road.  It is warm, but there is so much to see – egrets, butterflies, dragonflies, flowers, trees in flower.  We come to where the rice is being harvested, the cut stems are bashed into large baskets, so the seeds come off.  Where some of the rice has dried, two people are winnowing with baskets, tossing the rice and catching it.  Directed across the road, we realise that someone is at the top of a palm, harvesting leaves and coconuts! There are lots of runner ducks in the harvested rice – young ones being herded – mobile weed and pest control between the three harvests each year. A young family with two dogs (one with a missing front paw) greet us before heading off on their motorbike.  There are interesting rice weeds, mainly aquatics, including Azolla. Hilary spots homemade propeller-driven scarecrows that bang tins to scare off the birds, we guess.  We stroll back to the hotel to enjoy the warmth, read our books, catch up with writing and swim.  In two days, we will be wrapped up for warmth and back in the UK!

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