Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Bali - Perth - Canberra ... gadding about

We had intended to move on from "Bali Palms" in Candidasa to another spot in Bali ... but it was just too nice.

 Well ... would you?
Every evening there were amazing sunsets ...

and night swims were anything but cold.

And there was this great little shop that delivered authentic Aussie meat pies right to our balcony.

Our new Aussie friends told us there was a place just down the way called "White Sandy Beach". They went there early one morning, and we said we would join them a little later. They said you could catch a boat down the coast - it would take 25 minutes - or a car - which would take 20 minutes. We decided to take a car.

We hadn't gone very far when we found ourselves stuck in traffic. After about 20 minutes, people started getting out of their cars and walking ahead to find out what was going on.

Yeah - those are the special ceremony police.

It was an hour before we could move again! (We should have taken the boat ride, even if the sea was a bit rough!)

Like everything in Bali, it's not free. You pay to enter the rough dirt access road to the beach. And those lounge chairs and shade all have to be paid for ... unless you buy some food from their restaurant.

 Beautiful though ... well, kinda looks like somewhere in Aus, ay?

 The sea is not as friendly as it looks, though. There were really dumping waves up and down the beach, and it took skill and some strength to stay upright.

Some people lost bits and pieces in the waves. (This is a picture of the wave, right?)

Back to Bali (Denpasar) Airport

When we arrived in Bali, we were amazed how open and efficient the brand new airport and its services were - 40 minutes after landing we had been through immigration, had our bags, and were out of there - despite APEC causing hassles for some people (the papers said some 70 000 had found their flights cancelled because the airport was closed for APEC!)

But the Departures section of the airport was still very unfinished.

 People were lying around all over the floor (this is all around 10pm to 1am, the place was packed), and there was nowhere to buy a decent bite to eat.

 The signs pointing to departure gates were wishful thinking. There were really only 2 or 3 gates operating, and it was a secret until the last moment who was going to which gate. And then - despite having already been through 2 security checks and scans - they opened and rummaged through every single bag before people could board.

And they loaded everyone onto buses to drive to the planes because the departure gates weren't really built yet.

To Perth (4am)

Nevertheless, our plane left on time, and our trip was uneventful.

We caught a taxi to Peter's sister's house - fairly close to the airport - to catch a few hours sleep before the next leg of our trip. After catching taxi's overseas, we were a bit horrified to pay $33 for a very short taxi trip (that's RM99 my Malaysian friends!)

I got up from my sleep and noticed a creature on the patio having a bit of a meal. No, not a big rat, but obviously an Australian native.

It's a quenda, also known as a Southern Brown Bandicoot. It can really wriggle that long supple nose, and it kind of hops along on those back legs.

On to Canberra

We are heading to Nowra, south of Sydney, and for a change decided to fly to Canberra and driving from there, rather than driving south from Sydney. As it turns out, it is a much better plan with all the bushfires presently burning around Sydney and Wollongong. Plus, we want to have a look at Canberra.

It was a nice change flying Qantas (after so many Air Asia trips) - feeling a little bit pampered, having a meal provided, movies all the way, and a steward to come and cover me up with a little blanket!

But when we arrived in Canberra we could see lightning in the distance. We were all off the plane and sitting in the terminal, but the ground crew were unwilling to unload luggage because of the lightning. (At least we were off the plane - not like when we landed in KL in a thunderstorm and they kept us on the plane for an hour because the ground crew would bring the metal steps to the plane.)

We arrived just after 7pm - except it was 3 hours later because of the time difference, so suddenly it was after 10pm. Late at night in Canberra the streets were pretty empty. Although we had checked up on the route to our hotel on Google maps - even 'driving' along the roads using street view (as you can in Australia, but not Malaysia) ... we still got lost.

Finally in our hotel fairly near the city centre we find Canberra city amazing in comparison to other cities we have been in recently! The air is so clear, crisp, and the sky is so blue, the streets are smooth and broad, the traffic is minimal, and everyone is so well behaved - staying in their lane, keeping to the speed limits, stopping at traffic lights ... yeah.

There are so many things to see in Canberra - museums, art galleries, historical buildings, monuments ...
We decided to start with a look at everything from a boat cruise on (the man-made) Lake Burley Griffin. We checked on the Internet for times and places - but when we got there we found no boat, and a chap running a segway hire business nearby told us that it was too windy and rough and they never run in these conditions ... well, the website didn't mention this! And it was hardly rough, a bit windy though.

So we wandered off to another jetty and found a different boat. It was already past departure time, but the skipper was happy to run a cruise just for us anyway.

 So we had our own private cruise of the lake for an hour.

 We got to see all the important places, like Parliament House.

 This wac supposed to be the big one that everyone goes to see - and the reason why the cruises all start at 1:30pm.

 The fountain is a Captain Cook memorial, and shoots high into the air "every" day at 2pm.

 But ... not today! The skipper had no idea why, but he said it happens sometimes.

Then there was the "Clarillon" - like a bell tower, but with someone 'playing' the bells using a keyboard inside there.

So, the blue skies had turned cloudy, and a fierce wind was blowing. It's quite cold - the forecast has the temperature going down to -2 degrees on Friday! But it doesn't feel particularly cold, we are told it's because the humidity is so low.

Couple more days here in pretty, green-leafy Canberra, then off to NSW.

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Bali Break - 4

Bali Palms at Candidasa

We had our little man (the driver), Yogi, pick us up from Ubud and drive us to Candidasa - he is always glad of the work (and the money), and he is a safe, reliable driver.

On the way he suggested we stop and visit a palace / museum. Well, why not?

"Never Boring" was the claim on the guide's T-Shirt - I was having trouble understanding his speech, so I was a little bored!

This area is very different from the Ubud area. There are much less tourists, and less sales pressure. The resorts, however, are very western.

Bali Palms Resort is very nice - nice villas mostly clustered around a beautiful pool, right by the beach.

 We have a lovely room on the second floor ...

And from the balcony we have a view of the pool and the sea ...

I have enjoyed waking up at night to the sound of crashing waves when the tide is in.

There is a lovely restaurant.

We were amused to discover via the menu that (as I have always suspected) fish are in fact vegetables.

Peter's Little Fishing Trip
We were told that the good people at the front desk could arrange a fishing trip for guests. Not having caught any good-sized fish since about 1990 (Murray Island), Peter thought he might give it a go. The chap said they would spend some time trawling for the big local Mahi-Mahi, and then do some fishing for bottom-feeding fish. It was sounding good.

Peter got up early and went to meet the chap at 6.00am. His first warning should have been when he climbed on the back of a motorbike with the 'ship's captain' to go and board the boat.

When I got up a little later, I looked out and I could see a boat on the horizon, and I wondered if that was his boat.

But then I noticed something in the waves, a much smaller boat ...

and I wondered .... yeahhhh!

Here is Made (the man) taking his outrigger boat down to the water to go fishing.

It was a good chance to look back at the coast, and the nearby hills.

Peter was disappointed as he was provided with a little rod and reel and rusty little hooks. At first he hoped that was just for catching bait, but soon it was obvious that this was not the trip he was hoping for.

He did catch some (little) fish - in fact embarrassingly he had pulled in 7 before Made managed to snag even one - and then Made managed to catch a 'Nemo', which gives an idea of the types of fish they were catching. 

Made complained that business was poor, no one seemed to want to go on his fishing trips (funny that!) and his children were hungry. Well, he got his money out of Peter, plus a bucket of fish for his hungry children. (We do wonder why he doesn't just go out and catch more fish for those hungry kids.)

Shangrilai Buffet

On our first day here we heard that there was a buffet meal (including a roast suckling pig) at a 'sister' resort (belonging to the same company as Bali Palms) just down the road - a free shuttle would be provided, and there would be live entertainment. It sounded like a cheap and filling meal, so we joined.

We had to wear the silly hat and a flower in our hair, and the food was ok (not really that 'flash'!) There was an Indonesian group doing the percussion thing and a lady dancing too. It was nice enough music, except too loud.

They tried to get everyone to join in and dance a bit too.

Lots of Aussies

The nice thing about it was meeting a bunch of other Aussies - you don't realise at first how much you have missed chatting about Aus-related stuff, and how nice it is to be able to refer to things and people know what you mean without explaining.

So the next night there was a band and buffet at our resort. This time the band was a group of three fellows with guitars, and one with a voice like Rod Stuart, and they provided very nice background music - familiar songs with an odd Indonesian twist here and there!

A lovely meal by the pool.

We don't feel like going on any more tours right now ...

Just sitting around the pool talking to our new Aussie friends.

And relaxing on our balcony.

Friday, October 11, 2013

Bali Break - 3

Monkey Forest Road, Ubud

We moved up into central Ubud, to the "Jati 3 Bungalows".

The view from our front door:

The last place (Kamandhani Cottage) was hard to find down an inconspicuous dirt track, this one much more so. You can't actually bring 4-wheeled vehicles in here. There is a sign on Monkey Forest Road:

So then you turn into that little cement alley-way ...

... and you walk and walk ...

... about 100 m, and here is this amazing little place!

We're actually staying in a family room, meant for four, because it's even bigger and airier than the other rooms. and has lovely big windows on two sides looking out over the jungle/someone's banana plantation.

Our lovely big room, with two big double beds ...

And a lovely big balcony.

It doesn't have a restaurant - but then there is a street-ful of restaurants down the way.

There is a pleasant breakfast room/area ... but the breakfasts are very limited (a little man brings a tray with plates of rice and egg and a cup of tea/coffee from somewhere ) and rather regrettable.

As with the last place, the people are very religious, and the various deities are well looked after.

This Ganesh-creature (who Blogger has for some reason turned on his side) gets a full serving of everything, including a little banana-leaf plate of rice and a little drink.

 Others just have fresh flowers poked here and there every day, and of course they ll have the modesty drape. (Yeah, thanks Mr Google for lying my pic on its side ...)

There is even a shrine of some sort that gets attended to every day right outside our door.

And EVERYWHERE there are these little palm-leaf trays with a joss-stick and little offerings for ... whoever. We are constantly having to step over and around them.

Art Musem

We wandered through town to have a look at the Art Museum (one of several, I think).

There was a nice garden,  of course ...

... and a pretty pond.

We looked at painting s and carvings from by-gone eras, and more recent ones.

There was a certain similarity about them, regardless of when they were created.

Demons, death, pain ... not sure if they were meant to depict life, or death ... but none of it was happy or good.

They were all artistically clever, many of them incredibly complex.

Then there were some carvings too.

This lady has obviously done way too much yoga ...

Eating and Shopping

The main street here - Monkey Forest Road - is one-way, narrow, and crowded. The side-walks almost have enough room for two people.

With the breakfasts here being not worth staying for, and a couple of other meals a day to find, we have tried a few different restaurants. Mostly they are very pleasant places - cool, open, nice seating - eager staff - and the food is all fairly cheap, and beautifully presented on the plates. But ... not all of it has been nice to eat.

But we have found ourselves returning to this one several times. Like many of the restaurants, it seems to have accommodation attached as well - "Cinta: Grill. Inn" as it says. And most of them seem to have swimming pools as well.

There is also a market area, of course. I decided to try and buy one or two batik handbags ...

Of course there was all the usual cute but useless stuff.

There was the usual 'hard sell' everywhere we went. "How much do you want to pay for it?"- I find that annoying, and rarely feel like giving a genuine answer - why can't they just put a price on things?

And then after all the haggling is over and they have come as low as they seem willing, when I walk away because I have just decided I don't want it after all they get really upset because they say they will have 'bad luck' and they would rather practically give it to me rather than have me walk away.

Moving On ...
Tomorrow we are moving on to Candidasa Beach