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My SE Asia Adventures: Part 1 - Bali, Indonesia

I am off on a new adventure. This year instead of escaping the Australian Winter and going to the USA again, I have finally decided to go to SE Asia. I am going for 6 months in total and plan to go to Indonesia, Malaysia, then up North to Thailand, Cambodia, Vietnam and Laos. Depending on the Visas I will stay for as long as I can in each country. I don't have much of a plan other than to catch up with friends, take some time out, continue to complete various books I'm in the middle of writing and to explore other cultures for awhile. Can't wait!

Tuesday 7 August - Arriving in Denpassar

My whole family consisting of my Mum, Dad and sister got up early to drop me off at the airport. I caught the 10:15 flight to Denpassar, Bali, Indonesia - which was delayed until around 11:00. I normally sleep really well on flights but I didn't this time. I brought my own food for the flight: Spring Fried Rice from Loving Hut, Mount Gravatt - that I had bought yesterday with the family when we went out for my goodbye lunch. The others on the plane could buy junky food eg pies. I had a good chat to a couple on the plane who were coming over to Bali for 11 days.

At the Denpassar airport I lined up for a Bali Visa US$25 cash, then picked up my bags and met my driver, Dewa who drove me to my hotel. Dewa was suggested to me by my friend, Simon who runs a design business, Studio Lucid and who designed my 2008 recipe calendar and the original incarnation of the Viva la Vegan! website. The weather in Denpassar is good, but it is very polluted and there are a lot of people. People had warned me about the lack of safety in regards to bikes in Bali and within the first ten minutes of being in Dewa's car I had already seen one person thrown from their motorbike - they were okay.

When I arrived at my destination, Sanur Avenue it was a bit hard with the two staff (Wawan & Fitri) not knowing much English and myself not knowing any Indonesian. I showed my Vegan Passport to one of the girls, but we pretty much went through the food in the fridge together with me saying "Yes" to the items I liked or "No." Another staff member, Siska, came by my room later on and as her English was much better, we organised what I wanted for dinner and breakfast in the morning. Forgot to take a photo of the first night's dinner!

There was no hot water which was a bit annoying after the flight. There was quite a bit of noise being so close to the main road. I wore my ear plugs all night plus there was a lot of light from the outside of the hotel.

Wednesday 8 August - Hardy's supermarket

When I was doing yoga in the morning I looked out the window and saw this cow friend hanging out - ever so close to the main road:

cow_outside_room

Breakfast consisted of corn, carrot and broccoli soup, with slabs of tempeh and tofu, bananas, papaya and rice:

breakfast_1

There was a lot more that was offered to other guests such as a massive amount of different types of breads and sweet biscuits. My meal was way too much for me for breakfast so I had the rest for lunch.

Because you can't drink the water straight out of the tap it needs to be filtered, boiled or treated with Aqua Tabs. I have a water process: I get a jug of boiling water, empty it into my stainless steel water bottle and a wine glass. I put these on or near the windowsill to cool in the breeze. After the water has cooled, I tip the water into both my plastic containers. When I finish one of them, I start the process again.

water

The hotel had a free shuttle bus where you could go into Sanur then to the supermarket and back. Siska said I could join her on the scooter to go to Hardy's supermarket to get food for the night. The store was massive and there was just so much stuff. Siska and I spent a bit of time pronouncing names of the fruit and vegetables to each other. It was good to see well-known products in the supermarket that we have back home in Australia like Kara coconut milk and cream; and juice from Africa. A lot of really cheap junk as well as food. Tempeh is white over here in Indonesia, not dark (maybe treated/coloured) like in Australia.

For dinner I had bok choy, chilli, garlic and rice:

dinner_1

After dinner I worked out a basic itinerary to go work my way down the island of Java and back to Bali.

Thursday 9 August

Breakfast today was carrot and greens soup with tofu, juice and rice:

breakfast_2

Leftovers for lunch. All through breakfast Fitri was scrubbing away - I saw that she was scrubbing the plastic slippers that I wear around the hotel.

Dinner was noodles with greens:

dinner_2

There was a slight tremor tonight around 19:00

Friday 10 August - Sanur Beach

Breakfast today was carrots, beans, tempeh and greens with chili and rice. Also bananas, nachi and juice. The fruit here is amazing!

breakfast_3

At breakfast I met an Australian guy living and working in China, Tom who is from St Kilda in Melbourne, Australia but his AFL team is Richmond. Always good to talk footy especially when overseas. I hadn't had any hot water or good pressure with my shower since arriving. Today, Wawan fixed both for me and I had a pretty amazing hot shower.

In the afternoon, Tom and I walked down to Sanur beach which took about 40 minutes to get there. We were very close to the traffic which is pretty crazy but it was a good adventure. We hung out at the beach - which wasn't that exciting - and jetty on the rocks where there were a few rats who came over to say hi. Then we sat down for a bit chatting and so that Tom could have a Bintang beer which is made in Bali and everyone seems to love. This was our view:

sanur_beach

Then we walked back to the hotel. Along the way we saw a monkey in a cage:

monkey_in_cage

He was okay for awhile and then was visibly upset with being confined for who knows how long. It reminded me of how the monkeys react when they're tested on in laboratories. Pretty hard to watch. I had been warned about such things but it doesn't make it any easier... Here's a good story about Britches the monkey who was rescued from the University of California, Riverside in 1985.

Tom and I had dinner together tonight which for me consisted of rice noodles, carrot, greens and garlic:

dinner_3

Tom leaves in the morning to start his surfing trip.

Saturday 11 August - Sanur Beach

Breakfast today was tempeh, tofu, potato with spices; along with bok choy and carrot with chilli and garlic and watermelon, rice and watermelon juice:

breakfast_4

I chatted to a German couple who were on a five week tour of Indonesia.

After lunch, Siska and I drove into Sanur Beach on her scooter where we walked around for a few hours. I wasn't too impressed with the beach area Tom and I had ventured to yesterday, but we obviously didn't walk far enough as this part was much better:

better_sanur_beach

Siska and I walked around with many people trying to get us to buy their goods, or at least go into their stores to look. Siska bought a few things for her family back home. Someone was setting up a wedding along the beach and there were many tourists. My driver, Dewa had mentioned that Sanur is the area where most retired couples go to stay. There were mangroves along the beach and as the weather was lovely it was a beautiful day for a stroll along the beach.

Dewa dropped by late in the afternoon to see me as I've been having a lot of problems with my "global" SIM card. I can't call many people, if I actually get connected they can't hear me or it disconnects after about a minute. I'm also only getting a few text messages - wondered why my phone was so quiet! I will have to get a new SIM card - which I didn't want to have to do for each country I'm visiting, but the card I bought is just not going to work. Dewa and I planned the next couple of days.

Dinner tonight was tempeh with greens, carrot and chilli; beans with garlic and rice along with the green bananas I love:

dinner_4

A bit too hot tonight, the first mouthful made my eyes water and my nose drip!

Later on I spent a bit of time downstairs with the staff, talking about my next adventures. Muhtar was over from the Ubud hotel he works at. Him and Siska speak English really well, the rest not as much. I really should have learned some basic Indonesian before I left Brisbane. Here's a photo of myself with the girls, Siska, Syifa and Fitri:

LC_and_girls

The guys, Wawan and Muhtar weren't in the photo.

Sunday 12 August - Private Family Cremation in Kemenuh

I started the morning with listening to the amazing album, Hourly, Daily by You Am I - always good to listen to when overseas! Breakfast today was cabbage, greens, beans with garlic and chilli; along with noodles with greens and carrot, served with bananas and orange juice:

breakfast_5

Today, Dewa picked me up a bit after 09:30 to attend a private cremation for his grandfather that took place in his community area of Tengkulak. We entered the community area from the South to get to the North side where his village, Kemenuh is.

The cremation started about a month or twenty days ago with all of the family and people in the community getting together to make sure Dewa Oka's (Dewa's grandfather) cremation wishes were granted. His eldest son, Dewa Rai decided the ceremony. There was cooking five days previously including one pig slaughtered each day for the past five days ;( Watch this video about a Pig Sanctuary in Seattle, WA. Yesterday there were many ceremonies with a lot of decorations and people preparing for today. Today began with digging up the body - buried for one year and four months - their holy man decided what day to cremate.

I went to Dewa's house where I met his first wife, Astrini from Bali and Asti from Java. Dewa's family including his Father, Mother, Brother and Sister in law live together with Dewa's two wifes and their sons. Asti leant me her sarong to go over my dress as well as a kabaya (top) and sash to wrap over the kabaya to use for the day.

We then walked down to the temple where a giant Tower & Cow had been made:

ceremony

This was early before most people had come to the ceremony. Here's the Tower:

temple

and the Cow:

cow

Then we went into the Temple where men were playing music:

music

Offerings were given:

temple_elaborate

Women were preparing tea and snacks:

cooking_area

I had sumping consisting of sticky rice, rice, coconut and palm sugar wrapped in a banana leaf:

sweet

There was a food area where every meal had pig throughout.

food_to_eat

About to Start:

about_to_start

At 12:00 the walk (run for some!) started where the local community members carried the tower with the body

lifting_temple

and the cow to the cemetery where there is a temple and private temple.

lifting_cow

Dewa is in the black shirt:

lifting_the_cow

It was chaotic and very loud! Dewa's neice, Aprilia was with me for the whole walk. We watched the music and drumming:

music_men

people running with the tower and the cow - getting water sprayed on them from the Fire Brigade

tower_and_water

Watch out for the electricity wires. The first photo is how they made sure the wire was above the temple - with a wooden stick and the other photo is where the stick broke!

watch_the_electricity

oops

See the video below for the procession walking towards the cemetery:

You can read more about the Hindu cremation ceremony HERE.

Then we arrived at the cemetery. The bottom part is where cock fighting and gambling takes place.

cemetery_and_end

Here's the area where people are buried:

cemetery

The cow was then cut open at the top where the bones were placed along with other offerings.

bones_into_cow 

A priest comes to bless the body/ashes and then the cow and temple are burned which is the vehicle to transfer the soul to the next plane.

burning_of_cow 

We then walked back to Dewa's place where his wife Asti had cooked a great meal for us: Mushroom soup with vegetables; tempeh, tofu with chillies; fritters with corn, flour, rice and oil instead of egg:

lunch_at_Dewas_ 

Dewa also climbed their orange/mandarin tree to pick some oranges along with a jackfruit. Dewa and I explored the house and the neighbour's rice plantation. Here's a couple of photos Dewa Putu (the eldest son) took of Dewa Putu (younger), Dewa and I at their home:

Dewa__LC LC__Dewa

After lunch we drove back to the cemetery where there was now a lot less people. The priest was blessing everything. The ashes were burned and put into bowls. Two guys were singing the scripts. There were people waiting around gambling and drinking until the ceremony was over.

After the cemetery at Tengkulak, Dewa and I drove through Bedulu to Lebih beach were there were more ceremonies on the beach - very dark sand due to the limestone in the area. A juku/boat was filled with the ashes, then taken out to sea where the ashes were put into the water and then the boat came back. This finished at around 17:00 - quite a big day!

Dewa then drove me back to the hotel past many kites flying. I had my leftover breakfast for dinner. Exhausted.

Monday 13 August - Seminyak, Padang Padang and Jimbaran Bay

My last breakfast at Sanur was broccoli, carrot, onion and garlic; tofu and tempeh; and rice, bananas with watermelon juice:

breakfast_6 

I ended up not having to pay for any of the extra meals I had when I was at Sanur. Dewa picked me up at 13:00 checkout when we headed to Denpasar centre. I bought a computer sleeve for my 17" laptop - not the best idea for backpacking as it just fits in my friend, Clint's backback that he's leant me. I also bought a couple of USB cords I had forgotten to bring with me. All three for about US$15. Then Dewa drove me to Seminyak which is part of Kuta - not somewhere I would choose to go except to watch a game of AFL. Seminyak is very touristy and it's like someone has replicated Noosa and placed it into the area - full of tourists who want to be seen. Good place to go to feel as though you're around Western people I guess.

I had lunch at Zula Vegetarian run by Down to Earth where the menu says they serve the best vegan food on the island of Bali - though honey is used throughout the menu. Vibe is pretty similar to a few health-focused vegan places back home with part of the restaurant a health food store. They have a massive menu of Middle Eastern and healthy food:

zula_menu

I wanted a break from tofu and tempeh, so even though I was tempted with the quinoa coconut curry, I ordered the Almost Perfect Burrito - brown rice, black beans, green salad, tomato salsa, guacamole and tofu cheese wrapped in a burrito Rp 54 000.00 (if you move the decimal point 4 places across to the left this is an estimate of what the AU$ is = AU$5.40 for the burrito)

burrito_at_zulu

I read a really great article in The Mag Issue #46 from the Borborigmus in Bali blog, entitled A View From the Curbside - The Secret Language of Survival on Bali Roads - make sure you read it as it's mighty funny. It gives you the rules of the road over here which are chaotic to say the least. I will definitely not be learning how to ride a motorbike over here!

I also found out that over half of the people in Bali work in agriculture and chemical or pharmaceutical industries with only a quarter working in tourism and that's mostly in South Bali.

I really liked the sound of the tofu cheesecake but it had honey in the mix. The staff all wear shirts stating "nothing with a face or mother" so I'm not sure why this doesn't relate to bees as well... I ended up getting a Hot Killer Chocolate Brownie with coconut ice cream Rp 29 000:

brownie_at_zula

Dewa then picked me up and we headed up the Bali Cliff where there's a lot of development happening. Not really an area to grow crops due to the limestone in the area but a lot of hotels and large houses are going up. Expensive area with a great view of Bali. We stopped at Padang Padang where the Rip Curl surf competition was on from the 15th. There were some monkeys before you walk down through a cave to the beach area, so here's some photos of them:

monkey

monkies

monkey_with_coconut 

two_monkeys

Many tourists from all over the world were walking up and down the cave.

PP_cave

This area really reminded me of Bougainville Island, Papua New Guinea where I spent the first 10 years of my life.

Padang_Padang

If those stairs to go up and down to the beach weren't enough Dewa and I then headed to another surf spot, Blue Point beach where the stairs were excessive. Beautiful area also with most of the surfers coming back in due to the time.

BP_and_cliffs

BP_and_surfers

Then we drove back down the cliff and stopped at Jimbaran Bay where there was a street cart/warung:

corn_on_cob

I ate some corn on the cob and Dewa had some cooked peanuts - together Rp 10 000.

LC_with_corn 

Then we walked along the beach where people go to have candlelit dinners right on the sand.

dinner_by_candlelight 

This is a seafood area with a huge amount of restaurants and a private beach for a 5 star hotel. We then sat down for awhile and chatted.

Dewa then dropped me off at the Denpasar airport where there was a bit of a walk through the airport to the Departure area. I had a 15 minute massage for Rp 50 000 then had to pay Rp 40 000 airport tax - whatever that is. Waited for my 23:20 flight. Next stop Jakarta, Java also in Indonesia.


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