Monday, April 11, 2011

Bali Part 2 – Legian with Bintang

So you know how we got here. Yuli’s beach bungalows are up a tiny side street (Gang Abdi) opposite the Melasti Beach Resort. To get to the beach, there is an even smaller alley almost directly across from Abdi, which takes you to the entrance of the Sari Beach Hotel. You then smile and say hello to the Sari hotel staff and wonder through the gorgeous gardens to the beach. It isn’t a huge resort, with maybe 30 rooms (?). A little pebbled path swayed through frangipanis and tropical palms, onto a small lawn with steps to a great carved door. On the other side is a little road and the sands of Legian beach. I have to say, the Sari looked lovely, and Mr J and I remarked how that place was more our cup of tea compared to Yulis, but hey – it was all good.
My thongs were off in micro-seconds and I had my feet in the warm waters a few more seconds later, with teenage Miss B (A&M’s daughter) splashing me. Giggling like a child myself, I looked up and down that long stretch of blacky-yellow fine sand seeing the distant cranes of Kuta to my left, and the bungy tower to my right. A small swell was producing 0.5-1 metre messy, closed out surf and westerners were body surfing or jumping white wash as far as the eye could see. On shore, the wet sand left behind from the high tide created a mirror reflecting the walkers, sand-castle makers, hawkers and local children with a silvery glow in the afternoon sun. The warm breeze carried the scent of the sea, mixed in with sun creams and the occasional waft of BBQ’ed food.

The others gave the signal (you know the one – elbow bent with hand cupped near the mouth, making a pouring gesture). Miss B and I rejoined them as they walked towards Seminyak passing a few OK looking restaurants (and you will come to hate me not noting the names down but I know you Bali regulars will know them), finally deciding on the ‘Sea-side’, less than 100 metres down from where we came onto the beach. They had mainly western food with a good tex-mex selection. We all had snacks for starters (onion rings which were really good, pumpkin empanadas equally yum, calamari and satay sticks reported by A&M as good too), with main meals and large Bintangs (x2 by the time we were finished). With the yummy tacos and chimichangas consumed we headed to Frank’s bar for sunset and more Bintang.
Frank’s is no different to a dozen of other ‘bars’ on Legian beach – a few layed-out sunloungers for seats, large eskies up the back holding Bintangs, with Frank and his mates hanging around playing guitar and chatting with the drinkers. Dreadlocks down his back looking Jamaican/rusta (and pretty spunky to boot), Frank is a happy host quickly running to the aid of Mrs M when her Bintang was ‘broken’ (i.e. empty) and joking about being a life saver. We all had a good laugh with him, singling along to the tunes being played, relaxing and enjoying. Young Miss B and I had Ari, a local temporary tattoo artist; draw Bali style designs on us – 100 for the both of us which I thought was a good deal, and my first Bali bargaining effort.
 Clouds had gathered on the horizon robbing us of an absolutely spectacular sunset, but it was magic all the same (especially by what was now Bintang number 4). As it was getting dark, Mr A & Mrs M had had enough and we walked back to Yuli’s. Young Miss B was in the pool before we even arrived back. Mr J and I (OK, mostly me) had itchy feet, just dying to explore. I’m not one to sit still for too long unless I have to. A&M refer to me as ‘the walking freak’ due to my daily 5-8 km walks. So it was no surprise to them when Mr J and I emerged from our villa 20 mins after a quick freshen-up ready to head off for a ‘little walk’. They just rolled their eyes and told us to be safe.
We walked along the beach to Kuta, enjoying the gentle warm Bali breeze. “No thank you – tidak mau terima kasi’’ all the way; don’t need a bouncy ball that lights up, or a sling-shot glider, or watches, or bracelets, not maybe tomorrow I look in your store. I’m a veteran of Vietnam’s dreaded Benh Thenh market, and Phuket – not to mention the Russian market in Phnom Phen and Bang-la road Bangkok. I knew how to take them – smile, be friendly – have a chat and then firmly say ‘no thanks’. Another tip which works really well, smile, gently shake your head, and make a sort-of side-to-side (or what I call the ‘wishy-washy’) action with your hand – even before they offer you what they have.
The only thing we really wanted to see in Kuta was the memorial and it didn’t take long to find it. I had a single frangipani that I had picked up on the beach and lay it down, reading all those names. It is done so respectfully and nicely understated – I like that. A drunken Canadian guy was trying to count the number of names to figure out how many people had died. We chatted and he was taken aback by the full story, which I think most of us Aussies know by heart. His girlfriend asked whether it would happen again and we chatted about how you never know what’s going to happen – the only way would to be truly safe would be to wrap yourself in cotton wool and never leave your house. With the info exchanged, they staggered off to find more Bintangs. Disappointingly, there were a number of touts at the memorial trying to take advantage of people. Mr J got bailed up by the ‘come to our hotel and claim your prize’ trick and I had to be very firm to drag him away.
By now I was ready for a Bintang (and need to find a toilet). Mr J and I have a few silly traditions when we travel, one is eating Mexican food and the other is visiting hard Rock Cafes (yes I know, tacky). We walked through the ‘main’ street in Kuta (with the McDs etc) and around the streets back to the beach road and found the Hard Rock easily. To my amusement, there was a newly-wed couple having photos taken in front of the big, hard rock guitar sign – OK... each to their own. Our barman Nix chatted to us like old friends while we drank our Bintangs. Mr J had one of his other Hard Rock tee shirts on and we talked about travelling and how many hard rocks we’d been to. As always, we loved the vintage video clips playing – Elvis doing one of his Vegas shows in his ‘fried peanut butter sandwiches’ period, Deaf Leopard before drummer Rick Allen lost his arm – and all that glorious spandex... ah the 80’s – but I digress.

We wondered back mostly along the beach road. Mr J was so proud of me – all those shops and I hadn’t even looked sideways. Today was only day 1 and there were 8 to go. The shopping would start soon enough.
Day 2. Mr A had organised with a driver he had used a few time before (Made from to take us on a day trip around the Tabanan region - Taman Ayun temple, Margarana Memorial park, Butterfly park and Tanah Lot. The temple was lovely and very few tourists were there. We wondered around, me taking photos etc but we didn’t stay that long.

The highlight by far was the Margarana memorial park. We were the only westerners there. A gorgeous wide spreading lawn greets you as walk in the gate. Scenes of the battles with the Dutch are depicted by statues, with a central obelisk-like monument shaped like a Javanese candi symbolising the fallen in their fight for freedom. To the side is a little building accessed by little arched bridges containing relics, weapons and artefacts (here’s a good page with info: To the back were rows and rows of headstones.

Now you’d think a war memorial would have a sombre atmosphere – yeah? Nah? Apparently we had totally lucked in. A local Bali biker gang were having their 25th anniversary rally that day. A marquee had been put up on the lawn and a DJ was pumping out the most inappropriate, booty shaking doof doof tunes in preparation of the arrival of the gang. A&M, young B and I had a great laugh and we amused the DJs by busting out some booty-liscious moves of our own. The sight of us middle aged, white-arse westerners, with a few years of love around our waists - except young Miss B that is - would have been something to behold to be sure. Mr J walked away in disgust, not wanting to associate with us degenerates...
As I was taking photos of the central monument, I heard the roar of 100’s of heavy motorcycles accompanied by sirens of the escorting police (yes, bikie gangs in Bali get police escort – go figure). Mrs M and I hurried our way back to the gate to observe. In front of the gate to the memorial park is a bit of an open space with a huge banyan tree marking the town square. Two-by-two, the Harleys, Hondas, Yamahas and other hogs rode up and round the mighty banyan tree to park their beasts in rows and rows of gleaming chrome and studded leather. Most riders worn a blue/aqua tee-shirt over their leathers, carrying their gang name, ‘IMBI’ (anyone know what it stands for???). Within minutes the square was filled with lines of bikes, with riders chatting and admiring each others’ machines. They were as amused as us to see us there. Mr J and Mr A joined us as the bikes were being settled into their parking places and were stunned to see the metal mass. A few came up and asked where we were from. One older guy chatted to us for while, telling us about the 25 year celebration, how the gang was friendly, peaceful and never fought etc.

From behind the bike park, the sound of cymbals and drums drew everyone to the gates. A procession of locals and a priest made their way through the line of bikes, to the gate, followed by children clad in white shirts, saris and head scarves. My ears hurt when the huge metal gong, suspended from a large horizontal bamboo pole being carried two men, was struck right next to me. To my dismay, my ‘real’ camera (DSLR with all the tricks) decided it was too hot to open its shutter, so I went crazy taking shots with my ‘toy’ point and shoot camera. The procession was followed by the bikers into the memorial park. That’s where we left them.

Onwards to the butterfly park. We were still coming down from our great experience seeing the bikers and chatted excitedly about it the whole way. So the butterfly park paled in comparison. It was still lovely, though you see more at the butterfly house at Melbourne Zoo, or even at Singapore airport. The park is kind of small with a few different insects on display, and a few dozen flutter-byes flapping around inside the netted canopy and little garden. It’s nice spot for a cool little break and for sure great for kids. In the centre of the small park, a few of the large stick insects were out of cages and available to be handled. Mr A has quite a bug phobia and did so well letting a smallish orchid mantis be placed on his arm. I had a gigantic green spiny stick insect (20 cms long), brown leaf insect (nearly the size of my hand), and small mantis all on me – much to A’s terror. Young B was too timid to get too close. Mr J thought it was so funny. For years I’ve had a moth phobia (I really don’t like those horrible Melbourne moths the size of a 20c piece – yuk!). Letting these huge insects and butterflies all over me when I hated the relatively tiny moths was so amusing for Mr J and he ribbed me for hours about it. – yeah, real funny, OK...
Now it was lunchtime – or should I say way past it. Made suggested we have our lunch at Tanah Lot. It didn’t take long to get there. I think because it was only 2pm or so, the worst of the crowds hadn’t descended for sunset. We ate at the sea food restaurant on the further side to Tanah Lot (not the one that almost overlooks it). The view was fantastic and the stiff ocean breeze more than welcome. But OMG the prices! Not uncommonly, the fish was charged by the 100 gram. I can’t recall the amounts, but let’s just call it 3-4 times what you would pay in Legian. The only thing for us poor vegos was fried rice (again....) and I think that was 70,000 (way too much). Mr J’s spicy sweet and sour fish was average at best. The others meals were good though.
Mrs M and young B were all tried out after lunch and found a shady tree to sit under while Mr J, Mr A and I walked around. We went to all the vantage points, and what’s normal for me, took 100 photos. Poor Mr A! Mr J and I dragged him right down to the rocks and sea where you could cross to the temple. A large crowd of people were carefully clambering on the few rocky outcrops. To the left, below the cliff, was a small cave, made by the millennia of waves undercutting the wall of rock, with a sign saying ‘Holy snake’. To get there, you had to clamber over rocks that were a bit more precarious. Mr J and I were onto it, and made poor Mr A come along too. The view of Tanah Lot from that angle was great. Two men with little boxes beckoned us to go into the cave to see the snake, for a small donation of course. But none of us had and cash with us so we smiled and said no thanks.

We made our way back to Mrs M and young B who were in a silly state. They told us that crowds of other Asian tourists had been coming up to them to take their photos with them. Mrs M has lovely red hair, and young B is blond so I can see why they may have drawn some attention. And sure enough, as we were walking back to Made’s car, they were stopped a few times for photos. It did make them feel a little uncomfortable, but we all just laughed it off.
We were back in Legian by 5 or so following the long drive in thick traffic back to Yuli’s. After a dip in the pool to refresh, we headed out for dinner. There were many bars along the main strip of Legian showing AFL, and lots of people walking up and down the winky-wonky footpaths everywhere. Lines of headlights crawled along the narrow road causing little dust storms in their wake. We walked past a few places and decided on La Mond for no particular reason other than it was a roof-top restaurant and we could get away from the street dust up there. I can’t say it was a good choice. Mr A & Mrs M had ‘ok’ meals, young B and I had pizzas that were totally forgettable (no taste just melted Kraft cheese on dough) and poor Mr J got a terrible chicken dish that was meant to be a local specialty... ah well. The long island teas were good and the Bintangs cold.
Mrs M and Miss B went on to a spa for a massage, Mr A, Mr J and I headed on to browse the shops. We had a great time just looking and joking about things we saw  – trying on hats and shirts, talking with stall holders, just enjoying the whole Legian vibe.
OK – this is getting long but last thing to add for this chapter:
Mug shots –towards All Season hotel – best coffee for sure. Run by an Aussie lady and the coffee was great! Not much choice for food though. We started our breakfast there and went back for another after we ate at another terrible place a few doors down (again, didn’t note the name). We should have known by the fact no-one was in it that it wasn’t going to be good. The menu looked promising and the cafe itself looked lovely. But the food took forever, they messed up all but one of our orders and we sent back a couple to be re-made (which took another decade), and the food itself was very average. The one thing that was great to see is that they gave us a big discount for the mess up. As we left, they were smiling and waving, saying “see you tomorrow” – yeah, like that’s gonna happen....
From here, Mr J and I leave Mr A & Mrs M and young B for Nusa Lembongan... - k

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