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Archive for the ‘Bali’ Category

Durian cake

I slept reasonably well after staying up late to put some recent photos on the blog, but Kirsten was kept awake for four hours until 3am by thumping music downstairs. The hotel also operates a nightclub, however much of a conflict of interest there might be between people requiring a good night’s sleep and people requiring a good night out, separated by only a few metres vertically. And this was a Wednesday night? Fortunately the girls were oblivious to the noise.

We didn’t take long to gather our things and check out, although the reception staff got all fussy about whether we had used two bottles of mineral water. They should be complimentary (the bottles and the staff), but that might depend on whether you used the glass bottles in the bathroom (which I assumed were for brushing your teeth) or the plastic bottles in the fridge. We had just coughed up £50 for the two rooms, and here they were being petty about bottles which cost 10 pence in the shops (even less wholesale, no doubt). It’s also the way they ask you to wait while they call Housekeeping to check your room and fridge, just in case you’ve trashed the place or lied about your minibar consumption. I.e. they say “First we send someone to check your room/minibar” rather than simply getting on with it discreetly. Only in Bali.

Our taxi took us to the airport where we were still a little early for our check-in. We sat around and browsed the limited shopping opportunities, getting Ellen a Kids’ National Geographic. A minimal queue when we dropped off our three bags full (which are lighter than they’ve ever been – we’re now throwing our old dirty clothes away rather than washing them). We took the escalator upstairs and paid our departure fees (another £45 on top of the £70 we paid when we arrived; again, only in Bali). An hour or so to wait before our flight was called; we watched the incoming planes approach us (nearly) head-on from the sea and spotted ours arriving right on time. Once our flight number was Tannoyed, we dropped our remaining drink, went through a second luggage scan and found ourselves in an otherwise empty departure lounge. Where’s everyone else? We had fantasies of our own private jet – “One of us could sit in each corner of the aeroplane”, mused Ellen. Still no-one came. Perhaps they’ll squash us into a Cessna.
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But after a quarter of an hour, a group of four Chinese came to sit just across from us, followed by a steady trickle of other passengers. Once it was time to board, we grabbed our bags, ready to maintain our place in the queue (if such a concept exists here). But it was Priority seats first, followed by the back half of the plane, then the left-overs (they don’t even bother with row numbers for the left-overs). None of this ‘families with young children first’, like we used to get in South America. I mean, Ellen won’t be six for much longer, so we want to enjoy it while we can…

On board we were asked to pay attention to the safety demonstration given by flight attendants “Cha Cha, Chi Chi and Chu Chu”. What is this? Job opportunities for giant pandas? The emergency exits are located… Eats, chutes and leaves?

And thus we left Bali. I think I’ll have recurrent nightmares about walking into the local Co-op back home and picking up a can of baked beans, only to be cornered by a sales assistant who pesters “£5, sir! Good price, normal £10. Okay, £4. Genuine Bali beans. For you, sir, £3. You want two? I give you two for £2 each. Is very good price. You buy?”

Some random recollections of our stay. Why would anyone buy a rehydration drink called ‘Pocari Sweat’? It is possible to carry three double mattresses on the back of a motorbike; I’ve seen it done. And those big signs advertising enormous sacks of ‘Semen Gresik’ – it’s a make of cement, folks…

At 3.15pm we landed in Singapore for the second time on our trip. We remembered not to dare approach the Immigration desk as a foursome so we split into two pairs, adult and child in each. After a pause for a loo stop ours were the last lonely bags still riding the carousel; we got cash from an ATM and bought some savoury pastries from an airport stall. (For some inexplicable reason we had not pre-booked any meals for the flight, but at least we had a break from chicken focaccia.) We followed up with an eclair, a slice of apple crumble, a cream coffee slice and… a slice of durian cake! Probably because we won’t have the opportunity of trying this infamous fruit once we’re back home. (This is the one they ban from hotels because the foul stench cannot even be contained by multiple layers of plastic wrapping.)

We took a taxi to the cryptically-named Aces Lodges @ Siglap. It’s glowingly reviewed on the internet (“the best hotel in Singapore”, etc.) but our initial reaction was “is this it?”. Our room is the second most cramped of our trip (after Puno) with two bunks, a tower of metal lockers and a smidgen of clear floor space (until we dumped our bags). The window overlooks a main road, the curtain does not black out the street lamp right outside and the air conditioning gives you a choice between too cold or too warm.

There is a kitchen area fully equipped from Ikea (just like the Apollo Bay Youth Hostel), but there the resemblance ends. Despite all the adverts, here was an Ikea table that had been cruelly assaulted and left for dead, its swollen woodchip innards bulging out through multiple gashes in the veneer; indeed, it was in such a sorry state the Kirsten refused to believe it could be of Scandinavian origin until I located the telltale label on the underside.

We sat at a healthier slatted table and had our sweet pastries. I was the only one to tackle the durian concoction, and although I could bear a few mouthfuls of it, I was left with an unpleasant aftertaste for hours afterwards. And the taste is supposed to be far more pleasant than the smell…

We explored the neighbourhood, letting the girls have a quick play on some nearby climbing equipment before looking for somewhere to have supper. We unimaginatively settled on Pizza Hut and ordered a couple of Kids’ Menu items (just to demonstrate to the girls that grown-up food is far tastier) along with a baked rice dish and a salad. The meal wasn’t as bad as I had feared, although the choice of mood-setting music was a little unorthodox; they chose to play a CD by some purveyor of rap which featured a charming ditty about a certain Mother Farquhar.

It was still light when we emerged at 7.15; we must have flown a sizeable fraction of the Earth’s circumference this afternoon to delay sunset by over an hour. We walked back to the hostel, did diaries in the upstairs lounge and retired to our tiny little room, hoping for better sleep than we have ever had in Singapore.

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Leaving Lovina

Our last day in Lovina, and the first day of our return journey home.

After breakfast we finished the last of our packing, which went pretty smoothly. Our rucksacks are packed ready for the flights tomorrow and Friday; i.e. any liquids or sharp objects are packed into the hold luggage as opposed to hand luggage and spare clothes are at the ready.

Shortly before 11am we made our way to reception and right on cue a member of staff turned up at our door to help us with our luggage. Our driver had already arrived so we were able to load up the car straight away and drive off south to Sanur.

The first third of our journey was identical to the first half of our day trip a couple of days ago, but this time we carried on further along windy roads. At one point the driver slowed down and asked if we wanted to stop for a snack. I murmured to Tim that I wasn’t actually feeling very hungry and was really baffled when he explained to Made, our driver, that we had already seen many snakes on our travels. We had stopped outside some sort of mini-zoo and I misheard!

Apart from this one “stop”, Made carried on driving, not once trying to persuade us to have lunch at an expensive restaurant or visit some temples. This meant that we arrived in Sanur a little after 1.30pm.

Harrads Hotel is on the same bypass road as our first hotel, but could we find it? We kept on driving, and driving and suddenly after nearly 15 minutes Tim spotted it on the other side of the road. It looked extremely posh, with a huge white limousine outside. I joked to the girls that we would be taken to the airport tomorrow by limousine – only Hannah thought I was serious!

We asked the driver to wait with our luggage as we wanted to check out that this was the right hotel. Outside the main entrance we were asked to put our shoulder bags, Ellen’s Zen and Tim’s wallet on the table while we took turns walking through a metal detector!

Once inside it looked even posher and I was convinced this was the wrong place. No, it seemed correct, except they could only find a booking for one room. In the end they did find the right booking in both Tim and my name, but we could not have interconnecting rooms. Our rooms were situated on different floors! At Tim’s suggestion they moved other guests (who had not checked in yet) in order for us to have two rooms almost opposite but at least on the same floor.

Tim and Hannah’s room is at the back and they look out on a field with beautiful light brown cows grazing, chickens pecking and puppies being silly.

Locus iste.
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Ellen and my room, on the other hand, is near the front and looks out on the beautiful round swimming pool and… building works! Oh well, it’s only for one night and hopefully they won’t start work too early tomorrow morning.

As soon as we left our bags in one of the rooms (the other room was still being cleaned) we headed back down to the hotel’s restaurant for lunch. It was well after 2pm by now and we were all getting slightly hungry. We entered the restaurant, only to find all tables and chairs pushed to one side and a member of staff cleaning the tiled floor with one of those special machines to make the tiles look shiny and slippery.

A table and chairs were put out just for us and we chose two dishes to share. The girls had an American Bistro (burger with french fries to you and me) and Tim and I shared a portion of very lukewarm lasagna. First impressions of the food were not particularly positive…

We retired to our rooms and left the girls in one room watching their last dose of Disney Channel whilst Tim relaxed reading “House Rules” by Jodi Picoult and I started the blog.

Tim popped out to explore the neighbourhood and returned with drinks for the girls, milk for our coffee/tea and biscuits for our afternoon snack and tomorrow’s breakfast (we’ll have a proper breakfast at the airport).

Shortly before 7pm we returned to the restaurant where Ellen had a large hot dog, Hannah chose a club sandwich (shared with the grown-ups) and I shared some tough, greasy nachos with Tim. When my empty plate was collected, the waitress asked how I liked the food. I hesitated, but eventually did comment that the cheese was really tough – hope they’ll take it on board. [Incidentally, one other guest refused to eat his pasta dish as it was cold and did not want to have it reheated – sounded similar to our lasagna dish at lunchtime.]

We booked a taxi for 9am tomorrow for our transfer to the airport. Not having breakfast at the hotel means that we’ll be able to have a bit of a lie-in we can take our time having something to eat at the airport (and it might be cheaper than the hotel!).

Shower and/or television for the girls before bedtime. Hopefully the other guests won’t be too noisy (or the cows in the field…).

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School’s nearly out

We’ve been on a few one- or two-week holidays in the past, whether a damp sojourn in Wales or a package deal to the Canaries, and you normally come home slightly disappointed that it’s all over so soon. Well, I suppose that we’ve just been carrying out the ultimate experiment to discover when the right time to come home would be, and for us it’s somewhere around 40 weeks. Indeed, now that we’re approaching 44 weeks away there’s a distinct end-of-term atmosphere; we’re not doing much in class just now, idly whiling away the hours, looking forward to having no more blog homework and waiting for the bell to signal that Alice Cooper moment.

At breakfast we chatted with the owner, Richard (born in Somerset, emigrated to Australia when he was 12), who has been running this place for 21 years with his Balinese wife and two daughters. They employ 30 staff – who don’t seem to have too busy a time of it during this off-peak season; we’ve heard them having a merry old time while the place is nearly empty during the day.

I did more filming with Ellen, and today it was her turn to talk about our travels for an hour (she was more relaxed without an audience). Hannah made a start (unprompted) on writing about the first portion of our trip; although she began her diary in New Zealand, her desire for completeness is pushing her to fill in the first four months of our trip as well. Her visual memory is remarkable and she produced a detailed description of the first house we stayed in (ten months after the event).

Our bungalow was yellow. When you first come in you have the kitchen on your left and a sink on your right. If you go round the counter (which has the sink on it) there was the living room. It had a coffee table in the middle with a bowl of seashells and starfish, a sofa on the left, the window at the back, a TV on the right and a rocking chair. Also, there was a very short corridor with a bathroom on the left, a bedroom with 2 single beds and a bunk bed, and at the very end of the corridor was a bedroom with a double bed and a TV. There were 2 films we watched, one was called Milo and Otis and the other was 101 Dalmatians.
And we worried that the girls might not remember much about this trip…

We collected our delayed laundry, swapped ten books for one battered Jodi Picoult, booked our transport for tomorrow (sure enough, the office price was less than that quoted by our driver the other day) and withdrew another wad of cash to see us through to the airport.

Otherwise we stayed at the hotel, enjoyed a final swim in the pool, relaxed in the cool of our triple air-conditioned villa and treated ourselves to coffee and cake for tea in the restaurant. For supper we returned to nearby Barclona [sic] and Ellen admitted to feeling ‘chipped out’, whereupon she voluntarily switched over to Hannah’s unfinished rice dish. (The girls are becoming adept at recognising and admitting their own limits, e.g. when they are ready to go to bed or when the balance of their diet needs redressing.)

Wednesday, Thursday, Friday and the beginning of Saturday are travel days with lots of hanging around. We should have internet access but don’t expect too much in the way of thrills or beautiful scenery from now on. To compensate for this lack of action, we’ll be drip-feeding our concluding thoughts as well as putting together a few lists of ‘well I never’ facts and figures to round things off. In other words, it’s time to roll the credits. You have been watching…

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The dreaded question

My greatest fear about reaching the end of our journey is having to face the question “So, how was your trip?”, or even “We’ve really enjoyed following your blog every day; now tell us all about it.” You might as well ask “So, give me a brief overview of the history of Western philosophy from Socrates through to the present day.” It’s just that we’ve written well over a quarter of a million words about our travels and experiences, or somewhere between four and five small novels, and I really don’t know how to convey the epic scope and remarkable variety of the past ten months in any meaningful way within a socially acceptable timescale.

Let me demonstrate the problem. Today I filmed Hannah talking about our travels country by country; she had made notes beforehand to prompt her, and these focused on just one or two key points per location, merely skimming the surface. She ended up speaking to the camera for a whole hour…

So please forgive me if I don’t plunge straight into a detailed narrative; I may just chicken out with a tame “Very nice, thanks.” On the other hand, if you want to get specific about collision probabilities of Bolivian taxi drivers or the musical abilities of the New Zealand tui, then I’m your man.

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Wet, wet, wet

We had imagined just lounging around the pool soaking up the sun and then cooling off in the water during our last two days here, but so far no such luck.

After breakfast I walked down the road in search of a different laundrette to hand in our final load of washing before returning home. Two of the three laundrettes were still closed, so by default I dropped our small bag off at the last shop/laundrette.

I wasn’t quite sure that I was in the right place, so went over to the two ladies at the table. Yes, they could do the washing, but couldn’t promise me to have it ready by the end of the day. It wasn’t as if I had interrupted them being extremely busy as all they seemed to be doing was gossip whilst filling their lungs (and the clean air) with smoke. Even when I pointed out that I would really like our four t-shirts and four bits of underwear back by tomorrow morning, they seemed very hesitant. Why? Only when I suggested taking the bag somewhere else, did one of the ladies agree to wash it “now”. The other lady kept talking about the weather, but at that moment it was still sunny and already very hot, so I couldn’t really see any problem.

Slightly worried about whether or not I would get our clothes back, I returned to our villa to find both girls hard at work.

We had asked them to write down keywords relating to their memories of our trip and then spent a lot of the day finalising this list and interviewing each of them separately.

Hannah definitely rose to the challenge, mentally taking herself back in time and recalling even the most minute of details. Things Tim and I had pushed to the back of our minds or even simply forgotten.

Ellen, too, enjoyed being seated on the bench and interviewed by Dr Price. Her contribution was brilliant, but we might do a second take and put the camera closer to her (just for volume purposes).

We were keen to find Lovina Bakery for lunch, but had to settle for a different eatery where they offered some Dutch food. Hannah chose a large meatball & chips, Ellen & Tim shared a baguette with “rookworst” (smoked sausage) and I had some bruschetta with tomato & mozzarella.

Afterwards we walked back via the beach road which had even more shops and restaurants and were pleasantly surprised that it took us back to Rambutan Hotel much quicker. We had a look around the hotel shop where Hannah chose a beautiful turquoise necklace.

we spent the afternoon in our villa filming the girls during downpour number four (now I could understand why the ladies were hesitant about the washing being ready for tonight!), watching television, reading and playing card games.

For supper we dashed next door for pizza, tagliatelle and chicken breast with roast sweet potatoes.

We’re nearly ready to fly back home. We were busy sorting out our bags and put aside all items of clothing we won’t take with us. These items are either faded, out of shape or missing buttons. we also have a stack of eleven (11!) books to leave behind. Tomorrow we’ll try and take them to one of the few shops that sell secondhand books and attempt to swap them for the latest Jodi Picoult book…

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Fields of Bali

After a daring attempt to stay up past 11pm last night, I slept through to 5.30 in the morning but Kirsten didn’t have such luck. Nevertheless we rose and breakfasted in time to collect our laundry from down the road (they were still ironing it) and get ready for our tour.

The driver was supposed to turn up at 8.45 but he appeared just after nine o’clock with “sorry, huh?” I checked that his receipt matched ours and then we piled into his air-conditioned Toyota. We asked if we could change the usual programme slightly, i.e. visit the Giant Tree instead of the gold and silver market, but he hadn’t heard of the Giant Tree. Oh well…

We outlined our Bali itinerary so far and he told us he had been at Pura Taman Pule in Mas (his family’s home temple) the day after Kuningan to offer a roast pig; we had missed him by just one day.

We first drove to Gitgit waterfall and were surprised that things were still quiet there; we were ahead of the tourist rush, and the inevitable stalls were still in the middle of opening up. We followed a track past picturesque rice terraces and coffee plantations and we could soon hear the thunder of cascading water. Ellen and I got as close as we could to get the benefit of the cooling spray without suffering a total drenching.
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On the return walk we dabbled with haggling. You have only to enquire the price of something for them to assume that you will buy it, come what may. The initial ridiculous figure of 100,000 Rupiah for a chain of little polythene bags of local spices prompted us to walk away immediately, and as we disappeared into the distance the stallholder progressively crumbled to a final price of only Rp10,000 (still a respectable 70 pence). A tenfold deflation was enough to grab our attention and we returned to purchase two such assortments.

At a later stall my opening bid of Rp10,000 each for a small packet of vanilla pods and one of cinnamon sticks was rejected out of hand as ridiculous – “100,000; okay, 70,000” – but sure enough, just as we were nearly out of earshot, she came running after us to accept our original offer.

Back in the car and a long, twisty uphill climb towards Lake Beratan, pausing to buy bananas to give to the monkeys that hang around and get fat by the side of the road. (You’re not really given the option not to buy bananas; it’s a prerequisite for being allowed to park there.) It’s a self-fulfilling tourist attraction; the monkeys wouldn’t be there but for the busloads and vanloads of people stopping off to feed them.
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A little further on we descended to the lake with Ulun Danu temple on its shore. By now it was overcast and drizzly; the girls complained of feeling cold – a first for Bali. We did a quick walk through the grounds (this was by far the busiest site we visited today), bought some fake Pringles to keep us going and moved on.
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The fruit and flower market just up the road looked miserable in the rain so we gave it a miss and asked to sit out the bad weather while we had lunch. Surprise, surprise, we were dropped off at an overpriced tourist buffet conveyor-belt place. We took one look inside (Rp60,000 per head, plus tax) and escaped this particular prandial pitcher-plant just in time. (Okay, so we’re flies today. I am large. I contain multitudes.) We explained to our driver Eka (aka Nyoman, the third) that we usually pay Rp80,000 to Rp100,000 in total for a light meal out. To be fair he didn’t try it on again but drove us to a pleasant budget Warung (Puncak Bagus Coffee Shop) overlooking two lakes where we spent a reasonable Rp84,000 on sandwiches, a salad, chips and a fruit juice.
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Then on towards the village of Munduk, nestled among more rice terraces and coffee plantations. We stopped a few times for the views, but it was too cloudy or the terraces were too distant or there was a TV aerial or a banana tree in the way. Just as we were explaining that we didn’t have our swimming stuff with us and were happy to give the Hot Springs a miss, Kirsten spotted a sign to the Giant Tree! Right on cue we had a substitute destination, and Eka was happy to give it a try as he had never been there before.

What a felicitous find; our side road ran right alongside photogenic flooded terraces complete with a couple of posing chickens.
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Furthermore, when we reached the big buttressed banyan we had a bonus attraction – most of the village was assembled around a rectangular arena intently watching something. A dance performance? Cock-fighting? No, it turned out to be a spinning top contest. Men wielded whips and heavy-duty turned chunks of wood on spindles and took turns to launch their tops onto the pitted earth floor of this building. Two tops per quadrant, and the second top was aimed at the first as if to knock it off balance. Clearly a competitive event, but we couldn’t deduce the rules. The tops could continue spinning for up to five minutes, such was their density, but the round was over once just three of the eight tops remained rotating. Here we had stumbled on something that is purely for the locals’ enjoyment (apparently they do this all day on Sundays and Tuesdays) and it is so rare to come across anything without any tourist angle to it in Bali. Authenticity at last!
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The tree was impressive, too; a great-girthed tangle of supporting roots dwarfing the girls.
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Our final stop was the only Buddhist temple in Bali, and it took a surprisingly long time to reach it from our ‘top spot’ although the distance looks short on the map. We were allowed in sans sarongs (as we were at Ulun Danu) and this temple had far fewer visitors – or else we had beaten them to it with our modified itinerary. Not quite the splendour of some Malaysian temples, but a peaceful haven full of hidden buddhas in its restful gardens.
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It was then but a short journey back to our hotel, during which our driver quoted us a higher price for our upcoming transfer to Sanur than I had been given at the office where I booked today’s tour. (This despite cutting out the middleman.) We held back – last time the driver’s quote was inflated – and I’ll double-check at the office before making a decision.

We returned a good two hours earlier than scheduled (thanks to missing the market and not loitering in the hot springs) so Eka got some free time and the girls could catch Hannah Montana for the final time this trip. We’ll probably have two quiet days before starting the long haul home. From now on our journeys will be bringing things to a close, rather than being the gateway to the next exciting port of call on our adventure. So in three days’ time it’s going to be taxi, Sanur hotel, taxi, flight to Singapore, taxi, Singapore hotel, taxi, overnight flight to London Heathrow, Grandad’s taxi, home. And we’re ready for it.

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Hassle

I felt so much more comfortable in the night knowing that the girls were just at the other side of the building with no locked doors in between our bedrooms. They could easily come and see us should there be a problem. This meant I had a much better sleep and only woke up briefly twice before falling into a deep sleep again.

Tim on the other hand was awake for a couple of hours and both girls were up and playing “brides” well before 7am!

When we arrived yesterday I found a copy of the restaurant’s menu in our room and was slightly disappointed and baffled to see the breakfast page mentioning several dishes at a price. We know breakfast is included, but does that mean we can only choose one item? I was keen to find out…

As soon as we sat down the waiter handed us a different breakfast menu. In all there were three different options; all of which included fresh fruit, fresh juice, coffee/tea and a pancake. On top of that we could choose eggs (your own choice) with bacon, toast with butter and jam/peanut butter/honey or an Indonesian dish (fried rice/noodles).

We all opted for the toast with jam or honey, but were disappointed with the bread which tasted bland and slightly stale. Apart from that we were happy with the huge choice, but we’ll order slightly less tomorrow as now we have a much better idea of portion sizes and we don’t like food to go to waste.

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After breakfast we collected our laundry from the room and headed down the road in search of a laundrette. Although our bag only just weighed over 1 kilo, the lady charged us for 1.5 kilos. It was still under £2, though, but next time we might try somewhere else. This road is littered with laundrettes, restaurants and resorts. There are also lots of locals telling us we do want to buy some pearl necklaces for our daughters, or book a trip to see dolphins…

We walked down to the beach and popped into a couple of shops in search of replacement flip flops for me as my so-called Birkenstocks are falling to pieces with several cracks in the cork sole. We were pleasantly surprised to find several shops selling second-hand books. Our guidebook advised us to bring our own books as we wouldn’t be able to buy any here…

When we reached the bottom of the road, the beach seemed blocked off to let fresh cement dry. Tim, though, easily climbed over the wooden barrier and walked across the nearly dry floor. One of the locals on a motorbike advised us to walk through the restaurant instead if we wanted to get to the beach.

We had only just set foot on the beach or we were hassled by some local women. Did we want the girls’ hair braided? No, thanks. [I had read on someone else’s blog that a) the braiding takes forever; b) the girls’ hair would be difficult to wash and c) the combs used don’t get cleaned properly.] Do we want sarong or skirt? No, thank you. [The girls and I have sarongs already.] Do we want to go snorkelling? No, thanks. We’ve already done that. Where? Just up the coast. Oh, but here the water is clean and you can hire snorkelling gear… And so on, and so on. Eventually Tim got straight to the point and told them several times that we weren’t going to buy anything.

One lady asked (once she had established that we live in England) whether we live in London? Manchester? Cambridge? and then added knowingly “I think when you are speaking with your family you are speaking Cockney.”

As we weren’t going to get any peace and quiet on the beach we decided to turn around and walk up the road again. The girls were desperate to get into the pool, and so was I. It was still early, but the sun was already very hot.

I took the girls back whilst Tim carried on down the road in search of a tour for tomorrow. He managed to book a trip at a much better price than the one offered at the hotel and half an hour later joined at the poolside.

Tim spent time catching up on yesterday’s blog before it was time for lunch. After our huge breakfast we only felt like a bowl of cereal and spent the rest of the afternoon inside resting. We need to stay up later so that we won’t fall asleep at midday and wake up at midnight once we’re back in the UK (next week). We only briefly popped out to buy some snacks for afternoon tea before letting the girls watch two of their favourite Disney channel programmes: Wizards of Waverley Place and Hannah Montana.

For supper we decided to try out another restaurant mentioned in the Lonely Planet. This one is right next to our resort and is called Barclona (not sure whether it’s meant to be BarcElona). The girls grudgingly agreed not to have any dishes with french fries, fried potatoes or chips and we settled for two portions of delicious fried rice. Both girls managed to finish their plates as we had bribed them with dessert. We shared a large portion of vanilla ice-cream and a Banana Split.

Back in our rooms the girls watched the film “George of the Jungle” in an attempt to keep them up longer – it worked. Now I’m hoping they’ll be able to get up tomorrow morning in time for our 9am pick up…

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Black rice pudding

It was a dark and stormy night. Rain lashed our cliffside villa while the thunder rolled ever closer and the wind huffed and puffed; we were glad to have the house built from bricks rather than the bamboo cabins at Eka Purnama next door.

The weather had subsided by the morning and we filled up on breakfast downstairs – it’s probably the heartiest breakfast we’ve been offered anywhere on our trip, not counting those ‘all you can eat’ buffets. We gave the ‘black rice pudding’ a try today, overcoming any squeamishness at the inevitable thoughts of black pudding to discover a hugely filling dessert made from layered coconut cream and cooked black rice topped with a sprinkling of brown palm sugar. In addition to this we tackled more delicious slabs of toasted home-baked bread with cinnamon or local strawberry jam as well as one big bowl of chunked fruit to share. I suppose this feast is designed to set up guests for a full day’s diving or snorkelling around the Japanese wreck that’s located just off the shore here.

Cinnamon toast.
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Black rice pudding.
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We had a couple of hours to spare after breakfast so Ellen watched a Korean animated film called ‘The Reef’ in which a nasty shark is lured into a swarm of Portuguese Men o’War with agonising results. Only the jellyfish were the wrong colour – pinkish instead of blue – as any six-year-old round here will tell you. Meanwhile Hannah doodled in her sketch book, working on her latest fashion creations.

We lugged our luggage down the steps to be ready for our 10.30 taxi and were surprised to be met by a different driver rather than Ketut again. Something to do with a trip to hospital and a sick relative. Or did Ketut just subcontract the job? There’s a board across the road advertising our journey for 20% less than we arranged with him the other day. [It’s a real shame when you end up questioning just about every story you hear.]

We had been on the road for two minutes when I realised that I still had the room keys in my pocket. A quick trip back to Baliku to drop them off and then we were on our way, with a brief shopping stop in Amed for water and snacks to get us through the journey.

Amed silversmith – souvenirs!
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Anyway, our new driver got us to our destination safely and comfortably via the coastal road that loops north and then west from Amed, even though the road itself deteriorates for the second half of the journey. It’s all pretty untouristy along this stretch, barring the diving outfits in Tulamben (where there’s another wreck), until you get to Singaraja – which means ‘Lion King’ – and immediately beyond to Lovina where we shall be staying for five nights.

We found our boutique hotel and were shown to our villa. Yes! At last we have two bedrooms connected internally! Though the advertised ‘kitchenette’ turns out to be a kettle and a toaster. It’s the nearest we’ve had to a proper apartment since we left Australia, thanks to the separate living area that joins the bedrooms. There’s even Disney Channel (much to the delight of the girls) although today they seemed to be broadcasting in Indonesian and English simultaneously.

We crossed the pool to the restaurant to claim our Welcome Drinks (banana and pineapple this time) and to get a late snack lunch. It’s another overpriced outfit, but this one doesn’t have Baliku’s redeeming feature of really good food. The sandwich was unappealing (dry lettuce and fatty ham) while the ‘trio of dips’ was reduced to a duo thanks to an avocado shortage putting paid to the guacamole. Was the price reduced accordingly? Course not.

Then it was swim time. The pool separating us from the restaurant is uniformly deep in the main section; I can just about stand up there but the rest of the family can’t. The girls found a woggle each to help them float, and I chaperoned them every time they left the safety of the shallow crescent at the far end.

This hotel is relatively busy (i.e. compared to Baliku where we were the sole remaining guests); there are many Western couples as well as a German family with one boy (a bit older than the girls) who snorkelled around the pool.

We came out of the water to dry off and have a biscuit; we then walked the noisy main street in search of an ATM. We found three, but the first two refused to communicate in English – even after selecting the desired language – so we had to make do with one that dispensed only large-denomination 100,000 Rupiah notes. (Lonely Planet claims that this equates to a week’s wages, while also stating that the average family has a disposable income of 40,000 Rupiah per day – some mistake, surely?)

By now it was time for supper, and we chose an ‘Italian’ restaurant (well, the Balinese husband and wife owners have worked as chefs in Italian eateries in the south of the island). The carbonara was a darn sight better than the other spaghetti dishes we have tried in Bali while the pizza was nicely crisp. Hannah loved the (non-packet) tomato soup, despite the fact that she won’t touch an uncooked tomato. Astonishingly, there was no ice cream on the dessert menu, but when I enquired the husband offered “I can get some for you”. The girls were presented with tall glasses each with the emptied contents of two tubs of the cold stuff, presumably from the family freezer (they have a young son).

We returned to our Permai Suri villa in the dark, did diaries and flopped out early. Even the adults are struggling to stay awake past 9pm, and this does not augur well for our readjustment to European time (7 or 8 hours behind). We should be trying to stay up as late as possible so that a midnight bedtime here translates to an early night back home; at this rate we’ll be keeling over just after lunchtime once we return…

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Tooth no. 3

We all ended up having an early night yesterday and I slept pretty solidly from 9pm until just gone 2am. I imagined someone (one of the girls?) knocking on our door and as Tim still seemed fast asleep I didn’t want to wake him by opening the door. Unfortunately, I did need the bathroom and on my return popped my head outside to find… nobody. I must have dreamt it!

It took my quite a while to get back to sleep as I kept wondering whether the girls were alright. I’ll be glad when we move on to our family villa in Lovina where we should all be in one and the same building.

The girls assured me they had slept quite well and we all tottered down the steps for breakfast. We could have it delivered to our rooms but we preferred eating outside and admiring the view.

Breakfast was absolutely delicious! Ellen started with homemade bread and jam, whilst the other three had cinnamon toast (also homemade bread). We all agreed it was the tastiest toast we have had in a long time. This was followed by cornflakes for everyone and three huge bowls of chopped up pineapple, banana and watermelon. The grown-ups washed this all down with extremely tasty Bali coffee. I’m already looking forward to tomorrow’s breakfast, but I think we’ll order slightly less as it was too much for us.

We quickly returned to our room to pick up cameras and headed down the road, this time turning left as we reached the street. Yesterday I spotted some shops on the way to our hotel and felt like exploring before it got too hot. However, soon after we set off it was clear that the shops were quite a long way away and without a motorbike or car it would take us too long in this heat.

We returned to our rooms to cool off and the girls watched “Bee Movie” by the makers of Shrek, before having a plunge in the swimming pool. Tim had decided to sit out, but the girls each took turns to do some very good swimming. Ellen attempted her usual style and breathing without stopping, Hannah had a fantastic go at front crawl, backstroke and breaststroke. She finally seems to have got the hang of breathing and gliding when swimming breaststroke.
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Alongside the pool is a bar area with three barstools in the water. The bar is out of use at the moment, but we noticed a couple of baby swimseats in there which the girls wanted to use as floats. Tim kindly went to get one and passed it to the girls, but in doing so he really badly crashed his head into the roof (which was extremely low). He ended up with an angry red stripe and bump on the right hand side of his head and another swelling on his forehead. Fortunately there was no blood, but it did hurt an awful lot and he ended up holding a cold towel on his head for quite a while.

Around midday we left the pool and got ourselves ready for lunch. We only wanted something small and decided to try out the restaurant next door. Tim was delighted to find apple cider on the menu and ordered it, but instead was offered apple juice. He declined and disappointedly opted for a soft drink instead.

Between the four of us we shared vegetable spring rolls, a tuna salad and a triple sandwich. The owner and her young daughter explained that at the moment this area is very quiet and that July and August are not only the hottest months but also the busiest ones. From the terrace of the restaurant we had a beautiful unspoilt view of the sea and greenery. Absolutely stunning! As Tim pointed out, we do have a lovely garden at home – but where’s the sea?
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The afternoon was spent reading and writing diaries (girls) and carefully and gently cutting Tim’s hair (me).

For supper we headed across the road again to the Maharasta cafe where the grown-ups had pancakes and the girls shared delicious homemade chicken nuggets and chips.

Yesterday, Ellen mentioned that one of her upper front teeth was wobbly and earlier today I noticed it was pointing back a little more. During supper she kept accidentally biting it on her bottom teeth and was beginning to get really annoyed by it. Suddenly she stopped chewing on her chicken and dryly announced “I think my tooth has come out” and promptly spat it out on her plate. No fuss, no blood! She ended up with a beautiful big gap, as children ought to have when losing their teeth. She’s going to take it back home and then put it under her pillow for the tooth fairy to come and collect it.

Back at the hotel the girls had another bath and plenty of reading time before bed. It had started raining by now and a member of staff phoned us to let us know he was going to bring up two umbrellas. What a service!

Tomorrow we’re moving on to our very last long stay accommodation of the trip – five nights in Lovina before three days of travel on our way back home.

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Help! I’m a fish

It’s all clear now. In Bali we’re not cash cows or I.O.ewes; we’re fish. Hook, line and sinkered fish.

For a people long accustomed to living off the fruits of the sea, deception comes easily and persistence is a prerequisite for success. The more attractive the lure the better, but the cruel hook is always there. Nor will the fish simply jump into your boat; you need to go out there and reel them in.

Perhaps this explains why you walk through the market and rayon is sold as silk, cheap and flaky plate is guaranteed solid silver. Truth doesn’t have a place here; it’s all about the catch. And that’s why they think that shouting louder and pestering you more will increase their chance of a sale.

So now we appreciate our true place in the animal kingdom, it’s a matter of avoiding being caught, wriggling off the hook or – if all else fails – biting back.

This morning we took our sunrise boat trip with Made, departing in the 6am dark and returning when the day was already getting too hot for us at 8 o’clock. He trailed a long line with a three-inch silver fish as bait for barracuda, giving it to me to hold (so we pay him for the privilege of assisting him…) but no luck. After motoring up and down the coast he cut the engine and fed out another line with flies and hooks at regular intervals (the regularity is vital once you start winding it in and want to avoid lacerating yourself). In the wine-dark sea we saw nothing but pinpoints of blue light glowing like LED Christmas decorations, presumably small luminescent fish near the surface. But the fish we were after didn’t feel tempted to get caught today. The Swiss family saw him catch four yesterday; today’s haul of four was merely our good selves, and tourists must pay considerably better than fish.
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Made called to his fellow fishermen as we floated in the peace of the bay, as well as chatting to us in broken English. His education finished after elementary school (aged 11?) and I assume he has been fishing ever since. He has two children, a boy and a younger girl, both still at elementary school, but uniforms are expensive for the next stage of education.
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The sea was dead calm and the twin bamboo poles of the outrigger stabilised the craft magnificently, even when Made clambered out onto one pole to unwrap some black polythene that had become entangled in the propeller. [The girls call these ‘spider boats’ from their general ‘jizz’, even if they have half the usual number of legs.]

I learned something as we watched the sun come up. Something I should have known before, but it took the awesome (not in the US sense) reality to hammer it home. The rays of the rising (or setting) sun – created by the partial masking of clouds – are clearly straight lines emanating from the sun in the centre. However, this is entirely down to perspective; these rays do not really diverge but in fact trace parallel lines through the sky, the ‘railway track’ effect making them appear to converge on their solar focus. Most strikingly, as these parallel rays pass overhead, they then reconverge to a point on the diametrically opposite horizon – something I have never noticed before, and something so counterintuitive that it brought me up short. Here are the photos to show it.

Diverging…
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and reconverging.
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We returned to our beach (the girls held the trailing line, but still no success), paid Made his 100,000 Rupiah fee and went for breakfast. Except all three tables were taken – just our luck when we’re starving… So we stayed in our rooms for a while to do some more packing before squeezing around a single table next to the Swiss family. We chatted awhile – they are flying out on Bali on the same day that we leave, albeit later in the day so we probably won’t see them at the airport. We then adjourned to the pool to cool off and pass the time before our mid-day pick-up. I settled up for our two nights, but we got a very poor exchange rate for paying in Rupiahs rather than in Euros (a 20% surcharge, effectively). Still, we should have enough cash left to see us through the next two days until we reach Lovina.

We had to check out of our room by 11am so we spent most of the next hour sitting in a beachside Bale (thatched hut with no walls), doing very little but relishing the beautiful location and scenery. “It’s a tough life” may have passed our lips as we gazed out across the Bali Sea from our shady spot.

Our driver arrived 15 minutes early and the journey was only short so we were soon at Baliku Boutique Resort, at the more remote end of the strip of villages along this stretch of coast. The first thing we noticed was the never-ending flight of steps leading up to our villa. (Later, Kirsten counted 73 steps.) Fortunately, we were given assistance with our bags, but we should get fit nipping down to the pool, down to breakfast, etc.

Our villa was not quite what we expected. Yet again the girls are in a separate room with no connecting door, but we are at least in the same building as them, an outdoor lounge (with TV) sitting between our bedrooms. Yes, it’s all very ’boutique’ with cavernous bathrooms, posh washbasins, frangipani blooms, candles and incense sticks everywhere. And the view from our perched balcony window is one of the best we’ve had over the past ten months, looking down to the pebbly shore with outriggers beached along its entire length, looking up to the lush green volcanic hills with local houses dotted around.

We descended the steps for our welcome drinks (watermelon) and lunch at the overpriced restaurant; the sort of place where you immediately look for the least expensive food items on the menu and see how far you can stretch them, while vowing to find somewhere better value for the remainder of our stay.

After lunch the girls watched ‘Enchanted’ (there is at least a good DVD and book collection here) before we all tried out our latest pool. This one is a serious rectangular job (they’re into diving in a big way here), and Ellen can only just stand on tiptoes in the shallow end. But we got plenty of shade and enjoyed cooling off in the water before emerging for tea.

Ah, tea. It’s like the Ritz or the Raffles downstairs, pricewise, so we crossed the road and found a warung on the beach (I’m still waiting to find an Eddie Warung…) where we could gorge on fruit pancakes and milkshakes without emptying the wallet – remember, there are no ATMs for another two days.

After deciding to have supper here as well, we casually asked what time they closed. 6pm?! A tad early, and it was already 5 o’clock. So, time for a brisk stroll down the street to explore the village and to work up an appetite.

We got the impression that the locals don’t often see a Western family on foot here, and everyone called out ‘hello’ from their front yards as we passed by. No sales pitch or ulterior motive, and the local children seemed especially excited to see our girls.

We returned along the beach – more boulders than pebbles, once you’re there – and Kirsten’s ‘Birkenstocks’ finally disintegrated. One large family was sitting in front of the boats, throwing rocks at a bamboo target by the shoreline; a sort of Balinese boules? They paused to let us pass, trying out their limited English as we walked in front. (“Hello”, “Where you from?”, “Wher you going?”, “Where you stay?”, “How old?”)

Back at the Maharasta Warung (thematic emphasis on the ‘rasta’) we ordered fish and chips for the girls, a fish curry for me and fried rice for Kirsten. The fish was certainly fresh, and one of the staff was about to go snorkelling with his harpoon to restock.

It was dark by now, so we climbed the 73 steps to Bedfordshire (with time for a boutique bath for the girls) to recover from our early morning start.

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