Tag Archives: Bali

Bali Tour

_My belated Indonesia travelogue continues…_

We took two “tours” of Bali. The first one was organized by a commercial venture.

2552We were picked up at our hotel in the morning, and together with perhaps a dozen other tourists were driven around the island. First stop was a temple dance, at which we arrived a little late and thus didn’t have seats. Which was just as well; sitting down we would not have seen much. For my Indonesian hosts, this was a pretty boring piece, I think, and I must admit that I had the impression that there must be nicer examples of this kind of thing. The archetype would be cute girls doing these dances at night with a fire or torches providing the light.

Ahem.

Anyway, after the show we got routed through the souvenir shop and of course had to deal with the [street vendors](/2006/07/26/balinese-street-vendors/) as we tried to get back to the bus.

The bus drove on for a bit. The guide did talk a bit about Bali, I think, but it was in Indonesian, so the content was lost on me. The next stop needed no explanation. It was a souvenir shop. Hm. Well, the guides probably get a cut of the profits from any tourists they drop off here. And there were many more street vendors here as well who all sold the same stuff as the guys at the dance temple.

On the tour went, through the Balinese countryside. This was the interesting part for me, just to look out and see what the land’s like. Eventually the guides drove us up on some mountain, where we had the opportunity to fight our way through – you guessed it – more street vendors to a buffet lunch.

2573The next stop was finally very interesting, another temple. Sure, sure, stereotypical. But it’s what you got to go to see when you’re on Bali. This one had pretty neat ancient trees – and a volcanic spring which is supposed to have healing powers. We had to wear colorful sashes to enter the temple premises; it might sound odd but it’s really no different then getting out of your shoes or covering your head. The whole place was quite serene and beautiful, and I even succeeded at not to take any photos of the people who went to bathe in the miracle spring. When we finally left we were piloted through – you guessed it – a small village of tents that had been set up after the exit, and where the locals again tried to sell us goods.

The final stop was really no different. It was a sort of flea market, full of a huge crowd of people, where all kinds of tacky goods were offered (especially big, weird looking paintings). Even my Indonesian hosts, who had responded with the patience of a rock when confronted by the streets vendors, didn’t like this place. We ended up waiting in a way too hot bus until we were finally taken back to the hotel.

In retrospective, the trip wasn’t worth it at all. We had to pay the guys who drove us to touristy spots that were prepared to rip off, I mean, lighten the financial burden of the tourists. It wasn’t relaxing, it wasn’t really fun, and the only bit I did like was that spring temple. In the end, we ended up renting a chauffer and car for a day for our next excursion, something that proved to be a much better deal. But I’ll post about that trip in my next travel update.

Balinese Street Vendors

There is one thing I didn’t really like in Jakarta, but which I really hated on Bali: The hordes of people trying to sell you junk. In Jakarta this was mostly limited to people trying to sell you stuff at traffic lights, such as newspaper, water, or plastic World Cup balls. On Bali, these sales people are everywhere. They lay siege to any place a tourist may tread, and as soon as one gets out of the car a small crowd of them will form, talking excitedly, trying to sell you their goods. T-Shirts, cloth, miniature motorcycle models, necklaces, wooden statues, sunglasses, pretty much anything. Others offer services, such as a woman offering a pedicure at Kuta beach. Naturally their prices are way too high, but it’s easy to haggle if you really want to buy something. Just say no until the price drops to about 10% of the initial price.

My Indonesian host was more used to this and displayed more patience than I did. I’ll freely admit that these people did annoy me. I do realize of course that they have to earn a living somehow, but I still feel that one has a right to be fed up with it after seeing the same junk for the umpteenth time. And some of them are quite agressive. A “no”, a declining gesture, an angry look, a “go away”, all is lost on these people. Some will even follow you around for a while, hoping you’ll buy something so just they’ll leave you alone. Not really a good way to make business.

The worst of this was along places that are visited by planned, regular tours. If you’re going to places that are even a little off the beaten path, the frequency of the sales pitches decreases dramatically.

Hotel Grand Instana Rama, Bali

2543A few words about the hotel we stayed in, the [Grand Istana Rama](http://www.grandistanarama.com) at Kuta Beach, Bali. It’s basically a compound with several buildings, lots of green in between them, and just at the beach (with onyl the road in between). The rooms are okay, and a strict pest control program means there’s really no roaches (as far as I can tell). The staff was okay for the most part. However there are also a few negative things.

First of all – no Internet. Okay, maybe not so important for normal people. For a geek, this isn’t quite so trivial. Well, at least their website is okay.

The breakfast was – well – not too great. Okay, I know, Hotel breakfasts are hardly worth their money, and that does include breakfasts you get for free. We tried their kitchen at other times. It can best described as Okay. The lunch buffet was not very appealing. They offered it to us, obviously after the normal lunch time, and there were literally flies all over it. No, thank you, and don’t ask again.

The water in the shower didn’t drain quite right, which I think was a defect in the floor and couldn’t be fixed quite so easily. But it was pretty icky to step in the shower in the morning and have the floor still wet from the night before.

The worst about the hotel, however – the stench of their bed cloth and towels was horrible. I have no idea what exactly they do with it; is it just a horrible chemical cleaning process, is it being dried in the exhaust of some sort of generator, or do they put it out for drying while they fumigate the compound? I couldn’t even identify the smell, but it did not quite smell like Diesel. But that was pretty bad, especially the towels.

Overall, I think I wouldn’t want to go there again. Maybe if they change their management things could improve; the facilities are really okay and the hotel has potential, but like this I have to say … uh, no.

First Impressions of Bali

4605When you arrive in Bali after you’ve been in Jakarta, you notice one thing immediately: “Hey, I can actually breathe here.” There’s much less pollution, presumably due to the lower number of inhabitants. The weather is really nice though (as one would expect). There’s a surprising amount of traffic (a lot of it taxis) and all the streets are lined with little shops, mostly selling clothes and souvenir. I think I spotted the first shops selling fake brand-name items within ten minutes. There are fancy walls and statues and temples all over, too, just as one would expect. Overall it looks as if Bali is a nice, if overly touristy, place.

From Jakarta to Bali

After we had been in Jakarta for a few days, we began to plan for our Bali excursion. My indonesian hosts were experts on the matter, so I left the planning up to them. We consulted a travel agent whom we also eventually visited to pick up our tickets. I was a little shy to take a photo in their office, but I should have. It was crowded, to say the least. The employees had about the space that their seat occupied plus 2cm on each side. Desks were everywhere, with obviously inadequate escape routes – if a fire ever breaks out there, they can bury half their staff. At least. The travel agent’s credit card terminal was also broken, so we didn’t get our tickets until a day later.

We departed for Bali on Wednesday, June 28th. Had to wake up really early after way too little sleep, and I am afraid I fell asleep again on the way to the airport. Which was just as well, as my Indonesian hosts were talking in their native language; gibberish to me.

2633The airport can only be described as chaotic. People there were rude and uncivilized, and, as I have noted before, Indonesians do not know the meaning of the word “queue”. Another surprise awaited me when we went to the gate – The departure terminal / gates are open-air! They have roofs, but no walls. The exception is an air-conditioned waiting area near the gate itself. Eventually, the boarding call was made, not too much later than expected.

2591Our airline was a regional company called “AdamAir”, presumably to be as much on top of the alphabetical sort order as possible. Their company colors are orange and yellow, but the plane we got looked old and shabby; a 737 painted in a dusty white, with barely a company logo on the plane’s tail. (Other AdamAir planes had a better paint job.)

2594The inside was pretty much what you would expect, and I had severe problems with my rather limited leg space. Another big surprise awaited me when I first saw the flight attendants. If AdamAir has a dress code, it must be very liberal. The flight attendants wore jeans and football jerseys. They were all young women – girls, really – as well, and while they didn’t do anything wrong they acted with a kind of aloofness that seemed to scream: “Hey I don’t really care. This is only a temp job.”

2621The flight itself was alright, not great. The family in front of us couldn’t sit still, and their fat son jumped up and down so much that my host had to scold him. That slowed him down a little, but didn’t stop him. The food was strange; spongy rolls and pre-packed water. Not too yummy, but hey, it’s an airline. We did have a window seat, and after we had left the [Jakarta pollution](/2006/07/04/pollution/) cloud behind us we had a pretty good view. Most exciting for me, I must admit, was that we got to see Mount Merapi. My first active volcano – even if it is just from many kilometers away.

2630The flight to Bali took maybe a bit over an hour. We landed, got out at the high-tech terminal, claimed our luggage, and were eventually picked up by a small bus which drove us through streets I didn’t think it would fit through to our hotel.