Tuesday, November 24, 2009


1. Nov 20, Day 37: We left Jamahal Resort at 12 pm+ for Munduk, a small town in north Bali, in the mountains, on the slope of the mountain ridge that comprises Gunung Batukaru, Sangiang, Lesong and Pohen. We expected nice cool weather, great view, especially when we would be passing Lake Buyan and Temblingan and a chance to trek through plantations and rice fields. We expected about 3 hours of driving, traveling northwards from Jimbaran.

2. Around Denpasar, traffic was heavy; otherwise it was generally easy driving; sealed road, one lane either way. Saw this spiky Caucasian on his motorbike, with a kid in between. He had a good sense of humour; safety wise, we were not sure. In Bali, many Caucasians, including females, moved around in hired motorbikes or scooters. Looked a good way to see Bali.

3. It was drizzling. At 3+ we stopped for lunch at Pacung, at a resort next to the main road. We had great view from the restaurant. The resort was down the slope, with straw roof wooden accommodation built next to the tiered paddy fields. Another restaurant was built cantilevered out, serving as a lookout point, affording a great view.

4. North of Lake Buyan, we started to travel westwards along a narrow ridge; to the left are the 2 beautiful lakes and to the right sloping down to a valley, with occasional houses on both sides, and then twisting and turning downhill towards Munduk.

5. Just before Munduk town, we checked out Lumbung Cottages and Puri Lumbung Cottages and decided to check into Puri Lumbung Cottages for the night for 550 000 rps. Both were in real need to improve their state of maintenance, though Puri had an edge. Based on the pictures we saw in the internet and what we saw on the ground, we could imagine Puri must have looked great when it was newer. From the balcony of our stilt cottage, we could see the paddy field a stone throw away and fascinating view of the mountains and valley.

6. It had plaques showing it had received assistance from Swiss and Australian individuals and organisations in developing the resort. It had another plaque that showed that David Bowie stayed there in 1996. The plaque was put up in 2009, more than 10 years after the event.

7. After a drive to Munduk town, we quickly concluded that the only option for dinner was at the resort itself. I had nasi goreng for dinner, while listening to a 3 man musician group playing Balinese music. Must admit that I still have difficulties discerning the tunes. Breakfast at 7.30 am brightened the day, with sun rising over the Gunungs.

8. At 8 am, we had booked ourselves trekking with Arya, a staff with the resort. The previous evening, he offered to take us trekking, saying that there were very few tour guides who could speak English here. He looked a motivated staff, performing various tasks in the resort and spoke reasonably good English. We accepted his offer at US$7 per hour. At breakfast, we offered Elliot Fein, a hotel guest like us, from New York, to join us for trekking too.

9. It was a 2.5 hour of trekking; first down the slope from we stayed to the valley, then up the slope to other side of the valley from where we could see our resort on the other side, and then up the slope back to the resort; through plantations of cloves, nutmegs, cocoa, coffee, vanilla seeds, and rice fields; along very narrow pedestrian paths used by plantation workers; and passing houses and small villages from time to time. Here, you could see Arya showing us the cocoa pod and the seeds inside. The cocoa seeds tasted sweet.

10. Passing a elderly man picking coconuts from very tall trees, Arya arranged for the man to pick a coconut each for us. On the spot, he sliced open a hole in the coconuts. It was marvelous, real thirst quenching. We gave him 30 000 rps.

11. Along the way, 2 buffaloes posed for our pictures, stopping briefly from its plowing task. An artistically erected scarecrow also made a pretty scene.

12. In Bali, it is fairly common to see women carrying things on their heads; strangely not man. They could balance tall or bulky objects, walking gracefully. We were also surprised that they could also carry heavy loads. On the way back to the resort, we saw these 3 women carrying sand from the road-side to the construction site behind the road. Was told that each bucket could easily weigh 15 kg. They must have strong necks.

13. After checking out at about 11 am, we backtracked our route up the hills. Our destination was Ubud, to see Fangping and have dinner with her. We had lunch on the ridge overlooking the Lake Buyan.

14. We reached Ubud about 3 pm. After picking up Fangping, we had a 2 hour massage at Ubud Wellness before dinner. It was the best massage I had in my trip so far. Located behind the main road, it was not easy to find. Its a small outfit, good ambience, and wonderful massage. The masseurs were very professional, certainly well trained. At about 200 000+ rps for 2 hours (about US$20+), it was very good value for money. I would add to the must-do list for visitors to Ubud.

15. Fangping had booked Mosaic for dinner. Mosaic is located in a beautiful building, with a spacious garden behind for outdoor dining. It had 4 menus to choose from, one of them vegetarian. Good ambience, good food, good service, but huge bill. Overall, damage was about 2.5 million rps (about US200), really international pricing; bust my budget.

16. Stayed the night at Puri Padi, at US$40 a night. The next day was really lazing around and clearing some emails. In the afternoon, we drove to Nusa Dua and checked into Melia Villas and Spa Resort, where Yeow Pheng and his family was staying. That evening, we had seafood dinner at Jimbaran's Menega Cafe, on the beach.

17. At dinner, Yeow Pheng and I discussed our plans going forward. With her granddaughter just recovering from her sickness in Solo, they were not comfortable to proceed to Lombok, Sumbawa and Flores while leaving her behind. The trip across the islands could be too tough for her. On Java, we felt that it was not crucial for us to see it again as we had already seen the key places; especially during my army days, in my case; more so when we had earlier decided to skip Sumatra given the uncertainties and concerns after the Padang earthquake. Given that we have to be back before Christmas, timing was also getting a little stretched. On balance, we decided that cut short our journey and end it at Bali.

18. At my end, Li Hoon and I decided to proceed with the visit to Lombok with the Pajero and return to Bali to join Fangping until the end of her yoga course in early December. I will now have to arrange to ship the car back from Bali, or at worse from Surabaya. I should be back in Singapore by the first week of December.

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