1. 16 Nov, Day 33; after Mt Bromo, our plan was to head towards Bali and, if necessary, stay the night at Banyuwangi before catching the ferry to Bali the next morning. As it turned out, we reached Banyuwangi early, at about 2 pm, and decided to board the ferry immediately for Bali.
2. As we turned to head south for Banyuwangi along the coastal road, we passed through the Baluran National Park, a 25 000 ha forest reserve on the north coast of east Java, with Mt Baluran (1247m)on the left. For tens of kilometers, the area seemed burnt out. The trees looked naked without their foliage. The road that we traveled on was been resurfaced. During one of its dry spells, there must have been a fire that took away most of the foliage.
3. The ferry to Bali was clean and efficient. After paying the fee at the gate, we boarded the ferry. We left the car on the car deck and went upstairs to relax in the passenger area. Journey to Bali's Gilimanuk was about 1 hour, and we were told there were 2 services per hour. At Gilimanuk, the ferry waited for a few minutes for the landing point to be cleared. At the exit gate, we were stopped briefly by a police officer. Asking us in Bahasa, he wanted to know whats in the car, but waved us through after consulting his "boss" in the office. We were not expecting any custom check as the it was an internal movement within Indonesia. Soon, we were on the public road, traveling south towards the town.
4. The town was some 150 km away from Gilimanuk but it was a long drive to town. Road was a good road but it was only one lane either way and very often it was clogged up by slow moving trucks and buses. As we were driving into darkness, we decided to check into a hotel nearby. With GPS set for Le Meridien Nirwana Golf & Spa Resort we were led through a tortuous route through small villages and paddy fields along narrow roads, in pitch darkness. Eventually, we got there by 8 pm, both quite exhausted. I suspect the GPS was using out-dated information to get us to Le Meridien. After dinner in the hotel, we slept early. I was up at 6 am next morning and took a walk along the coast. Located close to a cliff along the shoreline, the resort golf course hugged the hotel and I could see Tanah Lot few hundred meters away (looked like a par 5 distance). Tanah Lot is one of the most visited temples in Bali. It sits on a rock along the coast and is accessible on foot during low tide. At 6+ in the morning, there were already people walking on the marshy shore near the temple.
5. Next day, Day 34, Yeow Pheng checked into hotel at Kuta Beach to await his family arriving from Solo/Spore the next day, while I linked up with my daughter, who was in Bali for yoga course. She is learning to teach yoga and her course is in Anahata Hotel in Ubud (course still on-going). As I had never been to Ubud, I was happy to drive up there and stay there while Yeow Pheng spent the weekend with his family near the beach. Fangping's yoga friends were so nice to visit her in Bali and here she was sending them off back to Singapore at Bali airport.
6. In Ubud, I stayed in Cedana Hotel along the busy Monkey Forest Street. It had quite a sizeable land area but it was only accessible from Monkey Forest Street via a 50-60 m long narrow lane, wide enough only for one car in or out, next to a restaurant. Shops, restaurants and hotels lined both sides of the narrow Monkey Forest Street and gaps between them would lead to more hotels behind. Developments looked uncontrolled. Ubud looked way over-developed; very touristic. It was convenient to stay in town, but the charming developments were those at some distance away from Ubud town, closer to the natural environment, among the paddy fields. In front of my room at Cedana was a nice pool overlooking a small paddy field.
7. At Ubud, I had some time to myself as Fangping was having her classes, Yeow Pheng with his family near the beach and Li Hoon (my wife) only arriving on Nov 19, Day 36. I walked the streets of Ubud and visited a number of attractions. At northern end of Monkey Forest Street was a sacred Monkey Forest Sanctuary, an area that was still green with trees and secondary vegetation with a temple within, populated by long tailed macaques. It was a quiet space to relax for a few minutes watching the monkeys playing among themselves and doing their social-bonding. A signboard warned that the monkeys might be aggressive but when I was there they were happy just doing their own things. The temple there was under repair.
8. At the other end of Monkey Street was a morning market. Leading to it, were many stalls selling clothes, handicraft (including non-powered tools), fruits and vegetables etc etc; rather untidy but here you see an interesting mix of locals doing their morning marketing and tourists browsing to see what they could buy.
9. Next to the morning market was a small religious shrine. Many locals, mostly females, were there doing their daily prayers. Along the street, it was a common sight to see ladies, dressed beautifully, placing religious offerings at their door-steps. The sale girl I spoke to said that it was a daily practice and she would prayed for good business and for good health. Morning prayers:
10. Near the morning market was Ubud Palace. Took a stroll in there (no entrance fee) but there were no explanatory boards, no guides; hardly any information. Some sections were closed to public. Took some pictures and left.
11. Walking along Jl Raya Ubud towards Museum Puri Lukisan, I passed his cafe with a beautiful lotus garden. Had a cup of coffee at the cafe while enjoying the beauty of the lotus garden.
12. The Puri Lukisan Museum was officially opened in 1956. It is dedicated to the preservation of Balinese arts heritage. It was a worthwhile visit; not just to appreciate Balinese arts but through the arts pieces gained a better appreciation of Bali culture and history. On both sides of the entrance to the main building of the museum were 2 wall paintings by a famous Balinese painter. One showed the planting of paddy seedlings while the other showed the harvesting season. Rice planting remains an important facet of life in Bali.
13. Walking down Monkey Forest, I saw these 2 ladies, enjoying the fish spa while watching life in the street- innovative entrepreneur.
14. On Nov 19, Day 36, I decided to check into a hotel in Jimbaran Beach, near the airport, to receive Li Hoon when she arrived at 7 pm that night and only traveling back to Ubud the next day. After some scouting around, found the very charming Jamahal Private Resort and Spa. It is a small property, with 13 villas, designed very tastefully, with plenty of greenery and privacy. When inside, you are in a world of your own. I could only afford this because it was low season and it was too attractive to refuse, especially when the receptionist was so friendly and helpful. It has a decent size pool and from the villa we stayed in, we could almost jump into the pool from the bedroom. We had dinner at the patio outside the bedroom and a refreshing swim at 6 am the next morning when the sun shine woke us up. When we checked out, the whole team of hotel staff, including the director, Dhita Hadisubrata, was there to send us off.