A Travellerspoint blog

July 2013



Monday, July 15th

As always, at the end of each trip, I like to compile a list of things that were of note in each destination.

So, as we sit at the airport, these are the things that Shirley and I found interesting about Java and Bali.

1. The standards in Java are not the same as Bali. In Java, hotels and streets are not clean. At least not to our standards or even Bali’s standards.

2. Sidewalks in Bali are treacherous and extremely narrow. Despite the millions of tourists, the sidewalks rise and fall without warning and there are large gaping holes everywhere. You learn early to keep your head down at all times or risk breaking an ankle.

3. Crossing the streets, takes speed and agility because no one stops for pedestrians.

4. In Java, people use a fork and spoon or their right hand to eat. Bali uses fork and knife (not sure if this is because of the exposure to westerners).

5. Java is a predominately Muslim island. Bali is Hindu. The culture is completely different. Bali seems to have the “inner peace” as advertised. Lots of yoga studios.

6. The people are super friendly on both islands. In Java, the people seem generally happy to see tourists and greet you with a quiet smile. In Bali, everyone greets you with “hello, how are you?”, “where you from?”. I don’t think I encountered one crabby local in the entire 2 weeks.

7. Apparently this is the wettest dry season ever. We had short and long downpours of rain everyday in Bali. Every one seemed surprised by this.

8. Java is cheap but gets increasingly more expensive as you move west to east where there are more touristy sites (Borobudur and Bromo) but still much cheaper than Bali.

9. Massages are available everywhere and every ten feet in Ubud, Bali. Even the on the local ferry and at the airport.

10. There is someone offering you a taxi or “transport” constantly in Ubud. And when you get in, the first thing they want to know (after the above), is what you are doing tomorrow and do you want a taxi/driver. When you tell them you are going home, they want to take you to the airport. We took about 6 taxis in the past 2 days and it was the exact same ritual in each one. We felt so bad about not needing more taxis and apologized each time for already having one booked to the airport.

11. Becaks or rickshaws are the main mode of transportation in Java but non-existent in Bali where taxis are new Toyota vehicles.

12. Toilet paper and western toilets are virtually non existent in Java but are wide spread in Bali. In neither place, should you flush toilet paper Rather paper is put in a bin near by. Their systems simply cannot handle it.

13. Everyone smokes in Java, no one smokes (except tourists) in Bali.

14. There are no dogs on Java. The Balinese tell us the Muslims don’t like dogs but dogs roam the streets freely in Bali. Dogs are considered a form of security for the family like community compounds.

15. Motorcycles are the predominate form of transportation. Kids learn to drive as young as 10 years old but get a license at 17.

16. At one of the stores in Bali (our favourite jewellery shop), the lady told us that usually she cannot remember her customers because all white people look alike but even her friend knew when we were coming because Shirley has an Asian face so we were easy to distinguish.

17. In Bali when paying for something at a shop, they take your money and sort of drag it or touch the other products in the store for good luck.

18. Bali is westernized, touristy and easy. Java is relatively untouched, almost primitive in the rural areas and challenging at times.

19. Shopkeepers are not aggressive in Java, never approaching tourist but this changes in Bali.

20. People are extremely proud of their culture and are deeply religious and traditional.

So that's the end of another wonderful adventure.

Signing off from Hong Kong airport.

Shelley and Shirley

ps. I just encountered footprints on the airplane toilet. Every now and then, we see someone try and squat on a western toilet. I can assure you I would never try and sit on a squatty.

Posted by curlygirl 15:48 Archived in Indonesia Tagged bali java intrepid. indoensia Comments (1)



sunny 30 °C

Today is the last of our Indonesian adventure but we made the most of every minute.

We got up and had showers in time to meet our guide for breakfast. We decided to pack up and do a final weigh of our bags knowing that we were both at the limits for our travels. It was really funny when we checked in with Air Asia, both our bags weighed 23.4kgs. Just as I was lifting my bag off the floor, I noticed something scurry inside and was pretty certain it was a cockroach. It was fated to happen because Shirley has had extreme bug phobia in this tropical bug infested paradise. I made fun of her all along the way telling her not to worry that the bugs would die in the sub zero temperatures in the belly of the airplane. She always kept her suitcase zipped up. I never did but ironically it was zipped til I opened it this morning. Any way, I took each piece of clothes out and shook it but no cockroach but I knew what I saw. I decided to take the bag outside and dump it upside down Thankfully, he ran out. He headed right for the bedroom door, just enough to make Shirley shriek before running off. I was grateful to not be responsible for a giant cockroach outbreak in Newfoundland.

Actually we had another funny bug story last night. In keeping with Shirley’s bug paranoia, we had to keep all window and doors locked and light off at all times. Well last night our room was so stuffy, and you may recall we had no air conditioning, so I insisted we open the window and door to let the breeze flow through. No sooner had I done this when this big green leaf like bug landed on the wall and started to chirp. Every 15 minutes or so, he’d make a fairly loud squeak. I knew I was in the dog house and was fearing for my life if this creature kept Shirley up or even worst, landed on her while sleeping. My attempts to get him out failed and we both lived to tell the tale.

Back to our final day. After joining the group stragglers and our guide for breakfast we walked down to the SPCA to return some umbrellas we borrowed yesterday. Then it was time for our final spa treatment. We both had a hair treatment and I had a pedicure. After arriving at NUR spa, I was surprised to learn I was getting both at once but not disappointed. Shirley and I were escorted to the back room and in keeping with our spa experiences, were promptly asked to undress from the waist up. But this time, they wrapped us in a sarong. The hair treatment started with a shampoo and a wicked head massage. I felt guilty thinking my mother deserved this more than I did but since she wasn’t here, there was no point in feeling too guilty so I relaxed and enjoyed. It counts that I thought of you, right mom?? Next they applied a cream made of avocado and aloe vera. This was massaged into our heads for at least 15 minutes before wrapping it a cloth and starting to massage our neck and shoulders. Sooooo nice. Then they applied steam to our heads while they massaged our arms and hands. All the while, I am having a foot massage and pedicure. Like seriously, can you blame us? It cost me $22 for both. Never mind that the colour selection was poor and I am now sporting whore red on my toes. The ladies were so thrilled with my colour assuring me it was “good colour, so pretty”. It isn’t too bad really. I think Shirley has a picture. Although the picture shows my swollen ankle and fly bites.


From there, I went with Shirley to finish up her shopping. She had to get a third pair of those handmade ballet slippers. Of course I encouraged her. I couldn’t stand to hear her whine when she got home about how she should have bought them.

We then met Janet for a final lunch at the Lotus Café, aptly named for the lotus garden outside, before heading back to the hotel to wait for our driver. Our driver was excellent. He spoke excellent English and we finally got the answer as to why some of the millions of statues are wrapped in cloth. These are the sacred statues that we need to respect. Good to know after I had already made faces and disgraced one earlier today. Shirley is waiting for me to be struck down by the Hindu gods.


As I write we have just landed in Jakarta after a wonderful flight on Air Asia. We have virtually no money left so are sitting at a&w eating a mango chicken pocket which is all we can afford. I had a great flight on this budget airline and the best conversation with a devoutly Muslim lady from Jakarta who owns her own travel agency taking Muslims all over the world to Muslim countries. She was so interesting and modern. I got great insight into life in Jakarta and she even shared her snack that she brought to eat when fasting broke. It is Ramadan so she is fasting from sunrise to sunset without even water! They even announced over the PA when it was ok to break fasting.

We leave in 3 hours for Hong Kong, then Tokyo and onward to New York and St. John’s. We are working on our “Reflections of Indonesia” which will probably follow on our 5 hour layover in Hong Kong.

Looking forward to seeing everyone!


Posted by curlygirl 06:52 Archived in Indonesia Tagged bali indonesia spa ubud nur Comments (1)



overcast 31 °C

Sunday, July 14th

We opted to spend our last day finishing up a little shopping. So after a leisurely rise and a late breakfast, we headed out and continued to browse through the million of little shops. Really we didn’t see anything new but it never hurts to have a final scan. We obviously found something as we both visited the bank machine twice today. It isn’t as bad as it seems because at most machines the maximum withdrawal is between $120 - $150. The biggest issue with this is the foreign withdrawal fees but we factored that into our shopping cost.

We truly had a scheduled day because we really need to try the local speciality and it is only available for lunch. So after cutting it close we hopped in a taxi and headed to Ibu Oka for the “suckling pig”. You know the saying, “When in Rome…”. This may prove to be another test of the Dukoral because it didn’t seem like the most hygienic spot. Nothing specific but it was a little disconcerting, as we sat on the floor with birds over head and chickens running around us. We had a few bites and opted to grab a gelato on the way to our massage. Yes, another massage.



Well the massage was amazing and really the story isn’t that bad but if you don’t want the play by play, skip ahead.

Julie, one of the ladies in our group, had mentioned that she stumbled upon a spa just up the road inside some temple walls. She had checked out the rooms and said it looked amazing but a little more expensive. ($20 for a 90 minute massage and $8 for a pedicure, we really have lost perspective). Last night Shirley and I decide to check it out for ourselves. We ended up booking massage for today. It was no mistake. I have never experienced anything like this. The 90 minute massage was actually a massage, a seaweed scrub, and a flower bath. We each went to an individual hut that had a table and a beautiful bath tub made of marble. After being instructed to strip off all my clothes, (yup, everything), and being denied something to cover up in, I was instructed to get up on the table. She was completely unfazed so I just accepted and relaxed. The massage with coconut oil was one of the best I ever had. She was so detailed and did each toe individually…twice!! After about an hour, I sat up for a deeper neck massage. She was on the table behind me for this. Next, she applied a full body scrub made of seaweed. This was awesome too. From there I had to stand next to the tub, by a drain while she used a coconut ladle to rinse me. This was followed by a full wash with yogurt. “Very good for my skin”. She also rinsed that off, before instructing me to get in the tub which was filled with fresh flower petal. During the 10 minutes that I was left to relax, I was served a beverage of my choice. Finally, after getting out of the tub, she proceeded to wash me. She says, “I am a mama washing a baby”. I said, “I am a big baby!” I am certain the last time I was washed like that; I was about 12 months old. I decided against the lotion application. It may all sound like a bit much but it was out of this world. They were respectful and discrete. I couldn’t wait to see Shirley after. She had the same reaction. We were completely in awe both remarking it was the first time we felt clean in 2 weeks. We are both going back tomorrow before our flight for a hair treatment. I am having the pedicure too. Here are some photos of the grounds and the spa room.


This evening those of us left in the group joined Sukio’s next group and attended a Kechak and Fire Dance. This was really beautiful although I have no good pictures to prove it. I really missed my lens tonight. There was about 50 men chanting and later some women as well while girls danced in beautiful traditional costumes. There was also a session where they lit a pile of coconuts and a guy danced through them. Crazy but really entertaining.


Overall, another really great day. We have a long day of travel tomorrow as we have to fly to Jakarta suppertime on a local airline in order to catch our midnight flight tomorrow evening.

Few more snaps from our travels today.


Posted by curlygirl 07:04 Archived in Indonesia Tagged bali indonesia spa ubud nur Comments (1)


Exploring Bali, with and without my camera

sunny 29 °C

Saturday, July 13th

Our day began with a final breakfast with several of our tour friends. Most were leaving at various times throughout the day but since we had hired a driver and car for the day we wouldn’t be around for the final farewells.

We headed out with our guide Maday (spelling???) at around 9 am for our first real look at the island of Bali. He suggested an itinerary that suited us so we followed his lead. Our first stop was at Goa Gajah or the elephant caves, named because the Hindu statue of Ganesh (the elephant) is found inside. This was unearth in the 1920s and 1950s but dates back to the 11th century. It was really lovely.


One thing that is really interesting here is how many times a day people make offerings to the gods. They are literally everywhere and you see people constantly adding them to sidewalks, temples, doorways and any where else you can think of. You see people in the shops shredding banana leaves making hundreds of these little frames for the flowers and rice that are placed throughout the city. It is a real form of artistry. These are usually added with burning incense.


Next stop was the small village of Tampairing and the Unesco nominated site, Gunung Kawi. There are 10 rock cut shrines in the face of two opposite cliffs. The whole site is in a lush green river valley and had much to explore. We had to take off our shoes to explore one of the temples and it was full of dirt, moss and sharp rocks. We all used anti bacterial wipes when we got out. Janet took extra care with a bonus coat of Purell. While here, I had a major mishap. My camera slipped from my hands and my camera plunged into the stone ground below breaking my favourite travel lens. I am not convinced that it can be repaired and am hoping that my travel insurance will coverage some or all of the replacement. Judy?? I guess this was my offering today although not a joyful one. On a positive note, at least it happened at the end of the trip. So I am left with just my 50mm lens, no zoom, so I will only have pictures of things I can get close to.


Next was the very spiritual site, Pura Tirta Empul. This spring is believed to have magical powers and pours into public baths where many people wash and pray. This was really interesting but not interesting enough to jump in. We did see one white couple partake. I was a little tempted because it was so hot. As usual I was sweaty and disgusting. Shirley even photographed my sweating kneecaps.


There were plenty of shops along the way and the prices were better since there were fewer tourists. It was really funny because you needed a sarong (or pants below you knees) to enter any of these places which are given out for free upon entry. Still, there are a hundred ladies trying to sell you a very special sarong for $1. They were relentless but we did not cave. These sarongs were relatively cheap looking but probably worth more than a dollar.

From there we went to view Ganung Batur. Ganung is Indonesian for volcano. The view was really beautiful and we had an excellent buffet lunch at the base. This volcano is surrounded by a huge crater lake and a river valley.


We drove back towards town through many villages and were lucky enough to see many locals on their way to temple to make offerings. Everyone was dressed in local costumes but most impressive were the Balinese woman who wore beautiful clothes and carried large offerings of fruit on their heads. This type of offering only happens ever 3 to 7 days so we felt lucky to see this. I was pissed not to have the right camera lens.


We also passed many cremation preparations. Death and the cremation of the dead is a huge undertaking here and the ceremony lasts several days and has to occur on a “good” day. I didn’t quite get it all but we saw men building a huge wooden structure, groups of men sitting around in the woods. Our guide told us that there are a few “good” days set aside each year where many people are cremated at once (the bodies temporarily buried until cremation time).I understand this is primarily to help those who cannot afford the extravagant ritual. It is supposed to be a beautiful event and one that has to be respected. The Balinese lifestyle seems to be deeply based on tradition.

We ended our day with a little shopping and a visit to the village that makes all the local silver. We didn’t find the prices to be better but we only visited one family owned shop so no purchases were made.

I came back to the hotel and went for a swim and a chat to the others who are still around and also met some of the people heading off on the next Intrepid trip. Shirley and I had a quiet evening and late supper at an Italian restaurant. The food here is fine but nothing to get too excited about. Here in Bali we are back to forks and knives. In Java, you are always given a fork and spoon and many people eat with their right hand only, no utensils.

Tomorrow will be a day of relaxation and is our last full day of vacation.

Our driver, Maday


wedding decorations


Posted by curlygirl 07:53 Archived in Indonesia Tagged bali indonesia ubud Comments (0)

Eat, Pray, Love and Shop, Shop, Shop

Our first day in Ubud

sunny 35 °C

Friday, July 12

Well we ate, we loved shopping and we swore a few times as we wandered the streets aimlessly, lost in the intense heat, so that might count as praying.

Welcome to Ubud, the land of tourists, many of whom seem to be Julia Roberts wanna bees and have the Bali experience. We arrived at our beautiful hotel, the Artini 2 cottages at 10 am this morning. It was only a short one hour drive from Tanah Lot. The grounds are beautiful and the hotel has lots of character. We would, however, prefer to have air conditioning along with our ceiling fan. It is really quite quaint with the many statues if you can just ignore that one monkey who seems to be a little distracted.


We didn’t pitch long before heading out to drop our laundry and brave the intense heat and humidity to hit the millions of little shops. Although most of the shops are the same we got caught up in this one little silver shop. The silver is nicer and more modern than in Java. Managed to find myself a few presents and although Shirley was mainly shopping for gifts, she has since convinced herself that she should keep it all for herself. At least I am openly selfish and just buy for me straight out.


We had an awesome lunch at the Dirty Duck restaurant where we had, you guessed it, duck. This was a real splurge and our most expensive meal by far, $15 each. But we did both have a Thirsty Duck to start.

We continue to walk to the Monkey Forest although we did not go inside. There are several reports of tourists being bitten in this sacred forest and the monkeys have rabies. Shirley is terrified of monkeys. Our group mates who went said it was great so I am still contemplating. I did see several outside and saw one hiss and chase a local. Creeped me out a little.


From there we tried to head home but instead got lost for about an hour before giving in and taking a cab ($2). We met up with a few members of our group to go to a nearby village named Petulu to see the place where the herons come each evening. It was amazing, there were thousands of them. On the way back we stopped at some nearby rice fields to take a few snaps.


Then it was back to the hotel to meet our group for our farewell dinner. About half the group is staying on a few days and the rest head out tomorrow. It has been a great couple weeks with a great bunch of people.

Tomorrow we have rented a car and driver for 8 hours for $40. We are hoping to escape this tourist trap and see the real Bali.

I am so happy that Isaac is home safe from Australia and I hear it was a great trip. Can't wait to see him.

Posted by curlygirl 07:34 Archived in Indonesia Tagged bali dirty duck intrepid ubud Comments (0)

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