Friday, March 21, 2008

I've been to Bali too

Took me a long time to make my first trip to Bali. I'd always seen it as the Aussie "Costa del Sol", just a tacky place where young Australians went to party and drop out for a while. Wasn't my scene at all so I avoided the place despite many friends trying to convince me otherwise.
Then, in 2004, I met a New Yorker on a dive trip on the Great Barrier Reef who told me about the splendid diving to be had in Indonesian waters. Before I knew it, I'd booked to do a luxury liveaboard around Raja Empat, off West Papua/Irian Jaya.
I'm a West Aussie these days, so it's only a short plane ride to Bali. The local dive shop owner had a friend in Bali running his own operation on the east coast so I booked in for a week of diving before heading east to the liveaboard. Boy did I get a pleasant surprise! The diving was superb, everything was cheap, and the party animals stayed around Kuta, leaving the rest of the island relatively untouched. On my first trip to Bali I didn't even visit Kuta, spending my time up at Padang Bai and Tulamben, with a couple of days in Ubud. I did stay in Sanur, on the recommendation of friends, and found the laidback scene much more to my liking.
Here's a video from Tulamben, of the SS Liberty. If you get a chance, stay a couple of days at Tulamben and go diving, it's worth it.

My second trip to Bali was merely as a stopover to North Sulawesi where I was heading to dive the famous Lembeh Strait. More on there later. I flew back in to Denpasar, off on a Komodo dive trip then back through for a spot of shopping on my way home.

My third trip I decided to do a little exploring. I was off again to Sulawesi, for a mixture of trekking, sightseeing and diving, and had 4-5 days in Bali prior to my flight. I was staying with friends in Sanur, who were very busy with work, so I left the dive gear with them and headed up to Candi Dasa by bemo. I'm sure I paid too much but I got there pretty quickly and enjoyed a few rather halting conversations with the locals. In Candi Dasa it was so quiet I saw 4 other western tourists in the 3 days I was there!! I got a simple cabin by the "beach" and went off to explore the region.

Candi Dasa is a good base for visiting some interesting historic/religious/cultural sites. Only up the road is a traditional Bali Aga village called Tenganan, which you can visit by donation. It's about a half hour walk up a road just south of Candi Dasa or you can jump on the back of a motorbike for a five minute ride. Inside the walled village are two rows of stone houses facing each other, heading uphill and petering out into a green pasture/playing field. The locals sell their traditional handicrafts, but it's otherwise a normal village, complete with the cows lying around and cocks in cages. PHOTOS

Walking back to Candi Dasa, I noticed a battery chicken farm on the left about halfway back to the main road.

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