Saturday, 18 August 2012

More from Tembok and onto Ubud...

Jet lag finally kicked in with a vengeance on the Tuesday night and I spent most of it lying awake or in the bathroom with the door closed and the light on, perched on the side of the basin or lying in the empty bath reading (and finishing) The Midwich Cuckoos. The husband was struggling to sleep as well, so my shut-in was entirely self-sacrificing! The scheduled 8am yoga hatha session was an inevitable write-off but we made it to breakfast and feasted on the slightly odd assortment of offerings they lay on for, again, the Western palette (or at least what I assume they assume we eat).

The croissants and Swiss cheese, fairy cakes (a version of muffins?), scrambled eggs, streaky bacon, bread, butter and strawberry jam, pastries with candied peel, sweaty anaemic sausages (the latter two not for me!) and coffee filled the hole that no sleep had left. We whiled away some time by the pool; Dave baking in the sun and swimming to cool off, me reading in the shade (On The Road by Jack Kerouac; a very enjoyable wedding present). The pool at our resort was large and deep, and little birds that looked like swifts skimmed its surface as the days got later... catching bugs or cooling off, we assume.

That evening we had a Balinese BBQ and watched a traditional Kecak dance (the story of Sinurat and Sinurit). It was a small scale production, laid on by the resort for the guests, but it was visually and aurally stunning. Mesmerising! Forty or so men wearing Bali's traditional black and white checkered cloths and red sashes waved their hands and shouted and chanted in an amazingly intricate, a cappella rhythm. These guys were the 'backing dancers' to the characters acting out the main story of two brothers fighting over the love of a goddess. Classic. I was really pleased to get some photos capturing the action but without the chants of "cak-cak-cak" they'll never do the performance justice.

We enjoyed more indulgent spa treatments: a cucumber and aloe body wrap (the perfect after-sun pampering) and a 100 minute treat of massage, body scrub, milk masque and a flower bath. 

We also took a couple of classes; a cooking lesson where we made little deep fried dumplings made of grated galangal stuffed with palm sugar (deadly but delicious!) and a class learning to make the Balinese Boreh scrub, which used ginger, galangal, rice and cloves all pounded up with a heavy stone pestle and mortar. I used it the next day in the shower and it left me with super soft skin. I may be hand-making my Christmas gifts for the ladies this year!

One evening at dusk I took my trusty Canon down to our private black sand beach and snapped the the gorgeous tropical sunset. 

On our last day at Tembok, we filled up with a last big breakfast, packed our packs and settled our bill. It was another warm, cloudless day and the pool and sea mocked us with their sparkling, cool waters - we couldn't really get wet before our transfer to Ubud! But soon we were out on the road and I kept catching myself grinning at Dave with excitement. I'm enjoying what I assume to be the natural state of the backpacker: always looking forward to what's around the next corner.

We drove along in our little people carrier with brown and green mountains on one side and the ocean on the other, and begun our ascent to the mountain roads that would lead us inland. The roads over here seriously need to be seen to be believed... talk about taking lives into their own hands! But it's all done without a blink of concern, while us Westerners gaze on open mouthed and stricken at the complete disregard for safety. Guys on mopeds carried huge bamboo poles over one shoulder while steering with the other hand, or 50 or so coconuts or dead chickens expertly arranged and balanced across the back of the seat. What looked like whole families were also squeezed onto these bikes - probably four generations from little old ladies to tiny infants. They're all in flip-flops, or barefoot, and no one wears a helmet. In the other direction, trucks barreled around sharp corners, driven by men wearing an uncomfortable-looking amount of clothes; layered check shirts and denim jackets, and one was definitely wearing a woolly hat. Kids and dogs play on the roadside (no pavements) and the horns sound constantly in a gesture of warning when swinging around the bends. 

We passed through small villages - one called Madenan - full of what you'll have heard of/imagined, no doubt: beautiful small children playing in their yards; women bent over baskets, busy with some trade; men in traditional dress, smoking in groups; solemn youths peering through our car windows; tiny, elderly women carrying bundles of wood on their heads.

Later, we drove through the town of Kintamini and stopped to photograph Mount Batu - my first ever volcano! It was hazy, but still very impressive. Our driver Sugeng told us that tourists flock from miles around to eat in the restaurants overlooking the valley - open for lunch only to serve the crowds. Hawkers clamoured for our business and we smiled politely in refusal. My first encounter with an Asian public toilet left me unscathed. Kintamini was a thriving metropolis compared to what else we'd seen so far on Bali. Clearly doing well from the tourist trade, it thronged with banks, launderettes and shops selling souvenirs (sarongs, carvings etc) and Western brands like Walls and Oreos.

Outside of the town proper, we passed through groves and plantations growing oranges, tomatoes, cauliflower - and suddenly fruit and veg stalls were everywhere, their baskets displaying beautiful conical piles of delicious looking wares.

We stopped at a coffee plantation - clearly another massive tourist commodity, but charming. They grow, roast and serve the infamous Luwak coffee, which is first eaten, digested and 'reproduced' by the wild civit cat. Like Rick Stein before me, I couldn't tell a significant difference to standard coffee, but at about £3 a cup, it was still better value that Starbucks! 

In the giftshop, a Japanese family took a photograph of their small son with Dave. Whether they thought he was someone famous, or just a handsome white guy, we'll never know, but I have hilarious visions of them triumphantly producing the picture back home, only to be assured that their child doesn't have his arm around Jude Law, just some random. Dave took it all in good spirit and then we were back covering the final distance to our second hotel.

Nearing Ubud, the giftshops multiplied. And what a selection! There were a lot of wood carvings, but don't take that to automatically mean anything to do with Balinese culture... the oddest creations included very tall, very thin F1 drivers; detailed painted reliefs of Fred Flintstone, and tables full of little pointy Father Christmasses. The hippy contingent has also firmly made its mark on the local produce: didgeridoos,  dream catchers and bongos were pervasive.

Entering the town, we drove through a harangue of heavy traffic and activity, with tourists and locals alike busy in the late afternoon. We spied the much-desired Warung Ibu Oka, where they serve their famous sucking pig.

Our resort, Waka Di Ume, was just north of the town and after a day on the road we were pleased to be greeted with a large cool room, with a canopy bed decorated with tropical flowers in the shape of a heart. And so our second honeymoon week began...

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