The Bali Leprechauns: Sanur

The morning following our scuba dive graduation we caught the fastboat back from Nusa Lembongan to Sanur. I had been dreading the ride back but thankfully the seas were a lot calmer and we seemed to have a much better captain that didn’t have the throttle wide open while smashing into the few bigger waves we did encounter. The crossing wasn’t entirely uneventful though, as about three quarters of the way across a small girl sitting near the front got seasick and vomited in the aisle. Her distraught looking mother then rushed her to the back of the boat to puke over the side right behind our seats instead of just having her stick her head out the window in her own row. She then quite comically proceeded to scream at her husband in Dutch, who had remained seated, presumably for him to do something. I am not sure what help he could have been at that point though. Shortly after, a second girl was escorted to the back of the boat by her father and threw up all over the floor of the boat right behind us. We made a hasty escape of thoughtfully placed footsteps off the back of the boat and walked down the beach to Sanur. I had stayed here with my parents a few years ago so knew the area fairly well.

After finding a homestay I left Emily to apply for jobs on the laptop and I went for a little walk down memory lane. I passed quite a number of familiar pubs and restaurants before arriving at the Cat and Fiddle, an Irish pub where my parents and I had watched a surprisingly talented Celtic Indonesian band called the Bali Leprechauns. I had a beer there and saw on the sign out front the Bali Leprechauns were playing that evening. I made my way back to the north of Sanur to inform Emily and along the way tried to find a little pub with a very interesting Australian owner that I had visited a number of times during my last visit. In years past he had been a freelance photographer and journalist and he had crazy stories of articles he wrote for National Geographic and other big name magazines in a number of war torn areas. Unfortunately it seemed his place had closed down, as I couldn’t find it anywhere. That night we had a great time watching the band and requesting songs. They played The Wild Rover, Foggy Dew, Fairy Tale of New York, Fiesta, Galway Girl, and many others. The owner of the bar was celebrating his birthday that night and joined them onstage playing his accordion.

We had one more quiet day in Sanur, got our last drink at the J.Co. Coffee and donut restaurant (way better than Tim Horton’s) and saw the Bali Leprechauns one more time at a pub called the Wicked Parrot. The following day we made our way to the new airport in Denpasar and flew out to Kuala Lumpur.

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Living Luxuriously in Ubud

Ubud is a much quieter city than Kuta and we enjoyed it a lot more. We splurged for the holidays and stayed in a wonderfully comfortable place called Bucu View for $40/night. We had a whole 2-storey villa with two walls completely made of windows which overlooked the gorgeous sprawling grounds, and a big pool which was excellent for cooling off. On Boxing Day we walked down to the Monkey Forest, a good-sized forested park full of free-ranging Balinese long-tailed macaques. As soon as we entered we could see dozens of monkeys on the path and in the trees and there were lots of young ones, the newborns were my very favorite. After watching other tourists feeding the monkeys bananas I couldn’t resist and bought a small bunch myself. As soon as they were in my hand I was surrounded by big male monkeys and I nervously handed the first couple directly to them. Soon I got braver and held bananas over my head; immediately I felt a heavy weight tug on the bottom of my dress as a monkey nimbly climbed me like a tree and was on top of my head in an instant. With my last bananas I found much smaller monkeys and enticed them to climb up on my head just as easily; I was utterly delighted and still smile just writing about it.

After the feeding frenzy we continued walking around the expansive grounds and found some poor deer in a cramped and bare bones enclosure which was depressing; one buck sported a very handsome and exotic set of antlers but we weren’t sure of his species. The park was very busy but on a secluded path we found a female monkey with a brand new baby. He was very curious but each time he tried to crawl away from her to examine something she would tug him back by his tail, which she held on to like a leash. We passed another little monkey sitting on a railing that was pursing his lips and making a kind of cooing sound and to my joyful surprise he responded to my imitation of him by climbing up on top of my head. He was friendly until he started trying to steal a bracelet off my wrist, but Sean distracted him with a loud noise long enough for me to escape before he got too frustrated. I could have watched the monkeys all day but not long after that it started pouring rain and we hurried back to a shelter to prevent our cameras from getting wet. Under the shelter there were groups of bats hanging from the high roof and the ground below them was covered in their excrement.

When the rain let up we walked into town for lunch and while in the restaurant the rain returned in force, until the streets were veritable rivers and we were obliged to order a couple of beers to wait it out. Later that night we went to a traditional kecak dance, which took place in an open pavilion. Dozens of shirtless men sat in a circle and chanted, shrugging their shoulders and shaking their arms in the air. Two pretty girls in elegant costumes tip-toed around them in a kind of slow dance, moving their fingers more than anything else. They were joined by a couple men in dramatic chief and monkey costumes. There must have been a sort of cultural story that was acted out but it was lost on us; still it was a very unique performance. For the finale they lit a pile of coconut husks on fire and a barefoot man would kick the smoldering pile all over the floor right to our feet, then they would sweep the glowing husks back into a pile and repeat the procedure several times until nearly all the embers had died. The man’s feet were black with soot and must have been in pain.

The following day we took off on a walk Sean had read about. We didn’t find the scenic views of rice terraces that were advertised in the midst of the urban sprawl but it was a pretty and enjoyable walk nonetheless. We found another supermarket and I stocked up on exotic fruits before we returned for a quick swim in our pool and heading off for massages. It was only $7 for an hour and even though I was a little nervous for my first massage it was a lot less awkward than I had anticipated. Feeling happy and relaxed we headed for supper in high spirits, but we didn’t get far before we saw a black lab puppy that we had admired the day before sprawled on the road, recently hit by a car and still breathing but unconscious. Needless to say it was incredibly awful and I was infuriated that whoever had carelessly hit him had left him to die like that. A crowd of tourists had started to gather around but we both regretted later that we hadn’t thought of a way to stop his suffering. Later at supper as we stuffed ourselves with sushi another downpour of rain began and we walked back in ankle-deep rushing water. I finally realized the purpose of the yellow lines on every sidewalk was to help guide your footing in such a situation.

Christmas in Kuta

Running low on sleep from our recent binge of sunrise hikes we boarded a bus bound for Bali as soon as we could upon our return from Ijen. We were lucky enough to get a pair of seats as they continued to cram people on until tourists began getting fed up and leaving. It was sweltering hot without a breeze of fresh air and the seats were so close together our knees were jammed into the ones in front of us. Luckily we got a reprieve on the ferry, where we watched local children from the top deck as they swam up to ferries and grabbed onto them for a ride. We spent the next four hours uncomfortably sweating on the bus. I was amazed by the beautifully detailed statues adorning nearly every street corner on the island of Bali, and equally bewildered that there was at least an equal number of trash piles lining the streets, apparently there’s not much left over from the art budget for waste management. From the bus station we took a taxi to the city of Kuta, where we sampled brain (from an unknown owner) with our supper – it reminded me of the raw sea urchin I tried once in Hawaii, I don’t recommend either.

We had really hoped to get to Komodo Island and Borneo while in Indonesia but after hitting obstacle after obstacle we decided it was best to find a cozy place to stay and lay low over the holidays, avoiding the crowds and extortionate prices as best we could. We stayed in Kuta from the 21-25. It is extremely commercialized (especially compared to where we had been) and is infamous for its party scene. The large island of Bali in general is a very popular vacation spot for Australians and they seemed to form most of the crowd. Kuta is also infamous as the location of the Bali bombings that took place in front of a nightclub in 2002. We checked out the crazy night life that still thrives on Legian street. Over a couple Bintangs (Indonesian beers) we enjoyed some of the craziest people-watching I’ve ever seen: there were two stick-thin Asian girls dressed in Santa attire welcoming people into their pounding nightclub from atop stilts, one vacationing couple even handed their infant up to one of them for a picture! There was a “nightclub supercomplex” of 8 different clubs, each one with views of the people partying inside displayed on camera screens on the main street. We even saw a fight between an enormous black man and several short Indonesian security guards, the latter eventually won out and we figured the drunk antagonist was in for an unpleasant night. All the while a drug dealer who seemed to have the rights to the stretch of sidewalk in front of the bar we sat at hassled every person who walked by, and it was entertaining to see the range of reactions he got.

I enjoyed a day of shopping without the guilt of dragging Sean behind me, and to the surprise of both of us I didn’t even get lost once! Another day we walked down the store lined streets to the neighbouring city of Seminyak, although there was no distinction at all of where one city ended and another began. There we tried my first passion fruits and mangosteens which we found in a supermarket, and also bought some snorkel gear and a Go Pro camera for recording the amazing snorkelling and diving we’re anticipating. We even tried a fish spa, where “doctor fish” chew the dead skin off of your feet, it’s a very strange feeling! We walked back to Kuta along the beach, which was nice. All in all it was pretty laid back as we waited for the holiday season to pass so we could get moving again. A highlight for both of us were Christmas calls from our families, and thanks to Sean’s parents we discovered Bali was an hour ahead of Java and we had been on the wrong time for days! Luckily we found out before we had to catch any transit. On Christmas day we took a minibus two hours inland to the city of Ubud.