Sunday, July 27, 2008
Our neighbours cows wander along the beachside, Lil C finds a puppy, horseriding, and a rooster finds himself on the wrong sid of the fence...
Saturday, July 26, 2008
You would think that this extended holiday would have us starting get bored, but thus far this hasn’t been the case. We’ve had two sets of visitors, are kept busy by the children, and find the evenings lovely to just sit back, read, watch a film or generally kick back. Plus, my mother is braving the trip and coming out from Brisbane for 8 days. She arrives next week and this will be her first trip back to Indonesia since we lived in Jakarta in the 70’s. I’m sure she will enjoy it but also think it’ll be a vast difference from what she remembers. Then again, not planning on going to Jakarta, so she may find Bali not so different as in some ways it hasn’t moved on as much. For instance, one of the houses we lived in was on Jl Fatmawati, and surrounding us were a few shops and rice fields. Nowadays it’s a choked highway of cars and motorbikes and the entire area is built up. Be interesting to get her take on it.
We had a great time with C’s sisters. You could not find easier houseguests. Every day they did something different, and most evenings we went out to dinner and tried the places around Seminyak. It was a bit hit and miss as far as restaurants go, and in the end, everyone noted that the best place for a good feed was none other than the small warung at the top of the drive near the villa. Go figure. The warung looks out over the beach, the service is friendly, and dishes while simple, very tasty and cheap. For the six of us the other night, 9 very nice mains which we all shared, plus desert, all came to about US$25.00. Good value! Now compare this to the famous “Ku De Ta”. We had a drink each, and the bill came to just over US$50.00. That’s for 6 drinks.
The warung is situated in the middle of nowhere (you have to drive across the beach along the front of the Grand Balisani Hotel then a bumpy pebble road to get to it) but since they opened a few months ago, word is starting to get around and every night they are doing good business. Since we’ve been here we have noted more and more are dropping by both for lunch and dinner, ppl are even getting taxi’s out to it!
The sisters went to “Ku De Ta” for lunch on Sunday while we were in Kota Kinabalu (another story) and said the food was good, but price wise was not worth it (cost about US$100.00 for 4). The place is nice, smooth service, lots of beautiful people and wannabes, but also very pretentious, way over priced for what they give you, and in my books, all a bit silly. Then again, it could be that I’m just not a ‘with it’ type of guy and can’t appreciate the subtleties of the place.
“Pauls Place” was another we tried; you sit on the rooftop overlooking Seminyak. The service was very slow, food mediocre at best, and we were the only ones there. Not a great place for the hum of people around you, a lively evening and good food.
“Best Ribs” on Jl Petitenget offered a reasonable selection of dishes, but again, the food was very mediocre, served half cold and with little imagination. I did try the ribs which were served warmish yet nothing of note.
“Venue of The Moon” was better value, fairly good food, and efficient service. I could go on but you get the picture. I think some of these places really need to re-evaluate what they are doing and try to establish a return customer. As it stands at the moment, none of them have done that. We should have tried some of the more famous restaurants such as “Mykonos” and we will when Mum gets here next week.
The sisters did quite a bit of sightseeing while here, going to Kintamani, Ubud, Besakih and so on. They enjoyed it all. We hired a very comfortable Mazda E2000 van for Rp200, 000 per day (12 hours) which could sit 7 comfortably and used the villa driver. They do offer a driver as well for another 100,000 rupiahs.
They left yesterday for the next part of their trip, to none other than my favourite city in Australia, Perth. I could be biased in that I have a house there but it is a beautiful place. They have a cousin there so will be staying with him down in Mandurah.
Where we are staying the beaches are big, wide, grey sand, yet the surf is rough and not safe for swimming in except in front of Balisani hotel where they occasionally have life guards and the obligatory yellow flags. There are signs posted along indicating rips and strong currents and you can well believe it when you see the waves coming in at odd angles, lapping over each other and hitting the shore line in ragged formation. At night you hear it crashing against the shore in a thunderous roar and you’d think it had some beef with the beach. When we do go for a paddle, we only let the children up to their knees in the water and only if we are standing next to them. It’s just too rough to allow them to go in on their own. I guess this is why this part of the coastline has not seen the development other parts have. However, right next door a hotel complex of over a hundred villas is going up and on the other side next to the Balisani another smaller complex of 12 villas (to be sold at US$700,000 each!) is being built. I suppose you can’t put a price on a piece of paradise but it does seems like an extraordinary sum.
The beach up from where we are staying is the famous ‘gay’ beach though you would not really know it when walking along except for the odd male couple and a few rent boys hanging around in the late afternoon. We haven’t seen any sort of behaviour that would cause us to cover the kids eyes, in fact its very tame when compared to some of the beaches back home. However, there are bushes at the back of the beach that seem to have a few blokes wandering in and out of which would cause you to suspect that there is more going on there than meets the eye . You do get quite a few older western fellas hanging about there as opposed to a young gay crowd while the rent boys are almost all in their twenties I would guess. It is somewhat incongruous to see, as we did this afternoon, a bloke in his 60’s walking along arm in arm with a young Indonesian male. Then again, each to their own. It’s only when walking alone that I feel slightly uncomfortable as eyes follow you, the occasional wave from some bloke sitting amongst the bushes and you get the feeling you are intruding a bit.
Once past this patch of beach you reach the car park; on one side is our favourite blue cafe, on the other side La Lucciola, which, I’m embarrassed to say, we haven’t tried yet. As sunset approaches, this whole area in front of the car park starts to fill with people, hawkers, food stalls, soccer games and the like. Lots of families and young couples sitting around eating and watching the oncoming sunset. Almost all are local Balinese. The other afternoon we witnessed a man and woman immaculately dressed in traditional clothing making an offering. This involved various baskets, incense and quiet prayer. It was a gentle display of spirituality that seemed to make sense in those surroundings.
The other common sight is people walking their dogs. Bali is known for its dogs which roam at will everywhere, yet I’ve never seen a vicious one. On the beach, particularly in the late afternoon you’ll meet up with people wandering along while their dogs gambol about. The dogs are everything from local mongrels to beautiful shepherds, rottweilers and so on. Met up with one fellow walking three daschunds who told us he was a journalist who came visiting to Bali and has not left except on assignment. A woman walking a mongrel told us she lived and worked here and was perfectly happy. Not hard to understand why when as we chatted the sun was setting on the horizon, the waves were rolling in and the sand felt cool between the toes.
I could get used to this life.
Saturday, July 19, 2008| | |
Thursday, July 17, 2008| | |
Wednesday, July 16, 2008
So here we are, happily ensconced in our villa in Bali, Seminyak to be precise. Its lovely here, the place has a large garden, pool, guesthouse for the visitors who have been dropping by, a beach a couple of minutes walk away and a warung overlooking the beach and sea perfectly positioned to watch the young ones play about on the sand or watch the sunset in all its glory while we enjoy a cold ale.
The kids are having great fun, spending hours on the beach running up and down, building sand castles, hunting for shells, dashing about in the surf and generally having a kids great time of it. I’m rediscovering the joys of playing with them, something that you do in short periods while at home and after work, but here, there is all the time in the world. We are up early every morning, a lazy breakfast, followed by a walk along the beach, back for morning tea, swim in the pool and play, lunch, rest, then down to the beach again for a few hours of activities. The kids finish up the day tired, happy and ready for bed by 7pm.
We have C’s sisters visiting at the moment from Ireland, 4 of them, first time to SE Asia, and enjoying themselves immensely. It’s great fun to see them all together and C is loving every moment of it. They all get along very well, and the sisters are taking great delight in the children. It’s amusing to watch how C is dropping back into her Irish so quickly. After just three days C’s Irish accent is coming back in force, and to hear them all rolling about in laughter, you’d think you were back in county Cavan!
They arrived on Sunday afternoon, so later on we took a walk along the beach and came across crowds of people outside a beachfront cafe/bar. There were people everywhere, sunning, drinking, swimming and so on. We hadn’t walked that far down the beach before, about 20 minutes walk, but soon realised that we had stumbled across the fabled “Ku De Ta” bar. I had known it was popular but this was extraordinary. As sunset approached the crowds grew more and it looked as if a party was going to develop at any moment. The kids met some other kids, played happily in the sand, I met their father who coincidentally, was from Perth, and we spent some time comparing notes. Turns out he works for the family business “Ross Auctions” in Perth, which I recognised with fond memories. C and I used to go every now and then to find the odd gem of furniture or household item and we had some good times there. Small world. When I mentioned we were thinking of buying an investment property in a particular suburb in Perth, the coincidence went further. My wife is a real estate agent based in that suburb and deals in investment properties! he told me. Very small world.
On Monday night took them to one of the premier restaurants in Bali called Gado-Gado located at the end of Jl Dhyana Pura. This is not the restaurant for the fainthearted price wise, charging by Indo standards astronomical prices for food, but the service is second to none as is the food. We got a table on the deck overlooking the beach and watched the waves come in while sipping wine and eating truly delicious dishes. At one stage without noticing my napkin had slid from my lap the ground and it was only when very discreetly a waitress laid out a new one on me that I realised. A murmured ‘enjoy your meal’, a lovely smile and she left just as discreetly. Having been in the restaurant business for some years before coming to teaching, I was impressed by the standard all round. Everything was handled quickly, efficiently but with a friendly and caring attitude. The menu itself is not huge, perhaps 14 or so dishes from each section to choose from, yet the presentation and quality of food was excellent. Highly recommend it if you ever feel like splashing out for a special evening.
Yesterday took them to Sukawati, a market place for clothing and art/handicrafts etc. Wandered about and they got into the spirit of bargaining with gusto and had fun. I rediscovered the joys of bargaining with two very streetwise shop girls who would not let me get away with 2 sarongs one of the sisters asked me to get for much less than what they were asking for. I had huge fun with them as they haggled away with humour and sharp wit. The starting price was way higher than normal but once they realised I could speak Indonesian, the price dropped dramatically and it was over the final 10,000 rupiahs that we really started in on the bargaining with earnest. After the toing and froing, I realised they were not going to budge and so I finally agreed on their price. They were delighted, and as for me, the fact that we had just spent ten minutes discussing the merits of the cloth, the weave, the pattern, the costs of production and transportation coupled with sly references to my buying it for a foreigner who can afford it(they had seen the sister eyeing it), the extra amount was worth it for the sheer fun value alone . They handed the sarongs over big smiles and laughter; I’m going to miss the wonderful humour of the Indonesian people and their gentle nature.
After the markets it was back in the car and down to Sanur for a late lunch at one of our favourite places “The Beach Cafe”, located, you guessed it, on the beach. It’s next to Mango’s, still does the big platters of food and lovely food it was. A walk along the promenade to help digestion then back to the villa for snacks and an early night. I did notice a new addition to the beach, a huge very inviting beachside pool and restaurant part of the Segara Village complex. It’s near the markets, and looks lovely. I think we’ll give it a go next time we hit Sanur.
Today we have all been lazy, the sisters have been sunning themselves by the pool, a welcome diversion they tell me after 7 weeks of rain in Ireland, Lil C and Lil D got their new present out, a face painting kit, transforming themselves into a lion and crocodile respectively, and soon the sisters are going to head off to Ubud for lunch. I’ll stay back with the children and take them to the beach later.
Another day under blue skies with a gentle breeze. This is Bali at its best.