Singapore – Bali (Indonesia) – Darwin (Australia)!
14th April - 24th April 2005
We left Singapore with a fanfare! We were invited to the police station by Richard, the assistant Superintendent, and shown around the various departments before we were escorted to the airport by Richard and Kevin, from Land Rover. After more sad goodbyes to our new found friends, we flew to Bali. Greg’s birthday celebrated his 31st birthday in his usual style – a few too many drinks, some silly dancing and big hair (see the photos!) Alexis and Greg rented a car (gluttons for punishment) and travelled around the island journeying up to the north coast with its small black beaches, along to the western coast to see the enormous volcanic mountains of Java (located 5km away from Bali) and to the eastern coast with magnificent views of Mount Agung, rice terraces and ancient Balian villages. Whilst they travelled around the island, Adriano perfected his barrel surfing skills on Kuta’s beautiful golden sands. Alexis bought Greg and Adriano a Balinese cookery course for their birthdays in which they were taken around a Balinese market and had explained the requirements for their cuisine, learnt how to make a curry, bean sprout salad and sago pudding as well as many other delicious dishes.
Bali is squashed in to the archipelago in between Java and Lombok. This beautiful, small green island is one of the richest in Indonesia, but is still incredibly poor with many eeking a living from the few tourists that visit in the low season. Everywhere you go there are people begging or pestering you to buy their product, be it sunglasses, fruit, jewellery, go snorkeling. They are so desperate in the low season that they will wait hours outside your hotel for you to return from your trip around the island just to sell you fruit for 80p.
Bali has developed its own version of Hindu. Beautiful temples line the roads with straw lined thatched roofs or stunning Balinese umbrellas covering stone shrines. Offerings are made to the gods daily with banana constructed packages containing golden flowers, small pieces of food, tea leaves and joss sticks enabling the gods to stop off for a snack if passing by and smell nice whilst they do! Banana prayer packages are placed in doorways to welcome the gods into shops and houses. Daily prayer processions slow traffic down as the masses progress along the roads to hidden jungle holy shrines or temples majestically protruding from mountain sides. Many people have shrines in their houses. Beautiful stone triangular gates welcome visitors to the town and temples with grotesque guardians squatting at the base repelling any that look at them.
The Balinese hindu high priests were almost all killed during the volcanic explosion of Mount Agung in May 1963. The most sacred Balinese hindu temple of Besikih is perched on the mountain and one of the most religious events of the Hindu calendar, fatefully coincided with the eruption which killed 1000 people overcome by the dust and poisonous gas. The explosion could be felt all across the island. The skies went black for a week. Crops were coated in volcanic dust killing all plants. Earthquakes rattled the island for a year after the eruption. A total of seven of the volcanoes in Indonesia, along the ring of fire, are rated as being on high watch because of the seisomographic movement of December 2004. Mount Agung is not presently on the danger list, luckily for the people of Bali.
The Bali bomb in Kuta decimated Bali’s economy and the few we talked to about it suggested that it was done out of jealousy. A total of seven muslim terrorists were captured and were imprisoned, all of them were from the neighbouring poorer Java. After the bomb there were no visitors for one month. The fragile economy is just starting to recover two years after the event. The bomb site still remains a shrine to those who died needlessly, www.balipeacepark.com with just a green area where a thumping nightclub used to be located until the evening of 12th October 2003.
As we leave this beautiful island for Australia, more bureaucracy for the release of the Beast from customs and the outback, we hope that it will recover form the devastation that it has had it its history.
Notes about Bali:
- There are 2.9 million people that live in Bali.
- Bali is a third world country, even with the wealth of spas, health farms and tourist influx. Many are just surviving above the bread line and rely on the three months a year that tourists travel in for the high season.
- Bali was part of the Dutch East Indies and under Dutch rule until they declared independence in 1945 although it took 4 years to convince the Dutch that they were independent!
- Bali is one of the only islands in Indonesia that has practising Hindus, all the other islands are Muslim.
- You cannot enter a hindu temple if you are menstruating (that includes blokes too!).
- If you are a man you are entitled to marry a second wife if you have four daughters and your wife shows no signs of presenting you with a son. You can have as many wives as you want.
- 22% of the island is tropical rainforest with 3 nature reserves encompassing the west of the island.
- Bali is well known as a surfer’s paradise with enormous waves and rip tides crashing on the southern shores.
- The use (or just ownership) of narcotic drugs is illegal in Indonesia and punishable by death. Drugs offered on the street are of questionable content, and often mixed with toxic substances. Many street vendors cooperate also with the police. If you buy you will be arrested soon afterwards, and you will be released only after paying US$60,000 or more – if at all! Four Australians were arrested whilst we are in Bali and their fate is in question.