LuAnn said in one of her posts the locals you meet during your travels leave the greatest impression, as with everything on Bali, this was decidedly a mixed bag. I have spent a long time thinking about our experiences and my views on this ‘island paradise’, and the desperate and ugly, overly aggressive commercialism – which is a challenge to persevere with – and sadly the culture is, for the most part, is seemingly in tatters. With tour guides hell-bent on making a profit, skin colour being a real issue, a brush with a scam and another bracing hike, it was certainly an eventful eight days to remember.
The first impressions of Bali are pleasing, right hand drive (the nostalgia!), trees and cut grass everywhere and roads where the traffic flows well. I should point out we went when out of season so there were less crowds and for this I am grateful. There is a feeling of vitality and it all made for a pleasant first trip. It was good to see different architecture and plenty of big statues of Hindu Gods. Our first homestay in Ubud was built around the family temple (there are over 20,000 on Bali) which made us feel like we were getting some personal culture straight away, as well as being invited into an intimate family space.
Learning the traffic system is always a joyous necessity in any country, scooters are indiscriminate at times but we made it to the Monkey Forest, which is a pleasant place to walk once you get away from the crowds who take photos constantly without thought for people trying to get past. The excited talk about filters was beyond me but the monkeys were benign and the area was being constantly cleaned, it was nice to see pride being taken by the locals and parts of it looked like something out of Tomb Raider (a seed up version of Tomb Raider 3 on the PS1 to be precise) which was an added bonus. Later, a good meal and a glimpse of the Local Parts butcher, both of which pleased me and we retired to bed happy with our first day.
The next day, a tour of the local area started off in the best way possible, with a cup of Luwak coffee, AKA a cat-poo-chino. The Asian Palm Civet loves eating coffee cherries, they are only partially digested and when they exit the critter, they are collected, washed and roasted. After swilling it around my mouth, the taste is both bitter and sweet, although fairly weak. It is a good novelty purchase and coupled with 14 other free tasters of teas and coffees, it’s worth taking a tour around one these coffee plantations for a sample. What was a bit awkward was having our coffee tour guide accompany us to the gift shop afterwards and proceed to follow us round telling us the prices of everything, it was an unashamed hard sell, and that was a theme for the rest of our time in Bali. Continue reading “Bali, Days 1-2: We Care About Your Money”