Bali - December 9-16, 2005
December 17th: Om Swasti-Astu (Welcome)
Bali, one of the 17,000+ Indonesian islands: 140km/87mi east to west, 80km/50mi north to south, only 8 degrees south of the equator, with an average temperature of 28c/82f. A tropical climate with only two seasons: dry and wet. Our weeklong stay was during the latter. The constant cloud cover provided some protection from the heat, but not as much UV protection from the sun as one would think.
When we undertook serious planning for our 14 months of travel we had 2 weeks from our time share that needed to be used. We believed that the best time frames for these weeks would be prior to and immediately following our trekking adventures in Nepal. Our searches yielded timeshare exchange vacancies in Malta and Bali that coincided precisely with dates that matched our itinerary. We committed to these weeks before officially purchasing our plane tickets. There was certainly a sense of sad irony when we learned of the October 1st bombing in Bali the day after our arrival in Malta. There was never any question in our minds that we would continue with our visit/holiday in Bali, just as the negative political situation in Nepal didn't deter our visit there. In fact, we reasoned that in some ways Bali was likely to be safter 12 weeks after the bombing as reactions would tighten security measures and it hasn't been the "M.O." of terrorists to immediately return to their targeted sights. Finally, our attitude about travel is that while there may be some places to avoid, if fear prevents you from pursuing your dreams then you are transferring too much of your own power to those who seek to take it away.
The Balinese people have clearly been hurt significantly by the double whammy of the October 12, 2002 and October 1, 2005 bombings in Kuta, the trendy "happening" tourist enclave near the capital of Denpasar. Tourism is Bali's second leading industry behind agriculture, and accounts for approximately one-third of the island's economy. While our brief time here was admittedly during low season, it seemed like very few tourists were present. Rarely did we see an independent restaurant with more than 2 tables filled. Beaches in the upscale Nusa Dua area were virtually empty, and any hotel resident had their choice of the best spots by the pool or on the beach. In Ubud, the cultural and artistic capital, the shops and streets were so void of tourists that proprietors were desperate to bargain and would often match the lowest price offered when you'd start walking away. On top of all this, while Bali has some of the world's lowest petrol prices, the government doubled the price of gas on the morning of October 1st, just hours before the bombing (no connection implied). Our feelings here mirror those we experienced in Nepal, it is sad to see the good hard working people of this Indonesian province so hurt by the evil actions of others.
While one could easily spend several weeks on the island exploring the cultural, geographic, and tourism spots of choice, we decided to spend our week immersing ourselves in the plush hotel environment, and engaging ourselves in a level of rest and relaxation that is very atypical of our vacation patterns. Following the intensity of our trekking in Nepal, the noisy and hustle bustle environment in Kathmandu, and the "hang on for dear life" feeling of bus transportation there, we had no desire to venture far beyond the comfy confines of our hotel. On one level it was an opportunity lost to explore what, given our readings and discussions with others, would have clearly been great things to see and do during our time here. On another level, it was a rare chance to catch up on sleep, pursue mindless fun readings, and pamper ourselves in ways that aren't likely to happen for the remaining 7 months of our journey. It will just have to be that like every other country we have visited so far, we will set our sights on coming back to see the things that passed us by on this visit.
On our way from Bali to Melbourne we had an 8 hour layover in Singapore. There is a free two hour tour of the city that we undertook to kill a couple of those layover hours. It was well worth it. Singapore presents as quite an impressive metropolis. It boasts the world's largest shipping harbor by volume of cargo. A brief boat ride on the Singapore River gave a nice perspective of the city's downtown area, the highrises, and upscale eateries. In short, anyone who passes through the airport and has some time to spare between flights should consider this as a fun way to get a little flavor of this city.
After our week of Balinese rest, we are very ready to start cycling again. Our bike goes into the shop for wheel and other repairs the day after we arrive in Melbourne and we hope to be cycling 2 days later. We are fortunate to have Warm Showers hosts John and Marjorie as well as a friend Phil, who we met in Zimbabwe last year, and his wife Ros as residents of Melbourne. No doubt they will send us on our way with good local information and leads to enhance our tour in their region. Our next report will be from Down Under.