Friday, April 25, 2008

Bali & Lombok-Sept '06-Really Fab Sunsets

Of all the trips we have taken recently, this return trip to Indonesia was one designed to accommodate relaxation.

Judith had business in Jakarta and left before me as I had to pick up my PGA volunteer “uniform” and attend a training session on the weekend she had to leave. I left on Tuesday, July 18th on United to Singapore via Hong Kong. I arrived at the Singapore airport after a 2 ½ hour lay-over in Hong Kong about midnight Thursday morning and rented one of those kiosk type rooms for 6 hours to shower and catch about 4 hours of sleep. I flew to Bali from there on Singapore Air, arriving about noon Thursday and met Judith who arrived from Jakarta, 15 minutes later.
Judith has official business in Bali in that her PhD candidate Made (Ma’day) lives there and she must review his progress and AIDS research study. She also now has another female candidate who will study sex workers that travel between island to island operating out of Lombok. Lombok is the next island east of Bali.

According to Made (Ma’day), Indonesian is made up of many cultures and languages mostly dependent on what island the people live on. The people look different, have different religions and generally don’t like each other. They became one nation because all of them used to be under Dutch control. Other than that, there is little that binds them together. Bali is mostly Hindu; Lombok is a combination of Sunni Muslims and another type of Muslim that combines animalism and ancestor worship. Hindus and Buddhists are also readily visible. It would be a mistake to think that Sunni Muslims are a monolithic sect. The influence of culture sets people apart that have a common religion.

This is Made at a restaurant talking to Judith. The roof design above can be seen all over Bali and Lombok in restaurants and hotels.
Made is a very interesting person. He used sell things on the beach, worked in hotels, he ran a dive shop, was a small boat fisherman, worked in India, got a degree in anthropology from Amsterdam University, and was an AIDS worker. We strongly suspect he was a “Bali Boy”. “Bali Boys” are good looking young men who make themselves available to foreign white women on holiday. And as it turns out, Made is now married to Jane from the U.K. Made is just a few months away from getting his PhD and has been studying how small boat fishermen are at risk to get AIDS and how they help spread the disease. A small boat fisherman is at sea for about 1 month, gets paid, comes to shore to get drunk and to get laid. Made is a charmer and an easy person to like.

Interestingly, when you get off the plane in Bali you have to go through security, when you enter the Nusa Dua area your taxi is stopped and inspected, and when you enter your hotel grounds the same thing. Your hotel will even have a metal detector gate. So Indonesia is doing a lot more security in Bali than anywhere else, in the interest of protecting their most valuable commodity, tourists.

We check in at the Sheraton Laguna where we have been before. I make sure we are not staying on the ground floor (tsunami protection). We relax for a couple of days reading and working on my tan. These beautiful, young Balinese women greet you when you come in to register, after the doorman strikes a big gong. They invite you to sit at a couch and serve a cold drink and a cold wash cloth as you register. The desk personnel say, "Hello Dr. Levy, so good to see you again", even before you say who you are.
Since we usually stay at the Laguna I will save additional pictures of the beautiful setting for a future post.
When we stay in the Nusa Dua area, we always taxi to Jimbaron Beach to see the sunset and eat sea food sitting on a plastic chair on the sand. The heavier you are the further you sink into the sand.
There are many seafood restaurants here and they all are built the same. I think the name of the one we usually end up at is called the Blue Marlin.
After a couple of nights we get on a plane and fly to Lombok.
The flight is about 45 minutes long from take off to landing. The odor in the plane is distinctly body sweat as there is no A/C until we take off. It is crowded and not very comfortable but the flight is short.
We arrive at Selaparang Airport near Mataram. We will drive through the mountains in the background.
We travel by taxi through the mountains including the Pusuk Pass filled with gray monkeys and after 1 ½ hours arrive at this luxury hotel of villas and cottages called the Oberoi whose grounds are right on the beach. This is the view from the lobby looking at the infinity pool and the ocean beyond.
We stayed at this cottage. This is our bath tub equipped with a rinsing ladle. There is glass separator between the small outdoor court and the tub. The commode opens up to the outside in keeping with the custom of having the toilet outdoors.
We are there for a couple of nights. The first night there is this beautiful sunset.

The main form of transportation is Lombok is the cidomo, or pony drawn cart. One morning we take one down to the local market at the village of Tanjung.
I didn't notice this when I took this photo, but the woman on the ground is selling chicken. She is also doing a little nose maintenance.
From the Oberoi, we travel down the West coast for about 45 minutes, get on a speed boat and motor over to one of three atolls, called Gillis, to Gilli Trawangan. The biggest draw here is skin diving and snorkeling. While we didn’t do either, we did find cheap, but good food and drink. There is very limited water on the island, so the showers and swimming pool were salt water. We stayed in an “A” frame and down the back stairs was the outside bathroom and shower. After showering, it was possible to draw a little non-saline water from the nearby tap and rinse off.
Judith was convinced she couldn’t get down the stairs at night to visit the bathroom, but she did just fine.
After a couple of nights we motor boat back to Lombok. Every time a boat comes in from one of the Gillis it is loaded back up with supplies.
We were met by the driver of our next hotel called the Pool Villa Club. Again we traveled South along the coastal cliffs, catching some great views until we arrived at Senggigi Beach.

This is looking back at Gilli Trawangan which is in the center of the picture.
Our accommodations were again luxurious. This was welcome after salt water showers.

There is a Jacuzzi on the right and the master bedroom upstairs was awesome.
This picture was taken from the canal-type pool seen below.

This is a photo I captured at Senggigi Beach. It is one of my best efforts.We ventured out to buy pearls the next day. This is the place to buy them. Stores all over. We went to one of the better ones and bought Xmas presents for all the women in our families.

Only one night here, then back on the two prop plane to Bali, where we are met by our hotel driver and driven to the mountains and the city of Ubud. Pita Maha is the name of our hotel, which consists of 24 private villas overlooking lush tropical woodland, terraced rice fields and the River Oos. The place was designed by a member of the Royal Family. We had a small private pool and complete privacy until 6 PM when the mosquitoes came to visit.

This is the lobby.
From Ubud, our driver drops us off at the Sheraton Laguna again for our last night in Bali.
On our return home we did stay overnight in Singapore. We left next morning well rested for the long journey home, with memories of many good times and places.

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