Once you arrive, everything else makes it all worthwhile. You are surrounded by warm friendly Balinese people. It is not just the hotel staff that is friendly, but also the taxi drivers, restaurant staff (who don’t expect a tip because you are charged a service charge), and shop keepers. After all, it is a tropical paradise. It’s always warm to hot there.
But first, an impression of Singapore. The city country of Singapore is above all else, clean. Their public toilets are spotless. Its transportation system is superior, beginning with Changi airport. It has two terminals with a monorail between them. All kinds of shops and restaurants abound within, more like a mall than any airport I have ever been in. It is kind of a hybrid as far as government is concerned. I would call it an autocratic democracy. It is very corruption free but is the great decider of moral behavior. Right now it is trying to get its citizens to stop smoking, not an easy task in Asia, and people complained that the government’s TV campaign messages on the subject were upsetting children, so they now show them only late at night. Too bad they don’t recognize that fear is a poor motivator, but there is always someone whose parents used fear on them and it is the only thing they know. Amnesty International complains that Singapore imposes the death penalty at a higher rate per capita than any other country in the world. Merely possessing illegal drugs has a death penalty. There have been some cases where someone was asked to drop off a package as a favor, not knowing the package contained drugs, were arrested and given the death sentence. It is justified to keep the country free of drugs and politicians gave the quote, “If you want to get the monkey’s attention, you kill the chicken”. I am not making this up. I don’t know how they handle legal drug abuse.
The revue show “Crazy Horse”, popular in Paris, opened for one night in Singapore only to have to close because of losing money. Police harassment of various sorts were able to discourage attendance and keep the crowds below that necessary to make a profit. “Playboy” magazine is prohibited. Men arrested for a variety of misdemeanors, including spitting, are given the punishment of caning. Women are spared from caning as are men who have already been sentenced to death. I suppose this is the humane thing to do. Protesters can be caned and any groups of more than 4 people are required to get a permit to gather. Caning is done on bare buttocks using a bamboo switch that has been soaked overnight to prevent it from fraying in order to impose the maximum pain.
Homosexuality is a crime punishable up to life imprisonment. However, it is relatively easy to get an abortion. So Singapore is not completely a right wing Republican paradise. I am not sure how repressive other countries in this region are compared to Singapore but the fact that Singapore is so small, limits diversity. Uniformity can almost be felt.
The specter of Big Brother hangs heavily in my mind when traveling in this perfect, sterile society. I like to think that I am sneaking in and out of the country as fast as possible, which we do. If you like to shop, this is the place to do it, so you might want to stay longer.
In spite of all the negativity, when compared to China for instance, Singapore looks good.
We spend the night and next morning at the Shangri-la Hotel and are given a complimentary upgrade and stay in the wing where “President Bush stays when he comes here”. We are given a suite which comes in handy when one of us can’t sleep. I can’t, so I move into the next room and get on the Internet until I want to sleep.
This is the lobby of the Shangri-la, Singapore.
The official reason for our trip was for Judith to come and review her student Made’s (pronounced Ma’day) dissertation so that it can be revised before a committee reviews it and decides whether Made can be awarded a Ph.D. He has studied the AIDS risk behavior of small boat fishermen in Bali. Most of these young men are Javanese and not Balinese and are therefore, Muslims. He went out on three different boats. On one of the boats, the captain was strict about his men following their religious upbringing, and together with peer pressure, the men followed their restrictions on alcohol and sex and did not engage in risk behavior.
On the other two boats, however, the captains’ concern was only to bring in the fish and may even encouraged risk behavior to foster camaraderie among the crew. So when the men came back to port, they headed straight to the brothels and condom use was not followed.
Made took us through the brothel neighborhood which looked like most neighborhoods, and told us men seeking women used to come to houses and ask if they have any women available. If you were a normal household, this became a source of irritation. So the brothels added an “X” to their address painted on the outside of their houses. Sure enough, there was a 77X and an 88X, etc. to be seen. Never underestimate the power of providing sex to a willing customer.
Before Judith meets with Made, we taxi our way to the Ritz Carlton in the Jimbaron area of Denpasar. This is a new hotel for us. We arrive late at night so we can’t really tell much about the hotel or grounds but are pleasantly surprised by views, the staff, and the grounds. The grounds are built near the edge of a cliff and there are stairs to walk down to the very small beach which is seldom used. There is a sea water pool close to the beach and a bar and restaurant at hand. The climb is steep and long so after our initial exploration, we spend time at the pool above.
Lobby of the Ritz Carlton, Bali.Climbing down several steps brings us to a rather unique pool filled with salt water. You can see there is not much of a beach and it seldom is safe to swim there because of the undertow. You can have dinner and musicians out on the end of this pier if you like. I was afraid to find out the cost. This is the main pool In previous trips we were taken to seafood restaurant Jimbaron beach to watch the sunsets, so we went on our own. This evening however, nature provided another view. The rain did come and we stayed on a roofed porch and only occasionally did the wind blow rain on us. We have a guide take us to a fishing village, the nearby fish market, then, to a regular market where the local people come to purchase their daily needs. There are lots of seafood and fish and vegetables and clothing for sale and we enjoy looking around and smiling a lot. The Balinese are naturally friendly people and return the showing of teeth.
Jimbaron Beach and the red roofed restaurants can be seen in the distance. On the third morning we travel to Ubud (oo’bood) an hour and a half away. We have stayed here before, but we stay in a different place this time, but a place that has individual villas like we had before. The place is called Kupu Kupu Barong. Try saying it three times in a row. Ubud is near the mountains for we get cooler temperatures (still warm) and more rain. Our villa overlooks a gorge and river where rafters occasionally are seen bobbing along. The vegetation is lush and the views from glassed-in villas are spectacular.
Made lives fairly close to Ubud so the first 2 days, Made and Judith are working hard, while yours truly read and did cross word puzzles. At Kupu Kupu you can have a romantic dinner for two in the middle of their infinity pool overlooking the valley below.Once in a while I take a picture, I really like. This was taken before the morning fog burned off.
The third day Made took us to the village of his ancestors, Tenganan. His oldest son, Samu came with us. This village is home of the original Aga Balinese. The Bali Aga have probably been around for a couple of thousand years or more, and after the Hindu religion spread through Bali from Java in 1343 they sheltered themselves in their villages adhering to traditional ways. They are allotted special privileges by the government. People that now live there live off the land which is protected, AND sell crafts. One of the most unusual craft the women make is called Ikat. Ikat is a form of weaving where the strands of cloth are pre-dyed to fit the pattern before weaving starts. There is double Ikat and single Ikat. The single Ikat uses one strand of clothe and it is weaved in both a vertical and horizontal direction. The double Ikat weaves in the horizontal direction with the vertical strands already in place. It takes a weaver one month, working 5-6 hours a day to complete one scarf. Needless to say these works of art are not cheap. Double Ikat is made in only three places in the world, and only about 100 women are estimated to know how to do it. See the link--http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ikat
Made tells us many things about life on Bali.
From one of our taxi drivers, who always ask us where we are from and have we been to Bali before--It is a special treat for the average Balinese to be able to go to McDonald’s with their families for a delicious meal and at a reasonable price. I remember when McDonald’s first came on the scene in America, and the same sentiment could be heard back then.
We leave Ubud and return to our old haunt at Nusa Dua Beach, only this time we check into the Bali Grand Hyatt. This beach is great and the sunrises are inspiring. This hotel is huge but very nice.
We spend two nights and leave for Singapore and stay in another new, for us, hotel, the Oriental. They also give us a complimentary upgrade. Our 17th floor room overlooks a harbor and the tall buildings of the financial district. It is all lit up at night and it is a beautiful and romantic setting.
Our wake up call is for 4:30 for our 7AM flight to Tokyo where we change planes for Chicago. Due to the 13 hour time different we will arrive at 2:30 PM Chicago time the same day we left. That figures out to be 20 ½ hours time from when we leave Singapore. Another 75 minutes to collect pass immigration, get our luggage and taxi home, and plop in front of the TV and fire up the TiVo, hoping we can stay awake until normal bed time.