Walking through the Denpasar airport, it was pretty clear we had entered a third world country. Everything was more or less what I expected it to be; Lots of people, plenty of tourists, a buffet of smells, a smack in the face of heat and humidity; And then... a Starbucks. Why does this not surprise me?
After collecting our bags, we made our way outside and found our taxi driver that our hotel had arranged for us. We piled into the fairly new Suzuki van, and drove North for about an hour, to the city of Ubud. The road rules in Indonesia are... insane? hectic? dangerous? non-existent? All of the above. The only traffic lights are located in the downtown area of big cities, or near the airport. Everything else is basically free reign. I think our driver used his turn signal only once on the entire drive. You don't need a big opening to switch lanes or pass a car, you just, basically, go. And intersections? Whew... There is no right of way, even for pedestrians. As you approach an intersection, you see before you a tangled chaotic mess of steel and flesh. Then you're lost in the midst of it for a brief moment before reappearing, unscathed, on the opposite side. Strangely enough, I found myself completely comfortable with all of this, even smiling to myself at the ridiculousness of it all.
The city of Ubud (all of Bali, really) consists of buildings packed in like sardines between each other, and tons, and tons, and tons of rice fields on the outskirts. In town, buildings are literally built connecting to one another, save for an occasional alley that's hardly wide enough for a scooter to bypass. The main streets are about two lanes wide, but you can't really tell because there are no painted lines on the pavement. Traffic consists of about 90% scooter, 10% other, 100% insanity. Police (Polisi) are few and far between. Everyone and his brother is a taxi driver. You can't walk two metres down main street without being approached by a taxi driver. Our hotel (a B&B recently upgraded to 13 rooms) is on a side street that's just wide enough for one car to drive down. There's a traffic jam every time a scooter tries to go one way when a van is going to other. Darta, the owner, his wife Suti, their son Abut, and Darta's parents all live on the property, as well as the staff during their 4 or 5 day shifts. We were lucky enough to get a room on the top floor (third floor) that overlooks the property and part of the 'neighborhood'.
The four roofs in the right corner here are all part of the hotel. Kajeng street runs left-to-right just beyond the tall thatch roofed building, which is the restaurant.
Sunset, looking out the same window
The family and staff are all about courtesy and service, even though everything is very cheap here. When we arrived in the afternoon on Tuesday, we were graciously greeted by Darta and his son Abut. One of the staff helped with our bags as Darta led us up to our room and gave us the run-down of the whole deal. A bit later we headed down to the restaurant where I had an excellent meal of Gado-Gado; A vegetarian meal of veggies, fried tofu and tempe, covered in peanut sauce, complemented by a crisp, cold Bintang beer. We have yet to have a disappointing meal here in Bali.
Just a ten minute walk from the door of the hotel and we're in the rice paddies, which go on and on and on. Chickens and flocks of ducks are hidden randomly throughout the paddies, grazing on the young seedlings. There are a few hut or shack looking structures throughout the fields, which I can only imagine are used for storing tools, seed, rice sacks, etc., or maybe for taking a rest, under shelter from the hot sun. One day, when walking through the paddies, the route we took not only led us through the rice fields, but also through sections of jungle, where the water ran through the channels and irrigation systems set up for the terraced fields. Here we could find wild banana trees, avocado trees, papaya trees, HUGE spiders, an occasional iguana, and a random art gallery or restaurant, which we all thought was quite strange.
This guy was just as big as the tarantula-sized huntsman spiders that I saw in Queensland, only much higher up on the creepy scale. The unfocused black blob in the background is another of the same kind of spider.
Delicious and fresh Papaya from the markets
The flora here is very reminiscent of what I experienced in northern Queensland. They even grow a lot (a LOT) of my favorite plant that I discovered in Queensland, the Desert Rose. I don't have a picture now, but I'll make sure to get one before we leave.
Monkeys in the Monkey Forest
Full moon out the back window