An ever lengthening amount of time in Paradise, also known as Bali, Indonesia.
28 Nov 2019 to 8 Feb 2020
(Wiki extracts in italics)
Bali is a province of Indonesia and the westernmost of the Lesser Sunda Islands. Located east of Java and west of Lombok, the province includes the island of Bali and a few smaller neighbouring islands, notably Nusa Penida, Nusa Lembongan, and Nusa Ceningan. The provincial capital, Denpasar, is the most populous city in the Lesser Sunda Islands and the second largest, after Makassar, in Eastern Indonesia. Bali is the only Hindu-majority province in Indonesia, with 83.5% of the population adhering to Balinese Hinduism.
Bali is Indonesia’s main tourist destination, with a significant rise in tourism since the 1980s. Tourism-related business makes up 80% of its economy. It is renowned for its highly developed arts, including traditional and modern dance, sculpture, painting, leather, metalworking, and music. The Indonesian International Film Festival is held every year in Bali. Other international events held in Bali include the Miss World 2013 and 2018 Annual Meetings of the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank Group. In March 2017, TripAdvisor named Bali as the world’s top destination in its Traveller’s Choice award.
Bali is part of the Coral Triangle, the area with the highest biodiversity of marine species especially fish and turtles. In this area alone, over 500 reef-building coral species can be found. For comparison, this is about seven times as many as in the entire Caribbean. Bali is the home of the Subak irrigation system, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. It is also home to a unified confederation of kingdoms composed of 10 traditional royal Balinese houses, each house ruling a specific geographic area. The confederation is the successor of the Bali Kingdom. The royal houses are not recognised by the government of Indonesia; however, they originated before Dutch colonisation.
Thursday 28th November 2019
Bali Distance Cycled 170km
Total Indonesia 1220km
Grand total 33602km
So in the last instalment of the blog I had just arrived in Bali on the ferry from Java after a momentous 218 kilometer day. The plan is to cycle to the southern tip of Bali and base myself there for further adventures, sightseeing and sorting out my visa extension.
The Indonesian visa is only 30 days and I’ve already spent 2 weeks on Java. I can extend for 30 days but having read up on the process it can take up to 10 days. So that’s going to be my first priority. But first I still need to cycle to the south.
The first day I cycle to the resort village of Canggu, a popular backpacker and holidaymaker location.
Rather than taking the main road I decide a short cut is advisable. How wrong I was. My first misgiving is when I leave the main road and descend down a steep concrete road to a river gully. Having crossed the small stream at the bottom I then take the north face of the Eiger on the other side. Puffing and panting I reach the top and I have a glorious view of the surrounding rice paddies leading all the way down to the coast.
The concrete path continues, at times changing from a solid expanse to a two ribbon track with grass and sand in the middle, just like an old farm track. This is fine in a car or 2 wheel bike, but unfortunately the trike is just too wide for the single ribbon so I end up with one wheel pushing through the grass and small scrubs growing in the middle. Again and again I descend into steep ravines, carrying runoff from the mountains and volcanoes in the centre of the island. At this time of year they are mainly dry, but I expect when the imminent and already late seasonal rains arrive it will be a different story. The day is hot (no change there!) and the way is taxing but I finally arrive into Canggu. Tourists are zipping around on mopeds, adding to the already heavy local traffic. Many of the mopeds have side racks on them with surfboards strapped on. The girls are all in skimpy bikinis, the men shirtless and all tanned and beautiful (apart from the beerbellied elder men with young women riding pillion, Russian Mafia perhaps??)
I find a cheap hostel and book in. It’s very quiet, but has a pool and is very clean. I am soon lounging (washing the detritus off me) in the pool and sipping a Bintang.
There’s one other bloke staying and we decide to head down to the famous beaches and get some food (and beer and bikini watch!) The sunset is amazing as we sit on our bean bags on the beach. I’m sure there will be many more of those to come.
Next morning I head out of Canguu and pass through the tourist trap areas of Kuta and Seminak. Like the Costa Brava in Spain the streets are lined with cheap looking bars and restaurants. They probably look very nice, lit up in the early evening bustle, but at 9am in the morning the dusty streets look worn.
Finally I hit the main road heading down towards the airport at Dempasar and I follow this passed the airport for sometime until I reach Bukit Peninsular, the small but hillly nub of land that juts out of the southern Bali coast.
The Bukit (as it is commonly referred to) is a large limestone peninsula which, bar a sliver of land just south of the airport, would be a separate island. It is rugged and dry, and pre-tourist development this was a real backwater of Bali. It includes the famous cliff-hanging temple at Uluwatu, a number of Bali’s very best beaches and the top surfing spots on the island. As is so often the case, it was intrepid surfers who really opened up the eyes of the world to this part of the island.
Once I’m across the short spit of land there is a sharp hill leading up to the centre of the Bukit. Oh boy, how steep! I grind up the 4km hill which thankfully lessens off after the first 3 short climbs. Its still early in the morning, so I decide to go visit the cliff temple at Uluwatu on the west coast of the peninsular before booking into my hostel. This entails cycling another 10km and unfortunately descending virtually all the way back to sea level. I also arrive just as a large influx of Chinese tourists arrive in 3 coaches! I decide to have a coconut and relax before entering the temple for fear of getting trampled and abused by the pushy, rude Chinese.
Uluwatu Temple is one of Bali’s nine key directional temples. Though a small temple was claimed to have existed beforehand, the structure was significantly expanded by a Javanese sage, Empu Kuturan in the 11th Century. Another sage from East Java, Dang Hyang Nirartha is credited for constructing the padmasana shrines and is claimed to have attained Moksha here. Even more remarkable than the temple itself is its location, perched on a steep cliff 70 metres above the roaring Indian ocean waves. There are more steep headlands on either side and sunsets over Uluwatu are a sight to behold. The temple is inhabited by large number of monkeys, who are extremely adept at snatching visitors’ belonging, including bags, cameras and eyeglasses. Keep a very close grip on all your belonging and stow away your eyeglasses if at all possible. If you do have something taken, the monkeys can usually be induced to exchange it for some fruit. Needless to say, rewarding the monkeys like this only encourages them to steal more. Locals and even the temple priest or monkey ranger will be happy to do the job for you, for NO tip required. The cliff is fascinating but the temple itself is not as impressive as others in Bali.
My reward for cycling all the way over to the temple is watching groups of Chinese tourists attempting to regain their belongings from the monkeys that have stolen them and are now sitting in the trees munching on glasses, straps and in one case a flip flop!
I climb back up the center of the Bukit and through Ungasan, one of the main towns, before finally arriving at my chosen hostel, Bali Beats. Although not in the popular Uluwatu surfer area it’s got some great reviews, a pool and a restaurant. I’m quite happy that it’s not in the throbbing party area, and I can always rent a moped and join the shirtless crowds riding around to get to the beaches and nightlife in other areas of the Bukit.
So I have arrived at my ‘base of operations’ for the next 6 weeks. I’ll get my visa application sorted and also visit other areas and Islands of Bali.
I’ll also travel here, there and everywhere but return here for rest and admin periods.
Visa Extension Process
As I mentioned previously, as a UK citizen you can come into Indonesia on a free visa for 30 days, but then you must leave the country, there is no way you can extend this. The option I chose was to purchase a $35 visa on arrival. With this visa you can apply to extend for another 30 days but then you have to leave the country on the 60th day or before.
So one morning I popped down to the Immigration office in Nusa Dua, about a 15 minute drive away. For the application I needed a photocopy of my passport, a completed application form and proof of a flight leaving Indonesia before the 60 day period was up. Obviously I hadn’t yet booked a ticket as I wasn’t sure how long or when I would be leaving. Fortunately there are a number of “fake ticket” websites out there and I was able to print out a ticket with my details and a genuine flight and flight number. Other options are to “rent” a ticket for a small sum, this is then cancelled by the company after 5 days and they get a refund from the airline. Final option is to pay for a fully refundable ticket yourself then cancel and get a refund yourself. It took me 5 minutes to sort the online fake ticket, email it to myself and get it printed along with a copy of my passport . I did this at a shop just around the corner from the immigration office. On entering the Immigration office in a large hall I could already see quite a few people sat around on the chairs waiting for their name to be called. I took my documents to one of the windows and the man took all my paperwork and told me to sit. Some time later my name was called (only about 20 minutes, which apparently is lucky) and I went back to see the man. My paper work was now in a folder and I was told to go away and complete the details on the folder plus 2 fields I had missed on the application. This done I returned it to him and he gave me a piece of A4 paper with my printed details on and a stamp telling me when to return to have my photo and fingerprints taken. In 7 days time between the hours of 10 and 12!! I was also instructed to go out into the car park and find the van where I would pay my application fee. This sounded dodgy, but oh well! Outside I found the small van with 2 people sat in the back with a small desk. It was actually a mobile post office van and here I paid my fee and was given a stamp on my piece of paper.
7 days later I rocked up and took a ticket for the photo and fingerprint desk. This time I had to wait about 30 minutes and then sat down at a desk and the guy took my picture with a webcam and scanned my fingerprints. He then stamped my paperwork with the date and time of my 3rd and final visit to the Immigration office. Another 7 days time between 2 and 4pm!! Obviously the fact that my original visa was about to run out in 2 days time wasn’t a problem.
Another 7 days later I rocked up at the allotted time and waited for a man with a huge pile of passports to call out my name and give me my passport which I signed for. And there you have it, new Visa extension granted. So the total process took 14 days and 3 visits and because my original visa had already ran out I was already 5 days into my new visa. What a convoluted system!! Jobs for the boys perhaps?
On a side note, as I did have 7 days between each visit I was able to arrange some long trips around Bali to pass the time without wasting it. In less busy periods some people are told to return after 3 or 4 days and this really doesn’t allow for any longer trips.
There are many top tourists places and activities to visit whilst in Bali. Here’s what I got up to:
For the princely sum of 550,000 Indonesian Rupee ($40) I was picked up from my hostel early one morning and transported by minibus about 2 hours north east to the port of PangBai. From here I was transported by boat to a beach landing on the tropical island of Gili Trawangan, one of 3 tiny island on the coast of the much larger Lombok Island. The biggest Island is only 3km by 2km. The cost also includes an open ended return, you just need to book the return boat 24 hours before. Many people come to the Gili Island with a fixed date in mind then end up staying longer and longer!
The Gili Islands are a group of 3 tiny islands – Gili Trawangan, Gili Meno and Gili Air – in Indonesia, near the coast of northwest Lombok Island. Characterised by sandy beaches fringed with palm trees they are a vision of paradise. They’re known for their coral reefs just offshore. On the smallest island of Gili Meno, sea turtles swim at Turtle Point. At Gili Trawangan, the largest island, a sunken ship sits at Wreck Point near Mentigi Beach. Between Gili T and Gili M there is also an underwater statue park where you can snorkel around the sunken statues, unfortunately this is easily reached and is a bog draw and is normally inundated with boat groups of locals and Chinese bobbing around in life vests kicking everyone they can reach with their fins (which are of absolutely no use to them!!) Obviously diving and snorkelling are the main pastimes on these Islands although Gili Trawangan is also known for its wild party nights (every night!!) They may have been battered by three separate earthquakes in July and August 2018, but they’re bouncing back safer, sturdier and more sustainably-minded than ever.
I spent 3 nights and 4 days here, relaxing on the beaches, snorkelling and enjoying the nightlife. For me the snorkelling was amazing, although I did develop a nose bleed when I was diving down with the turtles to about 20 meters and scared the rest of my boat when I came back up with a snorkel mask full of blood!!
North Coast resort of Amed
In the far north eastern tip of Bali lies the small villages of Amed and Jemeluk. Sitting on black sand beaches this lesser known spot is another paradise for divers and snorkellers.
Crystal clear water in beautiful protected bays, with Shipwrecks and coral just a few feet off the volcanic black sand beach. You are rewarded with sighting tons of brightly colored fish, turtles and the odd fat blue starfish. I even saw Santa Claus in his southern lair on Christmas day!!
Situated 100 kilometers north of Bukit , about 2 and a half hours by moped is Mount Batur, an active volcano located at the center of two concentric calderas north west of Mount Agung on Bali. The south east side of the larger 10×13 km caldera contains a caldera lake.
Most people come here to do an early morning ascent of Mt Baturs smaller, inner caldera. The motorbike ride up the outer steep sided caldera is daunting, but rewards you with stunning views in towards the innder caldera and the lake.
Unfortunately on arrival in Batur I was struck down with a lymph infection and had to curtail my ascent. Instead I went to the local hospital and saw a doctor who prescribed me antibiotics, anti inflamatories and another set of pills that I’m not sure what they did! All for the sum of 50,000 IDR ($3.6) including the consult!!
Although I didnt stay in Ubud, I did a daytrip to some of the waterfalls in he area. Like the rest of Ubud area the number of tourists, even in off season was daunting. Traffic on the narrow roads is always clogged with coaches of Japanese, Minibuses of Westerners/Australians and mopeds of locals and shirtless backpackers weaving and dodging the rest of the traffic! Even at the waterfalls it was full of people getting thei instagram pictures, taking ages to get the perfect shot, water cascading down over lithe young bodies, “just get out of the way!!” hey hoo this is the world we live in now.
Tibumana Waterfall & Pengibul Waterfall
Unlike Ubud, Lake Beretan is much quieter as it is further away from the main tourist region in the south. I visited waterfalls where I was the only person there, climbed mountains and never saw a soul. There’s also a beautiful Temple, Ulun Danu, sitting on the lakeside that only had a few visitors. I stayed in a charming hostel, full of huge wood slab tables and rustic charm.
Ulun Danu Temple
Pura Pucak Mangu 2096m altitude
Red Coral Waterfall
Labuan Kebo Waterfall
Hostel and Life in Uluwatu
When I was back at Uluwatu and Bali Beats hostel life revolved around me. My hostel was pretty amazing. Azur blue pool, amazing staff, free evening meal, live music played by staff and guests each evening. Pool table and table tennis competitions. 2 puppies that were only 10 days old when I arrived but were a huge love for all the guests.
I meet a continuous cycle of amazing travellers each with their own stories. Wednesday Night and Sunday night was always the big party night at Single Fins, one of the cliff top clubs in Uluwatu, with a street dance after party. Life was amazing!
Tom from Essex UK, my gym hero and Bali best buddy
Timna, redhead firebrand from Holland
Noah, another amazing Dutchie
Mikhel and Paul from Holland (yes those Dutch get about!)
Isabel the Mexican Drug Cartel Princess
Dagmar our coerced Yoga instructor
Sophie & Amy, most amazing piss takers from England
and too many others to mention
Puppies Snickers and Oreo and mum Mulan
Bahar (met her as I arrived in Turkey 3 years ago when she accommodated me out of the kindness of her heart)
Beaches, some of the best I have ever seen…
But my time in Bali must come to an end. Goodbye the the amazing crystal blue waters, golden beaches, turtles, snorkelling and goodbye to the Temples, Volcanoes, Waterfalls and verdant green jungle walks. I’ve had an amazing time, particularly at my ‘base of operations’ hostel, Bali Beats. Amazing staff, (shout out to Panda, JayJay, Thomas, Putu, Karen, Fransisca, Eva and Sara for looking after me.)
I’ve met travellers from all over the globe and so much fun with just the right balance of quiet time. I should probably have visited a few more places, particularly Flores and Komodo, but towards the end I was just happy to relax and let the days unwind as I researched my next adventure… Australia!!!