The VW Thing tour
After our first 2 nights in the hotel near the airport we packed our bags and headed to Seminyak to stay a night and then head to Ubud. However our 1 night in Seminyak quickly turned into 3 nights.
Alain joined the girls and I for the ride into our new town where we checked into the M hostel. Then had dinner at a Balinese restaurant before Alain headed back to our original hotel.
Im pretty sure Alain enjoyed being along with us for our new hostel at check in. This hostel wins for the best main entrance ever! It also wins in the category of most creepy hostel entrance ever! We entered thru a store front off a main road, walked with our packs to the back of the store. Pushing open a door that looked like an employees only door we walked a few steps in a dark hallway before we were outside. It was dark outside and we were now walking on a metal grated walkway and down stairs. We stopped at the top of the stairs looking down into the darkness and then back into the illuminated store where Alain was staggering behind. We called for him in laughter and in a, what have we got ourselves into manner. He caught up to us started laughing AND taking his own photos!
At the bottom of the stairs we turned a corner and everything opened up into a nice outdoor common area. Now we were in the hostel. It was under $15 a night for each of us and we had our own shared room with a bathroom. The hostel had a sort of open aired basement feel to it which was really nice as it is SO stinkin hot here.
I don't sweat much but when I'm just standing and I can feel sweat trickling down my back, that's bad.
We all ended up really liking the hostel. The travelers there were really friendly, it was very comfortable and clean. They offered free breakfast of eggs, fresh fruit, & toast accompanied with tea and coffee. The inside common space was had 3 computers for use, a fat screen tv with a large assortment of new DVDs, and a fridge and water jug. I mention the water jug because I'm now in a country where you shouldn't drink the water. They didn't have a common kitchen for the travelers but I was okay with that as the food here can be cheap if you eat at the Balinese places.
Our first morning at M hostel we joined the other backpackers for breakfast. We were just finishing up when we recognized another German girl Pia had talked to at the airport, Ines. We were happy to see her and what a small island! She was a sweet heart. We talked with her for a bit and then Pia, Alicia and I changed out conversation to Crossfit. The girls wanted me to lead them thru a WOD. Ines and another German girl at the table, Ena asked if they could join. And so my first group WOD in a hostel was born!
It was a pretty relaxing day. Breakfast, Crossfit, lunch at Zula and a road trip to a near by temple.
Zula is a local and organic vegetarian cafe. I'm going to rant about the for just a minute...
This place has a menu where everything looks amazing! I seriously wanted to order a little of everything! I'm not a vegetarian but I love the combinations of food they offer and the organic ingredients. It's owned by an Israeli man who lives in Bali. The prices are good but not the crazy cheap prices you'd expect in Bali. I have paid about $9 us for each meal I've had there but that included food and 2 fresh juices. That's still a pretty good deal. I also found out he has a cafe in Ubud called Down to Earth. I'm excited that Ubud is my next stop and
this place is an option. It's nice to have a place where I can get away from rice and fried chicken/ fish on occasion.
Okay I'm done with my rant. They should pay me as a spokes person!
Now for the temple, Ines joined the 3 of us to visit it at sunset. We hired a driver to take us there, he didn't speak English but he tried and enjoyed listening to us talk. This was our first real drive in the daylight and it was awesome! Watching the crazy drivers (mostly on motor bikes) nearly crash into each other at the intersections without stop signs or lights was like nothing I've ever seen. The drivers of these motor bikes make anything look possible! I've seen a family of 5 on a moped, a man driving with a large satellite dish wrapped around his body, another man driving with 4 to 5 water hugs in his bike and woman with her bike stacked high in palm leaves! These people have mad skills!
Yes! A satellite dish on his motor bike!
The change in landscape was nice as well. We saw different areas of country side and many different temples and home structures along with a variety of interesting businesses.
The temple tour itself was not as great as I had hoped. We all felt this way. The temple was different as it looked like it was built inside a rock. The area around the temple was very commercialized. There was a large Balinese market for bartering surrounding it, along with a quicksilver and polo store front! There were lots of solo vendors too. It was sad to see this as it would have been nice to have experienced a more traditional tour. There was something going on in the temple so we weren't allowed in it but I'm not actually sure the public is allowed in at all. I think I'm going to see a bit more of this commercialism surrounding temples as I fly into SE Asia soon. I'm prepared now.
The next morning we went on a VW thing tour with our 2 new German friends, Ena and Ines. They had booked an all day tour and talked me into it the day before so I got Alicia and Pia on board. It was $70 us with pick up at 7:15am and drop off between 4 and 5pm. The kicker was... It was spoken in German! Ha! I called the company the day before and asked if we could have an English speaking guide as well but it was to short of notice. The 3 German girls promised they'd be good translators for us. Our actual guide was Balinese but had been trained to speak German and was very good at it.
The tour was amazing! Worth every dollar and the girls did a great job translating. There were a few times when Alicia and I actually understood what he was saying in German which was pretty cool.
We visited a temple without commercialism it wasn't as much of a tourist sight. It was huge but we could only look inside from outside the surrounding wall as the temple was to holy for us.
We went to a local market where we wee the only white people and we sampled a variety of different fruits here.
On the drive to the botanical garden area we stopped off the road side to see more rice fields, and then a cemetery where we learned about their process of dealing with their deceased.
We stood in front of a plot of land that had 2 obvious burn piles, one nicer then the other. When a family member passed away they are cremated in one of the two burn areas depending on how much money the family has. Of they are well off their deceased loved one is cremated in the nicer burn area. If the family can't afford to cream are their family member then they are buried in an Indonesian style coffin (sounded like it might be a sack of some sort) with offerings. Then in 5 years all these bodies are dug up and cremated together.
On our botanical walk to the farm we passed banayan trees which are called by a different name here, bamboo - a bigger stalk then I've seen before and coconut palm trees. I saw my first teak tree. If I remover correctly, these trees take 15 years to grow big enough to use for their wood. Which is a reason why teak furniture can be so expensive.
We then walked into the working organic farm that produced: vanilla bean, pepper, pineapple, turmeric, ginger, lemongrass, citronella, rombuton (a small spikey fruit that grows in a tree), Cocoa, coffee beans, bees, coriander, cinnamon, cloves, fennel, mangosteen, orchids, durian (a large spiky fruit), and coconut.
One of the coffees they produce there is made by first feeding the coffee fruit to an animal (a cat like creature called a Luwak). They digest the fruit and expel the coffee bean. Then they clean the beans and roast them. Grind it down into coffee and brew. It was actually really good, according to Alica and the other coffee drinkers of the group.
Yep, poop coffee sounds delicious, right!?
After walking the grounds we did a coffee and tea tasting of: lemongrass, ginger, lemon, rosella, chocolate coffee, ginseng coffee (tasted like caramel), Bali coffee, pure Bali cocoa and the Luwak coffee. I skipped all the coffees except the ginseng one and LOVED all the teas! The best teas I have ever had, the ginger was my favorite, for sure.
We had an authentic lunch at a mans house who had drinks for sale and an authentic Indonesian bathroom! Well kind of... It was an actual toilet which I think the authentic kind is just a hole in the concrete. This mans bathroom was the toilet with a bucket to the side of it, under a hose coming from the wall. After you do your business you scoop water out of the bucket with a pale and dump it into the toilet until you eventually have clean water again.
From lunch we drove to the rain forest where on the way Alicia asked the driver if she could use the toilet somewhere. We had just passed a building of some sort maybe a temple, maybe a home so the driver pulled over. He and Alicia went inside while Ena and I stayed in the thing. The other girls and our your guide were in the other thing. After a bit they returned to the vehicle. Apparently Alicia crashed a funeral but she didn't even realize she had until we were back on the road and about a mile away.
The rain forest walk.
She was flipping thru photos she took in the house she had just been in. She showed us how beautiful this house was inside and what an experience it was to go inside someone's home here in Bali. She took a picture of this shrine with offerings all around it. The shrine was a picture of a young girl, 7 or younger. Them she told us how nice everyone was dressed. She even took a group picture of them and our driver outside the front of their home! This girl LOVES her photo opportunities! We have learned by now that every home has some sort of a temple in it and every town has their own temple. I guess Alicia assumed the picture of this girl was the family's temple. The driver... who didn't speak English caught on to our words and was able to communicate to us that they were having a celebration for the young girl... who was defiantly NOT at the house. Yep! That's when we all realized Alicia had crashed a funeral.
The nicely dressed people inside the home AND our driver.
The rain forest walk was an hour long. We saw some native plants and trees and heard black monkeys but didn't see any. We passed some back woods Bali men with guns and took that photo opportunity! This was probably the least interesting part of the tour but still fun and beautiful.
An hour drive later and we arrived at the last stop of the day, a monkey temple! This was supposed to be better then UBud's monkey forest and I can't compare it, yet. But it was pretty awesome! I'm not sure I even want to go to the monkey forest after visiting the temple. Monkeys were everywhere! What I enjoyed most was seeing them interacting in the town just outside the temple gates. As we entered the town we saw them on the power lines, shop roofs, I even saw a big one stroll into a women's shop and she just sat in her chair and watched him enter.
Inside the gates of "monkey land" we parked and got out of the things. There was a monkey sitting in the parking lot eating fruit, Ines and I walked towards it, I was behind her with her camera. We walked slowly and it started to adjust its body as we came closer. I said to her, careful and then sure enough, in seconds it was hissing at us and in a crouched position! We both let out a scared yell and jumped back. The monkey ran off, thankfully.
That was our quick monkey tutorial! Ena was sexually assaulted by a monkey and so was I when they jumped on us and stuck their hands down our shirts! There wasn't much we could do as we were told to be calm and still, when they were on us or around us. Ena was also bit by a monkey on her arm but it didn't puncture the skin or bring up any blood. She thinks it bit her because her arm looked like food as it was covered in a colorful full sleeve tattoo.
After she was bit she wasn't as keen with the monkeys anymore but our guide kept her with us when she tried to go back to the vehicle.
There was a man and a women following us around, the monkey whisper I called them. The lady would whip them with a long piece of dried grass if they started getting to wild around us. The man was following us with peanuts to entice the monkeys to jump on us so he could get photos to sell. We didn't buy any though, we just took our own photos. We're cheap gypsies like that! And the balinease will try to get a buck anywhere they can.
Photo courtesy of Ena.
It was a full day of events and an exhausting one! After we were dropped off at the hostel we went to dinner at Zula (again!) and then back to our home away from home to get some shut eye.