Bali is quite beautiful.
K and I got back yesterday evening, after spending 4 days at the Hilton in Bali - possibly the most upmarket place we've ever stayed in on holiday, but surprisingly affordable. Most of the time was spent on the beach, of which the Hilton has a nice private stretch that is quiet and pleasant.
We ventured out thrice - once for an obligatory day trip around Bali (more accurately described as a guided tour around tourist traps, which K and I valiantly spent our way through, buying gifts for colleagues and friends), the second time for an incredible dinner on Jimbaran beach, and the third for a sunset dinner cruise that was disappointing, to say the least.
First, the day trip. This was part of the tour package we'd booked, so we left on Wednesday morning for a drive around the island. The tour had obviously been designed with the typical Singaporean tourist in mind - we were to go to a Batik factory, a wood carvering place, a silversmiths, and an art gallery. In the end, we only went to the first two, and still spent a fair amount of money buying fans, sarongs, wooden statuettes and masks.
The highlight of the trip was our drive up to the village of Kintamani, from which there were excellent views of Mt Abang. The lowermost of the three craters (seen in this photograph) was responsible for the lava flows which have turned out black in this infra-red photograph. Vegetation still does not grow there.
Mt Abang in infra-red
At the top of the ridge overlooking the volcano and crater lake, the temperature was suprisingly cool: lunch, on the balcony of a restaurant with spectacular views, was in a chilling stiff breeze.
(for those interested in repeating this experience, the restaurant is at:
S 8º 16.955'
E 105º 21.855'
The second time we went out was for dinner on Jimbaran beach. To our surprise, this was literally on the beach, at a place called the Cafe Melasti. We didn't want to choose a restaurant, so we went to the one the driver parked in front of. In retrospect, given he was wearing a T-shirt with the words "Cafe Melasti", he was probably an employee, so our 'choice' of dinner location was pre-determined anyway.
There's nothing to quite describe dinner on the beach, and I didn't manage to take any nice photographs, so you'll just have to imagine - tables set up on the sand, just above the high-tide line, chairs all facing the sea, the surf pounding in, starry skies ... ok, well, it's not that romantic, given that they've crowded as many tables as they can get onto the sand, and there's a band wandering around playing whatever tables are willing to pay them to play (which is quite a wide variety of songs, some of which don't do much for the romantic atmosphere), and then there's the sand ... well, you know ... sand ... it's coarse and rough and irritating and it gets everywhere.
The third time we went out was for a sunset dinner cruise, recommended to us, and which we do not recommend. We had been led to believe from the brochure that this was a romantic dinner cruise, where we'd gaze at the tropical sunset, and then have dinner.
There was no tropical sunset. As it is here on our tropical island, so it is in Bali - low-lying clouds, more often than not, obscure the sunset. Dinner was what you'd expected on a small boat with ravenously hungry Ozzies and a buffet table system. There was no "cruise": the boat sailed out a little ways from the harbour, turned right back round, and spent the whole 3 hours sailing back and forth on a route a few kilometres long - I have the GPS track logs to prove it.
Add to that the very loud private party that took up the middle deck, and the experience was complete. The resident band played loud and long, and quite a few of the private party took to the mike for an impromptu karaoke. There was the obligatory Hotel California moment, Sweet Home Alabama was sung twice (we didn't wander down from the top deck to see who it was, but the first voice sounded like an Indonesian, the second like an Australian, and both had more passion than subtlety), and we finally sailed back to dock to the strains (emphasis on strained) of Summer of 69. As most of us hurried cross the gangway to dry land, the band played on. K and I didn't look back.
Other than that slightly off-key moment, the rest of the time in Bali was wonderful, spend mostly on the beach, of course. I'll leave that for another post, especially since I've used up my flickr upload limit for this month.