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Part 2 - A major meander through Australia/Tasmania, Bali, Laos & Vietnam

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Feb 1st, 2015, 03:07 PM
  #1
rje
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Part 2 - A major meander through Australia/Tasmania, Bali, Laos & Vietnam

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Trip report: A major meander through Australia/Tasmania, Bali, Laos & Vietnam.

I'll be starting off here soon with the Bali segment of the trip, but if you have any interest in the planning/logistics for the trip, and the Australia/Tasmania segments, you can check out the first part in the Australia Forum:
http://www.fodors.com/community/aust...os-vietnam.cfm
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Photos:
Several albums of photos can be seen on Flickr, and I'll keep adding more for other areas as I add to the trip report:
https://www.flickr.com/photos/[email protected]/sets

They really do look better large, and provide more information.
To see them larger, click the first photo, and after it opens, click on the icon that looks like 2 diagonal white arrows going in opposite directions.
This is located on the upper right of the page.

You may find navigating forward and back through the photos easiest by using the left and right arrows on your keyboard.

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Itinerary: September - October, 2014
http://www.gcmap.com/mapui?P=JFK-DFW...PQ-HAN-HKG-JFK

NYC to Australia:
• Brisbane - Cairns - Mossman vicinity - Cape Tribulation - Geelong - Cape Otway - Melbourne - Cradle Mountain, Tasmania - Bronte Park - Hobart - Freycinet Peninsula - Launceston
• Kuala Lumpur: stopover
• Bali: Ubud - Pejeng - Sideman - Nusa Lembongan -
• Kuala Lumpur: stopover
• Laos: Vientiane - drive to Vang Vieng - drive to Luang Prabang
• Vietnam: Hanoi- private junk at Bai Tu Long Bay - Ninh Binh
• Hong Kong - NYC
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Feb 2nd, 2015, 11:36 AM
  #2
rje
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Chapter 7 - In which we witness a Massive Morning Monkey-Marauder invasion.

Today we leave Australia. And while we look forward to our next destinations, we're sorry to be leaving such a wonderful country and we know we'll be back.

Entering the Melbourne International terminal, I try to get us into the Qantas business class lounge, even though today's flight is on Malaysian Airlines. The reason I thought it might be OK is that before we started the trip, a Qantas CSR had told me it would probably be no problem, as we'd have just flown several Qantas business class flights during the last month. But it was not to be, as they were very full that day. So we made do with the lessor Malaysian "Golden Lounge". But frankly, how could we possibly complain, when it was still so much more relaxing than sitting in a crowded terminal?

Even in that big 777, the takeoff is unusually slow and bumpy as we head into the strong winds I wrote about during my last post, but we soon climb above them. After that unnerving flight a couple of hours earlier, I decide that a glass of complimentary champagne will be "therapeutic". This is followed by Malaysian Airlines famous satays, which are indeed tasty. Then huge prawns on a timbale of avocado and mango and then steamed baramundi with jasmine rice, roasted pumpkin and spinach. And more champagne. And chocolate flourless cake. And yet more champagne. Now I'm finally relaxed, and with my head on a soft pillow, I gaze out the window at the endless expanse of arid Central Australia below us and think of the contrast between how we are currently traveling and the experiences of the early explorers who endured incredible hardship searching so long for an inland sea, but found only dust and toxic pools of water. But from up here it all looks so… pretty.

A little later, I turn down ice cream, which may be a first for me, but I am still too full. I extend the not-flat bed and rest comfortably, and when we land in Kuala Lumpur, we are whisked by the super-efficient Sama-Sama Hotel people to their super-efficient check-in station inside the airport, while our bags are super-efficiently loaded onto a buggy. A few minutes later we join our luggage on the buggy and are super-efficiently whisked at high speeds through the airport, down a long air-conditioned corridor, and to the lobby of the Sama-Sama Hotel. Since it is evening and it has been a long day, we appreciate not having to experience the humidity outside, even if we are not experiencing Malaysia. From the lobby, we are super-efficiently shown to a comfortable room, decorated in Asian-corporate-modern, where we rearrange and re-pack our bags with just what we think we'll need in Bali, so as to be able to leave one large one at the hotel while we are in Bali for 2 1/2 weeks. Don't be thinkin' we'll need the warm clothing anymore!

Rising at 5:30 for our flight to Bali, we have time to enjoy the good Sama-Sama breakfast buffet, which offers an enormous selection. Then whisked super-efficiently by buggy back to the terminal.

After a non-eventful economy Malaysian Airline flight that we were paying for, we're picked up at Denpasar airport with a complimentary ride to Komaneka at Tanggayuda just outside of Ubud. We chose this particular hotel because we wanted to start off with "Asia Light", and ease into Southeast Asia. Upon arrival we were greeted with "Welcome home!", which while obviously packaged for tourists, still somehow felt comforting. After our welcome towels and fruit drinks, we rode another buggy to our Valley Pool Villa, which was gorgeous. The room was large and decorated in Balinese-modern, with just enough traditional touches to keep it from feeling sterile. It even has an Apple TV, which we admire for all of about about 22 seconds, and then never think of again. I do however notice and imbibe from the "bottomless" jar of chocolate chip cookies, which while not to my knowledge an ancient component of Balinese culture, are nevertheless not to be to sneered at, either.

But I imagine most people immediately do what we immediately did, and go outside the room to check out the private plunge pool. Overlooking a beautiful view across the valley below, and surrounded by lush tropical foliage, it is delightful. C makes a beeline for the daybed/gazebo structure next to the pool, which provides shade and excellent views, and in which cooling breezes refresh all traces of airplane fatigue.

Eventually we also reconnoiter the bathroom, and make the joke about it being as big as a New York City studio apartment. In addition to the shower, it has a black volcanic pumice tub next to a large window looking into a small private garden with a pool in which koi provide flaming color. Many useful and attractive amenities complete the package. All of this is, while not cheap, costing much less than comparable hotels in many other parts of the world, confirming for me that Bali still provides good value.

As expected, we don't leave the villa area for the rest of the day, except for a walk around the property which is also beautifully landscaped, and even have dinner delivered from the hotel restaurant. It is good, but not much more, and is a rare area where improvement would be possible.

The next morning we're not feeling very energetic. After breakfast in the airy restaurant overlooking the valley and the larger of the two infinity pools, we enjoy our private pool, have lunch delivered to our poolside daybed, and don't actually even leave Komenaka until dinner, when we take the hotel shuttle to a restaurant called Terracotta. It's part of a small nearby hotel, and is in an open pavilion with a thatched-roof. From our table, we look out over rice paddies, complete with ducks and wading white herons. The rosy colors of the dusk sky reflect in the water of the fields. It is more than pretty, it is beautiful. As it gets dark, rows of lanterns in the paddies glow warmly (see the pictures). We sip mojitos, then share starters of Gado-Gado and coconut-ginger pumpkin soup, and then an order of Fish Two Ways (crusty snapper and sea bass stuffed with tropical fruit) and an order of Pepes Ikan (Balinese spiced fish steamed in banana leaves), followed by a Valrhona chocolate gelato and a cinnamon gelato. An excellent celebration of our first night in Bali.

The next day it becomes clear that a month of travel has caught up with us, and while not actually being sick, we both feel very tired, and I have a sore throat. But luckily, we are ensconced in the perfect place to rest and recharge. So we again mostly stay around the hotel, although we did take the shuttle to the worthwhile Neka Art Museum. During a walk near the Monkey Forest (we never bothered to actually visit) I speak to a Mother standing with her family, who tells me how she has just had her chocolate candy bar snatched by a monkey. A common story, I think. Turning the corner I spot said monkey on a fence, enjoying his ill-gotten booty, and I take a photo. Later, we return to Terracotta for dinner, which proves to be just as delightful the second time.

Apologies for mostly relating how we hung around, but being only slightly ill doesn't make for very many good travel stories. One must either be healthy and adventurous, or be sick as a dog in other to have good tales to tell. But the upside is that we were still able to enjoy ourselves immensely in spite of some symptoms.

The next morning we still show only small improvement, and I re-consider our plans to head to Pemuteran in a couple of days (on the northwest corner of Bali). I considered how we feel run-down, how long the drive would be, and how little we wanted to go snorkeling feeling like we did! So knowing that we'd still be able to snorkel when we got to Nusa Lembongan, and knowing we still had plenty of travel time left in this trip and opportunities for other experiences, we decided to cancel and stay around Ubud. We'd also planned to stay in Mudunk on the way back from Pemuteran, but that too was cancelled. And in retrospect, I'm glad we did, as we enjoyed spending extra time in and around Ubud so much.

We were leaving that day for the Warwick Ibah, another Ubud hotel, in the Campuhan area. The reason for the move is that while doing pre-trip research I discovered that the hotel is situated right next to Pura Gunung Lebah, an 8th century temple which would be the epicenter for a huge months-long Karya Agung festival and ceremonies. Thousands of Balinese people would be converging on Ubud and that temple during that month in particular. So I knew we could avoid all the traffic and road closures by staying there and being able to just walk to ceremonies. In addition, I'd found it is located next to the entrance for the Campuhan Ridge trail, so early morning walks there would be convenient.

I asked the front desk if we could return to Komenaka after staying at the Ibah, but we were told that sadly nothing was available. But we must have been good in a previous life, because after a short time, somehow suddenly there was availability, and even better, we could return to this very same villa! That was icing on the cake because we'd found this villa to be perfect for us. In fact, when we did return days later, the "Welcome home" greeting was now meaningful for us!

We headed for Campuhan and checked into the Ibah, which is also gorgeous, but in a different way. It is located at the confluence of two rivers, which is not surprising because Campuhan is Balinese for "confluence of two rivers". It is a most holy and historic area. The Ibah looks simultaneously more Balinese and more colonial than Komenaka. The grounds are thicker with foliage and the stonework around the grounds somehow gives the appearance of being ancient without feeling rundown. The villas themselves are quite beautiful inside, huge with soaring wood ceilings and a large terrace. Ours was over one of the rivers, and the sound was lovely.

During our stay, we alternate between activities and recovery. After the excellent Ibah breakfasts, we'd go to the temple ceremonies or maybe walk on Campuhan Ridge, but then we'd find we needed quiet time resting on our balcony, or strolling the grounds, past mossy stonework with dripping fountains and walls of delicate fern. The entrance to the hotel was located perhaps 100 feet from Bridges restaurant, but ironically the same festivals that brought us to the hotel created road closures and crowds that prevented us from eating at the closest restaurant. We did end up eating at Bridges, but only after we returned to Komenaka, which of course was much farther away.

Being so close to the temple, we'd hear music and chanting wafting to our terrace, which was lovely. Less lovely was all the thick smoke and incense that would continue over the month-long ceremonies, which irritated our nose and throats, and necessitated a trip to a Balinese pharmacy, inside of which military-style guards stood watch.

As beautiful as the Ibah is, we were struck by how inconsistent the service was compared to the always excellent Komenaka. It vacillated between superlative and bumbling. But it was never bad enough to prevent a return visit in the future.

After returning to Komenaka, we were picked up by Wayan who would drive us to Pura Luhur Batukaru, a temple up in the hills above Tabanan. Wayan was a great person to spend time with, as he is not only very knowledgable about Bali and Balinese culture, but also speaks perfect English, having studied anthropology and ethnomusicology in the US. He also teaches Gamelan and other kinds of Bainese music. We spoke about many subjects, and one that he is particularly passionate about is the encroachment of construction into the rice fields of hotels and villas. Before coming to Bali I'd already read about this problem, and I'm sure many here on this board have watched the changes in Bali over time due to rapid construction. He's started a grassroots political group to try and help slow this, and at the time we met him had appointments to meet with the new government in Bali. I hesitated to write about Wayan because he is only works occasionally as a driver as a way to pick up a little extra money, and doesn't take on many of those gigs.

On the way to Pura Luhur Batukaru we noticed a festival in a small village, and I asked Wayan to stop. He provided us with the proper temple wear. While I donned udeng kamben and salut, he checked with the people there, and I was welcomed into the temple to take photos of the young dancers. The girls' mothers were proudly watching them dance, and I was shown to a good vantage to photograph, so it was just me surrounded by all their Moms! We were the only westerners there.

Then we proceeded to Pura Luhur Batukaru. Again, as we'd find all during the time we were in Bali, the big festival was being observed almost non-stop everywhere we went. But like the temple with the young dancers, this was away from the main tourist routes, and we saw perhaps five other westerners there. The air was cool and misty up in the hills, making for a mystical feeling. We enjoyed watching the ceremonies, some of which I photographed unobtrusively (after checking with Wayan that it would be OK). The location is quite lush (a word I find myself using quite a lot about this trip), so we enjoyed walking around, drinking in the peaceful location.

On the way back we stopped by a river so I could take some photos of women doing laundry while standing in the water. Wayan told me the laughing women thought it was funny that I found this mundane activity interesting enough to photograph.

A couple of days later we again left Komaneka for a small and inexpensive room at Alam Jiwa and then another in the huge ground floor of a villa with a large private pool at Alam Shanti. Both were created by the people who own Café Wayan, where we did end up once, and thought had decent food. Both have a casual comfortable vibe, nicely tropically landscaped grounds with the sound of water everywhere, whether from streams or gurgling fountains, and good breakfasts brought to the room every morning. We were especially lucky at Alam Shanti, because the people in the top floor of the villa were nowhere to be seen, so the huge pool was all ours to enjoy. The pool ended with a vertical drop, looking down at small terraces with water lily pools, and below them, a river flowing at the bottom. Our huge balcony had the same view. Across the river were rice paddies.

Which leads me to the story of the Massive Morning Monkey-Marauder invasion.

As was common during this trip, I woke early and stumbled sleepily onto the balcony, where the sun was just rising over the rice paddies. I looked out and blinked as my groggy brain tried to process what I was seeing. At the top of a nearby ridge directly across from our balcony, above a ravine and at eye level, a long line of monkeys were walking in single file, led by a larger and apparently more Senior Simian. The line extended far back into the jungle-like forest to the left. I took a couple of quick photos, but thought C would love to see this, so I ran to get her.

Returning moments later, I lifted my camera to take photos, and just as I was almost in focus, all hell broke loose. We watched as the monkeys turned suddenly, and chattering loudly, began running in the opposite direction from which they'd been heading. They broke ranks and the orderly single file became a simian free-for-all, with monkeys scrambling down the steep hill, and then back up it to disappear into the trees. I had been wondering where they'd been heading, but now I couldn't understand why they were fleeing. Then the answer became clear. A man appeared walking in the direction they'd run with a rifle slung across his back. Then another man. It turns out that lately monkeys had been leaving the Ubud Monkey Forest to stage daring dawn raids for food. The men had been assigned to scare them back into the Monkey Forest. Unfortunately it all happened so unexpectedly and for such a short time that I only managed to get a few shots and none that captured how strange the scene we witnessed was. Still, you can see the shots on Flickr.

However, the story of the monkeys doesn't end there. After all that, I walked out in front of the villa entrance, which is a stone opening outside the front yard. A fellow staying at the villa next door had just come out and I told him what I'd just seen. At that moment, what looked like the large Senior Simian came strolling briskly out of our yard, through the stone doorway, and passed us, coming so close to me that his tail brushed against my bare leg!

The man and I looked at each other, and I excused myself, as I followed the monkey through the grounds, snapping pictures! Down a path, up a wall, across a roof, and then back toward our villa, where he went back through our doorway, across our front yard, and down some stairs, down to the lower level, where he disappeared into the trees, in the direction of the Monkey forest.

So I did what any sensible person would do after a Morning Monkey Invasion - I returned to our room and had a nice breakfast.

(to be continued)
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Feb 2nd, 2015, 03:08 PM
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I guess even having fun can be tiresome. Glad your itinerary was flexible enough to permit you to adjust as needed. Looking forward to more of your experiences of Bali.
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Feb 2nd, 2015, 11:51 PM
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enjoying your report.
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Feb 3rd, 2015, 03:21 AM
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I'm following and loving your reports! You have a great writing style and your photos are wonderful.

A question -- having stayed at both Alam Jiwa and Alam Shanti, would you recommend one over the other? I'm planning a trip for 2016, and I'm afraid my budget doesn't cover the lush Komaneka, but both of these seem to be attractive, comfortable and have a traditional feel.
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Feb 3rd, 2015, 06:07 AM
  #6
rje
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millie2112, Thank you, I'm really glad!

progol, They're both great, and are both well-run. And not surprisingly, they have a lot of similarities.

They're located close to each other and at either one you'd have the same good breakfasts brought to your room. Both are nicely landscaped, and their website photos don't do their rooms justice. Both have a similar decor and style.

Still, our experience there was a little "apples and oranges". We'd booked Alam Shanti far in advance, and chose one of their largest rooms (Yamuna room), but Alam Jiwa was booked just days before, and it was probably their smallest room, and at about $95US per night including breakfast, probably their cheapest room (Garuda room).

But even then, I might say we preferred Alam Jiwa by a small margin. The grounds are a bit older, so the trees have more time to grow in, making it just a bit lusher.

But I'd recommend either one. Do book early, though, as they are very popular! Even a year before you're going wouldn't be too early. They don't require a payment before you go, so they don't sit on your money all that time.
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Feb 3rd, 2015, 10:57 AM
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Chapter 7 - A Most Auspicious Day.

Checking out of Alam Shanti, we were picked up by a driver to be taken to a private villa we'd rented in the countryside. We arrived at the entrance a bit before we were expected. And when we walked through the gates and around to the large terrace, we saw something surprising.

We'd thought to find a quiet and vacant villa ready for us. Instead there was a flurry of activity going on at a long table, which was covered with a large quantity of tropical flowers, fruit, and decorative objects. Around the table, a group of women of varying ages were standing, assembling religious offerings. For a couple of minutes there was no one from the villa to greet us, or to even let us know where we could put our bags. It felt a little awkward. Especially as the women kept glancing nervously at us.

Then a man came out of the villa, and in broken English attempted to explain to us what was going on. It seems that when we arrived we were supposed to have been greeted by the manager of the villa, but inexplicably, he was not there (and never showed up until the next day). So it was on this poor man's shoulders to have to try and explain what was going on here and hope we would be OK with it. And when I realized the situation, I thought that what was going on was … wonderful.

You see, someone on the staff of the villa had kindly given permission to the people of the local village to use the villa's outdoor terrace as a "staging area" where they could assemble offerings for a ceremony to be held at a nearby temple later that afternoon. They thought the villa would be empty for about an hour longer, so they thought they'd be done and out by the time we arrived. When we showed up early, they were nervous that we'd be upset. I assured him that it was no problem at all, and smiled at everyone I saw. They in turn smiled back. Even though mutual language was in short supply, mutual good will was clearly plentiful.

Relieved, the village women went back to their offering-making activity. I pointed to my camera and pantomimed taking pictures, and they smiled and nodded OK. One woman showed me how she was making containers for the offerings out of woven palm leaf. Soon they began to carry baskets of offerings on their heads to some steep stone stairs at the edge of the property, and a village woman gestured for us to come with them. There was no way that C could handle the stairs, so I reluctantly would have to go without her.

I managed to convey that I had no proper temple clothing to wear, but a villager smiled and said "it OK", so I started down the hill with them. After a great many stairs, we came to plateau with a very small village temple, made up of walls and floor, but no roof. Again, it was gestured that I should come inside, so I did, leaving my shoes outside.

I watched as they arranged offerings around what I would describe as a tall "altar". I still don't know the Balinese word for it. It had been adorned with fabric and various offerings, and more were being added on and around it. I pointed to my camera again, to make sure it was OK to take pictures inside the temple, and they nodded and smiled. Up and down the stairs they went, over and over and over. I don't know how they did it in the hot sun, wearing their temple clothes - they were getting quite a workout, but I never saw any of them break a sweat.

Even with all they had to do to get ready, and with the solemnity of the occasion, there was much smiling and joy and excitement, and I was made to feel so welcome, which I really appreciated.

Then they sat, and I saw the ceremony was about to begin. So I sat as they did, taking care not to point my feet toward the ceremony or anyone there, and trying to be non-obtrusive. I felt lucky to be able to be there for this. It was an authentic glimpse of traditional Bali village life, done for the residents and not for the tourists. I was just there by chance.

And I watched quietly and I took pictures as they performed rituals of blessing, walking with pots wafting incense smoke, flinging holy water, rice and flower petals. All the while, an old village woman sat on a piece of decorative fabric and rang a bronze bell. A woman brought holy water around, and poured a little into the hands of each of the villagers, who then tasted a little of it and tossed in on their heads.

It was a ceremony encompassing more than one thing, because Purnama (the full moon) was coinciding with the larger celebrations going on island-wide, making it especially auspicious.

Then suddenly it was over, and the women began to clean up the temple, carrying baskets back up the stairs, so I accompanied them. They then cleaned up the terrace, waved goodbye, and left, carrying all the "leftovers" away on their heads. Suddenly it was quiet, and I was left to think about the wonderful experience they'd just shared with me.


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Photos are in an album called "Bali village temple ceremony"
https://www.flickr.com/photos/129067...7650202872297/

(to be continued)
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Feb 3rd, 2015, 01:43 PM
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How magical. These are the experiences that really make a trip IMO.
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Feb 3rd, 2015, 02:48 PM
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Wonderful, rje! Tripplanner said exactly what I was thinking - those serendipitous moments are what does make the trip special, and will be the experiences that last in your memory. I'm sorry your wife was unable to share that with you.

And harking back to the thread on photographing people while traveling, it's clear that your sincere interest and respect was conveyed in your interactions, and made them welcome you and feel comfortable with your photography.

I'm so taken by the gentleness of the women's faces -- they are lovely!
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Feb 3rd, 2015, 04:05 PM
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And thanks for the comments about Alam Shanti and Alam Jiwa. I do appreciate the feedback. I don't yet have dates set for our trip, but will solidify them after we return from our spring trip to Spain.
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Feb 3rd, 2015, 07:05 PM
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rje
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tripplanner001, so true. Before we travel, we plan and plan. And then something great just happens that we never could have planned for.

progol, thanks for that, I too was taken by the gentleness I saw I their on their faces and on so many other faces in Bali. There is a warmth expressed by the people there that is very appealing.

And a spring trip to Spain sounds especially wonderful right now, what with the weather we're getting here in NYC!

You probably know this, but if you can make your trip to Bali after around the end of April, and before around the end of October, you'll have lower humidity and less rain. But of course more tourists.
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Feb 4th, 2015, 01:19 AM
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Great pics, rje - and as others have said, you've really captured the gentleness & charm of Bali.
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Feb 4th, 2015, 03:18 AM
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rje,
Believe me, that trip to Spain is getting me through this winter! I live in NYC, too, and it is not a winter wonderland! And to those living in the snow belts, I do know it's even rougher there.

I'm currently thinking that our trip to Indonesia will be end of April/May 2016, but will solidify those dates after our next trip.
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Feb 5th, 2015, 02:30 PM
  #14
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Chapter 8 - Under the Volcano.

We were going to stay in the Sideman area next. It is by now firmly on the tourist radar and I knew there has been a growing number of hotels there in the rice paddies. Coming from Ubud, I knew we'd want some contrast, so we avoided those kind of places and looked for a simple guesthouse experience. Since Sideman is so geographically beautiful, we picked a tiny place on top of a hill. I knew it would have incredible views of Mt. Agung from studying Google Earth. And did it ever! Early each morning the rice paddies down below that hill would be awash with fog. Well, actually, a misty mixture of fog and smoke. But the effect was stunning. If you're interested, I've just posted photos in the Sideman album at the link below. Nothing can compete with being there, though! Even the Balinese driver who picked us up when we were leaving was impressed!

I'd done a lot of research before we left home, and knew I wanted to avoid certain roads where we'd be more likely to be stuck behind a truck parade. Bali traffic keeps getting worse, and that can be true even in the countryside. I wanted to stick to backroads whenever possible. One thing I liked about Wayan was that he knew back roads. Before choosing a driver, that might be a good thing to discuss with them.

On the way, we stopped at Tirta Empul (sometimes called the water temple). We thought we'd left early enough to beat the crowds, but during this time of ceremonies and festivals, it was already jammed when we arrived. Of course, I wouldn't have minded if it had been local people, but because of all the activities then, the big tourist buses had already unloaded their cargo. Which meant we saw tourists in the holy pools taking selfies. So I kicked myself for not having arranged a very early departure, and we didn't stay too long.

Once we pulled out of the parking lot and made a left turn, instead of the right turn that is the bus route to Ubud, everything changed for the better.

We took some great little back roads and stopped in some tiny villages. And of course the whole area is famous for the scenic rice paddies.

While we stayed in the Sideman area, I hired a local driver to again take us around back roads, and stop at locations that looked promising for photography. When you do this, drivers of course think you're crazy, as you don't want to go where they think you'd want to go - to the biggest temple or the top of the highest hill.

The Sideman area is quite lovely, and since it is not far from Ubud, it can be visited from there quite easily as a day trip. But part of the magic is seeing it in the early morning and dusk, so if time permits, it does deserve more than one day.

-----------------------------------------
Photos are in an album called "Sideman & Tirta Empul"
https://www.flickr.com/photos/[email protected]/sets/

(to be continued)
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Feb 5th, 2015, 02:45 PM
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Oh, rje, stunning, stunning, stunning photos!

That's so funny to read this -- I've already included Sidemen in my plans for 2016 for much the same reason. While Ubud looks like it's a wonderful place to spend time in, the opportunity to be in the middle of that beauty seems worth it for a few days. Would love to know where you stayed -- by any chance, is that Sawah Indah? I've been looking at places, and that seems to be simple yet beautifully sited.

Any details you wish to share are very welcome!

Paule
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Feb 5th, 2015, 03:30 PM
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Love your photos. I had a different experience at Sidemen, perhaps because it was quite rainy when we were there. Our favorite rice paddy experiences were at Jatiluwih.
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Feb 5th, 2015, 04:54 PM
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Enjoying your report and your photos. Thanks for sharing! Lots of good info for planning our trip.

We are spending about six days in Ubud in June, staying in Alam Jiwa.
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Feb 5th, 2015, 07:52 PM
  #18
rje
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Join Date: Nov 2005
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Paule, the place we stayed is called Patal Kikian. It's technically not in Sidemen, but is close. The steep driveway up to "reception" is a bit... well, challenging. And then comes more stairs than we had expected. But once at the top of the hill, the views are amazing.

Sawah Indah and most other places around the area are down in the rice paddies. And while that is beautiful, it is not uncommon in Bali. Patal Kikian provides a whole other perspective.

A couple of caveats, though. The bathrooms are very basic, and some people will not find them "nice enough". We put up with them for the views. And the place is isolated. Luckily, the food is pretty good, and a very nice gentleman will bring it to you on your huge covered terrace. I included a couple of pictures of the terrace. The grounds are nicely/naturally landscaped, the people are friendly, and the owner might be willing to talk about when Mick Jagger stayed there many years ago!

Oh, and I guess there is always the possibility of going all the way there, only to find that a low ceiling of clouds and/or fog have blanketed the views.

tripplanner001, we had almost no rain, and actually were disappointed. We both like the rain in the tropics. Although I'm reading into "quite rainy" that there was more than you wanted.

ms_go, Thank you, and Alam Jiwa should be wonderful in June!
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Feb 6th, 2015, 03:29 AM
  #19
 
Join Date: Jan 2003
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Many thanks, rje, for the information about Patal Kikian. Those views are spectacular and certainly make up for the negatives.

I was quite taken with the pictures and reviews of Sawah Indah, but I'm a sucker for views. My impression from the photos is that Sawah Indah and the other hotels/guesthouses are on a rise, so overlook the fields, although not as high as Patak Kikian.

This has given me something to think about!
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Feb 8th, 2015, 08:17 AM
  #20
 
Join Date: Jan 2004
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I so enjoyed your wonderful trip report and photos. Having stayed at Alam Shanti this past October, you brought back wonderful memories and a yearning to return to Bali.

Would you mind sharing contact information for Wayan? We used Putu for our driver, who was excellent, but he gets very booked and it would be nice to have another option.
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