Day 190: Who Wants To Be A Millionaire?

Tue. 19th February 2013

Just your average statue in a roundabout!Our ‘tour’ of the Ulu Watu and the Bukit Peninsula and transfer up to Ubud isn’t until this afternoon and as there is more of Seminyak for us to see, we have the morning to go for a walk and explore. We discover that the town is even more spread out than we had thought and seems to have clusters of boutiques, shops and restaurants rather than a distinct centre. The LP guide book says that there is a temple on the beach to the north of town and we head up there along side roads. We go past the Oberoi and other swish hotels and are not tempted at all by them – by far, our favourite hotels have been small establishments with simple rooms and lots of personality.

The rules!The temple here is one of a string of Hindu temples dotted along the coast dedicated to the spirits of the sea. When we reach it, we find that we can’t enter as neither of us are properly dressed and there is little to see from the outside. The temple is set a little way back from the beach and the portion of beach just in front of it is also a holy site with swimming and sunbathing prohibited.

Pura Petitenget Temple in SeminyakIt is hot and humid here in Bali – we are here in the wet season after all – and we’re getting very sweaty as we loop back to town via what we regard (with ever less certainty) as the main street. We take a break in a cafe (air conditioned relief) but it is too hot for coffee even for me and so we both opt for freshly blended fruit juices. It really isn’t like me to turn down a coffee.

Yesterday we changed the few Australian dollars we had left. That worked pretty well and so today we wanted to do the same for the NZ dollars which we never got around to changing. There are dozens and dozens of moneychangers as we walk through town – all have boards up advertising their current exchange rates. There is about a 10% spread in the rate offered so it is worth picking and choosing. We don’t fancy going down a back alley and so pick one in an office on the main street that is offering a rate close to what the Internet says we should be getting.

Even the goldfish have an infinity pool at our hotel in SeminyakAs we are here for a month and are not sure as to how much we’ll be able to use the credit card when we leave Bali we decide to hit the ATM as well. I try the old “Would you like to be a millionaire ?” chat up line with Janet as I hand her IDR 1.5m. She is less impressed when she works out that it is only worth £100. Oh well!

Well, if you say so...By now it is lunchtime and we spot the ‘Bestest Cafe’ – well you can’t argue with that, so we take them at their word and give them a try. Actually, it is pretty good Greek food. We both go for the Souvlaki and Coke bundle which is a real bargain at IDR 40,000 (£2.75). We are definitely getting to like Bali prices and (today’s lunch notwithstanding) I’m finding I really like Indonesian food (Janet is finding it a little on the spicy side though).

After lunch, it is back to the hotel to grab the backpacks and load them into our car which has just arrived to take us on our ‘tour’ – which turned out to be more of a trip. Its not that we had a terrible experience (far from it) and at £40 it wasn’t really expensive. But we didn’t really know what we had bought and we almost certainly paid more money than we needed to. As always, caveat emptor, is the best advice. In future, we will avoid the tour desks in hotels and book directly with the tour operator.

Outside Suharto's sons resortStill, our driver was very friendly and spoke sufficiently good English to have a bit of a chat and give us a commentary as we drove. This included pointing out the huge resort complex owned by the son of former President Suharto. Apparently the army came and forcibly removed the locals to make the space for it. More depressingly he said that corruption had got worse under the current president.

Cliffs by the templeWe headed south through the busy roads just outside of Kuta (where the Bali bombing happened), down through a neck in the island and out on to the Bukit Peninsula to the temple of Ulu Watu at the south-western corner of the island. This temple like the one this morning is a water temple but at least this time we are allowed in – for a £1.50 entrance fee which included the loan of a sarong.

You talking to me?As we left the car, the driver told us just to say ‘tidak terima kasih’ (No thank you) to anyone offering to give us a guided tour – apparently the bill at the end is very large and has caused upsets in the past. We also heeded his advice to leave our glasses in the car as the monkeys which roam the temple grounds have a penchant for stealing them. This means that I am in blur-o-vision as we walk around. Janet was able to put in her contact lenses, which is just as well as otherwise she would have struggled to see the best of the views.

Temple right on the cliff edgeThe temple itself is similar to others that we have seen in and around Seminyak but larger. The buildings are predominantly built from local black, volcanic stone sometimes set off with gold. The Balinese Hindu architecture seems to be distinct and much less colourful than the temples that we saw in Singapore. One temple is built right on top of a cliff that just falls away vertically into the sea where big waves are just rolling in.

Serious surfThis reminds me that this area has a reputation as a surfers paradise and so I ask our driver about it. Whilst it clearly was not on the itinerary of our ‘tour’ he does agree to take us past Ulu Watu and Padang Padang beaches and we stop at a viewpoint to take in the spectacle. You clearly have to be good to surf here – not only are the waves big but the coast is rocky. One surfer was clearly very good as he repeatedly surfed up the face of a wave, then at the top spun almost 180o to come back down only to do it all again. All the while staying just ahead of the collapsing wave front. If only I’d brought my surf-board, I’d have shown him how to do it properly!!

Surfer's paradiseWhen we booked this half day tour, we hoped that we would get to see some more sights and places of interest around the peninsula. Instead the driver was pretty intent on getting us up to Ubud. This was a bit of a disappointment, but on the other hand, time was pressing on and it meant that we got to our new hotel in daylight and had a bit of a chance to walk around.

Whilst trying to find our hotel, our driver explained that Ubud is actually a district that has grown to include 3 or 4 surrounding villages. In practice this means that this is another sprawling town and we’re not entirely sure what is nearby. When we get there, our hotel is superb. Our £50 per night has got us the upstairs suite in a villa in a small hotel. We get space, a desk for the laptop, a balcony with views out over the two swimming pools and the rice paddies beyond and a ‘semi-open’ bathroom. This latter is all very well but the property next door is having an additional storey built and the workmen get a view straight into our bathroom. Showers will have to be timed properly!

That aside, we could get used to this millionaire’s lifestyle!

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