Pulau Batam (Batam Island) – Kepri

The next island on our tour is to the west of Bintan and is called Batam. Batam is just an hour  by ferry from Bintan. The ferries leave each half hour and as ours was less than half full, there was plenty of room in the suitcase corral for our suitcases. We have come to Batam to visit the irrepressible Ibu Mia who visited us 2 years ago. 

The morning we left Bintan, there was a power outage, so I wasn’t able to contact Ibu Mia to give her an idea of our ETA. Thankfully she wasn’t waiting outside in the baking hot sun, so we caught a taxi and headed straight to our hotel. 

The Hotel Eska has turned out to be a true gem. It is directly behind the Kepri Mall, meaning that  not only do we have access to a huge mall for meals and other necessities but we are also shielded from the busy traffic on the main road in front of the mall!! It is a great location and also not far from Ibu Mia’s perumahan (housing complex). 

Batam has been very hot and humid. In Bintan when grey clouds threatened, the rain and accompanying breezes would arrive to cool us down. So far in Batam, the grey clouds have gathered on the horizon and then appear to pass straight overhead and continue on towards Bintan!!

Batam (with a population of just over a million) is the largest city of the Riau Islands (Kepri) and is the capital city of Batam Island.  The island itself is just under 6km south of Singapore (35 mins by ferry) and is Indonesia’s closest point to the Singapore mainland. In fact it is so close you can see it from Singapore! 

I love this quote from Wikipedia regarding the history of Batam: 

Before Batam became a boom town, like its neighbor Singapore, fishing, maritime trade and piracy were the main activities. 

Since 2006, Batam has become a tariff and tax  free zone for goods shipped between Singapore and Batam.  In 2007, a law was passed to guarantee this zone for 70 years! No wonder it is a ‘boom town’! Ibu Mia explained that cars here in Batam are significantly cheaper than elsewhere in Indonesia due to them being tax free however cars bought on Batam can only be driven here. As soon as you head off the island, the car incurs a tax which is based on the length of time you plan to be away. 

One of the most popular destinations that tourists head towards would have to be the Barelang Bridge, also known as the Jembatan Habibe because he was the one who was behind its construction. It is actually a series of bridges connecting 6 different islands and takes it name from the 3 larger islands: BAtam, REmpang & gaLANG. The original reason the bridges were built was to encourage and support the development of industrial zones based on Galang and Rempang islands. 

Can you spot Ibu Mia and Margaret in the photo above?

Batam has been a fascinating place to visit. However, as this has been more of a work stop-over, our sightseeing has been limited to what we pass by on our way to schools or if taken out for lunch. I wonder if Ibu Mia has done that deliberately to ensure our return?? 🤣

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Boxing Day in Sidoarjo, Central Java 

It is 2:30pm and I’m itching to return to my favourite spot on the front verandah which is hot and steamy at this time of the day. Instead I hibernate in my bedroom which has the double luxury of a fan and an air-con. I am really enjoying my stay here with Cilla, her younger sister and parents. Her Mum in particular has been extremely hospitable, and I feel one of the family rather than a guest. Typical Indonesian hospitality. This morning, Ibu took me with her to the end of the street to buy nasi pecel for breakfast. In an empty (of cars) carpark, several vendors had set up stalls. Several were selling foods like nasi bungkus (rice with various choices of accompaniments) while others were selling processed foods or fresh.  produce including eggs, vegetables and fresh meat. Just thinking about the nasi bungkus is making my stomach growl!! This morning I chose nasi pecel which is a mound of rice covered in a mixture of snake beans, beans shoots and kang kung (water spinach) and delicious peanut sauce before a sprinkling of rempeyek which are delicious wafer thin crackers made from flour, peanuts and water.  

 Tomorrow I have already decided that I will order nasi kuning (yellow rice) with pergedel jagung (corn fritters), pergedel kentang (potato fritters) and whatever appeals to me. Other options include fried fish and chicken pieces & boiled eggs. 

After writing that, I am feeling hungry again so am listening out for a passing kaki lima (food seller). They are traditionally called kaki lima (5 feet) because the stall they are pushing (before motorbike adaptions) has 3 feet which together with the 2 feet of the owner added up to the sum of 5!! Nowadays most kaki lim are either attached to a bike or motorbike. Much easier to get around, yet for me, they pass too quickly. I hear them coming up the street but by the time I head outside to see what they are selling, they’ve passed by. Each seller type has a distinctive sound. In Bali I remember the bakso (meatball soup) sellers walked along gently tapping a spoon on a china bowl. This sound carries very effectively giving customers plenty of time to grab some money and walk out to the street in time before they pass by. A seller making the sound tok, tok, tok passed just now and Cilla said he was a bakso seller!! Not at all the sound of a spoon on a bowl, more like a spoon banging on an empty bamboo cylinder. 

Here is another  video of a passing food seller that I took this morning:

Mid morning I also ventured out with Cilla to buy pulsa (phone/data credit). I rode pillion with Cilla as we zig zagged through the narrow alleys of this housing estate until we suddenly stopped in front of a tiny stall, inside which was a glass fronted cabinet displaying a variety of credit providers. As usual I chose XL and paid IR 35,000 for unlimited data over 3 months! That’s approximately AD$3.50!! A bargain compared to the AD$40 I currently pay for 8GB. 

Later…..

It is almost 4:30pm and the breeze overrides the heat from the few beams of sun still reaching the verandah. I feel slightly voyeuristic sitting here on the verandah watching unsuspecting neighbours passing or pottering outside on the street.  I’ve just noticed someone else also sitting quietly watching life pass by from behind his fence and garden. Can you spot him?

  
Other than the sound of the breeze in the trees, I can also hear someone sweeping up leaves, a motor bike negotiating the road driving slowly over the polisi tidur (speed humps/ literally sleeping policeman) , a child calling out to Mum and music playing a few streets away. It is so peaceful. After the heat of the day, it is the sound of both the living and the non living emerging.  I’m very tempted to join them and go for a walk!

Manado, North Sulawesi

Our one night in Manado was not enough! Bec and I both agree that Manado is a city we would love to return to and explore properly sometime in the future. Part of the attraction was the incredibly warm welcome from Franky and his wife who run the Libra Homestay. If you check the reviews for this place, I can guarantee that they will all be glowing and rightly so. No sooner had I booked our stay, than Franky emailed me with clear directions so that we could direct our taxi there. On arrival, his lovely wife, Dietje, served us with a slice of creamy agar agar and an iced blackcurrant juice. They asked about our plans and when I explained that the first thing I needed to do was book our tickets to Ternate for the following day, Franky immediately got out his laptop and booked and paid for our tickets online, adding the cost to our bill! Over and above the duties of a homestay host. His trust in us was incredible and I will always remember him for it.
Their 5 bedroomed house is large and beautiful and as their children have all grown up and are now married with their own families, Franky & Dietje decided two months ago to open up their house to visitors to keep them busy in their retirement, so the house wouldn’t be so empty! Needless to say, they have been run off their feet and the night we were there,they were fully booked! As usual, we were the only Australian guests, the others were a mixture of Indonesians and Europeans. Our room was compact yet not too cramped and had an ensuite and a private courtyard as well as being air conditioned! For only Rp210,000 a night (breakfast included), it was definitely the nicest place we stayed in while in Sulawesi.
One interesting fact about Manado was the small number of motorbikes. I asked Franky about this and his reply was fascinating. He told us that he had heard about a link between the number of motorbikes on a city street and whether it is in a developing or ‘developed’ country. Developing countries have huge numbers of motorbikes on the streets compared with ‘developed’ countries which have only a few. He then joked that maybe Manado is a developed city! But isn’t his point an interesting one! However, he is right about the residents of Manado being wealthier than other Indonesian cities if the sheer number of cars on the road is any indication. He then told us about his new car. I had noticed that it had Jakarta plates and he explained that he had bought it in Jakarta because it would be 40 million Rupiah (AUD$4000) cheaper! He then had it shipped to Manado in a container, which cost 8 million Rupiah but even still, he made a huge saving.
One other very interesting point about Manado is the large number of churches. In the time I was there, I only noticed one mosque. As a result of the largely Christian population, the dress code seemed far more relaxed. It felt odd at first seeing Indonesian women out in the streets wearing short sleeved shirts, shorts, lower necklines and knee length skirts and dresses. As there seems to be very strong links between Ternate and Manado, I wonder if this is why Ternate, a largely Moslem city/island, also has a very relaxed attitude to the dress code for women in every day life. Important to add though that on religious days in Ternate, modest clothing, including a head scarf, is worn by all women and young girls.
As Bec and I only visited Manado because it is the gateway (would ‘diving board’ be too literal a term?) to Bunaken, we didn’t have enough time to truly explore aspects like ‘makanan khas Manado’ (traditional Manado food). Bec will always remember Manado for ‘es teler’ because that is where she first enjoyed this beautiful Indonesian treat. If you have forgotten what is in ‘es teler’ is, refer to my first Sulawesi post.

20131124-103449.jpgOur only evening in Manado included a trip to a local supermarket where we enjoyed looking at what was available on the shelves and with strong discipline, did not buy too much, hoping that we would find it again later in Bali so that we wouldn’t have to carry it around with us for too long before heading home to Australia. The packet mix I had to employ the greatest amount of will power for was for durian ice cream mix. We bought this once before and it was incredibly delicious however only if you don’t look at the ingredients! I just hope it is still available somewhere in Bali!
After our visit to the supermarket, we found a nearby restaurant which sold food and a good selection of ‘es’ drinks. While Bec ordered an es teler and a mango juice, I ordered gado gado and an es buah. While I much prefer pecel usually, this gado gado was one of the nicest I have had in a long time. The peanut sauce tasted like it had been made from scratch rather than from a packet mix (which are usually quite bland) however the thing which really made it delicious was that it was quite spicy. Fresh chili with fresh peanuts is a combination made in heaven!
We decided to catch an angkot home as Franky had given us detailed information (Route 11) and a hand drawn map showing the angkot route that we needed to get back to Libra Homestay. It also would only cost Rp3,000 each (AUD30c), a very important factor! We stood out on the footpath and each one that came along, we asked if they went to Jalan Siswa. After asking quite a few, one of the drivers pointed out to us what to look for. We knew were looking for a number 11 on the angkot’s but couldn’t see the number anywhere. Turns out that the route name and number was a illuminated sign in the windscreen, right down the bottom left hand corner! How we missed it I have no idea but once pointed out, it was so obvious! Almost immediately, an angkot with the sign ‘Jalan Siswa’ came along and we jumped on board. I fogot to tell the driver where we wanted to get off but luckily someone got in after us and told the driver she wanted to get off at the Getsemani Church. I commented to her that we also were heading that way and she immediately introduced herself to us and chatted the entire way in amazing English! Maya was so friendly and truly encapsulated to us the people of Manado.

Arriving at Bunaken Island, North Sulawesi

Bec & I flew into Sulawesi from Bali on Thursday night around midnight! After a truly terrifying hour long taxi ride to our hotel from Manado, we finally got to bed around 1am. The hotel had no record of my booking and I couldn’t access the internet, so the fellow at reception upgraded us to a cottage. The cottage was significantly more expensive than the ‘long house’ which I later discovered I had booked and paid for, yet was in such bad condition that I dread to think what the ‘long house’ actually was like. Strangely there was only one powerpoint in the entire room and it was under the bed. While there were bedside lamps and a tv, none of their cords reached the powerpoint! Thankfully though, the air conditioner on/off button was a switch on the bedside table and it actually worked because even at that hour, it was hot and humid.
After breakfast the next morning, we headed back into town to get to the dock where we were due to meet the boat from our hotel at 12 noon. It was stinking hot and humid when we got back to the town centre of Manado and as we still had an hour till we were due to be at the dock, we went looking for es campur (shaved ice served over jellies made from agar agar, diced fresh fruit, syrup, sago & condensed milk drizzled over the top) pulling our packs behind us and with our day packs on our backs. We searched up and down nearby streets with no luck and then just as we gave up and turned around to head back towards the dock disappointedly, we came across a kaki lima (mobile stall) selling es teler. We asked him to bungkus (literally package or in English – takeaway) 2 servings. I then needed to find the name of our hotel (so I could ask for it at the office on the dock), so we sat down on a concrete step behind the kaki lima and I got out my ipad. While sitting down, we also began eating our es teler and it was amazing how quickly we revived. Es teler is shaved ice over strips of fresh coconut (meat), avocado chunks, chopped pineapple (in this case), agar-agar jellies, sugar syrup and roasted peanuts. It also is usually served with chunks of bread and condensed milk which we didn’t want so as a replacement I asked for extra ice! The freezing ice cooled us from the inside out and instantly the heat and humidity felt less oppressive.
We got to the dock 10 minutes early to discover our boat waiting for us and the other couple (Dutch) had also just arrived. This meant we got away early and enjoyed the half hour journey leaving the hustle and bustle of Manado behind before arriving on the small peaceful island of Bunaken, north of Manado.(See the map above). The tide was right out when we arrived and we stepped down into the ankle deep water to discover the water was as warm as bath water! No sooner had all the luggage been moved from the boat to the reception building, the heavens opened. We sat and enjoyed the squall which brought strong gusts of wind that blew posters and maps off the walls yet no rain blew in under the roof line so we could sit and enjoy the rain without getting wet.

20131117-075152.jpgFollowing the rain, came overcast conditions reminiscent of the weather Trees and I experienced on Pulau Cubadak in West Sumatra. After the heat and humidity in Bali and Manado, the cooler conditions are gorgeous. Last night while sleeping I even had to turn the fan down because I was so cold!!
After the rain stopped, Bec and I went for a walk both to stretch our legs and explore and just as importantly, to find a warung that sold es campur or kelapa mudah (young coconut drink). We stopped at every warung we came to (not that there were too many!) but no one sold any. One of the staff here at our hotel, Bunaken Beach Resort (BBR), suggested it was due to the rain which made sense to me because I then remembered that I have heard throughout Indonesia of their belief that there is a high chance of getting sick if you eat ice while it is raining.
The track we followed to the village is about a metre wide and in parts paved in bricks and in parts unpaved.

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The unpaved sections were full of potholes filled with rain from the recent rain. We passed several other places to stay before coming to the village, however until we reached the village, most of the path was lined with banana palms and other vegetation, a mixture of mangroves and other trees which have probably been on Bunaken for centuries! In cleared areas, the wild creeper I saw growing in Sumatra, Kalimantan and West Papua is also here covering the ground and anything else in its path and growing happily alongside it is lantana, a noxious weed in Queensland!
The only traffic that passed us on the ‘road’ were motorbikes and ‘bajaj’ which look like a cross between a motorbike and a ute.

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They are used to transport just about anything including crops, shopping, fuel etc and also people! Handy aren’t they!
As they are the only forms of transport on the island, it is generally very quiet and peaceful. Our hotel is also far enough away from the village that we rarely seem to have passing motorised traffic, it is mainly foot traffic, and the few that pass our way drive slowly thankfully. Our room is the one closest to the road,

20131117-075512.jpgwhich means we are also the closest to the water too, however to get to the water, we have to cross the ‘road’. The rooms are set in lovely gardens and connected by a concrete path. There is a dining room where all meals are served and this is included in the cost of the rooms. Just as well meals are provided as the warungs here are few and few between. The dining room is set up high on the hill overlooking the beach. The steps are tiled and quite slippery in these wet conditions, however the view and no doubt the cool breezes on hotter days, make it well worth the climb.

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Our meals so far have been a mixture of Indonesian and Western. Breakfast today was jaffles and pancakes whereas for lunch and dinner we had rice, vegetables and tofu & tempeh (dinner) or pergedel – corn fritters- (lunch). I am loving the Indonesian food.
The staff here, we both agree, are awesome. Everyone is super friendly and so helpful, something i truly appreciate after my time on Pulau Cubadak. The one and only thing I wish BBR also provided is hot showers, but as this cool weather is apparently really unusual, I can see why it is not available! Hopefully we also get to experience some sunny weather if only to make showering slightly more enjoyable!
At dinner last night we were joined by the 2 Dutch women who caught the boat with us and also another Dutch woman who arrived a few hours after us. The last woman is in Indonesia for 13 days,, all of which will be spent on Bunaken! By the time she arrived here yesterday she was so exhausted after flying Holland – Singapore – Manado and then the boat ride, that she could barely write her name when signing the register at reception! I bet she slept well last night! What a mammoth trip!
After dinner we met Ferdinanz, our dive instructor. He is also Dutch and has his own hotel not far from ours, yet happily runs dive courses for anyone, regardless of where they are staying. We explained that we are only here for 3.5 days, so he offered to run the 4 day course over 3 days instead. He gave us our texts but asked us to leave them wrapped until after our first dive, just in case we change our minds about doing the course during this dive. Apparently they are very expensive, so if unopened we could return them without having to pay for them! Ferdinanz then organised for us to be at his place by 9am the next morning.
I went to bed that night so excited. Not only am I actually on Bunaken Island but tomorrow I will have my first dive lesson!

My Final Day in Sorong & Papua Barat

After a breakfast provided by the hotel (Tanjung Hotel) of rice and cap cay, I had a quick mandi and then we headed out to make the most of our last day in Sorong.
We had heard that just past the Taman Wisata Alam Sorong (see previous post) was a place where we could see crocodiles. Ichal was curious to be able to see a real crocodile, so off we rode on the motorbike along the main road, Jln A Yani. This time, for some reason, the drive to the forest took much longer! Maybe because we didn’t stop to have es pisang ijo! The most amazing thing about the forest was the huge temperature drop as we drove alongside it. Even though the forest was only on one side of the road, the cool temperatures near it was like going from hot muggy sunshine into cool shade, even though we were still in broad daylight! The temperature difference was amazing. I envied nearby residents who live in those conditions! I bet they notice it when they head into town! Driving alongside the forest also gave me the opportunity to fully appreciate its size. It certainly is a very impressive patch of forest and I really hope it remains protected.
Not far along past the forest was Jalan Pinang (Pinang St), a bumpy dirt track full of potholes which were tricky to navigate around on a motorbike and thankfully we soon came across the crocodiles which were all penned in concrete enclosures.

20131030-100501.jpgCan you see Ichal bravely standing close to the crocodile pen?

One of the workers came out and chatted to us which was fortunate as it gave me the opportunity to ask some questions. The owner of the complex is from Manado, North Sulawesi. All these crocodiles were brought here from Sorong and nearby islands by villagers who are paid according to the length of the crocodile. They are paid per inch! The crocodiles are then penned according to their length. We saw pens of very young crocodiles, medium sized crocodiles (photo below) and large crocodiles (photo above), however none were as big as sweetheart ! The base of the pens were all made from cement and incorporated a swimming area which in every pen was bright green.

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20131030-102550.jpgThe concrete walls were about waist high and then it was strong chicken wire stretched between timber posts, however I am sure that should one of the larger crocodiles rush at the wire, he or she would easily get through!

When there are enough crocodiles, they are crated up and shipped to Manado where they are processed for their skins which become fashion accessories.

20131030-131119.jpgphoto source: http://www.wmagazine.com/wp-content/uploads/2007/10/acar_croc_01_v.jpg

Ichal was so fascinated by the crocodiles and was really thrilled to be able to see them up close. As it was early in the morning, I assured him that we could stand at the edge of the pen and reasonably safely take photos. He did join me warily by the edge of the pens but found it difficult to relax and once he had his photos, he retreated again to put some distance between him and the crocodiles. Ichal explained that for Moslems, crocodiles are like dogs and should be avoided, so no wonder he was so spooked while we were close to the pens!

We didn’t stay too long at this place because we had to be back at the hotel by 12:30 to check out ready to catch the Sinabung Ship back to Ternate, scheduled to leave at 2pm. By 2pm, the ship had yet to arrive and the harbour gates were closed. So we returned to Ichal’s Mum’s rented room and waited there for a friend who worked at the harbour to call telling us that the Sinabung had arrived. At 12pm we finally got the call!! I was really keen to get to the harbour before the boat unloaded so that we could get beds. The idea of sleeping on the floor in the passage ways or on the stairs was not an experience I was keen to try. Luckily Ichal had it all organised and by the time we got there, a porter greeted us with the news that he had found us 3 beds together and then proceeded to take us to them. However when we finally got to where he had reserved our beds, we found a family set up there! The porter was furious with them and without any hesitation told them angrily to leave! As it is so unusual in Indonesia to hear people speaking crossly in public, I was very uncomfortable however, no one else seemed to be! Here in Papua, the people are an interesting blend of Indonesian culture and traditional Papuan culture where emotions are more overtly displayed. Thankfully, the family removed themselves and their baggage before it escalated any further and we happily paid the porter Rp50,000 for his services! I was so grateful to get a bed although it soon became obvious that the Sinabung was nowhere near as nice a ship as the Labobar. The Sinabung is a very old ship that desperately needs a refurbishment or failing that, a thorough clean. day.

20131030-130220.jpgThe decks are infested with small cockroaches and were everywhere. They climbed out from under the mattresses, they climbed the walls and ceilings and nothing was exempt from their inspection. No doubt they crawled over me too when I was sleeping! We had mice running under our beds too so I was glad we had all our baggage on our beds! The final straw for me were the toilets. Unlike the toilets on the Labobar, which worked well and did not smell at all, the toilets on the Sinabung, did not work. On stepping into the bathroom area, I stepped straight into a flood of water which I soon realised came straight from the toilet! As there was only one toilet to service all the passengers in our section of the ship, my skin crawled whenever I had to use it. The only positive about the Sinabung was that up on the top deck was a shop which sold food and cold drinks. Ichal and I sat there twice to get some fresh air and I enjoyed a freezing cold lemonade. As the ship was so dirty, lemonade was all that I could face while aboard. The filthiness also meant I didn’t think about taking too many photos unfortunately. I now wish I had taken photos of the cockroaches!! Another factor which made me wish I was on the Lababor was that the air conditioning in our cabin was negligible which Ichal said was due to the number of people smoking. So that the cigarette smoke wouldn’t circulate to the other cabin areas, the amount of air conditioning we received was far less than other areas. As we walked through them on our walks, I could really notice the difference.

20131030-125954.jpgChildren playing quietly powdering each others faces to pass the time.
By the time we arrived into Ternate, I felt like kissing the ground! Safa being there to greet us was just the icing on the cake! A friendly face leading us through the crowd to the family car. So good to be home in Ternate!
Thankfully the Sinabung was only a tiny aspect of my whole time in West Papua and in no way overshadowed the fact that my trip to West Papua was an amazing experience. A huge thanks to Ibu Esty for organising it all and to Ichal for being a wonderful tour guide. I am still so thrilled that I actually got to taste a tiny part of Raja Ampat and am already looking forward to returning one day, however it will definitely not be on the Sinabung!

The Bali Tour – Bedugul, Baturiti, Candi Kuning, Angseri

The area of Bedugul as always, was beautiful and it was a pleasure to visit after the heat and hectic nature of our time in Singaraja. Singaraja was hot and humid the entire time with very little relief. In fact, Pak Agus told us that when the heat and humidity is unbearable in Singaraja, it means it was raining in Bedugul!
We headed off early from Singaraja, keen to do the driving in the morning so we could reach Bedugul and have the afternoon to relax. We were also keen to leave our hotel in Singaraja as the bathroom was not one of the cleanest I have seen. Generally I can cope with Indonesian bathrooms however this one was not one of my favourites as just inside the bathroom door was a constant stream of water from the western toilet which widened each time after it had been flushed!
The road from Singaraja to Bedugul was in good condition however at times very windy. It was mainly downhill so as always, I try to sit behind another vehicle so that any oncoming traffic attempting to overtake on a corner goes head to head with a seasoned bali driver giving me time to react safely!
The hotel I had booked to stay at (through booking.com) was just out of Bedugul in a small village called Baturiti. Pacung Indah Hotel even though was on the main road, it was tucked away and we drove straight passed it! About a kilometer down the road, we stopped at a warung to get directions and while there enjoyed a cuppa (Bali Coffee) and some rujak. The lovely lady there pointed us back in the direction and after we had finished our yummy snack, we set off again and found the hotel easily. It is set right on the side of a very busy road but the 6 rooms of accommodation is tucked down the side of the hill and consequently it was very quiet. By comparison to the hotel room we had just left, this room was luxurious. The best feature was the hot shower! Bedugul weather was significantly cooler as it is so high up in the mountains and both afternoons it rained heavily, so the hot shower was greatly appreciated! We also had a private courtyard and in front of the courtyard was a table and 2 chairs overlooking the most amazing view.20131011-113143.jpg
There is also a restaurant which seems to cater mostly for the day tourists offering daily buffet style lunches. The ‘al la carte’ menu was reasonable too and we ate here on our first evening while enjoying an even more spectacular view.20131011-113424.jpgWe also ate breakfast here each morning watching the farmers working in the fields. The breakfast menu here was the best I have ever seen. Guests could choose between an Indonesian, an American, an Australian or a Continental breakfast! The Indonesian breakfast was a choice between nasi goreng or mei goreng 20131012-054508.jpgand both were delicious! It also included tea/coffee, fruit juice
and a plate of fruit.20131012-054448.jpg
Our first afternoon in Baturiti was spent exploring. We had noticed on our morning drive a sign to a nearby ‘air panas’ (hot spring) and as the climate there was so cool, a warm swim was very appealing. The drive out to the springs was along quiet narrow roads through villages and while well signposted, we did make one wrong turn. Had a temporary lapse of memory and forgot that street signs in Indonesia differ from Western road signs. Whereas out street signs are parallel with the streets they are labeling, in Indonesia they run perpendicular! We ended up following a concrete road out to a village where someone very kindly explained how to get back to the main road! Some of the road out to the hot springs were in terrible condition but apparently that is going to be fixed very soon. 20131012-060438.jpgAfter parking the car, we followed a path through spectacular rice field scenery down to the hot springs. The hot springs here in Angser have obviously only recently been upgraded as the whole complex was in very good condition. Visitors have a choice between private cubicles with very hot water or a large warm pool.20131012-060804.jpgoverlooking a small waterfall20131012-061043.jpgIf you are passing through this area and see the turn off to these springs, I highly recommend a visit. The local banjar there has obviously spent a lot of money on the upgrade and the whole area is very impressive, When we first arrived, we had the entire place to ourselves and it was so peaceful swimming in the pool looking out onto the waterfall and also up at the fernery and bamboo growing up the banks. To avoid traveling back to Baturiti in the dark, we regretfully got out of the pool and headed back to the car. As I was taking a photo of Marg standing next to the entrance sign, 2 young fellows passed us by and called out hello. I answered in Indonesian much to their surprise, so they stopped to chat and introduced themselves. Made mentioned that he works for R.O.L.E. in Nusa Dua and of course I couldn’t believe my ears! Sure enough he is a good friend of Maddy Hill (do you remember she came to PEPS to talk to us about orangutans?)! So there in the middle of Bali, I ran into a friend of a friend! It really put a smile on my face!
The next day we headed back to Candi Kuning. Before heading into the Botanical Gardens, we dropped into the pasar (market) which has changed significantly since I first remember it in 1979 when I visited with my father. My memories of it then are just a couple of shops selling plants that I never expected to see growing in Bali; daffodils, hydrangeas, fuchsias and roses. Now Pasar Candi Kuning mainly sells an amazing variety of fruit20131012-063633.jpg
and krupuks20131012-063751.jpg
and right at the back are a few shops selling plants 20131012-063526.jpg
Also in the back shops we found someone selling cinnamon! 20131012-064126.jpg
After buying a selection of fruits and krupuks, we headed off for our day at the Botanical Gardens. A few quick facts about the Gardens:
Founded July 15, 1959
Area: 157.5 ha
Altitude: 1,250 – 1,450 meters above sea level
Temperature: 18-20 degrees Celsius
Humidity: 70 – 90%

It is much easier to see around the park by car as it is so vast. We took a drive around the left hand side of the park just to get a feel for it. The drive was mostly through very tall trees which although all the same, were not at all familiar. They weren’t planted in rows yet all the same didn’t look like they were self sown. Gave the impression of being in a cool forest. We stopped at a newly created Balinese Ceremonial Garden which will be terrific once it is finished. It is largely dominated by a huge circular pool which although was moving, was so green that it was hard to see the fish.
We next visited the Bali Treetop Adventure Park which is a very clever inclusion to the Botanical Gardens. It is set up in and amongst some of the huge trees and is very professionally run. It is a series of graded circuits of varying difficulty through the ‘treetops’ via flying foxes and various other means. I enjoyed walking around beneath the circuits taking photos and am really keen to give this a go next time I visit Bali. Look at Trip Advisor if you have any doubts about how much fun it is.
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Here is the demonstration course you must do before they let you loose on the real course to ensure you are familiar with all the safety aspects.20131012-071004.jpg
And then off you go…20131012-072616.jpg20131012-072649.jpg20131012-073942.jpgDoesn’t it look so much fun!
The circuits are clearly marked like this:

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The whole set up was so well done that I am keen to give it a try. Anyone interested in coming along too? The girl I followed around was a 12 year old from Perth and she thought it was brilliant!
After taking lots of photos here, we headed off and looked through the Cactus House, a beautiful water garden

20131014-212050.jpg, an orchid Garden and then the Balinese Herbal Garden. The Latter could have been so interesting but unfortunately many of the plants weren’t labeled and where there was a sign it was so faded it was pointless as we couldn’t read it! We then drove to the top of the gardens and relaxed on the lawned area admiring the view out to Danau Bratan while enjoying our feast of krupuks and fruit. Without a doubt the yummiest fruit was the mango however we couldn’t agree on the yummiest krupuk. Marg really enjoyed the sweet & spicy melinjo krupuks but I loved the spicy cassava krupuks the best.

The Bali Tour Continues….. Banjar Hot Springs

The drive from Munduk to Banjar was memorable, both for the amazing scenery and the terrible roads!

20131008-144441.jpgOnce we arrived and I looked at the map, I realised that we had definitely taken the back roads instead of the route that would have been further kilometer wise but quicker in time! While the road easily was the worst we have seen so far in terms of pot holes and broken asphalt, the view almost made up for it.

20131008-150013.jpgAt times we travelled along narrow mountain ridges with steep cliffs falling away on both sides and the only traffic we passed was local traffic! Overall it was one steep descent. Here is an experimental clove plantation we stopped at:

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Heading out of Munduk, we drove towards the ‘Twin Lakes’ and this road was in tip top condition and gave little indication of the roads we were about to experience. Right at the top of the road was a parking area where many tourist vehicles had stopped to enjoy the amazing view out over Tamblingan and Buyan Lakes.

20131008-144208.jpgAlso at this stop were a variety of animals that you could pay to be photographed with. There was an enormous python, 2 large bats and a variety of chameleons. A group of European tourists were happy to pay to be photographed with the bats but the python stayed in the box! The view of the lakes was absolutely beautiful and from our viewpoint, looking down, we could clearly see that they were crater lakes.

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We then headed back towards the turn off we had passed earlier. This turn off was clearly labeled Banjar, however it was the only sign post we saw on the entire journey! It wasn’t until we almost reached the town itself that we came across any written confirmation that we had been on the right road. As we drove along, whenever we saw someone on the side of the road, I would slow down and ask to check that we were still heading in the right direction. Whereas I used Indonesian to ask for directions, the directions were almost always given in English!

We finally drove into Banjar around midday and as we had come from a totally different direction than the last time I was here, I didn’t recognise any part of the road until we reached the actual turn off to the hot springs. That was the only familiar part of the whole trip!
The hotel we are staying at is 50m from the hot springs and is absolutely beautiful. It is called Pondok Wisata Grya Sari and is set in very lush tropical gardens along a small creek fed from the hot springs. Th couple who run the place are very warm and friendly and speak excellent English. Ayu, the wife, offered us a choice between a room on the ground level or the suite on the top level for Rp50,000 extra! We splashed out on the extra $5 and even though has many steps leading up to it, has been well worth it. The room itself is very spacious and comes with a private verandah and equally enormous bathroom. In the bathroom is a western toilet up on a pedestal and a bath which can be filled with normal water or with water straight from the hot springs!

20131008-145301.jpgAll in all, a gorgeous hotel in a beautiful setting.
The hot springs has a very interesting history. While the hot springs has been a popular destination for locals over many centuries because of its sulphuric waters, renowned for their healing properties, the current layout dates back to the Japanese occupation and was created to provide a relaxing place for Japanese officers who were based in the nearby barracks.

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The hot springs themselves were just as lovely as I remembered them from my last visit in 2009. Our first visit was just after midday, soon after we checked in. There was only one tiny corner out of all the pools that had any shade cover and so swimming in the hot sun in very warm water wasn’t that pleasant. Our swim the following morning at 7am before breakfast was an absolutely gorgeous way to start the day. We had the entire pool complex to ourself for almost an hour before we had to share it with an Indonesian couple. We could try all the water spouts and find the one with the right amount of pressure and also wander around taking photos!

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Our last visit to the springs was later that afternoon and what a contrast that was! Probably because it was Saturday afternoon. There were many poeople and almost all were Indonesian.

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The pools were due to close at 6pm and I was impressed with how they did this with minimum fuss:

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The pools were being emptied and as the level fell lower and lower I was surprised at the number of tourist groups that arrived. In the above photo you can see how low the water level is and in the top corner is a group of Dutch tourists preparing to get in. Must have been disappointing to arrive to discover the water disappearing. Surely the tour guide was aware of the closing times!
While in Banjar we also took a drive to the nearby Buddhist Temple. It is built on the side of a hill and is more like a terraced temple because as you explore one level you discover steps leading up to another level. On each level was either a meditation hall or a temple and each one was quite different. This bell statue was on one of the upper levels and it was very impressive both because of its size and its brilliant gold paint.

20131008-151619.jpg However the most amazing structure was at the very top. It was a huge stupa structure

20131008-151738.jpgwhich was open inside and created a temple complete with an enormous statue of Buddha up on a pedestal in the center. One all four sides were doors leading outside:

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The gardens surrounding the temples and meditation halls were lovely. The gardens on the older levels were more established and included lovely old frangipani trees. One tree I found had the most unusual fruit and I was delighted that one of the fellows watering the garden could finally identify it for me:

20131008-152109.jpgApparently this is a variety of jambu!! Did you know that?
All up our stay in Banjar was just lovely, so peaceful and relaxing which was just as well because our next leg was destined to be exhausting!