Location: Bali, Indonesia
Highlight: “wait, this isn’t a waterfall… is this… a cockfight?”
We had heard great things of Seminyak from friends, but sadly it was the place I have enjoyed least so far on this trip.
Partly – I’d put it down to being a victim of its own success. Its soul had been ripped out by places trying to extort as much from tourists as possible (not that I blame them) and aggressive taxi drivers honking incessantly at us and threatening anyone who used Uber, including throwing rocks at Uber drivers. Food was often overpriced and average, although one of the best restaurants we had visited to date was here – Kultur. We ate here twice, and we each ordered the same thing both times… it was just too good to only have once.
Our experience wasn’t improved by the beach being covered in more litter than a street in Brixton. We’re told that the litter issue was a result of it being mid rainy season and the waterways running over capacity and picking up all the loose trash on its way to the beach, but that just draws attention to how poorly kept their streets are and the lack of proper infrastructure, leading to what I can only imagine is a volume of pollution. Also, annoyingly, bars closed at 10ish.
One embodiment of the rip-off-tourists mentality was a popular corner shop chain, Circle K, near the hotel. We had both independently been there individually and had the same thing happen to us – an attempted scam. We give the goods over, they plug some random numbers into a calculator (everywhere else has a working till, and I’m sure they do for locals too) and tell us that the total is c. 50% more than it really is. Little did he know that he was up against two qualified accountants, so didn’t get very far with us, but he must make a fair few bob ripping people off on a daily basis.
We went to a beach club called Potato Head which was a good experience, though characteristically similarly expensive. Lovely sunset though:
So long, Seminyak.
Miles away from Seminyak; culturally and geographically. Bali, as it turns out, is a pretty big island. A 2 hour drive later, almost all uphill, we arrived at a lovely home stay in the quiet town of Ubud. We were grateful to our friend Dave Driver who recommended splitting our time between Seminyak and Ubud otherwise we’d spend a long time in very slow moving traffic.
Next door to us at the home stay was a Swiss lady who was in Ubud for 2 weeks on a yoga retreat. The taxi drivers had signs so you could let them know if you wanted their services (what a bizarre concept!). It was a peaceful place, an opportunity to reflect, an opportunity to take in the scenery and to be at one with nature.
Highlight recap – “wait, this isn’t a waterfall… is this… a cockfight?”
We rented bicycles and set off on the hunt of a waterfall. 90 minutes later in the baking heat we saw a load of motor bikes heading down a dirt path. They were all local men, but hey – surely Indonesian men like a waterfall as much as the next person. We arrived at the ticket office and… wait, ticket office? Why does this waterfall have a ticket office? Oh well. We paid our entry (after cycling back to find an ATM… we really weren’t expecting there to be a ticket office at this waterfall), and followed the crowds. “This waterfall sounds a lot like people shouting.” we mused.
We were wrong and we were right. It wasn’t a waterfall, but it did sound like lots of people shouting because it was lots of people shouting. We peered over the heads of the men stood at the back who were waving money around in the air and tried to figure out what the hell was going on below.
Two men wielding cockerels were centre stage with another couple of referees, and the hundreds of people lining the edges of the area were chanting and shouting. It was quite the performance. It twigged – we were at a cock fight, not a waterfall.
We watched on, understanding exactly 0% of what was happening. Cocks changed over, money changed hands, our expressions changed from “woah” to “eurgh” as a jab with the knife attached to the cock’s feet landed on its ‘opponent’.
“So… that waterfall…” we said and swiftly left, with a knowing pat on the back from the door man who said to his mates (probably) “they lasted longer than I expected” in Indonesian.
We made it to the waterfall and splashed around a little in the forceful wake it created.
Now that we are cycling pros after our previous expeditions so far on this trip which I propose we rename ‘Tour de Sud-Est Asie’, we made nothing of our 2 hour return trip in the heat of the sun.
We must have awoken our old foe the Rain God with our laughter and hi-jinks as we merrily cycled along, so he came down on us with all his wrath. The roads quickly turned to rivers, cars were unusable on many roads merely 30 minutes after the rains began.
We had to wade through knee high puddles after taking an hour out to hide from the downpour.
The next day we went our separate ways, Simon visited some picturesque temples, I visited some picturesque paddy fields. Pictures were, unsurprisingly, taken at both:
The next day, we set off on a trip to climb a ruddy mountain! Ten minutes into the car ride there, I was throwing up all over the middle of the road (I knew I shouldn’t have trusted that delicious road side chicken place that I wasn’t entirely sure was a restaurant until I … it was almost delicious enough to justify the ensuing sickness). So, after a short trip back to the home stay, Simon headed back on his merry way up the mountain. His way grew less merry when the Rain God decided that he wanted to be the centre of attention again. The rain was coming down hard, and the vested Simon’s raw skin was being attacked from all sides by cold rain (it was at altitude so was uncharacteristically cold for Bali).
The only shelter available was that of a tourist information sign, and Simon had no choice but to adopt the foetal position underneath it. Damn you Rain God!! I hope you’re happy now!
That evening we went to a reggae bar with a great live band playing. Apparently very popular with the locals who were wearing shirts with their logo on. Smashing out some classic reggae anthems was a fun end to our short stint in Indonesia.
I’d like to visit more of the country, I felt like Ubud gave a window into their world and there is so much more of Indonesia than Bali, which was too large for us to even properly get to grips with as it was. Until next time Indonesia, next stop – The Philippines – Part I.
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