Bali, Indonesia...... / by Mark Boyd

I moved to The Backpackers Hostel near Uluwatu. I landed on my feet once again meeting two fine fellows, Spence (England) and Paul (South Dakota). A nice girl from Sweden whom I'd met on the island of Flores was also staying at the same place and we spent a little time catching up. The first evening was fun, there was an eclectic mix of nationalities, personalities and laughter. Brazil, US, Germany, Sweden, Finland, Holland, Bulgaria, England and the Isle of Man all representing.

I needed to extend my Indonesia visa which gives me 30 days on arrival with the option to extend by 30 days. The following morning on 2nd January I headed over to the immigration office for 8am. The application to extend one's visa is a 3 trip process.... After a 20 minute scooter ride I arrived at the office only to be informed it would reopen on the 3rd January. It had already become a 4 trip process. I filled the day with a little South West Bali exploration.

The following morning I left the hostel at 7.30am so I could beat the lines of tourists going through the same process. Another English was just beginning the very same visa extension process, and we got to chatting. Having handed in the relevant paperwork, photocopies of my passport, visa entry page and another photocopy showing the receipt of my 'option to extend visa' there was a three hour wait due to the incredibly ineffictient way they run the office and of course the systems going down. At 11am I was called to another counter and told to return to the office on the 6th January.

So here I was with four days to explore the area. Spence, Paul and I motorcycled around exploring beaches, surf locations and the local sunset bars of an evening.

I shared a cracking few days with these fellas, both superb company. The surf wasn't living up to the Balinese dream so I didn't bother surfing, instead choosing to enjoy my location and head North 3 hours to check out Lovina. It was a lovely ride, and the weather held out. The morning was spent following a road that continued to wind higher and higher as I got ever closer to a large lake in the hills. In places the road was lined with wild monkeys which at times seemed to possess a wish to meet their monkey maker. Eventually I reached the lake. It was midday I paused for a few minutes to take it in it's beauty. It was pretty good. I have to say I wouldn't have ridden two hours just to see this lake, there are better in Britain and all over Europe. A local guy approached me. We chatted for a couple of minutes and then he invited me across the road for a Balinese coffee in his home. His brother and family were celebrating the second birthday of their baby son. Sweet snacks made from rice and sugar were spread out before me on the table. I was invited to taste a few of the multicoloured delights whilst my wood carving chum chatted broken English about his work. Half an hour later I was back on the road. I picked up the road to Lovina which was a lovely long winding descent. I turned the motorcycle engine to stealth mode (switched off the ignition) and freewheeled for the following twenty minutes all the way down through the little villages towards the Northern coastline.

 The chill out area at The Funky Place Hostel.... All to myself.... 

The chill out area at The Funky Place Hostel.... All to myself.... 

Lovina was quiet. Very quiet. I checked in to The Funky Place Hostel, where I'd booked a dormitory bed.  It wasn't what I expected for almost £10.00 here in Indonesia, it was more in the £6 to £7 bracked.... It had no walls... Just cloth... I couldn't really class it as a dormitory.  But it would suffice for a night.

I strolled on the beach and I ate at a tremendous little place called Global Village Cafe where the majority of it's profits go back in to local communities where poverty remains a real deal. The cafe sells locally produced items bursting with natural ingredients such as sandalwood and citronella soaps and soaps, along with natural mosquito repellent, all of which I bought.

The service in the cafe was superb and the food was absolutely delicious. I met the owner and after a discussion of their ongoing projects I decided to offer up my services as a photographer to see if I could help in anyway, but there was nothing happening until next month.

The following morning I headed West towards the National Park and then south back towards Uluwatu. The road surface enticing as it seemed, lured one in to a dangerously false sense of security. Smooth and well kept, except for a run of 2 miles that was pitted sporadically with pot holes and small craters of five to six inches deep. I have no idea how my tyres held out how the scooter remained unscathed. On at least two separate occasions I disappeared in to said holes at around 45mph.... Very lucky I also remained unscathed. With Lovina four hours behind me I was back at Karma Backpackers where my main own backpack was resting in storage.

The following morning, on the 6th of January headed to the immigration office to see if my application had been accepted then to make another payment of $30 and have my photograph taken for the Indonesian visa records. Once again my English chum was also there at 8am. Nice and early to beat the surge. After an hour of watching others who'd arrived after we did receiving their paperwork and photographs all processed it dawned on us. We realised that the 'early bird doesn't catch the worm' here. In fact what seems to happen is, the first application goes down, then the second and third and son on. This of course forms a nice orderly pile of last in first out.... Of course that's how they do it! When I enquired where we were up to I was told to sit back down and my name would be called. It was after 12pm by the time our photographs had been taken and registered. Due to the weekend weekend falling between the standard three working days turnaround time and we were told to return to for our passports (yes, they retain your passport the entire time!) on 12th January.... What a palava.

Paul and I were heading up to Ubud. He was currently with his parents in Kuta, who had travelled from the US to see him. He'd been on the road for a year and had no real intension of heading home unless he had to. This was the only way they could catch up with him. I agreed to meet Paul (South Dakota) at his parents lovely hotel. Spence had since returned home to England. I dumped my stuff at the resort where Paul's parents had travelled to meet him and we set off to Ubud. Heading through Denpasar, the main city of Bali is a nuisance at best. Crowded, manic and full of exhaust fumes. The further away we got the quieter it became.

Ubud has become known as a hub for hippy/yoga types, it's also the place to go to purchase artesian woodwork and local batik materials. Here you will find some of the finest woodworkers in the world. I already expected Ubud to have a touristy commercial feel about it, but as soon as Paul and I arrived and completed a lap of the town we both loved it. We checked in to a very cool, eclectic hostel called Jung.... something or other then wandered the town. We had a beer and something to eat. That night we dropped by Laughing Buddha, a live music venue. Before we knew it we were dragging people up to dance and getting the place going! We made some new friends that night. An English girl and her Mum and an Irish girl called Eadaoin (Ay-deen for those who can't read Irish names). The following day having decided we'd be happy to remain her in Ubud for at least another three nights we found ourselves self contained rooms next door to one another. Rice Paddy Bungalows was awesome. Located 120 metres down a little alleyway that departed the main street a mere 30 metres before the Laughing Buddha (perfect!) on the main street. The alleyway lead to a beautiful peaceful garden of Eden and my balcony overlooked a green lush rice paddy.  The breakfasts would also turn out to be phenomenal.  How much was this place? £8.00 per night including breakfast.  Tremendous!

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I asked Eadaoin if it was politically correct for me to keep referring to the rice field as rice paddy when I was talking to her, with her being from Ireland and all, she laughed and said she'd never thought of it... My mind works in mysterious ways.

Paul and I spent the days motorcycling around the surrounding villages, paddies and countryside and the evenings eating, enjoying the delights of a couple of cold beers, playing pool and socialising and dancing in the Laughing Buddha. I was enjoying this break in Ubud, very much so.

On our final day as a motorcycling couple we headed to see Mount Batur.  The rained hammered down on us, we took shelter in a fruit stall, then hit the road again.  Ten minutes later it was bucketing again... This time an old lady spotted a golden opportunity to sell one of her ponchos.  Done!  Once we arrived at the impressive sight of Mount Batur Paul decided to stop at a rather swanky looking place for coffee.  

Coffee is usually between 6 and 10 INDR.  We set back a big ole 20 INDR each as we sat down.  We sipped leisurely as we watched the clouds move over Butur.  We approached the counter and asked for the bill.  'Sit down please.' said the waitress.  Was the bill really going to be that much of a shock?  When we received a bill for almost 86 INDR we were both taken aback.  That was almost £6.00 for two tiny coffees, here in Indonesia!!!!  We were astounded.  We hit the road with light pockets and the storm continued to chase us.  

It was time for Paul to head back down to catch some time with his parents. I decided to stay on for three more nights at Rice Paddy Bungalows. I rose early each morning to catch the sunrise.

I worked on photographs and stories during the day and dropped by the Laughing Buddha at 9pm during the evenings. It was definitely the wet season.  Intensely strong storms would fill the sky, rumbling claps of thunder vibrating through the buildings before the clouds dispatched their soaking payload.

One morning I explored the craft shops. I'd never seen so many shops selling so much beautiful wood carvings. From huge warehouses where teams of guys chipped away on whilst sat on the floor, to tiny one man shops. Some incredible work.

 Been busy Mr Simon Capelen!?

Been busy Mr Simon Capelen!?

Eadaoin had somehow managed to miss her flight (she was only on holiday for 10 days so this was a big deal), she had to pay through the nose to get another flight back to Cork..... Then things took a turn for the worse. Poor Eadaoin was hit with a serious bout of food poisoning. There was no way she could travel. Her friends had already gone home, so I was on WhatsApp' call for the sickly Irish lady. I suggested she cancel the flight and get a doctor's note so she could claim on her travel insurance. Poor love was in a right state. A couple of days later and she was firing on all cylinders. We met for coffee the evening before I left.... Lovely girl... A lot of dresses, a lot of shoes and always looking pristine, quite the contrast from my backpacking attire and low budget travel approach.

The following morning I headed back south towards the immigration office. I decided 9.30am would be the perfect time. I noticed that the ink on my pick up receipt had bled out making the date and time indecipherable. I hoped this wouldn't be an issue.

'Come back at 2pm' said the man behind the counter. I sighed. I needed to pick my backpack up from the resort Paul and his family were staying, I jumped back on my scooter and 25 minutes later I was sat with them whilst they had breakfast. The lady serving coffee came around offering top ups. 'Yes please.' I said cheekily.... A fresh coffee would hit the spot nicely. We all chatted for an hour, then I attended to my backpack and sorted a hostel room for the night. I also needed to drop the scooter back to the rental company at around 3pm. I booked a hostel 10 minutes scooter ride away from Paul's place. It was cheap and cheerful and the young guys that ran the place were helpful and slightly insane. As I walked in an American guy asked where I was from. I told him. 'Oh you're Manx.' I was amazed, no one had heard of my nationality on my travels (apart from the TT Kiwi whom I met briefly in Borneo). I asked how he knew of the Isle of Man. He went on to tell me he went to see Backdoor Slam (Davy Knowles band from a few years ago) when they were touring the US. He went on to say how awesome they were. He asked if I knew Davy. I told him I knew his sister, and that we went to the same school, I knew of the great Davy Knowles, and had only ever heard good things about him. I told him that he was now living in the US (though it could be Canada?). He was very excited to be talking about Backdoor Slam and meeting someone who was really from the Isle of Man. Funny!

It was 1.30pm, time to back to immigration. I bumped in to my chum. We were both there for spot on 2pm. Once again people who came in after us started receiving their passports first. You think we'd have learnt. When I eventually plucked up the courage to enquire as to the whereabouts of my passport having been one of the first people there, and having already seen about 15 people receiving their passports back, the answer I received was 'Maybe it has slipped down the pile. Please sit down.' Thanks. My English chum laughed as his name was called, I'd handed my collection receipt in just ahead of him.... Then three more folks were processed before I finally received my treasured passport documentation back into my hands. If I ever decide to return to Indonesia for longer than 30 days again, I will simply book a return flight to Kuala Lumpur or Singapore on my 30th day in the country. It would have cost around £20.00 more without the minimum of three immigration office visits and a total of 8 hours of thumb twiddling. Not including the time travelling to and fro from the immigration office. A terrible, terrible system! I dropped the motorcycle back off in to town, then grabbed an Uber-Moto (cheap motorcycle taxi) to my hostel.

That evening I played pool with the owners of the hostel and a couple of their friends (Unbeaten! Woo hoo!) until Paul arrived. A few more games of pool and a couple of beers and the night was over.

Tomorrow morning I depart the shores of Bali and head to the island of Java.