Friday, September 19, 2014


The final day in Bali presented us with a conundrum. The checkout time at the hotel was 11am, but the flight back to Australia didn't leave until 10.30pm. So we had nearly twelve hours to spend hobbled by luggage.

The solution was one of those luxuries that one could never afford in Australia: we hired a driver to collect us from the hotel at 11am, take us around the island for nine hours, then deposit us at the airport at 8pm. And he would also design an itinerary for us, and play tour guide at selected sites.

All for fifty American dollars.

My travel buddy wanted to see some temples and Bali's famous beaches, so the driver took us to Uluwatu, the famous white temple at the island's extreme south, which sits on a clifftop overlooking the ocean.

Uluwatu is surrounded by the sacred monkey forest, and the monkeys are believed to protect the temple from bad influences... which is a little like claiming that the IRA protects the streets of Belfast from criminal gangs.

"While at the temple, please remove your hat and sunglasses and put them in your bag," the driver told us.

"As a mark of respect?" I asked.

"No," he said. "If you don't the monkeys will steal them."

I might have dismissed this as hyperbole, until I saw a young monkey gnawing on a pair of bifocals with their arms ripped off.

From Uluwatu we traveled to Padang Padang beach, made famous by Julia Roberts swanning along it on a solitary journey of self-discovery that somehow managed to omit the crowds and hawkers.

Then Dreamland beach, a slightly less beautiful beach filled with slightly less beautiful people, but boasting the New Kuta Beach Club, where one could relax out of the heat with a ridiculously oversized bottle of water and a nice club sandwich.

Braving the mid-afternoon heat, the Worst Ninja in the World and I took a walk along the shore, pausing for a photo of him with his new beach house.

Then down to Nusa Dua, which is where the movie stars and heads of state stay when they're in Bali. There's a shore of strangely weathered rocks, where a Japanese couple were taking engagement photos, and a little further up a Chinese tourist posed for his friends to take photos, before a freak wave boomed into the rocks, sprayed up, and dumped half a swimming pool's worth of water onto him. If you want to know what it feels like to have every single person within a 200 metre radius point at you and burst into uncontrollable laughter, I know a guy in China who can set you straight.

By this time it was about 6pm, so our driver dropped us off at a beachfront restaurant. It no doubt gave him a hefty kickback, and it was probably the worst restaurant we'd visited, but it was sited on one of Bali's few west-facing beaches, and so offered a magical view of the sun setting over the ocean.

It was such a lovely spot that I even tolerated the wandering musicians who sidled up to every table, asked the nationality of the diners, then played a song more or less related to that country. I shuddered to think what they'd choose from the Great Australia Songbook ('Khe Sahn', probably, since this restaurant was deep in bogan territory), so I told them to play something South American, and was rewarded with a samba. In five minutes they were earning in tips what most skilled Balinese would earn in an hour, but they were talented musicians so it seemed appropriate. Apparently they learnt their repertoire from watching YouTube videos.

Then it was off to the airport for more tourist taxes and a cut-price flight back to Australia.


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