Next stop was Bali.
We started the day by getting up at first light to watch the coast glide past with a huge volcano on the horizon. As we came into the harbour we passed a big flock of snipe, egrets in the trees, hundreds of fishing boats and the beauty of green mangrove swamps.
Bali is a land of friendly people, temples, beaches and idols by the million. We were welcomed with a gamelan symphony and smiling girls in full costume.
We’ve been before but wanted to have a couple of days to visit the fabulous Ulu Watan temple, Ubud, the cliffs and fabulous beaches that we hadn’t got to before.
Our first task was to negotiate a price with one of the hundreds of guys assaulting our ears. We managed that and set off on a hectic death defying taxi ride through manic streets of motorbike madness. Whole families were crammed on one bike appearing to be carrying the whole of their possessions and would weave in and out of cars seemingly without regard to any discernible traffic laws. All good fun, though quite exhausting to watch. I can’t imagine what it feels like to drive through. You must get used to it.
We arrived in one piece at Ulu Watan temple which was very picturesque jutting out into the sea. Our driver accompanied us and I noticed he selected a long twig that he carried with him. I soon found out why. As we went along the cliff there were groups of monkeys whose favourite sport was to jump on people and make them squeal and run off with anything they could get their hands on. The stick came in handy. I noticed they kept a wary eye on it as our driver brandished it and they left us alone.
To calm our nerves we took a coffee break with the famous coffee made from civet poo.
We scorched our way, with horn honking, overtaking and ducking in, jumping queues and lights past the rice fields to Ubud. It had become even more manic since our last visit but we had another look at the fabulous Royal Palace. Complete with butterflies, epiphytes, spiders in webs and gold doors.
Then it was another temple where celebrations and prayers were taking place to the sound of gamelan and other Balinese instruments. The temple was adorned with brightly coloured cloth and various offerings. The women helpers were all dolled up in their finest, looking coy and posing for the camera.
We finished the afternoon with a mad dash through the crowded streets to reach Jimbaran beach in time for a beer and to watch the sun go down. It did not disappoint. It was one of the most magical sunsets I have ever seen. Supposedly people travel the world to experience it. I can see why. More psychedelic colours!!!
That night was Balinese dancing and music. Those girls can control every part of their body independently from their earlobes, nostrils and eyes to their little toes and fingers. I think I even saw one of them using the follicles on her head to interpret the music.
The next day we headed off to the beautiful beaches famous for their surfing and then off to the Jimbaran beach for a fish feast – clams. grouper, prawns and squid cooked in spicy Balinese sauce. Delicious.
The big problem for Bali is that there are simply too many people. They are threatening to destroy what they have as their most precious asset. It’s becoming a rat-race.
Tomorrow we depart for Java and Borobudur. We’re blissfully knackered! The manic magnificence of Bali is in our blood.