A Travellerspoint blog

China Patterns or, The Road to Hong Kong

OK, this stupid computer terminal in a shopping center just blinked out right at the end of an otherwise brilliant travelogue. that will teach me to steal internet access (or has it...?)

I am in a shopping center in Kowloon, Hong Kong. Hong Kong is like New York City but without the arts and culture. Basically there's nothing to do but shop and eat, and since we got lost for two hours trying to find Victoria's Peak yesterday, we didn't get much of the latter. You'd think that in a flat harbour city the largest mountain would be easy to spot- but that gives you an idea of the manic skyscraper overgrowth here. We simply couldn't find it, and some nice Kiwi had to finally take us there in his taxi. Once up there (eight minutes STRAIGHT UPHILL in the scariest pee-your-pants tram ride i've ever taken), it's a stunning view. It's the most amazing harbour i've ever seen- and coming from someone who LIVES in a harbour city, that's saying a lot. But there is enough neon and shops and electronics squawking here to choke a goat and I am glad we are leaving at 2pm today. :)

We flew in at 3pm yesterday, after spending a night and day in Kuta Beach on Bali. This is the site of the 2002 bombings, and the region is still struggling to recover its tourism economy. We had a great time relaxing in our private villa, and body surfing in the warmest, wave-est beach i've ever been to (better than Zanzibar, better than Thailand). At 6pm we saw a stunning sunset over the Indian Ocean, then headed to see the site of the bombings. The bombed-out remnants of Paddy's and Sari Bar are still there, but in the middle of the go-go neon-Vegas-style street rises an enormous marble monument. It contains a peace fountain, 22 flagpoles (1 for each nation of victims) and each victim's name inscribed in the marble. It is amazingly moving. The bombings were just three years ago next week.

Nothing follows mourning and remembrance like beer, so that's where we headed next. Kuta is famous for its Aussie beer-swilling debauchery, and we ended up at a tacky yet weirdly engrossing surfer bar playing bad phoentic US covers by a non-English-speaking band. With a few Bintangs, even "Country Roads" by John Denver can be endearing. Sort of. Well, not really.

We are off to stroll the waterfront and enjoy dim sum before our 4pm departure home today. It's been a crazy week...thanks for reading :)

Editor's note: Just 48 hours after this blog was written, Bali experienced its second fatal Al Qaeda bombing. We love you, Bali....

Sunset over Kuta Beach

Sunset over Kuta Beach


Hong Kong from atop Victoria's Peak

Hong Kong from atop Victoria's Peak


The Bali Bombing Monument

The Bali Bombing Monument

Posted by traveljonez 17:00 Archived in China Comments (0)

The Road to Bali

I just realized that we are halfway through Bing Crosby and Bob Hope's famous Road films. The Road to Zanzibar, The Road to Bali, The Road to Morocco, and this week we'll knock off The Road to Hong Kong. I may have to schedule a trip to Singapore, Rio, and umm, Utopia, to round out the collection...

Did you ever watch "Casablanca" and think "this dialogue is really cliched," followed by the immediate realization that Casablanca IS the original, and everything else has striven to copy it? This is how I found myself thinking of Bali this morning as I wandered the bamboo and palm tree-lined streets. It is just so perfectly what you think of an island paradise. Take your biggest Indiana Jones and Disney-fied Tiki Room, Adventureland, Polynesian fantasy, and this is Bali. It really is a bit of magic. (and despite what Rogers & Hammerstein would have you believe, it is NOT in the South Pacific, but in the Indian Ocean, directly north of Australia. Go figure).

Yesterday we visited a most mystic and spooky place, the monuments of Gunung Kawi. I tried to find a good picture, but nothing does this place justice. Nestled 300 VERY LONG AND STEEP steps down the green rice terraces in a valley, these are enormous stone monuments cut into the rocks. No one knows why they are there, but they are amazing. Of course, climbing up and out in the intense humidity and heat I found myself wondering why mystic and beautiful places can't be found on flat ground, but that is neither here nor there.

Matt had sampled all the Balinese dishes except for one- babah gulig, or roast piglet. After our climb, we found a joint frequented by the locals, called Bu Oka, which is famous for roast pig. The roasted pig hanging in the doorway was all they served, and when it's gone, the restaurant closes. So locals cram into spots on the floor to grub into their pig parts. Matt was in (for lack of a better term) hog heaven. A true Balinese experience for just $3. Afterwards, Matt decided to revisit the spa for another round of massage. Suffice to say I think it is the wild variance of experiences on Bali that make it so compelling.

Today Matt went to cooking school at Casa Luna Cooking School, a small school located in the Ubud town. I amused myself by wandering through Ubud's palace and temple, which are hidden back from the road and therefore quite astounding in their beauty. But for the most part it was a lazy day, which I whiled away enjoying the sunshine (a veritable monsoon blew through yesterday), the Bintang beer, and relaxing by the pool.

This is our last night in Ubud; tomorrow we go south the Kuta, a famous beachy area known for the world's prettiest sunsets and, sadly, the 2002 Al Qaeda bombings. We have sprung for a private villa on the beach, so despite my lack of fondness for beaches I am looking forward to possibly hassling some servants in an imperial manner. Hmm, maybe not.

Well it's dinner time, and we are off...cheers and chat later.

Gunung Kawi

Gunung Kawi


Ubud's palace temple

Ubud's palace temple


Mmmmm satay....

Mmmmm satay....

Posted by traveljonez 17:00 Archived in Indonesia Comments (0)

Bali High

Greetings from halfway around the globe. I am sitting in an internet cafe in Bali, Indonesia. It's 10:30pm on Saturday night, which makes it 7:30am on the West Coast of the US. Why am I sitting in an internet cafe at 10:30pm on a Saturday night? Because we have actually found a place with less nightlife than Issaquah. We are in Ubud, Bali, about one hour north of the famous beaches.

It's been nearly a year since Matt and I travelled- while the clothing we packed was the same for this trip as our previous trip to Kenya and Tanzania, I am happy to report that the FILTH is not the same. In fact, this has so far been a paradise-type holiday.

After a 14-hour flight from Vancouver to Hong Kong, and a four-hour flight to Denpasar, Bali, we arrived Thursday in the afternoon. Our bungalow is lovely- overlooking a pool, set in a garden, and a Balinese man serves us tea on a platter every day at 4pm (the people here are SO nice). It's simple but gorgeous. Ubud is the culinary capital of Bali, and after settling in we headed to dinner at a place called Bumbu Bali, which was featured on a Food Network show. We had a "Balinese Feast," which included roasted duck and this amazing coconut rice. We also sampled their local booze- arak, palm wine, and brem, rice wine- which we decided had the distinctive aroma of FEET. We are sticking to Bintang, the local beer.

On Friday morning, we hired a driver and set off for Bali's most famous temples. Bali, unlike the rest of Indonesia, is 90% Hindu, and their waterfront temples are stunning. We started at an outdoor theater to see the famous dances of Bali, which tell the story of good versus evil spirits. We're not much for native dances, but this was really cool. We then visited the south coast of Bali, to Tanah Lot Temple, with the Indian Ocean's waves crashing over the temple. You'd recognize this place- it's the poster child for Bali tourism. We then headed to the mountains of North Bali to see a temple whose name escapes me, but it's gorgeous too, and set among the famous rice terraces of Bali. The rice terraces are stair-stepped rice fields that line the shockingly green mountainous valley. It's very different from the beachy area of the south.

Along the way we sampled some Balinese foods- jackfruit, a fruit that I find a tad nasty, and nasi goreng, which is a fried rice dish, and pretty much the national dish. I love the satay, which comes drenched in peanut sauce. Yum. We ate at a roadside ghetto-type diner with the locals- flies everywhere and toilet paper for napkins- and had the best chicken satay I've ever had.

We went to a Balinese fusion place for dinner, which for $40 US (three courses with four drinks) was sky-high expensive!! We have decided that the roadside diners are far better.

We have been frequenting a reggae bar near our hotel at night, and until you've heard Bob Marley sung phonetically by non-English-speaking Balinese, you haven't heard Bob Marley. For example, the words to "Three Little Birds" is actually "Emeril thing gonna be fight." And it's not "Exodus," it's "Accident." Just so you know for your next trip to Jamaica, mon.

Today we indulged in the pampering of Bali...they are famous for spas. You can't roll a bowling ball down the main street without hitting one. We went to a place called Verona, and we shared a "couples room" with two massage tables, and an open air bath so you could feel the breeze off the rice paddies. Matt got an hourlong massage (including being dipped in honey and wrapped in plastic), and a soak in a rose petal bath (whee I got photos), and I got an hourlong facial and a manicure. Total cost with tip: $22 USD. I love this place. And only in Bali would this thought cross my mind: "I hope using that squat toilet doesn't mess up my new manicure."

Our bungalow is right off the main road called Monkey Forest Road, which is lined with tons of shops selling beautiful clothing and jewelry. (I have a good friend's and a niece's birthday coming up, and this is shopping Disneyland!! One US dollar is equal to 10,000 Indonesian rupiah. 'nuff said.) But at the end of Monkey Forest Road is the Monkey Forest Sanctuary- a holy place of temples overrun with Balinese macaque monkeys. It's really amazing- the monkeys are everywhere, and the place looks like an Indiana Jones set- but it's authentic. But I did learn today that I am scared to death of small human-like furry creatures. Those things are evil. I was walking down a path and one grabbed the hanging strap of my backpack and tried to pull it off me. The monkey was half the size of my cat but freakishly strong. The birthing season was last month, so there were lots of cute baby monkeys, though. See for yourself: http://www.BaliMonkey.com

Tonight, after a long walk down Monkey Forest, we ended up at a place called Dirty Duck Diner. Imagine the most Disney-like Tiki Room/Indiana Jones movie set in your mind, and this was our restaurant. I stopped at one Bintang beer on the fear that I would fall off the stone walkway and plunge into the rice paddy pond surrounding the place. But the crispy fried duck, a Balinese specialty, was delicious.

Anyway...tomorrow we explore Gulung Kawi, a sacred stone monument, and maybe return to the spa for a pedicure. Monday Matt has cooking school, which of course is the official "reason" for the trip. I will keep you posted.

Our bungalow on the rice paddies

Our bungalow on the rice paddies


Puru Bratan Temple

Puru Bratan Temple


Tanah Lot Temple

Tanah Lot Temple


Monkey Forest

Monkey Forest

Posted by traveljonez 17:00 Archived in Indonesia Comments (0)

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