Thursday, July 28, 2011

The Wonders of Bali: Those F*cking Monkeys!

After a busy last week of analyzing data and putting together a presentation for the Jhpiego Indonesia and USAID staff, I finally let out a sigh of relief and headed to Bali. I actually had a problem with my visa and had to make a choice of going home 10 days early or going to Singapore for a day and re-entering Indonesia to get a new passport stamp. In the end, I decided to go to Singapore so that I could have my vacation in Bali, but being here is a bit lonely. That said, I'm here, I'm relaxing, I'm exploring and all is well.

Before I came to Indonesia, I met a woman who often travels to Bali and we instantly hit it off. Since I've been here, she's been putting me in touch with her friends in/around Bali. One of these wonderful friends, Liza, offered to let me stay at her house and use her motorcycle (which has been awesome, not only for the company, but also for saving money!). She actually lives in Jimbaran, a place in Bali that has very expensive hotels, but is very quiet and relaxing and that sounded like a place I wanted to stay. So, it's worked out perfectly. She picked me up at the airport on Sunday night and gave me a tour of the very popular/touristy areas of Kuta and Legian. I was kind of tired, but without this tour I would have had no idea of where to go throughout the week, so it turned out to be extremely helpful. We then went to a warung (food stand), on the beach, that served fresh seafood - heaven! - and I ordered giant shrimp/prawns. They were grilled and delicious and I will likely dream about them for days to come.

Distant view of Ulu Watu temple, the cliff and the loud breakers crashing against the cliff.

Ulu Watu Temple

The following morning brought about Exploration Day #1. When I go on vacation, I definitely like to explore. There are usually gorgeous sites to see and its a shame to come all this way just to laze on the beach. I actually planned to go to the beach on Monday but as I started out on my moto, the sky was overcast and I thought maybe it would be better not to. So I headed south to Ulu Watu. In general, the whole southern tip of Bali is called Ulu Watu, but there is in particular a Hindu temple that sits on a cliff overlooking the water. I arrived at the temple, parked the moto and paid my admission fee. The old men at the admission counter warned me to take my sunglasses and earrings off and then pointed to a sign to emphasize this. The sign said something about monkeys and then an old man offered to accompany me with a stick to keep the monkeys at bay. I politely declined. So I took my earrings off and put them in my pocket, but not my sunglasses. It was midday and so bright, I wouldn't have been able to see anything. I started up the stairs to the temple and as I reached the top, a path led off to the right along the edge of the cliff. I started off that way and saw some gorgeous breakers crashing against the rock and saw a beautiful pagoda and thought, "When I finish walking around, maybe I'll come sit here and read for awhile." I returned along the path to the actual temple and while walking up the stairs a whole family of monkeys was walking toward me. I dismissed this, but at one point turned around to see two baby/kid monkeys playing (photo below).

The two monkeys I photographed as I lost my sunglasses.

I hate this monkey.

As I stopped to take their mid-action shot, I felt a scratch on my face as my sunglasses were literally ripped off my head. So shocked, I turned around and saw a monkey sitting on the wall with my sunglasses in hand. I immediately thought I might be able to get them back to started walking toward him. He outsmarted me by moving much quicker than I could and then jumping into the nearby tree. I knew all was lost. I didn't think much of it because they were just sunglasses, but like I said, it was midday and really bright. As I started to think there might be a chance I could find someone to get them back, the monkey started chewing off the nose pads and spitting them onto the ground. I hung my head in disappointment and continued walking up the stairs. Monkey 1, Sara 0. Adding insult to injury, a group of Japanese tourists and their guide passed me walking down the stairs and saw the monkey with my sunglasses and started laughing. F*cking monkey.

The idyllic pagoda I hoped to sit under and read.

I made the rest of my visit brief. The temple was beautiful, bust most of it closed off to tourists. I walked around the other side and along the path leading the opposite direction that I had just come and on my return I stopped to take a look at my Lonely Planet. I wondered if there was anything else to do in the area, other than the temple. As I stood, my backpack resting on a large table of sorts, a fat monkey stole the flip flop of an Indonesian woman in front of me. In order to get it back, one of the guards had to give the monkey some fruit. The monkey seemed content with the fruit but as I was flipping through LP, he reached into my bag and pulled my wallet out. With cat-like reflexes, I hit him with my book and grabbed my wallet. He tried to bite me and people were yelling, "Take your bag, take your bag." WTF? At this point, I was DONE with Ulu Watu temple and these god forsaken monkeys. I later learned, not surprisingly, that the people at the temple train them how to steal things. And these trainers can get your things back for you, but not without a fee. In my worst moment, I saw this fat monkey unzipping my wallet and emptying it's contents - bills, both Indonesian and American, coins, photos, pens - and having a party. Great start to my vacation in Indonesia!

He looks so sweet, eating this sweet rambutan. Until he tries to steal your wallet...and then bite you.

Cove at Ulu Watu Beach.

After the temple, I headed down to the beach. It was really only a surfers beach, but it was gorgeous. There were about 100 sand covered steps to get down there, and with my fear of falling up or down stairs, I took my time. The small cove at the bottom of the stairs was so unexpected and so beautiful that I was happy I made the journey. I know nothing about surfing, but the surfers here seemed to be very happy and the waves looked incredible. I thought about trying to find a place to lay out, but with no luck I turned around and headed back to my moto and back to Jimbaran.

The sun was out now and I wanted to lay out and read Harry Potter, but I didn't want to stray too far from where I was. The night before we had passed some very nice hotels that I knew must have awesome swimming pools, so I stopped by the InterContinental, one of my favorite hotels in the world. By simply telling the security staff I was meeting someone, I was able to sneak in and have some pretty luxurious R&R. The chairs around the pool were plush, there was a swim up bar in the pool, and the beach was just a few steps away. Of course, the almost $10 milkshake I bought shook me back to reality, but it was nice while it lasted. Finally I headed up to Legian Beach to have an Italian pizza dinner and watch the sunset. With the exception of the monkeys and the lost sunglasses, it was a pretty good first day.

My stolen view at the InterContinental

Sunset at Legian Beach.