New Look: Since we now enter the relaxing part of the cruise (many sea days and few ports), I’ll start by putting the posting date (it’s on there but I’ll repeat it) and the next expected posting date so you don’t have to keep checking the site for new Blogs.
Posting date: Sunday, Oct. 26, 2008
Next earliest Posting Date: Thursday, Oct. 30, 2008, day after Perth, Australia
I’m writing this at the end of our day at Padang Bai, Bali, Indonesia. Let me start by describing where we are. Bali is an island 95 miles wide by 69 miles from north to south. It is a part of Indonesia on the southern most tip. Indonesia has 300 million people and is suppose to be the third largest country in the world after China and India. Bali, on the other hand, only has 3 million of those people and they seem to come from another culture. Balinese are mainly Hindu, while most of the rest of Indonesians are Muslims. Bali has more Hindu temples, they say, than houses. You will see a house or two, and then a yard filled with little temples, one for each house in the neighborhood. Padang Bai is a small port on the southeast coast of the island.
The start of this day was a disaster. Susy and I had booked tickets on an 8 hour bus tour which included a temple, rice paddies, etc. We arrived in the departure lounge 5 minutes before the time indicated on the tour ticket and the tour lady says, sorry the tour left 30 minutes ago, didn’t we get written advice yesterday. We informed the lady that we wouldn’t have showed up ½ hour late for a tour we had paid $200+ for if we had been advised. She said sorry, come back later in the day and maybe you’ll get your money back. So Susy and I were on our own. We tendered in to shore (I was wrong the other day when I said we were through tendering, we have not only Bali, but several island ports ahead). By the way, tendering, for those of you who don’t know these cruise ships, is when the ship stops out in deep water, anchors, and the tenders (the huge life boats) of the ship are used to carry the passengers in to the pier. Since we have been in these types of situations before we just rented an air conditioned taxi for the day (at $50.00 for the two of us) and off we went.
Lets start the day by looking at the “Padang Bai, Bali, Indonesia” photo album above, and as usual the first photo is the sign at the pier as we arrived by tender. On the pier was a welcoming ceremony with native Bali dancing girls and a group of local musicians. This is all staged by Holland American, but impressive. My second shot shows one of the dancing girls, all very beautiful. We had talked with some passengers who had been to Bali before and they suggested if we saw temples the one to see was the Besakih Temple Complex, the largest in Bali. Since it was an hour+ drive from the port and included climbing many steps the bus tours (which we missed) do not go there. In the third photo you see the complex sign/map. The complex is over one sq. mile and includes 22 Hindu temples, apart from many statues and little buildings. My fourth photo shows you the front of one of the large temples and the fifth photo shows you one of the many walkways. The next photo shows another walkway with beautiful flowers. Before we left Besakih, we had another incident which shows, you how these people love to rip off the tourists. Upon entering the complex, an English speaking guide showed up and wanted to walk us around. We agreed thinking that we would give him a small tip at the end and go on our way. Well during the tour we came to this temple and he says he wanted to take us, one at a time, into the temple for praying. Susy went first and after saying her prayers for a minute or two, and the guide giving her a flower, he said it was time to give a donation to the temple. Susy took out a five or a ten and he said no the minimum you could give was twenty dollars. Susy started to resist, but he insisted and she didn’t want to lose the prayers she had said for all of us, so she gave him the twenty. When she came out she was steaming and of course I didn’t go in. When the tour ended the guide had enough gal to ask us for money to help him feed his family because the twenty was completely for the temple. We knew we had been taken but you have to smile and write it off to experience because it happens around the world. The last time we got taken in a church/temple was in the Holy Land, but that’s another story.
We next headed for a restaurant to get lunch and my 7th photo is a view of the country side from that place. Bali is a volcanic island with two very large active (over the years) volcanoes. But even with the volcanoes, the landscape is lush, green jungle. I couldn’t show you any pictures of them because, as you can see, it was an overcast day and you couldn’t see far. My 8th and 9th photos are of the rice fields, the first with two men at work preparing a field for planting and the second the beautiful rice paddies, but on terraces. Our last stop of the day was to visit the grounds of an old Royal Palace. The only thing left is a garden house and a museum which I show in the 10th photo, and again to complete the picture I show you the painting on the ceiling of that garden house. Finally as we got to the pier, I have to show you a picture of just a few of the children beggars. From the minute we stepped a shore, at each stop, and until we stepped back in the tender we were swarmed by vendors (one dollar for a post card, one dollar for a statue, etc.) and begging children.
That leads me to our final impression of Bali. It seems to be a very poor place, the temples, as you can see, are mostly cut from dark volcanic stone, making them look dark and forbidding. Susy and I, at the end of the day, got to see more than if we went on a tour, but what we saw was enough, and we have no desire to return.
Onward to Australia,
Love you All,
Gary (alias Gagu)
P.S. Susy said to pass on this comment, especially for Bob I., that in addition to all the other activities aboard the ship, there are conferences and lectures every day. For example, day before yesterday, there was a lecture on the true story of Anna and the King and I by Dr. Jay Wolff. Today there is a Public Forum: Democracy & the Public Interest, with Yvan Gagnon.