My afternoon flight Denpasar was uneventful, which are always the best kind!  🙂

Prior to leaving Japan I had contacted the hotel in Bali and arranged for a driver from the resort to pick me up from the airport and drive me to Ubud.  My experience with many airports in Asia is that its generally one enormous crush of people, and given that I was visiting an unfamiliar country I decided to book my transportation in advance.   I’m so glad I did!

Yes, there were a throng of unlicensed taxi drivers all shouting to choose them, and very much in my face which is never a great experience as it can be overwhelming.  Fortunately my driver had his sign up in an easy to spot place and as I glided over the crowd picked him out quickly, making eye contact we moved toward the exit.

As it turned out my driver was a friendly and talkative local Balinese who had been working at the hotel for three years.  As we began our 18 kilometer drive to the hotel (a mere 1.5 hours) in choking, bumper to bumper traffic we chatted amiably about our respective families and the like.

As we neared the hotel I asked him how he felt about all the tourists…  He thought for just a moment before responding that without the tourists he wouldn’t have a job, but I could tell by the look on his face and his response that he was less than thrilled with the endless invasion of tourists to his beautiful country, best categorized as a tired resignation I suppose…

As my week progressed I closely observed the locals, in the markets, in the restaurants, and the endless touts and friendly guides and taxi drivers all trying to eek out a living on the streets of Ubud and it was as plain as the nose on my face (be nice!) that this was a common theme – we were all just a necessary evil…  Its difficult to feel excited in this situation but it was my clear observation so thought I would share it.

That being said it didn’t stop me from have a wonderful time in Bali.

As an example the hotel I had booked was more than I expected.  I stayed at the Plataran Resort and Spa in Ubud

From the exterior it was just an entrance to a bar, just like a host of others on the street, but this 15 meter gap was the entrance to my sanctuary for the week…

By the time I arrived it was dark, and I was tired after hiking my 20 km around Singapore before catching my early evening flight to Denpasar, then 1.5 hour drive up from the airport, so didn’t see a lot other than my gorgeous room (large four poster bed with iconic mosquito net draped over it – I was living in a movie.  In addition, I had totally spoilt myself and gotten a villa with a private plunge pool and tropical hidden garden.

Yep, I could shower with the shutters open that looked out onto the walled garden and pool…it was pure indulgence!  Hey, if you can’t spoil yourself occasionally then who can you?  🙂

After a great breakfast overlooking a rice paddy surrounded by dense and spectacular jungle it was off to meet Rod, Dewi his partner and his son Kane.  I had taught in Darwin with Rod back in the mid 1980’s and in fact we shared a house for about a year after I got back from my backpacking adventure.  I hadn’t seen him since I visited Darwin back in the early 90’s but he hadn’t changed one bit!

It was fabulous to catch up and hear about his stints in Shanghai, Kuala Lumpur, Singapore and most recently Denpasar with the Australian International School.  He’s a life long teacher, and a good one to boot!

They were fabulous hosts for the day and they first took me to Goa Gajah or the Elephant Caves.  This UNESCO World Heritage site was just a few minutes from my accommodation, and we were fortunate enough to arrive just prior to a festival that was planned for later that day.

The women were adorned in beautiful white sarongs and shirts with gold waist sashes and had been hard at work weaving and putting together all manner of food offerings.  This time of year is an important one for weddings as September and October are traditionally “lucky” months and so prime time for your nuptials in this part of the world!

Next up on the agenda was the Monkey Forest which as it turned out was little more than 400 meters from my hotel.  🙂  I could hear the wildlife – birds, monkeys, insects of all varieties serenading me to sleep each night…quite blissful really!

As we entered the Monkey Forest I felt as though I had stepped back into an Indiana Jones or Laura Croft movie set, with stone bridges over deep gorges, while Banyan tree roots draped all over you from high up in the canopy.

That coupled with the sound of running water and screeching monkeys (grey long-tailed macaque) all made for an interesting experience and one I won’t soon forget.

As I said the monkeys are a mischievous lot, as you’d expect but it never ceases to amaze me that many tourists either didn’t read the explicit rules about engaging with the monkeys or just didn’t give a hoot…

Therefore the park employs monkey distractors, who carry with them a handful of cellophane that squeaks when it’s bunched in your hand, thus distracting the monkeys from whatever they’re doing to come investigate this interesting noise.

The monkey distractor role is vital in the smooth running of the park as many tourists get too close and familiar with the monkeys and they quickly have their hats, necklaces, watches, handbags and even cameras snatched before they can react.

A great first day, and even better to catch up with old friends.

Next week I explore farther afield around Ubud!

Until then “Selamat malam” (good night)