Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Baking in Bali (2 February, 11pm)

Sorry for the long delay in updating the blog, but Bali isn't exactly the tech centre of the world. There's no wifi available (and I mean no wifi) -- the only internet access we have is via two computers in the resort's "internet lounge", which costs Rp50,000 (about NZ$10) per hour.

Anyhoo, here's what's happened to date...

Saturday, 31 January 2009
The shuttle arrived about 3:45am to take us to Wellington airport, stopping in Tawa to pick up Sheryl, Michael, and Felicity (Juliette's mum, dad, and youngest sister). We got to the airport about 4:15, got checked in. The flight wasn't scheduled to leave for Sydney until 6:30, so we had a bit of a wander around the concourse before heading into international departures. (A word of warning: some bright spark has decided that it would be a really good idea to have a wall covered in a huge sign, illuminated with flourescent tubes and coloured bright green. It hurt my eyes looking at it, and Juliette felt sick. Wear sunglasses.)

Flight to Sydney was nice: good weather with little turbulence, and gentle headwinds meant we made good time, arriving in Sydney about 15 minutes early. The A320 we were on has been upgraded with the latest in-flight entertainment system: touch-screens, controllers that retract into the seat in front (not your armrest), and headphone jacks on the ends of the armrests (not the sides). Watched City of Ember which was quite cool -- one for the DVD collection me thinks.

Anyway, we got to Sydney about 8am local time, and went to the transfer desk (as directed by the flight attendants on the plane). We spent upwards of 30 minutes waiting in the queue. Two flights (British Airways and United Airlines) had arrived late, meaning lots of people had missed their connecting flights, so the staff at the transfer desk were hurriedly trying to get them on alternate flights, but were being hampered by computer problems. Eventually we got to the head of the queue, only to find that we had to be at a transfer desk in a different part of the airport! Fortunately, there is a shuttle service running between terminals, so the staff took us down and ten minutes later we were in the right queue. Twenty minutes after that, and we had been booked onto our Garuda Indonesia flight.

We had two hours to wait after that, so we had a brief look around the terminal before sitting down to wait. They had wifi at the terminal, but it's only free if you're a Qantas passenger, so I read my book (Robert Fisk's The Great War for Civilisation -- just a little light reading!).
The Garuda flight left on time. Our plane was an Airbus A330, but the in-flight entertainment was neolithic compared to the gear on the Air NZ planes, so for most of the 6 hour flight I either read Fisk or slept. Fortunately, the plane was a little over half full, so even before we'd taken off, Juliette grabbed a row of four seats to herself, and once the seatbelt sign went off, lay across the seats and went to sleep.

Again, we arrived early at Denpasar -- about 30 minutes early, at 2pm local -- so we joined the queue of people from an earlier flight at the immigration desks. We got our visitors visas (US$10 for 7 days), got a little shocked at the "death penalty for drug smugglers!" signs, grabbed our bags, shunned the porters (who'd expect payment), got through customs (who just waved us through -- guess we didn't look like drug smugglers!) and got outside to find our shuttle waiting for us.

Traffic in Bali is chaotic. Road markings seem to be universally ignored, and most people on the road are riding bikes and scooters. It's not unusual to see a whole family crammed onto one bike (and only mum and dad are wearing helmets, if at all), people riding sidesaddle on the pillion seat, or even one bloke who was texting while riding! At traffic lights, there would be a swarm of 20-30 bikes and scooters waiting for the green light.

The Keraton Resort is off a "main road", though it's barely wide enough for two cars to pass each other. After the shuttle turned off the main road, it went past what looks like a cemetary and a shrine before stopping at a barrier arm (so the security guards can check the underneath of the shuttle for bombs!). There are a lot of swastikas adorning buildings and shrines here -- but, of course, it was a Hindu good luck symbol long before it was appropriated by the Nazis.

We got settled into our room -- very nice, large, with air conditioning, TV and a large bed, and several buildings away from every body else in our party -- before heading back out to the main road to get some supplies. The road was chaotic -- standard for Bali -- and getting across to the nearby mini-mart involves taking your life into your hands. There are no pedestrian crossings (at least none near the Keraton), and the foot paths are about a foot higher than the road: so you wait for a gap in the traffic, scurry across the road, and climb onto the footpath on the other side.
The mini-mart's quite nice, run by a local family who all play their part in serving you. We grabbed some Coke, bottled water (you don't drink tap water in Bali), and snacks before repeating our death-defying dash across the road. After stashing the drinks in the fridge, we got changed into our swimsuits and headed for the pool.

The pool here is good: its depth ranges between 1.4m and 1.9m, so it's perfect for me (because I'm not a strong swimmer). Also important is the swim-up bar, complete with barstools sitting just below the surface!

After about an hour in the pool, we got changed and went for dinner. We're still getting used to the prices (NZ$1 = ~Rp5,000), but the food is delicious. Given it's an island nation, the menu features a lot of seafood, which I don't normally like, but there's enough variety on the menu to keep me happy. Juliette, of course, loves seafood, so she's happy.

After dinner, it was back to the room to collapse. We'd done a lot of travelling, so we were naturally exhausted.

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