A Travellerspoint blog



After a late start courtesy of interrupted sleep due to a noisy bar, mosquitos and mosques, I still started well in bagging myself the correct fare on a notoriously tourist preying tourist route, my Bahasa did me proud in the driver being unusually helpful and even shaking my hand. Quite refreshing after the day previous. From central Ampenan I traced a couple of Ks on foot to the Museum of West Nusa Tenggara, happily open and for only a 5p entry fee. Of a few cannon outside a discernibly British one was crested with a crown and GR akin to post boxes, it was a mystery as to how it found its way here then. Comprising the islands of Lombok and Sumbawa, an ethnicity map revealed Lombok to be home to the largely homogenous Sasak people, with just a couple of small pockets of Balinese. Sumbawa was split more 50/50, with ethnic Sumbawa in the west and the Mbojo people to the east. A hitherto unencountered map of Indonesia's tectonic zones then revealed the predictable trench lines along the Sumatra-Java-Nusa Tenggara chain, also fault lines to the north and east of northern Sulawesi and to the west of the Moluccas. A second major active zone runs from south of Timor in a loop around the south of Papua to Ambon. It also noted Indonesia's active volcanoes, of which 2 were cited on Bali, Gunung Rinjani on Lombok, and another 2 on Sumbawa. Flores has half a dozen. Excellent professionally produced relief models of Lombok's Rinjani and Gunung Tambora of north central Sumbawa revealed the same amazingly abrupt topography the national museum in Jakarta had hinted at.

The predictable presence of renovatory works around the museum was tempered by the fact that thankfully they had at least put the lights on for once! After the habitual boring procession of geological samples, fossils, stone tools and pottery, vaguely more interesting were ethnic artifacts such as bamboo baskets used for catching fish, ranging from bottle and shuttlecock shaped designs to an unusual boat shaped one used for catching the "swift water fish". There was a diorama of the indiginous twin outrigger canoes with a triangular gaff sail, and even a bamboo harpoon. A section dedicated to hunting revealed unusual artifacts in a Pendiwal, described as a kind of catapult but more akin to an archers bow however straight, also a new introduction into the use of sometimes ornate birdtrap cages. A farming section then revealed a Boru Lemba Oi, an exotic water carrier formed from a palm fond perhaps, it was the shape of a clam shell and used to carry water strung from a pole. Equally original was a Sungkup, a giant palm fashioned rain shelter employed strapped to ones back for farmers supine in the field. A model of a brace of buffalo unusually shackled either side of a plough also revealed how they bore very large appendages around their necks of indefinable purpose. Moving onto a shadow puppet display and orchestra, the limited English captioning was useful in betraying that each character would have its own dedicated instrument of varying design and tone to reflect their demeanour. A live interpretation of "satires or social critics" are performed in a folk theatre with Sasak people porting variously ghoulish or striking face masks. Of the scant English offered, one useful insight was that Islam was introduced to West Nusa Tenggara by a certain Sunan Prapen who arrived in Lombok from Java in the 16th Century, the island had previously been of the Hindu Buddhist persuasion still adhered to on Bali. A second wave of Islam entered eastern Sumbawa in the 17th C. In the early 18th C. for reasons which the museum tried but failed to relay, Islam and pre-Islamic beliefs mingled to create a distinct sect known as the Waktu Telu.

Another unique insight was a comparison of alphabets, with Latin compared to the very similar writing systems of Jejawan (Sasak), Harjendro (Javanese) and Wiyagyana (Balinese), indeed it was interesting to note their affinity. Javanese differed only slightly more markedly in possessing the th and dh sounds. Jontal (Sumbawanese) was distinct however, using simple straight line forms compared to the curly characters of the former. Examples of the Sasak language were displayed in the form of incised stripes of palm leaf similar to Balinese records, and books of a sort were formed by stacking these like cards and fastening a length of string through a central piercing. It was an added bonus to learn that the Pallawa script I had seen so emphatically upon inscribed stones across Indonesia was closely related to old Javanese (Jawa Kuna) presumably a forerunner, though the modern script has changed markedly over time. I loitered to consider various examples of Indonesian currency due to the telltale hammer of rain on the timpany roof, bearing examples of the Nederlandische-Indie era, the Japansche Regeering, also printed as "Dai Nippon Telkoku Seihu", there was even an example of the "Banco Nacional Ultramarino" of East Timor, a "Cem Escudos" note having been issued in Lisbon in 1963. Outside the downpour thankfully soon let up and so I appreciated outdoor examples of indiginous Sasak architecture, most notably a very distinctive warehouse made entirely of thatch, with its cuttlefish-bone shaped gables enshrouded by a crest curling down seemlessly to an outsloping overhang at its very base. It notably resembled how a woman might wear her hair, a blonde naturally! Elevated to a height of 2 metres, it stood upon 4 simple unadorned pillars with a habitual lounging platform underneath. More conventional examples were a square plan bungalow with thatch roof and bamboo latticed walls, and an open thatched shelter with bamboo decking.

The museum had been partially compromised by the renovation work going on and only sporadic lighting, yet the lack of storyboards and the closure of a treasure house section still appreciable through glass mattered little. I was simply glad that after so many encounters to the contrary it had been open and stayed open, revealing insights into exotic islands of which I knew very little. It was a panacea to a month previous of little more than culturally devoid beach resorts. It was a frustration then that I had chosen today to run out of camera memory and so could not snap an outhouse lined with excellent black and white photos of Dutch remains on Lombok, amazingly exotic Sasak leaders bearing round spike bearing shields and very tall lances. There was also a collection of images of the 1894 Dutch Lombok Expedition, with pith helmet and pork pie wearing troops lazing on the beach whilst paddy hat wearing locals unloaded their pinnace. Dutch cavalry sat mounted as their steeds drank from a river as nearby comrades built a rickety bamboo bridge across it. A set photo of Major MB Rost van Tonningen and his fellow officers revealed you were no-one without a beard and bushy moustache in that day. There were portraits of tribal leaders and Rajas. Also revealed was a notable monument to a General Major van Ham in Mataram, left untold by either of my guidebooks, and a sizeable Dutch house by a bridge was shown in its past and present state, the present actually being a spot now strewn with goats feeding on garbage where I had passed en route to the museum, the houses' ruin now being an empty indiscernible shell. Trees planted by the Dutch along dusty rural tracks were now the shady avenues of the city running from western Ampenan to central Mataram. A remarkably modern looking aquaduct built by the Dutch was a brace of very large bore pipes traversing a river valley, it looked more like a modern hydroelectric project than something from 1912. Many bridges built by the Dutch were now sadly deteriorated to the point most were now impassable, though one had forgivingly been bombed by the Japs. A 1935 dam and irrigation project was now a trickle of water compared to the torrent it had once been and the pier at Ampenan was now but a few crooked stilts sticking out of the water marooned.

It was an uneventful traipse from there of 2Ks or more to the promise of the West Nusa Tenggara tourist office where I had hoped to gain from the promise of maps and information on mysterious Sumbawa, and yet the side road promised by the guidebook clearly did not exist. I could only guess that it was the lane through an array of unsigned yet pleasing buildings any one of which could have been my goal, but they were all closed in any case. I spent another 2 to 3K slog thankfully redeemed by Mataram's leafy and not unlovely vibe, trying and failing at every juncture along the way to find someone happy to burn my photos to DVD. Past a padang with indistinguishable memorials I ended up at Mataram central and escaped the returning rain in its major shopping mall, gaining some views from its upper tier foodcourt across to Gunung Rinjani in the process. Even here the one computer shop with DVD burning capability saw my efforts scuppered with technical problems and so it was a frustration to have to return under pressure of failing daylight still unable to take photos.

The urban Bemo run across town was a cinch but in the dark now I retraced Ampenan for the second time in two nights to find the Bemo connection finished for the day, and though a couple of tailenders passed by they inexplicably failed to stop. There was no choice then but to plump for the Ojek motorbike taxi option, but in resisting the repeated pressure from one still in hope of a belated Bemo, I was most fortunate to eventually be approached by another young dude on a bike asking if I needed a lift. He was headed to Senggigi anyway he said, and though normally this might have been considered just one more common ruse, he openly offered to save my frustration free gratis. 7Ks later he dropped me right by the Lina Hotel and though young Ibrahim resisted any offer of payment I forced it on him explaining that I wanted to. It took me back to another night of frustration in Kutaisi, Goergia early in my trip whenupon another of the worlds young stars had gone out of his way to help me devoid of ulterior motive, a breed of beautiful souls which made the world a good place to live in. This latest encounter was even more unexpected being as it was along a notably cutthroat route well established in fleecing tourists. In what had been a bitter sweet day availing me of an interesting museum, heat and rain in equal measure, few photos and no time to check out a brace of ancient temples, Ibrahim still blessed me with arrival back home with a smile on my face. I hooked up straigt away with Lazy Lin, who had spent the day dodging the touts on the beach, appreciating a purportedly endearing beach market and enviously bagging an invitation to a local wedding. She lived up to her name by retiring early, upon which I headed for a noisy cafe bar across the road only to resist it due to its moneygrabbing entry fee and noise pollution. Bed came early then but certainly not sleep, I finally conked out after paining at the overwrought party music and prolific mosquitos only to be wakened at Stupid O'clock by the holler from the local mosque.

Posted by andyhay2 00:00 Archived in Indonesia Comments (0)

Bali to Lombok


Bemo drivers ever ambitious in their demands were a hurdle to negotiate that morning but walking away seemingly unconcerned was always the trump card in securing what was finally an undoutedly still somewhat inflated price. 7Ks later in Padang Bai, Lin and I were predictably jumped on by ticket happy touts but I revelled in a new perverse pleasure in showing Lin how it was done. Rebuff them in Bahasa, walk purposefully away even if you don't know where you're going, then just blank them if they pestered you any further, it was the only way to avoid protracted grief. In finally tracing the official ticket office the higher than expected fare to Lembar on Lombok was still peanuts compared to the touristy Perama boat headed to more northerly Senggigi, and it was a pity that in the 2 minutes it took to pay our money and stock up on essential water, the attendant ferry began to raise its ramp. We killed an hour over inflated price cold drinks then, dissuaging a conveyor belt of sunglasses peddlers and beggars before boarding the humbly sized RORO ferry. Pulling out of Padang Bai we were now able to appreciate how it would have served as a better layover than Candi Dasa, with a fine sandy beach littered with outrigger canoes, people fishing chest deep with rods and paddy field hats, and the vague impression of something approaching a real town. On motoring out into the Lombok Strait we promptly crossed paths with the multi-sailed Perama boat, aiming south first towards table top Nusa Penida Island before turning East. There was a constant stream of heavy shipping in this channel and I could only guess that our circuitous course had been in defernce to the necessity of crossing a TSS (a maritime motorway) at the prescribed 90 degrees. A little disorientated then, a southern peninsula of Lombok was discernible after maybe an hour, and another revelation was the ensuing haul of what appeared to be Bluefin Tuna which the deckhands and other hopefuls had managed to tag with lines trailed in our wake. It was astounding to note just how fast these fish had to be capable of swimming in order to catch the bait. The summit of Gunung Agung, Bali's highest peak at 3142 metres briefly managed to puncture the clouds, though in what was now becoming perceptible as a daily wet season pattern, the gleaming scorchy morning sadly deteriorated into greyer skies and the odd shower. On board, the boat also betrayed another change in scene in the odd headscarf and prayer prostation, I was heading back into Islam again and could have well done without it. More uniquely, another frontier I was crossing in the process was the Wallace Line, the delineation which had been established in the 19th century as a crossover from Asian to Australasian floral and faunal influence. If I was lucky, then I guessed in Lombok I might be able to spy brightly coloured Rainbow Lorikeets, the same bird species which had flitted about my back garden in Brisbane. With Islam reaffirming its grip and Australia still feeling as far away as ever, it was unexpected to realise that geologically at least, I was already there. Sailing into a sheltered sound which explained the selection of Lembar's isolated position, Lombok became discernible as a remarkably stark, dry and undulating island, with outrigger canoes hauled onto beaches outside rustic rickety palm leaf shacks. In true Indonesian style our arrival was somewhat delayed as we sidled up to a sister ferry just outside the port, the 2 boats proceeding to dance around each other until the briefest of contacts was made. It might have been for operational reasons but with no-one and nothing being discernibly transferred, it may have just been that the captain wanted a chat with his mate!

Landing at a boat launching ramp, there was little action until it was decided to power across to a more amenable pier, whereupon we resisted the rush to alight in deference to the choke of diesel below. Therefore by the time we landed on Lombok's terra ferma the majority of intinerants had already whisked themselves away, and so we faced the preying transport touts alone. I showed Lin the importance of retaining a resolute unhurried stance in establishing the local price and lack of alternatives, but it was still a convoluted patience sapping business in variously negotiating and walking away in dismay before reassuming an inevitable return to the Bemo drivers. Expecting to at least share the ride with locals, our enforced charter was something of a fight to secure for a still predictably heavy levy, but at least we had been able to bargain a direct route to Ampenan, negating the need for an urban transfer across Lombok's central 4 city Sweta/Cakra/Mataram/Ampenan conurbation. On top of our partisan chauffeur subsequently hijacking our charter to cheekily uplift locals along the way up to Senggigi, perhaps our final destination was predictable but it had been a fault on my part to readily admit to it, and so ensued constant pricepushing which I steadfastly rebuked in now very accomplished Bahasa. More outrageous was for him to then adopt another tack, even stopping the van on occasion so that he might more singularly concentrate on his bully boy tactics. With no rebuke good enough and even an exasperated brief adoption of unambiguous Scots, I still had to push for realisation of our desired destination contrary to his desire. It was no surprise to eventually reach Ampenan's Bemo terminal dark and deserted, and though that prevented us with another problem there was no way this prize chancer was going to get one more red cent out of us. His departing comment of "Crazy tourists" provoked the frosty rebuff "I'm not a tourist, I live here", it was as close to a kick in the nuts I could get. "Welcome to Indonesia" I proferred Lin, because assuredly as my Canadian old-timer friend had emparted, Bali wasn't Indonesia. It was a hell of an introduction for her. Tracing the nearby road out to Senggigi, Lombok's largest beach resort, we had no option but to settle for an Ojek transfer, appeased by the fact that their demands were acceptable and certainly less than what white van man had demanded. Careful not to reveal my hand this time, our drop off at the Perama bus office after a twisty 7Ks of undulating coastal road was a ruse in landing us right opposite my den of choice, lest they aim for a hotel commission. I had had better days on the road it had to be said.

Posted by andyhay2 00:00 Archived in Indonesia Comments (0)



Conveniently positioned for the 3K uphill run to Tambanan, that morning saw us hopping on what was a rare indulgence for me, a palatably priced Ojek ride up past banana plantations and sporadic settlement to the entrance of Tembanan village. A swathe of stalls selling mainly basketry and woven bags as well as a ticket kiosk warned of a tourist sell out, and though a few approaches were made at selling us knife incised Balinese calendars and illustrated enactments of the Ramayana for example, it was still an immediate relief to appreciate a palpably exotic village which had struck an uncharacteristically happy balance between very traditional living and the tourist draw. Long open-walled thatched shelters still served as communal eating platforms and others were dedicated to harbouring such strange wonders as a cylindrical wooden gong, a craftsman carving flutes and many chickens held captive in thimble shaped bamboo whicker cages. Many chickens had crazily been dyed in red, yellow and pink and I could only guess that they served as part of a ritualism as well as for the pot. The ground was still paved in unrefined rounded boulders reminiscent of medieval cobbles and the odd habitual thatched house was bourne out of unusually loaf shaped bricks aligned side on. I had to apologise to several locals for Lin's penchance for frequenting craftware houses without recourse to her wallet, but it proved a good proviso in appreciating local practices such as a young girl rigged up bodily to a small Ikat cloth weaving loom, also walls adorned with frightening glazed wooden face masks. Lin also came in handy when we spied some ancient Chinese talismans adorning a doorway too, the dinner plate sized discs bedraggled with pompoms depicted 4 cardinal point characters translated as meaning Fortune, Currency and Favour, a throwback to an ancient form of community banking she reckoned.

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Ubud to Candi Dasa


Though I had finally managed to escape the stagnation of Kuta, the unappetising tourist cavalcade mediocrity of Ubud found me wasting another entire day devoted to reading. I reneged on the promise of the local museums since they were merely art galleries in the main and my plan for a circular walk out of town was scuppered by equally unappealling weather. Well rested then, the next day saw me rise early all bright shiny and new, my enforced compulsion to allow no further delay meant I had to get out of town pronto. I still rejigged my plans to squeeze in an appraisal of the rice paddies to the north of town beforehand however. A lime green sea of mature rice revealed the crop for the first time in mywhole trip as something discernible as the grain that I knew, further redeemed by the appreciation of a complex, well organised irrigation system attended by random shacks borne out of elephant grass. The locals had had to go to some concerted effort in order to protect their crop, and bird scaring measures included conventional scarecrows, dangling T-shirts and miniature windmills burling in the wind as they hung from great curls of bamboo perhaps 10 metres tall. Some of the windmills were even geared up to noisemakers in the form of small rudimentary drums. Another ensuing downpour found me curtailing my intended loop yet the chance meeting of another tourist bloke confirmed the viability of a shortcut back south down the other side of a river gully, discovering a more jungly trail past some fine loaf shaped thatched roofs and women thrashing rice bails. It was great to elicit beaming smiles from the habitually reserved farm women in enquiring as to whether there was any work going. More than once I also stumbled across lone women performing their ubiquitous deity offering ceremonies, but now made ever more exotic as they ritualised in front of shrine pillars dotted around in isolated corners of open fields. It was only left for me to avail myself of the finest and most generous curry I'd ever eaten before tracing the now paved track back into the town centre, just one more artwork in a town fuill of it, emblazened as it was with grafitti. A lone example raised above the predictable to becry in superb harmony with my skeptical vibe "Ubud. No effort, no hope, just holy boredom". I felt appeased that that there had been at least one other poor lost soul out there who had seen the same bullshit for what it was. Grabbing my bag and retracing the Perana bus office, I had had time to further contemplate the impending onward move, and though I had already elected to jump off at Padang Bai, a small resort town which more importantly served as the ferry port for services East, I realised that there would be no further charge for thefurther 7Ks up to the larger resort town Candi Dasa. That might have seemed like a superfluous indulgence had it not been for its proximity to the promise of an alluring traditional village just inland, and its appeal meant that I could surely afford Bali one more day at least.

It was an unexpected bonus of sorts then to hook up with the only other soul with the same intention, Lin from Taiwan had learned English in London and so we both opted for the same crashpoint, actually the overindulgence of a very sweet bungalow complex by the sadly eroded beach. She wasnt the only new admirer however, the presence of mosquito nets betrayed their renewed attention for the first time in ages. Though camped right by a fine vista of rice fields dotted with thatched shelters and rolling palm lined hills beyond, Candi Dasa proved to be just a characterless low key strip of restaurants and hotels, its sole momentary redemption being a lotus studded lagoon. The story went that in trying to promote the spot as a resort they had incredibly decided to excavated the offshore reef as a source of building mortar. Having devastated the littoral the now unprotected beach was swept away for good measure, thereby negating the viability of the resort in the first place. That smacked as being just so damned Indonesian. Underwhelmed, we opted for the least touristyrestaurant we could find, offering empty seats, sensible prices, real food, and good conversation.

Posted by andyhay2 01:00 Archived in Indonesia Comments (0)

Kuta Closure


The perversity of being stuck on a tropical island waiting on a "deliverance" had not been lost on me, attended as I had been by my "Man Friday" at the Sports Bar in Kuta. Friday was one of the barmen at Kuta's sole 24 hour drinking joint, happily close to my digs, and one who had apparantly taken a special shine to me. Maybe he was a special guy or maybe it was laced with the ulterior motive of chasing a tip, a combination of the 2 I rather suspected. But probably also it was just an interest in one who would spend half his time relentlessly rattling away at his diary over a bottle of Bintang, which must have singled me out from the other punters. It was unusual for me to break my shell and fraternise with the locals to the extent that they might consider me anything more than just a passing face, but then I did spend a lot of time there and his nightshifts must have been somewhat boring. In reality I should have grabbed the opportunity ofr befriending a local, the considerable insight it would have undoubtedly rendered should have been a real draw, but then I resolved that perhaps that is why I didnt, it would have been me the one taking advantage of the situation with an ulterior motive. Very nice friendly guy though, and it pained me that in my new found release it just didnt seem right to say goodbye, I just left it to fall away.

Though I should have been inspired to promptly decamp pronto from Kuta after my interminable delay, the enforced lethargy it had induced in me meant that immediate readoption of traveller mode was too much to contemplate. In clearing up a few final practicalities, I availed Kuta of a further 2 days in a carefully balanced effort to reassume the requisite focus for what would undoubtedly still be a shock to the system. One priority was to at least decide how I was finally going to get the hell out of there, and though I would have normally instinctively plumped for the grass roots Bemo option, the availability of a dedicated tourist bus service on Bali short circuited the otherwise necessary 3 leg marathon in favour of a direct service at still an acceptable price. Though under pressure now to make tracks fast in deference to my impatience and sadly depleted visa limit, my decision to afford Bali little further attention was compromised in learning that the Perama bus to Padang Bai the port town for Lombok routed via both Sanur and Ubud on the way. At another time the allure of the allegedly more refined and limited beach resort of Sanur might have justified a brief stopover, but certainly Ubud was a renowned drawcard which could not be resisted. It had been a self inflicted frustration that my unprecedented and ridiculously convoluted 20 night forced encampment in Kuta had not been redeemed by more than a couple of day trips, but reluctance to avail myself of a hire car or motorbike was now actually qualified in seeing that the eternally heavy traffic on narrow partisan roads persisted almost unmitigatedly for the hour or more it took to climb up to Ubud. The claustrophobic vibe was further engendered by a constant roadside sweep of shopfronts, houses and temples so similar in architecture that one would not be able to readily distinguish between the 3, redeemed only by the odd pagoda, grassland area or architectural wonder. Most prevalent however was the anticipated relentless cavalcade of roadside crafthouses which littered the pavements with their wares. Most prolific were the stone carvings, whose religious idolatory in figures of Buddha, Shiva and Hanuman the monkey god amongst others betrayed one of the defining characteristics Bali as a alnd of artists. There were whole villages dedicated to wood carving and silver smithery and more paintings than one lifetime could afford to appreciate.

No surprise then when Ubud materilaised as a relatively up-market tourist centre dedicated to that persuasion, added to by the preponderance of venues where one might appreciate the culturally ingrained practice of traditional dance ensembles. The tourist bus services' terminus was stupidly poorly placed within the town and so although I would have habitually resisted the advances of the predictable touts, for once I plumped for the deal offered by one youing hopeful, the price was good and the standard would be undoubtedly acceptable and I really didnt care about relative merits, the free motorbike transfer was the real deal in sparing me from a long hot slog and doubtless persistent pestering. It didnt mattter that I ended up in a quite incongruous spot then since tourism had rendered that likeness to the whole town it seemed, my curiosity kindled by many good reports from previous indulgees I had met left me sadly underwhelmed. To be honest the real allure of the place to me lay in its location, with easier access to a beautiful countryside characterised by fluorescent green rice terraces and palmeries, though this had up until now been little witnessed. An afternoon reconnoitre revealed the place to be unremarkable, overpriced and underfrequented, the propensity of temple-like architecture proving so prolific that it actually detracted from the temples themselves. In a haven of assuredly more upmarket tourism, I witnessed a plethora of arty farty boutiques in a tour of almost the whole town until I eventually traced an acceptable restaurant with sensible prices, promptly being forced into prolonged patronage by a full on downpour. The wet season was upon me sure enough.

Posted by andyhay2 16:47 Archived in Indonesia Comments (0)

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