Monday, June 29, 2009

Day 3: Diving at Nusa Penida

In the early morning, we hop on a boat with Klaus’s old diving colleague Peter, who is working for Tauch Terminal, which I can warmly recommend to anyone who wants to dive in Bali. After just 20 minutes of high speed pursuit off we reach a really good dive site off the coast outside the small island of Nusa Penida. This island used to be like a penal colony, where the old Balinese kingdom put many of their troublemakers and criminals, kind of like the Balinese version of Australia.

The first dive is completely brilliant, following quite a strong drift over almost a kilometre of a continuous colourful coral reef. The second one has much less current and I have time to have a look at some anemone fish and crazily coloured nudibranches. After the dives we spend the afternoon snorkelling on the Blue Lagoon again and then we head for Tulamben for the night. However, we only get as far as Candidasa which is a small and quite beautiful tourist resort some 15 minutes away. However, the beach is destroyed by concrete wave breakers since the previous natural wave breakers in the shape of coral reefs all have been destroyed by dynamite fishing. In the evening we eat a luxury dinner and watch a solitary Balinese folk dancer. She seems very bored and asks basically everybody to join her on stage in order to stand and look ridiculous next to her, which almost seems like an insult to the fine art of Balinese dancing to me. After a lot of insisting I join her for 10 minutes though. Nobody else dares to..

Day 4: Gunung Batur and Beduguhl

After the first sleep-in of the trip we head to the small but touristy village on the outer crater rim of Gunung Batur; Bali’s second-most holy mountain. The volcano looks really impressive from there and we can see the fresh black lava from the latest eruption in 2006 that destroyed several homes and all the roads leading up to the inner volcano itself. After lunch we bravely chose to take a road that is dashed in the map we are using, from the 1998 edition of Lonely Planet. At first the road is great and we think that a lot has happened with the infrastructure in the last ten years, which is true, but after an hour or so it is obvious why the road was dashed. Several hours on pot-holy dirt tracks later we reach Beduguhl; a popular lakeside weekend resort for Balinese people.

Day 5: The Conquering of Gunung Catur

After an early breakfast we head up the 2,200 m tall volcano Gunung Catur together with Anna from Atlanta, that we met on the hostel (no relation to Hannah Montana, or so she claims). We almost get lost but some school kids send us off in the right direction. Later it turns out they are just three of probably a hundred kids from a Denpasar school on a class trip, climbing the mountain together with us. We finally make it to the top and are rewarded by a feeling of grand achievement, but not, however, a view. One has to be up there at sunrise to see anything but white clouds over the lake below.

In the afternoon we slowly head back to Kuta through some incredibly dense traffic jams. We have dinner in a fantastic yet really cheap Chinese restaurant in Denpasar together with Peter and his family and then spend the evening in Kuta sampling different bartenders’ imaginative interpretations of advanced cocktails and dancing at the Bounty nightclub with the normal clientele of drunken Aussies.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Bali & Malaysia part 1

After two fantastic weeks in Bali and Malaysia, I am now in Kuala Lumpur International Airport, waiting for my flight to take me back home to Norway. I've written a kind of travel diary and I thought I should post it here in parts, so more will follow..

Day 0: Arrival (7 June 2009)
After a long and complicated series of flights (to utilise the super cheap tickets from London) I finally arrive late in the evening in Kuta, Bali, where my old friend Klaus is waiting. Klaus's friend Ali is also travelling with us and they have already spent two days on Bali when I arrive.

Kuta is pretty much the same as I remember it from last time I was there, ten years ago. It's full of drunk Australians and Western franchising stores (The Mc Donalds logo hovers over the view from the beach at night). The only exception is that mine and Linus's old hangout Sari Club no longer exists, since it was blown up by fundamentalists in 2002, taking 200 lives with it into the grave. Anyway, I don't mean to sound melancholic; it is really good to be back!

Day 1: Padangbai
After breakfast we head out of Kuta and Denpasar's traffic chaos with Klaus behind the wheel of our rented Toyota, in true Balinese rally stile. In Padangbai we check in to the simple but very cosy Sidha Karya homestay and discover that Klaus's old visit in 2002 is still in the guest book. They haven't had any visits for over a month which perhaps says something about how few tourists there have been for the last years here

We spend the afternoon snorkelling in Padanbai's Blue Lagoon; a fantastic coral reef just meters out from a beach. The reef is boiling with colourful fish such as needle fish, blue-spotted stingrays, a moray eel, parrotfish and many more that I don't have a clue about what they are called.

In the evening we discover that the other beach of the village is really destroyed. The whole forest of palm trees that surrounded it are gone and someone has started to build an ugly concrete hotel and a big wall closing in the whole beach. Later we hear that it is a Korean construction company and that they were stopped by the local guvernor, but too late to prevent the destruction. Quite a sad story.

Day 2: Padangbai & Tulamben
We start the day by driving up to Tulamben to dive on the wreck of the U.S.A.T Liberty. She was a American transport ship loaded with weapons and sunk by the Nipponese during the war. Klaus used to work as a dive instructor there several years ago so he really knows the site. We get two really good dives, although the visibility is a but murky, and have a look at the wreck and the myriads of fish.

In the evening we meet Camilla who turns out to be from Vallentuna, which is the countryside suburb of Täby, where I grew up. She has just been to Malaysia and gives a lot of advice where to go there. Some plans have formed and Ali has decided to stay in Asia for another week instead of going with Klaus to Sydney.