Category Archives: Indonesia

Bali, Indonesia – Ubud and the Rice Paddies

9/17 – We took a walk beyond the main tourist street to the place where the Indonesian wood carvings were made.  There were huge wood and stone carvings, most of which were too big to consider bringing home.  We came to a factory where the wares were stenciled “Costa Rica” and “Aloha from Hawaii” – now we know where the rest of the world gets its souvenirs!image image

Is it my imagination, or does this guardian spirit bear a striking resemblance to Homer Simpson??image

For our last walking day, we hired a guide to drive us to parts of Ubud we couldn’t get to on foot. Rai turned out to be a biologist, conservationist and lawyer, who takes tourists around in his spare time. We spent the morning walking through some of Ubud’s many rice paddies.

A farmer clears the weeds from the irrigation ditch, wearing a traditional sarong.image

Ducks also help keep the paddies properly cleaned: 

 Scarecrows and rattling cans keep the birds from eating all the rice before it can be harvested.


Rai showing us the rice flower:image

Rai was a wealth of knowledge about natural remedies. The fluid in these star flowers can be used as soothing eye drops.


You can eat this fist-sized spider to relieve your kidney stones:  

We stopped to pick delicious passion fruit from a nearby tree: 


After our rice paddy tour, we drove to a coffee plantation to see the famous Kopi Luwak.  This is coffee made from beans that have been eaten and excreted by civets.  The coffee sells for $600 a pound.  

Here are the civets.  They are nocturnal animals, and didn’t look happy being on display:

Here is the coffee-bean laden civet poop that collects under the cages:  

 The poop is dried and beans are cleaned:

The beans are roasted:

The beans are then pulverized into fine coffee powder:


We got to sample a variety of coffee flavors and visit the gift shop: 

Our afternoon ended with a trip to a waterfall. 


A lovely ending to our day!  

Bali, Indonesia – Ubud and the Monkey Forest

9/13 – After four weeks at the beach, it was time for our last move within Bali – to the town of Ubud.  Further north and in the center of the island, Ubud was the setting of the last part of the book Eat, Pray, Love, where the heroine finds love among the rice paddies.  We saw plenty of young female travelers here, perhaps looking to reenact that chapter.

Ubud reminded us of Sedona, Arizona, in that it is a groovy place where groovy people congregate to practice yoga and meditate.

We are staying at a small guesthouse with an outdoor kitchen and a tropical pool.  What to do during our last week?  We walked down the main street to visit a Hindu temple, and watched a procession in progress.


Lots of shopping opportunities, of course.

Artists with a sense of humor:


There is a mural on the road to our guest house that shows in comic form some things we may expect to encounter when we visit Ubud’s main attraction, the Monkey Forest, tomorrow.  Can’t wait!


9/14 – The Sacred Monkey Forest Temple, an ancient Hindu burial temple complex, welcomes about 15,000 visitors a month. The actual temple areas are closed to visitors, but make a lovely backdrop for an afternoon of monkey viewing.image


The monkeys are tubby and tame from accepting bananas from tourists, but we were warned not to make eye contact, and not to tease or try to hide food from a monkey. No peanuts are permitted, as they make the monkeys aggressive.

Brave tourists tried to get close for photo ops:imageimage


This little guy rushed the young man and snatched his water bottle:image

There were Balinese handlers who would place a baby monkey on a visitor for a small fee:image


This curious fellow wanted whatever was in that pocket:image

The adults spent their time grooming one another and doing what monkeys do.
image image image image

Mamas and babies:


As much fun as a barrel full of monkeys! IMG_2331


Bali, Indonesia – Legian and Double Six Beach to Batu Belig Beach

9/8 – With our visa extensions in hand, we moved about 5 kms. north to a new guesthouse in the area called Legian.  Lots of shopping opportunities here.


For some reason, there are lots of unusually shaped bottle openers here, in an assortment of sizes and colors:


Also lots of Native American / Wild West stuff, which we just can’t explain.

The exchange rate here is $1 USD = approximately 14,000 rupiah, which makes us feel like wheeler-dealers when we extract a million rupiah from an ATM in 100,000 rupiah bills, or pay 30,000 rupiah for a $2 supper.  You can live within your budget here for a long time.

Hey Peter – you can cash your Bitcoin here!

In Legian, the beach is wider and the waves are higher than in Kuta.  Morning surfing classes:


The wide beach At Double Six feels less frantic, and as we walk north to Batu Belig beach, the umbrellas, surfboards, chairs and touts diminish until the beach becomes almost tranquil.


We eat a Balinese lunch at a local warung (small restaurant).  Since coming to Bali, we’ve eaten lots of nasi goreng (stir fried rice with veg, chicken or pork topped with a fried egg) and mei goreng (fried noodles with all of the above), but our favorite dish is nasi campur (pronounced cham POOR), because you never know what you’re going to get. Translated as “mixed rice”, the dish always has a serving of white rice in the middle, surrounded by a variety of whatever else the cook wants to give you.  There’s always vegetables and chicken, but we’ve had curry, egg, peanuts, satay, tempeh, tofu, pork, soup, barbecue, shrimp and once, a whole grilled fish.  Order nasi campur – a new experience every day!

Back to our guesthouse for a swim in the lovely tropical pool lined with morning glory. Jim is making a video while he swims – I sure hope that iPad case is really waterproof!


Bali, Indonesia – around Tuban

9/5 – One of the benefits of having to walk through town every other day to visit the Immigration office is that we got to see life on the back streets of Tuban.  One morning we were greeted by dozens of Muslim kids on their way to school (although Indonesia is primarily a Muslim country, Balinesians are mostly Hindu). They all knew how to say ‘hello’ and ‘how are you?’

Most of the commerce here takes place on motorbike. 

We took the opportunity to get our last $2 haircut here. 

At the main intersection is a huge statue depicting the epic battle of the Hindu warriors Gatotkaca and Karna – magnificent from every angle!


Bali, Indonesia – Visa Extension

9/7- It’s my job as we move from country to country to check out the visa requirements, and verify whether our T-Mobile phone service has coverage (we don’t make many calls, but rely on the GPS to get around).  It may be a sign of travel fatigue, but I thought that we could stay in Indonesia for 90 days, similar to the last two countries we visited, Malaysia and Singapore.  This turned out to be incorrect, which we realized as we got off the plane in Bali and stood in the Immigration line looking at the signs warning all that stays over 30 days require a Visa on Arrival.  We had already booked our onward flight, so we knew we would be in Bali for 37 days.  Oops.  

Instead of entering on the 30 day free pass that U.S. citizens are entitled to, we had to purchase the $35.00 USD per person Visa on Arrival before proceeding through Immigration.  If you find yourself in this situation, be sure to bring the exact amount of cash – if you require change, it will be given in Indonesian rupiah at a poor exchange rate.  We thought we had solved the problem, after explaining to the nice Immigration officer that we needed an extra 7 days and giving him money.  He still only gave us a 30 day visa.  What do we do for the extra days?  You need a Visa Extension.  Can we purchase it here today?  No.  Where can we purchase it?  At the Immigration office.  Isn’t this the immigration office?  Not this office.  Where is the office?  Out there (with a definitive dismissive gesture, indicating the conversation was over).

When we got to our guesthouse in Sanur, we researched and discovered that lots of people stay in Bali for more than 30 days, and that the process is very doable but quite cumbersome, requiring three separate visits to Immigration.  Evidently, according to many online sources, tourists used to hire an agent to do this for them while they snoozed on the beach, but you now have to go to the office at least once yourself for photos and fingerprints.  For the benefit of other bloggers who wish to extend a visa in Bali, here is what we did.  For couples, remember that you each need your own set of document copies – no sharing allowed!  Be sure to start the process at least one week before your 30 day visa expires.

  1. Make 2 copies of your passport photo page and the page containing your Visa on Arrival, with payment receipt. You will turn one set in, and should keep the other, as you will be without your passport for up to a week.
  2. Make a copy of your onward flight information to prove that you intend to move onward.
  3. Prepare a letter from a Balinese sponsor (that says you are a tourist and will not stay to work).  We found a form letter online at and asked the nice lady at our guesthouse to fill it out, which she was happy to do.  Before she could sign it, however, we had to find and purchase a 6000 rupiah stamp (called a meterai) for each letter at the Post Office.  She affixed the stamp to the bottom of the letter and signed over the stamp.  We’ve read that others just provided hotel info in lieu of the letter, but we didn’t want to chance it, as the requirement may differ depending which office you visit.
  4. Initial visit – Arrive early at the Immigration Office.  They handle passport and visa stuff from 8am til noon.  Dress appropriately – knees and shoulders covered.  We saw some guys in shorts, but read that some offices will turn you away if dressed for the beach.  Hint: the office is not air conditioned.
  5. Make sure you go to the correct Immigration Office.  Our sponsor letter showed a Sanur address, and we went to the Tuban/Kuta office near the airport.  The official reviewing our papers looked at our sponsor letter and told us we needed to go to the office in Denpasar.  We showed him that our current address was the hotel right down the road in Tuban, so he let us stay.
  6. If your documents are in order, you will be given a form to fill out, and a red folder to hold your documents.  The form must be filled out in BLACK INK.  Bring a pen with you – there were none provided at the office we visited.  The form is straightforward, and can be completed using the info from your passport, sponsor letter and current address.  It also asks for your home address, phone and email.  
  7. Go to the machine and take an A number.  Just like the Motor Vehicles office, you then sit in a big room and wait for your number to be called.  The official checks your documents, takes your passport, and gives you a receipt with instructions on when to return.  We were given a return date two days after our first visit, and instructed to come between 8 and 11am.  Our initial visit took about an hour.  Put the receipt in a safe place, as you need it for your next visit.  
  8. Second visit – We arrived just after 8am, produced our receipts and were told to go to the machine and take a number.  Just as our number was called, the computer system went down and everybody stood around for a half hour.  Eventually we were referred to the payment desk, where we paid 355,000 rupiah each (about $25), and were each given a number.  This number was for photo and fingerprints.  We waited again. When this task was completed, we were sent back to Counter 03, where we turned in our papers and  received a receipt and a return date of another two business days hence.  As it was Thursday, our return date was for the following Monday, which means we would be chillaxing here over the weekend, which was not part of our original plan.  Luckily, we are staying at the Aston Inn Tuban, which has the world’s greatest pool and breakfast buffet, so this is not a hardship for us. 
  9. Final visit – check your receipt for the hour you are scheduled to return.  We assumed it would be in the morning again, and made plans to leave our hotel that we had to amend when we realized we had to go back at 2pm.  Produce your receipt and turn it in to the nice man at Counter 03, and wait for your name to be called.  After a 10 minute wait, we signed for and were presented with our passports, updated with a Visa extension granting us an additional 30 days beyond our original visa.  Success!  

Bali, Indonesia – Tuban and Kuta Beach

9/1 – Kuta Beach is the happening place to see and be seen in Bali.  It’s where the young of many countries come to surf, drink and party.  We moved from Sanur to Tuban to get our visas extended (this will be a separate post),  so while we were here we decided to take advantage of our hotel’s free shuttle service and check out the beach.

Lots of surfers here: 



You can rent a surfboard or a chair to sit and watch.   

Balinese are trying to make a living here, selling tee shirts and trinkets: 

  Selling bows and arrows (!??)  
Fruity drinks:

  Hats and mats:  
And lots of bracelets:

The Hindu spirits are honored here: 


There is a sea turtle conservation exhibit here: 

…and a Hard Rock Cafe: 

If you get tired of walking, you can hire a horse and buggy: 

 …but most folks get around on motorbikes. 

It was fun to watch the hustle and bustle of the very crowded beach, and we had a lovely lunch at a local warung, but when it was time to swim, we went back to our hotel where we could relax! 


Bali, Indonesia – More from Sanur

8/25 – Every day we walk a little farther down the beach, past the tourists and the big hotels.  Lots of activity on the water. Flat water in Sanur Bay:


Surfing where the reef doesn’t block the waves:  Lots of pretty kites:


A good place to pray: 

You can get married in a big blue diamond here: 


Plenty of shopping opportunities: 


Does Emma need another tutu?


This is a good idea, don’t you think?  

One day, we discovered a deserted temple way past the tourist area, with some pretty scary guardians:


We watched young girls practice Balinese dancing at a temple. 


Where to next? 


Bali, Indonesia – Sanur

8/21 – We’ve fallen into a daily routine of walking along the Sanur beach in the mornings, stopping for a coffee, choosing a place for an Indonesian lunch (fried rice or noodles with vegetables, chicken or seafood, always served with a fried egg on top, or satay – chicken grilled on a skewer with peanut sauce), then swimming in the afternoon.   


The beach walk is alternatingly sunny and shady, and lined with shops selling all manner of tourist trinkets and services – wood carvings and masks, batik cloth, bamboo wind chimes, massage, parasailing, pedicures, fruity drinks.  


One of Jim’s favorite pastimes is engaging the touts who call to us at every turn (Sarong, Madame? Massage, Madame? Look in my shop?  Tour today?  Transport tomorrow?). We’ve noted that the tour sellers seem to adopt western names (like telemarketers), and all the names start with ‘A’.  So far, we’ve met Aron, Adam, Artur, Anna and Angelo.  Poor Angelo drew a blank and took a while to come up with his name when Jim asked him what it was.

One day we watched a funeral cremation ceremony.  The procession started at the home of the deceased and ended at a big plaza near the beach, where the body was lit with propane in a big bonfire.  The participants wore traditional dress – sarong and head scarf for the men, fancy lace tops and long skirts for the women. 


Another day we heard chanting, and followed the sound to the site of a wedding ceremony that included the ritual of the bride and groom having their eye teeth filed down to curb their human desire to be gluttonous or boastful.  I would have liked to see this, but we did not try to enter the place of the ceremony.  There are many ceremonies here that are unique to Bali culture.


Things we saw walking along the beach:  


  Hindu Bali is a good place to be a cow!  

Chess, anyone?  

More from Sanur soon!

Singapore to Bali, Indonesia

8/16 – Took the metro to Singapore Airport for our two hour flight to Bali, Indonesia.  Like everything else in Singapore, the airport was sparkly clean, orderly, and boasted some really cool kinetic sculptures.

We crossed the equator, and are now officially in the Southern Hemisphere.  Indonesia will be our last stop before heading home in the fall, and although we could endeavor to visit the 17,500 islands that make up this country, we will instead spend 40 days in the sun, surf and tourist extravaganza that is the island of Bali.

We landed in Denpasar, and took a taxi to our small guesthouse, the Ngetis, in Sanur.  Here, instead of yelling “taxi!”, the drivers yell, “transport!” to get your attention.  At first we thought they were saying “passport!”, and couldn’t figure out why… The guesthouse had a wonderful pool and was appointed with the statuary and wood carvings that Indonesia is famous for.


Bali has been a tourist destination for many years, so the beachfront is crowded with pricy resorts, way beyond our budget.   The water is crystal clear, but not very deep.

Our little place was on the far side of the busy main street, a bit of a walk to the beach, but we are very good at walking!

Bali practices a form of Hinduism, and there are lots of guardian spirit statues here.  Little banana-leaf baskets of flowers, food and fruit are offered to the spirits each morning, and incense is burned.


While in Singapore, one of my dental crowns broke, so our first order of business was to find a dentist, called a Docter Gigi. Happy to report that Dr. Sardi (or Dr. Wayan?  Not sure about the order of names here) was right up the road, and she repaired the crown and restored my smile.  Here she is with her three year old daughter, who keeps her company while she practices.

We expect a laid-back month as we prepare to return to the States.  We’ll check in again when we have some news!