This was the third time that we stayed at Pondok Bambu and there is something nice about revisiting somewhere you have stayed previously especially as the staff welcome you like family (although like friends is proably more appropriate, depending on your family).  They even gave us the same room so was a bit like going home.  After driving the van around for nearly 7months exploring Europe it was nice to relax in familiar surroundings at the hotel especially one right on the ocean at Candi Dasa.

There are only 12 rooms at Pondok Bambu and there were only between 4 and 7 rooms occupied while we were there and two of those were for our friends Robert and Gay and Robert and Renate from Sydney who joined us there.

We had a nice relaxing time sitting and chatting and eating and drinking for a lot of  our time there but we also hired a local boat for about $10 each to take us down the coast to the “Pasir Putih” or white sand beach where we spend a few hours lazing and taking dips in the beautiful clear water of the bay.  Lots of  little fish were interested in us and followed us around.  We literally had to shoo them away.  Just behind the sun lounges and umbrellas were small open air restaurants serving fresh fish for lunch.

One of the Roberts wanted to go fishing so I joined him and we left at 6am in the local boat which rests on the sand down the steps from the hotel.  It was lovely being on the ocean early in the morning to see the sunrise and although we only caught a few small fish – the smaller ones we threw back – we enjoyed our few hours on the calm sea.

Another day most of us struggled up “Gumang Hill” with a guide to get the most beautiful panoramic views of the coast and of “Mt Agung”.  The hill had been terraced years before for peanut cultivation but was now disused and only a few cows grazed the area.  It was a lovely clear day and we had to leave at 6.30am so as to be at the top to see the sunrise and also as Mt Agung is often shrouded in cloud later in the morning.  Most of us looked as though we had had a shower in our clothes as we were wet through with perspiration (sweat really).

There were a lot of curious monkeys on the way up the hill and at the temple which is situated opposite Mt Agung.  There are some beautiful large trees and enormous old frangipani trees in the temple area.  Our guide blessed us before we proceeded to the temple and he laid offerings at several of the altars and prayed while we took in the scenery.  By the time we had walked down the hill – many steps and slopes – and three hours of hiking we didn’t feel like the 1/2 hour walk back to our hotel so the guide hailed us a local bus which stopped in front of our hotel to let us off.

The Ghandi Ashram is located next to the large lotus pond and we went to yoga there on a few occassions.  The yoga platform was located overlooking the ocean and “Kawi” the balinese yoga master was a good instructor.

One night we went to a local “warung”-restaurant, where there were only two tables so the owner said “no problem” and seated us under an umbrella in his front garden next door where we ate a nice home cooked meal of fresh fish, balinese fish curry, chicken curry and vegetables.  We finished with fried bananas which are a very common dessert in Bali.  Another one is “Dadar Gulung” which are bright green pancakes filled with grated coconut and palm sugar.  The colour comes from the  pandan leaves although it looks anything but a natural colour.

Indonesia is holding general elections on the 7th of April and as a result of this we saw many black cars and trucks full of people  with colourful flags and many young men on motorbikes holding flags as they raced along to their political rallys.

Our friends left us for a few days in Ubud in the hills and we joined them the next day after Maurice and I had been to our little hairdresser there where I had a cut, colour and blow dry and Maurice had a haircut – all for $20.  We all went to Cafe Wayan (a very typical Balinese restaurant) which has been there since 1986.  Their gardens are beautiful and the staff are dressed in traditional clothes and are very efficient and friendly.   Maurice and I continued (after farewelling our friends and our other local friends in Ubud) on to Seminyak (about 1 1/2 hours away) to stay for our last few days to do our last bits of shopping and have our last wonderful inexpensive massages and treatments and to catch up with a couple of friends from Perth who had just arrived in Bali.  Seminyak is a lot more commercialised than Candi Dasa with lots of boutiques, cafes and a myriad of upmarket hotels, resorts, shopping centres and restaurants.  As you move further south towards Legian and Kuta beach areas the upmarket shops give way to open shop fronts with more or less the same rayon clothes, cheap sunglasses, hats, watches etc,etc,etc.

We went for a 2hour walk along the  Seminyak, Legian, Kuta beachfront where the hawkers are still to be found and the little ladies give massages on the beach for $5.  We saw a truck with a load of styrofoam boxes which were full of live prawns and shellfish.  An airpump aerated the water.   As the driver stopped next to a restaurant we saw him scoop up the live prawns into a bucket which were then delivered inside.

We had booked a few weeks before into Mamasan’s restaurant which had been recommended to us.   We had a wonderful meal and the entree portions of finger food were so large that we had enough for lunch the next day.  The place was buzzing and packed and the food was very innovative and delicious.

We were not happy to be back in the chaos of  traffic and loud motorbikes again and were glad it was only for a couple of days.  Maurice had a chat to an older taxi driver who told him that he was glad that he was near the end of his working life as everyone today was in a hurry and didn’t have time to chat or ( like in the old days) invite him to have a cup of coffee.

We left Bali on the 30th March to avoid Nyepi Day of Silence which this year fell on 31st March.  The Balinese New Year is 78years behind our calendar so it was going to be 1936.  We saw hundreds of people who had brought their offerings to the beach and were then transferred by trucks to the temple for their “Melasti” ceremony.  There was another large gathering around the corner from our hotel where they cordoned off the road and the people in their traditional ceremony white clothes sat on the road in front of the temple and listened to the priest drone on for hours.  It is not  a very uplifting sound by the priest but a very long wailing type of praying.

Bye Bye Bali for another year.

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