It was great to be back on the 2nd March in such a familiar place. Bali has changed so much in the 33years since I have been coming here. The streets are no longer quiet in areas like Sanur,Kuta, Legian or Ubud and a lot of the quaint small warung and restaurants like Swastika and Telaga Naga have been replaced by large modern restaurants
and the boutiques in Seminyak and Canggu rival Australia for prices.

Candi Dasa where we always stay for a short while is like coming home with the same friendly staff who know our names and give us good service. Our friends Kay and Len came up for lunch and it was lovely seeing friends from home. Robert and Gay from Sydney joined us there also and came with us to Gili Air for a few days.
A main road runs through Candi Dasa but our small hotel which runs down through a lovely garden and to the restaurant and pool area over the water is a tranquil haven. The customary trip to the ‘white beach’ is always a highlight travelling by local boat the 20minutes along the coast where our boatman waits and then returns us to the hotel for AUD50 for the four of us.
Our friends Robert and Gay joined us there for a few days before we all headed off for the trip from Padang Bai harbour to Gili Air the second largest of three small islands off the coast of Lombok. We were told that the trip would take an hour and a half but a delay in leaving and having to stop at Lombok as well as Gili Trawangan saw the trip take nearly three hours.

The beauty of Gili Air is the lack of any noisy motorised vehicle and it’s crystal clear water. There are a few electric bikes on the island apart from the ‘Cidomo’or small horse and carts delivering tourists to their hotels and bungalows and building materials and provisions from the boats that arrive every day. The small Timor ponies are very sturdy and all look well fed in contrast to those in many countries where the horses look emaciated.

While we were there for the two weeks we saw many military and army personnel move onto the island to supervise the demolition of illegal buildings for which stall holders had no permits.The government is also now enforcing a law which will see any building on the beach side of the road demolished (again apart from those who apparently have paid enormous bribes). We spoke to Suzi the Indonesian owner of our Bungalows who was visited recently by the officials who told her that they would now begin this procedure in April 2017. She was suitably shocked and told them that she had 70 staff who would be out of a job and that she would comply with the new regulations but to give her a chance to let the staff find other employment elsewhere on the island or on the mainland.
Unfortunately they had before this law came into being just upgraded the wooden building on the beach side housing their bar and restaurant. She has luckily more land inland on which to put another restaurant but that would take time. Our bungalow and others were luckily on the other side of the road and therefore allowed to stay put.

The water around the island is crystal clear although there was a lot of coral on the other side of the island, much broken and washed up on the beach. We walked around the island which only took a couple of hours. It was hot and humid for most of our two weeks there but we had a small amount of rain one night and a strong wind one day.

The cats on the island all look healthy with the amount of fish that every restaurant serve every night. A strange sight were the terracotta – concrete actually – warriors found dotted along the seashore. On our walk around the island we also found a brand new 200room hotel with a hundred metre pool. I should imagine it would appeal to
the enormous number of Chinese tourists who have already surpassed any other nationality on Bali and who will undoubtedly find their way to the islands.

Apart from two weeks of relaxation, swimming, walking and doing yoga we decided to go over to Gili Trawangan two islands away for the afternoon and have a pizza at ‘Pizza Regina’ my favourite pizza place outside of Italy. We chartered a small boat and Fikri the very pleasant man who built and ran his boat took us first to a spot
where we could see turtles in his partially glass bottom boat and occasionally we could see the turtles pop their heads out of the water for air. They swim so gracefully.

Gili Trawangan had changed dramatically as the government had torn down all the buildings on the foreshore already and it was still in the process of being cleaned up.
Some of the structures did not obstruct the view of the ocean however they were all demolished and it all looked very messy.

We made it for the 5pm opening to ‘Pizza Regina’ We had sampled the pizza two years before and decided we had to go back and it was just as good as before.

The night before we left Gili Air we went to our favourite restaurant ‘Rubys’ walking there through the rain. I unfortunately slipped in the mud and did not hurt myself but was covered in mud down one side. When we got to the restaurant I had to hose my feet off and try and wipe some mud off my clothes. With luck the little
outdoor restaurant was not well lit. We awoke the next morning to the doors shaking from an earthquake off Bali. There was luckily no damage.
We left on the ‘fast’ boat the next morning which broke down just after we left Lombok about twenty minutes after we left Gili Air. We forced the captain after much discussion to return to Lombok where we waited for another boat to take us back to Bali where we arrived about 2hours late.

We spent the next month in Ubud at ‘Villa Jepun’ and had two lots of friends visit us there. We had a lot of torrential monsoonal rain which didn’t follow the usual afternoon pattern. It rained some mornings and sometimes overnight but we could at least have long walks and get to yoga when it wasn’t raining.
The day after we arrived there we had to take our passports and pay our AUD70 to apply for an extension to our AUD50 for a month’s visa. After a week we had to go to the immigration office in Denpasar and wait with hundreds of other hopefuls and have our photographs taken and every finger and thumb fingerprinted. After another
week we picked up our passports with our stamped extensions. It is a strange system now that with Australian passports we could enter Bali without a visa for one month but if you want to stay for another month you must pay for your first month’s visa. Only tourists wanting to stay one month or less do not have to pay for a visa on

We had not been in Bali for two years and there was still more construction everywhere with disappearing rice fields giving way to more villas, cafes and restaurants.
There is also an influx of Chinese tourists who come up to Ubud by the bus load. They troupe down the street mostly evening wear during the day carrying umbrellas so as not to get a tan and the men wear Polynesian looking straw hats that are obviously supplied by their tour operator. There are now Chinese newspapers and magazines available and Mandarin speaking Indonesian guides. The Chinese are all spacially unaware so you have to be prepared to move around them or make them move as they take up all of the footpath.

I managed to contact the former Qantas manager Gustu whom I hadn’t seen for about four years and he and his wife Sri came and had dinner with us in Ubud. It was nice to catch up with him as I have known him for over 30years. The Qantas office used to be in the Bali Beach hotel and although the hotel is still there, Qantas closed
it’s office in Bali. Gustu now manages villas in Seminyak for a friend of his.

This year we happened to be in Ubud for three of the important Balinese religious days of Nyepi, Galungan and Kuningan. Nyepi is a day of silence where everyone must stay inside their hotel or house from sunrise for 24hours. No planes are allowed to arrive or depart for 24hours and at night all lights must be off or dimmed and
no noise should be heard. Our friends decided to come over to our villa for the day and they crept over and back luckily without being seen. We were off the road so it was relatively easy. If they had been seen by the religious police they would have been in trouble. It was pleasant not hearing the sound of noisy motorbikes
all day.

In our villa which has a DVD player we catch up on all the movies we haven’t seen in the last couple of years. We bought a dozen and all but one played well which was great given they are only $1 each. Memorable ones were ‘A United Kingdom’ ‘The Accountant’ and ‘Bridget Jones baby’ with it’s good English humour.

We both put our backs out on separate occasions which was unfortunate as we couldn’t go to all the yoga classes we had bought and instead went to a natural healer who fixed both of us over three sessions.

The number of Chinese tourists now visiting Bali was very evident at the airport where there were lengthy queues for immigration with the majority there Chinese.

Strangely although the internet states the departure tax is now 200,000 rupiah or AUD20, none was collected on departure. We flew Malaysian to Kuala Lumpur on the 22nd April for a couple of nights.

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