Sunday, September 08, 2013

Reality Check: Back on the Road

I'm not much of a traveler; I lost most of my interest in visiting new places over the 20 years that I spent as an international teacher. During that period, I traveled a lot: international conferences, holiday trips with my wife when the kids were small and we had their grandparents around to watch them, and the coming and going from the places where I lived and worked back to Bali on each vacation. I enjoyed the travel for the most part, but now that I have no reasons to visit another country, I'm content with staying on this tropical island. However, I do like to get out and around Bali to visit friends, shake out some cobwebs and see what new developments are happening in other areas.

Since my last stroke in May, I've been following doctor's order to restrict my activities on the motorcycle. But, the kampung can get claustrophobic, the weather has been lovely, the main tourist season is winding down, and I've felt the need to prove to myself that I can still do the 2-3 hour trips around Bali that I love. Being out on the road in the countryside where the air is clear and laced with the sweet fragrances of cloves, oranges and frangipani is one of the activities that I most look forward to. And, the road from Singaraja to Kubutambahan to Kintamani to Ubud is one of my favorite roads on the island; the lack of traffic, the incredible scenery, the smiling faces and the transition from the heat of the coast to the coolness of the mountains is exhilarating.

So with a few trepidations – would I have another fugue state, would I have another stroke, how would I deal with traffic once I reached Tegallalang – I packed a bag for a few days and headed off into the brilliant morning sun. After four months of being confined to Singaraja, the openness of the road and the possibilities of some new adventure in Ubud heightened all my senses and the sense of foreboding quickly vanished. This sparsely traveled stretch of Bali's over-congested roads can take a driver back to the simpler days of the past. As I left the coast behind, I could breathe deeply the intoxicating essence of cloves drying in the sun alongside the road.

Up through Kintamani and down to Ubud, the road was clear and the weather gorgeous. Making the sharp turn to the west in Kintamani, I was surprised that the usual police detail checking licenses and vehicle registrations was absent. This alone was enough to make me think that I had slipped into a fugue state again and taken the wrong road; my confidence was suddenly shaken and I was sure that I had never taken that road before. I missed imagined roadmarkers that would tell me I was on the correct path to the southern entrance to Jalan Raya in Ubud. I pulled over, smoke a cigarette and gathered my thoughts. Calmed, I drove down the road still concerned about the lack of vehicles carrying tourists. But, just as I was about to pull over again to check on directions in a small warung, I came up to the tourist spot where carloads of holiday visitors stop to get a few photos of Bali's fabled rice terraces. Ah, I was on the right road; time to forget about the earlier signs, things were all right in the world.

Pulling into Jalan Kajeng in Ubud, I parked in front of my favorite homestay and wandered in. One of the family members shouted out, “Bapak, you're back. How are you? You're room in the back is free.” And, indeed, it was. All of the other rooms were filled with young tourists, but my room in the back of the homestay was empty, as if it was waiting for me to come on this test drive. Shortly other family members came back to greet me and inquire about my health. Did I go the hospital after the last visit? What did the doctor say? Did I want some food?

I settled in long enough to text my old American friend to inform him that I was back in Ubud and almost instantly he called to invite me for lunch. The family brought me some hot water for coffee and an ashtray. I took off for a delicious lunch at my friend's house along with the usual rapid fire conversation about the state of Bali and Indonesia along with a few grandparent stories. Back at the homestay later that afternoon, the family informed me that they were having some family ceremonies the next day and I was not to eat outside because I would be eating with the family.

Living in the city of Singaraja has its benefits, but the downside is the ceaseless amount of noise coming from multiple sources. The homestay in Ubud, on the other hand, is an island of tranquility in the center of one of Bali's favorite tourist and expat destinations. I spent my first night relaxing with some reading, writing and listening to old hippie music from the 60s. Unlike the old days, my bed at the homestay is just the right amount of softness and with the fan, I can easily lapse into a comfortable sleep unbothered by the trials and tribulations of life on a tropical island.

An early morning walk up Jalan Kajeng confirms that the long arm of the spiritual seekers and the greedmongers is spreading everywhere. New spas and “traditional” (non-Balinese, however) therapy shops have sprouted along the street like mushrooms after a night's rain. The Eat, Pray and Love ladies scoot up and down the street on their small motorbikes making their social connections for the day. Unlike the scene 20 plus years ago, these are foreigners connecting to foreigners. Despite the usual PC Bali expat line, the gap between “locals” and foreigners seems to be growing. I beat a hasty retreat to the homestay, take a shower and wander off to visit my favorite bookstore. The family stops me as I'm leaving to remind me not to eat in a restaurant today.

Down Jalan Raya in central Ubud, I give my friendly “no thank you” to the many offers of transportation. Arriving at the bookstore, I see a sign that it's closed; I check around the side door and it's open. Within five minutes, I've found a 1956 edition of Being and Nothingness, a copy of Tim Hannigan's excellent book on Raffles in Java, and a copy of Graham Greene's Monseigneur Quixote. And, I tell the shop girls that the front door says the shop is closed.

Back home, I get a huge plate of lawar – a Balinese specialty. I finish the plate and lay down on my bed to read Tim's book on Raffles. I'm asleep in ten minutes. Off again on another walk, I stroll down to the music shop that has been around since my first visit to Ubud in 1989. I buy some earphones so that I can listen to music while writing later in the night. I stop in one of the chi-chi restaurants for a beer and listen to a rather loud conversation about spiritual cleansing. I think that perhaps my problem is that I haven't had my chakra aligned correctly. But, as the Aussies say, no worries. I head back home as the sun is beginning to set. I do my ritual greeting with the family grandpa only to realize that many years ago he and I were the same age. I have to check my mirror or that painting in the attic. One of the ladies follows me with another plate of lawar. I finish off the lawar, have a few vodkas and tonics, work on the new introduction to my book on Bali and drift off to sleep.

As I leave for Singaraja the next morning, I make sure to say good-bye to everyone in the family that is around. Clouds fill the sky and a light rain falls gently on my helmet as I pull out of the homestay. Fifteen kilometers up the road the sun peeks out and by the time I reach Kintamani, I have a sight sunburn. Two schoolgirls shoot past me on their little motor-scooter and giggle. Life could be worse than living on this endlessly fascinating island.

Thursday, June 06, 2013

Walking with Zoey

As noted in my last post here, during the late months of one of my daughter's pregnancy, we used to go out for daily walks to prepare her for giving birth. I enjoyed having someone to accompany on my walks around the city and it was a new experience for Rebecca (not being one to go out walking if there was a working motorbike nearby). With Rebecca away in Denpasar, I've started taking my morning walks with my new partner – Zoey, my granddaughter.

Early morning from 6:30 on is the preferred time for adults around the island to walk their infants and toddlers. Sometimes, it's a grandparent, other times a parent or older sibling, and lacking those an interested neighbor will take a small child out for a walk. Indonesia is one of those “it takes a village to raise a child” places. The older kids wander the kampung playing with friends, watching adults work on fishing boats or construction projects or do duty babysitting younger siblings. There's always adults around to guide children when they get into something dangerous (like jumping off the pier). But, for right now, I'm Zoey's transport, guide into life in the kampung and live-in English teacher.

I pop Zoey in her little front carrier, put a cap on her head to protect her from the morning sun and we're ready to go. We wander east through the kampung towards the harbor. Adults and most children already know Zoey and greet her as we pass. There's always the comments about Pak Guru (me) speaking to Zoey in English and about how much I'm spoiling her (a good thing here until kids get older). Small children shout out “What's her name?” I tell them her name is Zoey, and they repeat it over and over, “Zoey, Zoey, Zoey.” Zoey doesn't care – she hasn't figured out what her name is yet, apparently because she hasn't had the right ceremony for that sort of thing.

Zoey stares at the tall trees along the seawall fascinated by the large green leaves. We head out behind the Hindu temple and come out into the harbor area. There's a small merry-go-round and some miniature electric cars for kids to play on along with sellers of balloons and cheap Chinese-made toys. We pass the Chinese temple with it's bright red and white colors and closely manicured grass glistening in the morning sun. I say hello to my friend who's chatting inside. We come out at the bridge, pass the policemen directly morning traffic and head along the street past the still-closed building supply shops and then further on past the automobile parts shops and furniture stores. I wave hello to the lady who owns the large bicycle shop on the corner and we're back in the kampung. We wander over to my brother-in-law's house and chat until Zoey has had enough with not moving and starts to fuss. As soon as we get on the move again, she laughs. It's clear who is in control on our walks.

Back past her grandmother's shop who checks to see if Zoey is asleep. We wander west along the small street that skirts the seawall. Old friends and acquaintances say hello and come up to comment on Zoey's chubby cheeks barely holding themselves back from pinching them as everyone loves to do here. They've been warned off this by my wife who's told them that I'm overprotective so only look and don't touch. We stop at the small bridge for a few minutes and watch the men fishing and then head over the Hindu cemetery to look at the goats who are out every morning scavenging through the rubbish that is washed up on the beach. The sun's climbing, I'm hot and Zoey is hungry. Time to head back home.

Back at the house, Zoey and I go up to the third floor, where I turn on the fan, make a bottle and tune in the morning baseball game on Fox Sports. I lie down besides Zoey and we relax watching the game. It's not long before we're both asleep after another morning's adventure.

Sunday, February 03, 2013

Living in Singaraja Bali: Walking with Rebecca

Back in Singaraja once again after a few months in Denpasar (written about over at lifeinthetropics), Rebecca and I have been taking hour walks around the city early in the morning so that she gets some doctor-ordered exercise before she gives birth sometime later this month. I tried to get the other children to accompany us, but they are definitely not up for early morning exercise. Today we took off to wander the streets and neighborhoods to the west of Kampung Bugis. Even at 6:30, the streets are teeming with traffic and the small, local markets packed with throngs of ibus (ibu is a generic term of address for adult women similar to Mrs. or Ms.; it also means mother ) doing their shopping for the day's cooking.

Unlike years past, many of the neighborhoods now have narrow sidewalks, although using them can be a challenge as they are often used as parking spaces for motorbikes, convenient spots to expand the boundaries of small shops and eateries called warungs and places of rest for the irritating presence of Bali's wandering dogs (still here despite the roundups over the last few years due to the rabies epidemic on the island). We navigate our way through these obstructions, carefully hugging the edge of street so as not to become one of Bali's many traffic fatalities. A young mother-to-be and her old father gather a few stares and some smiles along the way, as well as some surprised greetings from neighbors, family and acquaintances who are also out shopping, having some exercise, or just passing the time watching life in neighborhoods.

Out on Jalan Dewi Sartika, we pass an old acquaintance who built one of the first discos in North Bali several decades ago. I rarely see him these days and am surprised to notice his graying, thinning hair. I still have a mental image of him as he looked decades ago when we'd sit in his bar/restaurant having a few beers while talking about life in North Bali. We chat about what we're up to these days and how many grandkids we have and make some plans to get together in the near future. The chance encounters with old friends that I've had since I've been back in Singaraja reminds me of just how long I've been here in Bali and how much things have changed here over the past several decades. The north coast is in the process of changing from a quaint, sleepy, laid-back melting pot of Bali's diverse population to a bustling large city somewhat marred by the lack of central planning in its development (something common to all areas of Bali these days, as everyone from locals to Western expats to monied Javanese rush to get a piece of Bali while prices for land and houses continue on in a crazy spiral onwards and upwards).

A nephew drives by in his bemo and gives us a few honks and a wave, a brother-in-law pulls over to the side of the street to ask where we've been on our walk today, a neighbor corrals Rebecca to check her tummy and ask when she got back from Denpasar. We walk out onto the main road, Jalan A. Yani, and surprisingly the traffic here is less intense than on the little sidestreets. A few policemen are out controlling the traffic; one waves and I gesture to inquire if I can take his photo. He gives me a big smile and the thumbs-up sign.

Farther along A. Yani as we head for home, I notice a new bakery. I know that there's another one on Jalan Diponegoro. As I take a photo, I wonder what market forces have brought about the openings of all the bakeries that I came across while living in Denpasar and see now opening in Singaraja. Baked goods have long been a part of the Indonesian diet, but in the past they were generally sold in small shops along with a variety of other goods; now we have gleaming, Western-style bakeries specializing in cakes, donuts, and a variety of breads. I know now where to buy my wife's birthday cake this year.

Back home again, the cat that Rebecca and I rescued a few months ago in a field in Denpasar is racing through the house looking for our rabbit; the two have become somewhat unlikely friends. It's time to begin the chores for the day under the cloudy Singaraja sky.

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Trip to Padangbai: A Little Old, a Little New: Part II

The large beer disappeared quickly, as did the two bottles of water. The lumpia were different from what I usually eat – larger, softer and in a sauce – but excellent. Refreshed, I engaged in the usual friendly banter with the two young women who were waiting on me: where are you from, where are you going, are you married, how many children do you have, is your wife from here, how long have you been in Bali? As always, this was a pleasant way to pass the time while the ngaben continued slowly moving south with traffic still backed up in front of the hotel.

I was watching a tattooed Indonesian fellow give instructions to a guy who had pulled into the driveway in a small flatbed truck. They loaded the Harley onto the truck, made sure it was secure and then sat down at the next table to have coffee. The tattooed fellow jumped up right after he had sat down and introduced himself to me as Edi, owner of the Bali Permai, the motorcycle and the Kijang. He sat down at my table, ordered me a coffee and started up a conversation. Originally from Jakarta, Edi has a Harley business in Jakarta, but he also has this hotel and a new place down the road in Amed. We passed some time discussing our marriages, kids, land prices in Bali, the hotel business, Edi's love of Harleys, his tattoos and the changing nature of Tulamben. In the middle of the conversation, Edi jumped up again – this guy has an amazing amount of energy – and ran off into the hotel, returning with a large key chain imprinted with the hotel's name and a Harley symbol, which he presented to me as a gift. He also reminded me to recommend his place to any friends of mine who might be visiting Bali. Eventually the ngaben moved off the main road, the traffic cleared up and it was time to be on the road again.

Driving through Tulamben, I briefly consider spending the night there, but I have fond memories of staying in Tulamben back in the old days when there were only a few accommodations in the village before it became a busy diving center. I decide to head on through the east coast's lunar landscape to Candidasa with the idea that I might stay there for the night rather than continue all the way to Padangbai. Once past Tulamben the road veers off from the coast and up through a series of hills that offer some of the most beautiful visions of rice paddies in Bali. Over the years, I have taken hundreds of photos in this area, and when I have visitors they always want to stop and absorb the magnificent landscape. I cruise up and over the hills, rice paddies glistening under a Balinese sun.

The traffic in Amlapura is a bit more congested than usual. Probably another ceremony. This is a town that I have always found attractive, spacious and clean. I'd like to live here for a while. Why isn't there enough time to live in all these places that I find attractive. Traveling – I find traveling somewhat less than satisfying – it's too quick, too ephemeral, if this is Tuesday it must be Belgium. The anthropologist in me wants to know what the people are like; what do they do at night, do they argue loudly or in whispers, where do they shop, what is it about this place that they love? But to live somewhere, to occupy a place, to bend time and space to squeeze inside the hearts and souls of the people. Well, not today for sure, not this life most likely, but maybe another time around.

As quickly as the traffic appears, it disappears and before I know it, I'm entering Candidasa. Clusters of well-dressed tourists roam the main street – this is definitely not Kuta. But, the vibe doesn't seem right for me to stay and despite my sunburned hands, arms and face, I decide to cruise on through the village to Padangbai because that's the real mystery for me. A place that I've passed through dozens of times, yet never explored. Thirsty again, I'm in the rhythm of the road. The bike and I have reached that place where we're joined – it's been over 200 clicks today over the rough Bali roads and I feel that I can ride another 200.

I hit the turnoff to Padangbai and get a rush; without realizing it I have the bike over 100kph – fast for a Balinese road. I pull back some and cruise into the village almost entering the ferry terminal from the memory map based on almost ten years of ferry trips. Sharply turning left onto a small road, I think that I must have missed a turnoff – this can't be Padangbai because there's nothing here. Piles of garbage on a narrow, nondescript street and some guides looking for business. But as I negotiate a sharp corner just ahead, I see the Zen Inn. I've reached the tourist section of the village.

Slowly cruising past small shops selling water, biscuits, batteries and everything that a tourist might possible want. A restaurant with a few attractive ladies in front, a dive center, another restaurant, another shop. I'm trying to reach into the recesses of an old, somewhat battered memory bank for the information from a travel article that I wrote on Padangbai a few years ago for the USA Today. Nothing is coming forward, and as I'm thinking of turning back to check out the Zen Inn, I see a young woman sitting on the street in front of a sign for Marco Inn

I pull over, suddenly exhausted, and ask if she works for the inn. Yes, she owns it with her foreign husband. How much is a room? I ask. Hoping that it will be under my limit of 150,000 per night. Ah, it's 100,000. No need for me to bargain. That magical number that I love. I've never been let down in rooms that go for that price. Now 150,000, I've had good and bad experiences, but 100,000 just perfect. I stumble off the bike feeling a bit bowlegged. The young lady giggles and tries to hide it. I just smile, I feel like I'm home. I don't even need to see the room to know it will work. But, of course, there are conventionalities to be followed. This is Bali after all and even a weary traveler looking for whatever it is that brought me here must follow conventions.  

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Back from a Long Trip to Ubud: My Oasis in Bali

Generally my trips to Ubud only last a day or two; this time I decided to stay down there for a while for a needed change of pace. There are times when living in a small, crowded kampung just gets to be a bit much. My favorite place to stay in Ubud is a small homestay – they actually call themselves an inn – with a friendly family, decent rent, good breakfasts and a quiet peaceful garden that is ideal for just sitting, thinking and writing. No TV, no internet connection, just some books, some time and a little peace.

I've been staying there for 23 years. I've brought my eldest son, my wife and close friends with me on a few trips, but mostly I stay there alone. It's the place where I go when I need to reflect and not concern myself with what's happening outside of my inner landscape. Artja's is the closest I can get to occupying a remote world while being right in the center of the teeming tourist/expat world of central Ubud.

I drove up to Kintamani and then down to Ubud as usual. The trip has become so routine that I can get lost in my thoughts while driving through some of Bali's most spectacular countryside absorbing the almost timeless spell that this region casts upon me ; a rare treat and something that I never take lightly. The sweet smell of cloves drying along the roadside; the warmth of sunbeams piercing through the tall trees outlining the road.

Stopped by a large police contingent checking all foreigners's driving documents, I had a quick smile and bit of banter while they checked my licenses and registration. Pulling into Artja Inn, I was warmly welcomed and led to my favorite room in the far back: a simple, but comfortable bed, a small fan, an open-air shower and a small verandah. The small mirror in the bathroom a welcomed addition for morning shaving.

The family and I exchanged greetings and small talk about the weather in Ubud and Buleleng (my home region). I unpacked my gear, finishing just as the hot water arrives for use with the endless supply of coffee and tea that sit on a small table on each verandah.

This trip was unusual in that I stayed five days; a long, curious encounter with a group of local expats; wandering through areas of Ubud that I haven't visited in decades, and spending a few days engaged in delightful conversations with a couple of young tourists from France and Germany. Those people that know me well, know that I tend to shy away from contact with new people, but on this trip I met more new people than I have met in the three years that I've been back in Bali after my six year stay in Sumbawa.

Hours of tales, reminiscences, cautions, culture and history lessons. Speaking with a fellow Chicagoan we spin tales of writers, politicians, wars, riots, money come and gone, women loved and lost. New Yorkers, Californians, film-makers, antique dealers, everyone with a fascinating history, but now somehow all gathered here in Bali. It's a long way from the kampung; some needed stimulus for my own work which gets confused and contorted with too much isolation.

I dread the entrance of the two young tourists who take the room next to mine. Young, beautiful people; laughing they introduce themselves and ask for advice about where to visit on their two days in Ubud. I take the role of the old-timer and offer a few suggestions. They wander off to explore the area. The next day they arrive excited from a long day out touring and shopping. The young lady, radiantly beautiful, excitedly describes her purchase of a silk sarong. She pops inside and quickly appears to model it for her companion and me. It is indeed lovely, but as I've often found, local clothes somehow fit better on locals. But, we both offer our congratulations on her purchase of such a lovely piece of cloth. She wants to go out and try the nightlife. Her companion opts to relax in his room, but he asks a question and it begins hours of talk about the culture of the island and the country, about his interests and mine. It's a rewarding few hours of sharing – a long time since I've done that with a stranger.

In the morning, he takes his leave for Sanur thanking me for the evening's talk. I'm somewhat amazed that he hadn't found it another long, boring discourse on local culture from an old anthropologist. She stays for a while, has a coffee and a short chat and then is on her way with new companions who will share her last few days in the country.

I spend another few days exploring the lanes of Ubud; arriving back each day sweaty, thirsty and filled with wonder at how despite the hordes of foreigners that crowd the streets and lanes of Ubud, it has somehow managed to retain its charm; maybe not quite as quaint as it once was many years ago, but still somehow intoxicating when viewed in the fading light of an afternoon's sun.

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Trip to Padangbai: A Little Old, a Little New: Part I

With a house full of people, only half of whom I knew and a continuous, deafening booming from some terrible dangdut that started at 6:30 am and was scheduled to go on until midnight, I was getting to feel like a cranky old man complaining about the noise and the people. Indonesians, like many other Southeast Asians, love loud music – the louder the better – and crowds of people – the more the merrier. No matter how long I live here, my core personality is not going to change. So, in the interests of everyone, I decided that it would be a good idea to hit the road. I wasn't planning on one of my overnight trips, so I hopped on the bike with just my handphone and digital camera. The plan was just to get out of the house for a while and give everyone some space to do their own thing.

A visit to Pemuteran seemed like a good drive on a lovely sunny Sunday morning. Passing through the Lovina area, I was struck by how ugly it's become – full of villas, furniture stores, bakeries, repair shops, restaurants, bars and one hotel after the next. The bucolic scenes of the past are gone forever, as Lovina strives to become a cut rate version of Kuta and Legian. The old Chicago Transit Authority songs, Does Anybody Really Know What Time It Is? and 25 Or 6 To 4, kept running through my head as I blasted through Kalibukbuk, Temukus and Banjar heading towards Seririt.

scenes from the past
I was surprised to see that Seririt had a Hardys – seems they're everywhere on the island now since they're popular with both locals and foreigners. Seririt looked more prosperous than in the past, and without the glut of tourist-oriented businesses, I felt that I was getting back into an easier, less crowded and less hectic past. Through Grogak thinking you may think that you lost out on the much discussed second Bali international airport, but you've won. I had to pull my bike over for a short break while a ngaben wove down the main road. Then up to Pulaki where there was a major ceremony in process. I took a quick look and headed into Pemuturan.

By this time my wife texted me to let me know that the ceremonies in the house would be going on until midnight and I might as well just stay over night. I texted back to make sure I understood her message. I pulled over in Pemuturan looking at possible accommodations for the night. The vibe just wasn't right; something seemed uncomfortable and out of balance. Working more on instinct than logic, I turned the bike around and headed back to Kalibukbuk to have a few drinks at my favorite beachside restaurant. Pulling in at the beach, I was surprised, disappointed and depressed to see my favorite place torn down and something new under construction. A feeling of having something wonderful from my past disappear enveloped me; I headed back towards Singaraja not sure of my next step.

As I drove down Jalan Diponegoro, the destination Padangbai popped into my head. I've long wanted to spend a night there and as I hadn't received a reply from my wife yet, I drove on through Singaraja heading west. Passing through Air Sanih, I thought about stopping for a snack and a drink, but the road was filled with restless looking young men waiting for something to do. I wanted to stay small, under the radar, an invisible old man driving through the countryside. I drove on towards Tulamben, one of the old places during my early years in Bali where I'd go to have a swim, spend a night or two reading, drinking beer, writing, chatting to the local guys. Maybe I'll stop there I thought. Save myself from more driving as I was suddenly aware of a sunburn developing on my hands and forearms.

ngaben in Tulamben
I love the drive down the east coast with the change to a drier ecosystem with cacti lining the roads. Entering the village of Kubu, I had to stop. Traffic was backed up, and I could see far ahead of me one of the magnificent creamation towers swaying in the breeze coming off the sea slightly cooling the cloudless heat of early afternoon. Passing the long line of cars and trucks, I moved close enough to take a few photos and then quickly retreat to a small patch of shade under a few trees lining the roadside. I waited for an hour with a changing collection of Balinese – families of four and five on a small motorbike, a few grizzled veterans of many ngaben sharing a kretek cigarette on an old Honda, two dazzling young beauties in their finest ceremonial clothes pulled alongside to say hello, and I was transfixed by their huge dayglow sunglasses that rocketed me back to the 60s. Every so often I would move up along with the gathering crowd in the back of the procession and look for a new bit of shade. Seriously burned now and more than a little dehydrated, I started looking for a warung or restaurant to take shelter in for some shade, food, water and beer.

Like a mirage in this coastal desert, a sign appeared – Pondok Wisata, Bali Permai. I inched forward to see a few young women sitting around a table watching the scene. In the small driveway was a shiny new Kijang and a gleaming Harley Davidson. Signs from somewhere, I pulled in, slowly peeled myself off my burning saddle, and slipped into a chair in a table in a shady place. I decided to save the usual chitchat for later and ordered two lumpia, a large beer and two cold bottles of water.

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Walking Tour of Singaraja: Jalan Erlangga and Jalan Hasanuddin

Today I'm going to walk up Jalan Hasanuddin which is just a street to the east of Jalan Imam Bonjol, which I wrote about in the last walking tour post.

A map of my walks.
After leaving Kampung Bugis walking to the east comes the intersection of Jalan Diponegoro and Jalan Erlangga. Actually, Jalan Dipongegoro becomes Jalan Erlangga in that way that streets do here. Navigating any city in Bali is made more difficult by the fact that house and shop numbers do not necessarily change sequentially and one street suddenly becomes another without warning. Detailed maps may be of some help, but how many of us carry maps around with us? So out onto Jalan Erlangga; this is a short street. This part of it is narrow and often congested because of traffic coming from Jalan Diponegoro, which, as one of the main streets of Singaraja, gets a lot of traffic, and Jalan Pattimura which runs through Kampung Bugis and gets a lot of traffic because all of the trucks coming from the west have to be routed through Jalan Pattimura. Find a photo. A lot of cars and delivery trucks double park here which adds to the congestion.

Jalan Erlangga has a large furniture shop where we buy most of our furniture. We'll occasionally run into foreigners from the Lovina area shopping for furniture there. This is not the expensive custom made furniture, but they have some nice beds and a few other pieces. One the south side of Erlangga is another furniture shop. We buy things there occasionally. Additionally, there are several automotive parts stores, a fishing/photography shop, a small grocery store selling dry goods and beverages, a baby shop and at several bicycle stores. Other buildings include a mosque and a store selling generators, hardware and other building tools.

Jalan Hasanuddin, Singarja Bali
Jalan Erlangga continues on past the intersection with Jalan Imam Bonjol. Here, Jalan Erlangga becomes a wider two-way street. Both sides have a number of shops selling building supplies such as paint, plywood, ceramic tiles, tools, varnish, nails and bolts, cement, and a variety of other building materials. This section of Jalan Erlangga continues on about 200 meters until it reaches the entrance to the old harbor and the bridge; it then becomes Jalan Surapati. Right across from the entrance to the bridge on the south side of the street is the start of Jalan Hasanuddin. Like Jalan Imam Bonjol, Jalan Hasanuddin is a one-way street running south. A lot of the buildings on Jalan Hasanuddin are storage facilities for local businesses. There is a busy pharmacy, a dentist's office and a pediatrician's office close by. Going south a ways is a pet supply store. No pets, just supplies like cages, aquariums, food for any number of creatures, and cigarettes. Yes, this pet store sell cigarettes.

Jalan Hasanuddin continues on south until it curves to the west and joins up with Jalan Imam Bonjol. As I walked this short stretch, I could hear the screams and laughter of children. I looked up and noticed an elementary school. I expected that because of the noise level the kids would be out on recess, but they were safely tucked away inside the classrooms. A large bathroom and tile store sits right at the intersection of Hasanuddin and Imam Bonjol. We've bought a few faucets and a toilet from them. They have a small, but interesting selection of bathroom fixtures, including a large solar water heater. This kind of store wasn't around in Singaraja when we were building each of our houses. To get Western-type building supplies, we had to go down to Denpasar, and even there, the selection was limited. Singaraja has become more Western friendly in terms of construction materials, and, even Indonesians are now buying Western-type furnishings for their homes. Recently we visited a neighbor's house and were surprised to see that they had a Western toilet in their bathroom along with a fancy sink and cabinet set. Across the street is a fairly large building supply store that sells paint, wood, plastic piping and so on.

And just where Jalan Imam Bonjol ends and splits into two streets, Jalan Gajah Mada starts and leads south to Denpasar. Jalan Dr. Sutomo splits off to the west for a short distance and becomes Jalan A. Yani which heads off to Lovina. Right at this busy intersection (noticeable for the large statute that marks the intersection), Singaraja's post office is located. Generally the post office isn't too busy, and it now has a small ATM in the parking lot.

I follow Jalan Dr. Sutomo – it only runs about 150 meters at the most – over to Jalan Diponegoro. Jalan Dr. Sutomo has a mix of small businesses that sell books, household goods and electronics. There is also a small internet shop that I used a few times when my internet connection was out. Perhaps most importantly, Bank Central Asia is here just across from the south entrance to Singaraja's main market. BCA has an ATM machine and inside it's possible to change currency including traveler checks. A police post, a clothing store and a motorcyle store.

As I was walking home, I noticed that I forgot last post to mention all the gold shops on Jalan Diponegoro and the little street Jalan Sawo that heads east off Jalan Diponegoro. So, this covers the closest streets to my house heading east. Next post, I'll take a look at the main road heading out to the east.