Sanur, Bali

We decided to get out of the cold weather of Taiwan. After digging around for direct flights to tropical locales (my little daughter doesn't do airport stopovers very well), we came up with Bali. This was my third trip to Indonesia and my first to Bali since 1991. Instead of heading to Kuta Beach, the natural choice for visitors, we chose the quieter Sanur. I think this was a terrific move, especially after visiting Kuta, our original choice, for a couple of hours last Thursday. Kuta has really gone downhill in the last 17 years, sliding into as my colleague described it, a kind of Fort Lauderdale for Australians. Even though high season is not yet in full gear, the beach in Kuta was more packed than Waikiki (I've never been to Florida, but I can just imagine). It was wall-to-wall noise, filth and inanity.

I've posted a pic of the beach in front of our Sanur hotel (the Sagara Village Hotel) for a bit of contrast. Needless to say, we couldn't get out of Kuta fast enough - back to our nice quiet patch of sand.
The Bintang, Bali Hai Draft and regular Bali Hai were all waiting patiently for our return. The Bintang goes, on average, for $11,000 rupiah (about 90 cents US.) You can expect to save $500 rupiah on Bali Hai Draft and Bali Hai regular.
The Stone Pillar (above) is said to be the oldest artifact yet to be dated in Bali. The language on the stone could be an ancient version of Javanese that is not widely understood anymore. Located in Sanur, it's an obscure site, even to locals.

When I told the taxi driver the address - just down the street - he was perplexed. Taking the address out of my hand, he stared at it and rubbed his head. Then, about five minutes later, we were pulling up in front of an alley about a meter wide. The driver got out and checked around to make sure the address was right. Then he said "This is it. In there" before collecting a $20,000 rupiah fee (about US$1.60).

The pillar is, well, unimpressive. The temple next door, which is half in ruins, seemed a lot more intriguing. I googled Stone Pillar just a few minutes ago, and this is what I got: http://www.baliblog.com/places-to-go/in-search-of-prasasti-blanjong.html
The sentiment on baliblog is about the same. It's an interesting post, with an exact date.

I think the driver thought he had scammed us, because he was still hanging around when we came out. He said: "Come on. I take you back now." I told him we'd shop our way back, but struck a deal for transport to Ubud the following day.

On our way up to Ubud (we stayed there for a couple of days), we started up a bit of a conversation. The driver was from a village around 30 minutes away, but took lodging in Sanur and returned to his wife and little child on weekends. His wife also worked, in a shop at Denpassar, so child-rearing was left to his 50-year-old unemployed father. "It's very hard here," he explained. "Harder and harder, and I'm just 26-year-old guy to say this. We make about US$100 a month." After I had translated to my wife, he turned and asked "Chinese?"

"No, Taiwanese."

"Same," he affirmed.

Knowing a bit about Bali's rocky relationship with Indonesia (or Java, where the government is) and understanding my Taiwanese wife could become agitated, I jabbed back: "Bali and Indonesia same?" The Balinese are still very, very upset with the 2002 and 2005 bombings, which were carried out by nutcases from Java, and they will differentiate themselves strongly. These individuals made a huge dent on tourism and affected the lives of, it is safe to say, one in two people on the island. I think the driver got my point. His reply was emphatic:

"No, not same! All Indonesia people? Better can't come here in Bali. Better not come."
Returning from a visit to the rice terraces outside Ubud, we drove through into a "New Year" parade (Friday, November 28). There were about 100 revelers in the road, including women balancing loads on their heads and lots of kids. Our driver, Bayu, took a mysterious tone of voice and asked: "Do you want to see the 'white bird'?" I had an image of large statue of worship that was hauled out on special occasions, so I answered:

"Yes, we do."

Bayu turned the minivan off the main road and headed up a lovely, tree-lined lane. "There's 'white bird'," he announced finally, pointing up at the trees (see above pic). The trees were teeming with white birds. According to Bayu, these are the only trees in Ubud that they come to rest in. They do so at dusk.