Monday, August 29, 2011

Ubud-der believe it

If you can drag yourself away from the monkeys in Ubud, there's plenty more to see around the unspoilt capital of Bali.

That's 'unspoilt' meaning no big shopping malls or KFCs - you can still rely on hawkers trying to force the same five pieces of tourist tat down your throat every time you come across something worth photographing, ensuring you have all you'll ever need to commemorate a right ripping-off time on the Island of the Gods. You can never have too many shit 'Jiggy-Jig' T-shirts.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Twelve monkeys

I haven't finished seeing the sights of Bali yet, but if anything beats the Sacred Monkey Forest in Ubud, I'll eat my sarong.

This place is right up my street. Literally (I'm staying on Monkey Forest Road). I haven't had such convenient macaque access (macaqcess?) since Taiwan, and as that means I'm obviously going to come here every day, this blog could easily turn into an endless gallery of hilarious monkey photos.

But you deserve to see more 'interesting' things than that (i.e. less interesting things), like temples and rice fields, so I'll simply present the top 12 monkeys.

Disclaimer: I am aware that some of these photos contain more than one monkey; that crab-eating macaques aren't technically monkeys; and that I've cheated by including monkey photos in other sections. Are you looking for a fight?

Monday, August 22, 2011

Bedugul? No, the gull and I are just good friends

There's more to enjoy in Bedugul than just low temperatures and pushy strawberry merchants. Look, there are also temples and things.

Friday, August 19, 2011

Freezing my Balis off

When I first travelled south of the equator, I optimistically wrote about looking forward to cooler temperatures - but didn't realise how soon my dream would come true.

Heading up volcanoes in Java before sunrise was an opportunity for frosty titillation, sure, but things sadly got a lot more temperate when the sun put his hat on and came out to play (the sun has to gets his hats specially made, what with them being 870,000 miles in diameter and composed of a magical fabric that doesn't burn at 5,505 °C).

Now I'm back in Bali, an island not exactly renowned for its arctic temperatures. But like the non-conformist hermit that I strive to be, I eschewed the beaches and bikinis of the coast for the nippy highlands of Bedugul. It felt like coming home, if I'd ever lived anywhere so scenic.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Malang and winding road

Where to go next after walking inside a volcano? 

Malang, apparently, to see some poorly preserved Dutch colonial buildings and dilapidated Hindu temples.

What, again?

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Into the lungs of hell

Gawping into the halitosis mouth of Bromo felt a little redundant after I visited its bigger brother Ijen the following day and went right down its oesophagus.

Entering a volcano's crater was a predictably amazing experience, and like Yeliu in Taiwan and the mossy forest at Malaysia's Cameron Highlands, the weird and contradictory environment felt like being on an alien world.

An alien world that luckily had almost the same atmospheric composition as Earth, if perhaps a little heavy on the sulphur.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Bromos before homos

Apologies for the borderline homophobic title, but once I spot a rubbish pun it's difficult to resist.

I skipped over to Java and climbed my second volcano today. If you can call it climbing when there are steps up the side that are only slightly perilous.

I woke at an unreasonable hour to enjoy a delightfully dislocating jeep ride, watch the sun rise, freeze to an unpleasant temperature even by my standards, breathe in loads of noxious sulphur and be annoyed by some Koreans who fancied themselves professional photographers. Today was amazing!

Monday, August 8, 2011

Paradise regain'd

I woke up on Day 4 in Bali feeling positive, refreshed and ready to appreciate this place properly.

The stress of the first few days had made me slightly regret choosing a middle-of-nowhere retreat away from the tourist traps of Kuta and all its resident Australian surfer Michelangelos (referring to the annoying Ninja Turtle, not the Renaissance master). But now I knew I'd made the right decision - and was able to start appreciating the landscape, temples and paddy fields of West Bali that I'd previously been too preoccupied to even notice.

These aren't major tourist sights or anything - I'll deal with those when I come back in a few weeks. This place is Nowheresville, and that's why I like it.

Friday, August 5, 2011

Paradise effing lost

It took until Day Four in Bali for me to begin to appreciate this tropical 'paradise.' Prior to this, you could say there were some 'hiccups' that prevented me from enjoying the experience fully. Though perhaps projectile vomiting occurring simultaneously with explosive diarrhoea would be a more fitting analogy (luckily this is only an analogy, and my kecks remain unsoiled).

If you're a fan of British consumer outrage, feel free to read more and learn all about the series of unfortunate events (only some of which were almost definitely completely my fault) that served to sour my first few days in Indonesia.

If you prefer your blogs happy and optimistic, take a look at the nice volcano picture and then sod off. You don't belong here!

Monday, August 1, 2011

Due south

I've been heading generally souther since I left Scotland last September. This hasn't been deliberate, it's just where each country I passed through just happened to be. And although I'd become very accustomed to the equatorial climate by the time I arrived in Singapore, my glacier-forg'd body has sometimes made me regret not restricting my travels along the Earth's x-axis instead.

Today I'm leaving the Northern Hemisphere for the first time, which is pretty exciting for me. This feels more significant than crossing some politically defined state, country or continent boundary, and if this southerly crawl continues it also means I can finally look forward to decreasing temperatures as I fall to the bottom. As well as the return of seasons - remember those?

If everything goes according to plan and I end up in Australia by the end of the year, I'll also get there just in time to experience a long-delayed winter. December's still winter, right? I can't see how that would change, just because I'm on the other side of the planet.

Oh. Bugger.

Well before all that, I have to endure a month in the tropical paradise islands of Bali and Java anyway, for more goddamn sunshine. You seriously have no idea how difficult my life is.