Any US citizen with a passport can get a 30 day Visa to Indonesia when entering the country. We spent an extra $35 each to purchase Visa On Arrival, which enables the option of extending our stay another 30 days. And clearly 30 days is not enough so we need to have this completed by August 30th. There are 3 immigration offices in Bali where a person can do this themselves, so we headed towards Singrajah along the central northern coast, which is much less busy than the offices down south around Denpasar.
One of the brothers from the homestay in Amed drove us the 85 km along the coastal road - about 2 1/2 hours, to Villa Agung Beach Inn, between Singrajah & Lovina. This is a beautiful little resort right on the beach, run the last 22 years by a couple of US ex-pats, Gus & Sandy. The summer is winding down so we actually had the whole place to ourselves, complete with a full restaurant and pool! Pretty cool.
Monday morning (26/08/19) we headed over to Immigracion to start the process. First thing we found out is we needed more copies. I walked around the back where a guy had set up a copy machine, and there was a tiny 1-person post office to collect the fees. We turned in the paperwork and were given a receipt and told to come back Wednesday. Officials were helpful & friendly.
Tuesday was wide open so we made arrangements to see some of North Bali with Wayan Ardika, who helps Gus out at times. We headed south into the hills in Wayan's Toyota Rush. First stop was his "garden" where he grows cacao (exports to Germany) & coffee. From there we climbed to the top of this mountain on a narrow winding road and stopped to arrange a "jungle trek", which was a not-too-strenuous hike through the forest and down to Tamblingan Lake. Our young guide was very informative, pointing out the huge "strangler" ficus trees and other flora, as well as explaining items of daily living in Bali. We didn't see any wild pigs or green mambas- just one little toad, and made our way safely to the temple at the shoreline where a small ceremony was taking place. Several boats were waiting to ferry folks across the small lake to the other side where vehicles, and Wayan, were waiting.
Next up was a visit to one of the most popular attractions during the summer - Banyumala Twin Waterfalls. We drove down a 1 lane "road" - and when we encountered a large oncoming vehicle we had to reverse until we found a pullout. After parking, we walked down a long concrete path with motorbikes zipping past until we came to an area with a resto & some benches. Wayan said he would wait there for us, and recommended we grab a walking stick from a nearby pile.
Good thing we did, because it was another 30 minutes down a steep path - partly steps and part "ramp", with some railings. NOT handicap accessible! But the destination was def worth it, as the falls really were awesome. There was a nice, shallow pool below the falls and many folks were sitting, wading & splashing around. We contented ourselves with looking around and absorbing the beauty, before tackling the return trip up. Back at the resto we rewarded ourselves with pizza (tasted like frozen) and ice cream.
Feeling pretty worn out now, Wayan assured us the next, and last stop would be much more leisurely. Ulun Danu Beratan Temple is one of the most famous in Bali, with photos of the many-tiered building in the mist showing up on most Google searches of Bali. The grounds are beautiful and well maintained with a large variety of flowers, trees and plants, and there are many various temples, shrines and buildings. It was fairly busy, but not like July or early August. On the way home Wayan stopped at his house and introduced us to his lovely wife, Ketut, and served us some tasty Balinese coffee from his own garden.
Wednesday we walked the 2 km and arrived at Immigracion when they opened at 8, and got our pictures taken and fingerprints made in short order. Back to Villa Agu breakfast and a lazy day of lying about and reading. No need to go crazy every day! Our choice of sitting on our porch, a lounge chair by the pool, or bean bags in a little pagoda overlooking the beach.
We decided to splurge on dinner Wed night and try Buda Bakery a couple kilometers from here, on recommendation from our hosts. Started with a tasty rum drink for me and a bottle of Chardonnay for Susie (she took most of it home ). Tuna Tataki app that was awesome and homemade bread. For entrée she had mahi-mahi & tuna plus veggies & mashed potatoes while I had the “special” duck confit. Everything was really delicious and the presentation and service was perfect.
Of course we had to try a dessert which meant some chocolate lava cake with coffee ice cream! All this for about $50! And did I mention that they sent a driver to pick us up and bring back home afterwards? Wow!!!
By Thursday we were ready for more adventures, so Wayan & Ketut picked us up and we headed towards the Air Panas Banjar hot springs, which were not so crowded at mid-morning. We parked and walked along a narrow street where many vendors had just started opening their shops for the day. Entering the springs we saw 3 different areas where you can soak in the greenish water, with new water running in through the mouths of dragons(?) along the uphill wall.
Changing rooms were free, but lockers & toilets cost a buck. The water was about 95 degrees and felt very pleasant on a warm morning. We tried all 3 pools while encouraging the healing water to remove all our aches, pains, troubles & demons away forever.
After changing back into our street clothes Wayan suggested we might like to see another beautiful temple nearby so off we go. As we get close we are slowed by a procession of worshippers walking up the street ahead of us, who have walked all the way from the sea. Everyone must have proper dress to enter this temple so we don the sarongs we have brought and enter Brahmavihara-Arama temple.
This compound is a beautiful example of Hindu and Buddhist temples and structures, with many different buildings and statues. In one structure we take turns shaking some marked sticks from a can and Wayan looked up the results in a holy book.
On the way back home we stop at Pepito Market - the biggest grocery we have seen so far, but nothing like a Publix or Aldi. You would think we had never been in a supermarket before! And we were kinda hungry, so we stocked up on junk. Back to Villa Agung & a nice leisurely dinner with Gus.
Friday morning and back to get our extended Visas - all went according to plan and we got back to Villa Agung shortly, legal until the end of September. Wayan & Ketut have invited us to attend a large celebration for their village Friday night, so Gus gives us a ride to their home about 6pm. Ketut had a beautiful blouse and sarong that she dressed Susie up with and we walked on down to the celebration with Uncle Putu and the neighbor's young daughter.
There would probably be a thousand people through the celebration before the night was over, but there were at least several hundred milling around outside while some ceremony was already in progress inside. While waiting about 45 minutes the crowd increased and we were in a big crush of folks when they opened the narrow gate, and pushed into a large, partially covered area.
Most people were sitting on straw mats and we found places in front of the Gamelan orchestra made up mostly of boys & young men. First there was music from the orchestra, and then prayers were offered. Several men then walked carefully through the audience sprinkling holy water on everyone and providing holy rice to stick to your forehead and chest.
After more prayers everyone stands and shuffles around a bit while a group of local women dressed in white and yellow prepared to do a beautiful Balinese dance. This is followed by another dance where the Barong (looked like a Chinese dragon to me) and the Rangda, the demon queen do battle. The Barong had 2 guys inside it, and apparently the rear guy got over-excited or something because at the conclusion the Barong's rear end ran right into us, knocking over a few people! Picking myself up I saw a couple of the "bouncers" carrying a man out of the tent. Susie thought it was the Barong guy. Whew!
We were so scrunched in there it felt good to get up and walk on out. But what an amazing experience. The Hindu religion is very complicated with many rituals and celebrations, but these people learn it from the time they are born and it is a natural way of life, with a beautiful respect for family, community and nature.
31/08/19 - Saturday we were on the move again, and feeling a bit sad on leaving some wonderful new friends we have made. Wayan & Ketut's son Daniel (and cousin) drove us down the coast to our next destination - Pemuteran. Sampai jumpa!