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Getting to Munduk

sunny 29 °C
View Get Out The Map on The Rymans's travel map.

I have lots of great new photos, but they'll have to wait another day because the internet speed all over the island is horrifically slow and just now I don't have two hours to wait while all the new pics upload! Also, my computer time lately has been pretty limited so I'm posting this without much editing...please excuse typos and rambling!

Our last few days in Ubud were quiet. Chloe was recovering from a classic case of “Bali Belly” (nothing serious) and Ciaran came down with a high fever, headache, vomiting and body aches—all the classic symptoms of, well, just about everything that would worry you, from malaria to dengue fever to influenza to minor mysterious viruses. He recovered in about 24 hours, so in the end we chalked it up to either food poisoning or a virus. He took it all in stride and has been emailing his friends to boast that he got to have Gatorade, Sprite and ginger ale all in one day.

He recovered just in time to accompany us on what turned into an all-day shopping spree on our last full day in Ubud. Ubud is a souvenir paradise as well as being the artistic heart of Bali, with galleries and artwork sprouting up everywhere, so we went on a bit of a blitz and then spent the last part of the afternoon getting it all shipped home. Altogether we sent home about 12 kg, which cost $60 by sea and will take several months to arrive. There are shops here that specialize not just in taking your money and stamping your package, but in custom wrapping your items as well. In our case, we were shipping a few paintings, including one fairly large one that was several feet long when rolled. So the shopkeeper who put together our parcel had his work cut out for him: Leaving his shop wide open with the four of us sitting on its front steps (we marvelled over how this would never happen in Canada), he took off down the street with our rolled-up paintings and returned about 20 minutes later with them safely contained in a solid plastic roll. Then he proceeded to carefully and painstakingly dissect two large shipping boxes and reassemble them into a single box long enough to accommodate the roll. We piled everything else in on top of the paintings, after which he cut, carved and taped some more until the box was just the right size. By then an hour had elapsed; it was 4 p.m. and he was due at a ceremony, so he had to stop his work. He told us that the next step would be to wrap the box in white plastic, tape the address on and, finally, send it off. We had to take his word for it that these last steps would actually happen.

The next morning we had breakfast with Jipi, a Canadian ex-pat who’s taken up residence in Ubud and has been living there for more than a decade. A mutual friend had put us in touch. It was fascinating to get Jipi’s take on how Ubud has developed since we were last here a dozen years ago. It turns out it’s not just my imagination or a case of rose-colored glasses: the place has changed dramatically since then, he said, with a tremendous increase in traffic and development. Rice fields that used to line Monkey Forest Road have been turned into hotels, motorbikes clog streets that used to be pedestrian-friendly, and tourists continue to multiply: this summer, he said, there were a few who had to sleep in the field across from the library because every single room in town was booked. He had similar stories of the transformations of other small towns we remembered enjoying last time around.

While in my opinion the proliferation of motorbikes is the scourge of Bali, the kids object more strongly to the scattered wrappers, water bottles, cigarette packages and other bits of garbage strewn along roadsides and clogging the gutters—even here in Munduk, town of orchards and waterfalls.

We left for Munduk right after breakfast. It began as a straightforward enough transfer: an overpriced ($35) two-hour ride in an air-conditioned Jeep Kijang. But our driver, Made, had other ideas. Why not stop off at the Bali Reptile Park on the way? The kids would love it. And if we agreed, he could take us on a small detour to “the best view in all of Bali” – as long as we were okay with paying him an extra $10 to cover the additional cost of gas. Since those two stops added at least two hours to our journey, everybody was starving by 1 p.m. and we were obliged to stop for lunch. Of course, Made knew just the perfect spot for us: a place in a little village named Pacung with a spectacular view. By the time we were seated, we felt bound to stay for the soggy, greasy, buffet slop that cost us a shocking and exorbitant total of $34 (up until now in Bali, we’ve been able to feed the entire family for somewhere between $8 and $12 per meal). Looking at the guidebook later on, we discovered that drivers who bring guests to this restaurant often collect half the cost of their lunch. Total cost for the day: $35 for the transfer to Munduk, $30 to enter the reptile park, $10 for the detour to a view and $34 for lunch. It’s going to take a while to earn that all back. We wondered at the end of it: Have we gone soft??? We may need to bring a healthier dose of skepticism to our dealings in the future. It’s proving more difficult than we expected to slip back into flinty backpacker mode after a decade of living large on short holidays.

While the ridiculous lunch was undoubtedly the most frustrating of the many expenses, the reptile farm was a close second, at least in my opinion. The one thing that I thought might justify the expense was the reputed presence of a Komodo dragon (according to our guidebook, which also said the park contained numerous species of reptiles from across Indonesia and Africa). But after we had bought the tickets and entered the park, a guide told us the dragon was no longer there. Aside from one or two caged snakes, including a king cobra, we saw nothing but crocodiles—dozens and dozens of them, every shape and size, either beached on rocks and looking completely dehydrated, or lying still in shallow, swampy-looking concrete pools. The visit was narrowly saved by the fact that we happened to arrive just in time to catch the daily show. Up on a type of large concrete stage, two Indonesian men seemed to be working some sort of magic with four or five large crocodiles. After completing a ritual involving prayer, flowers and incense, they started herding the giant beasts onto the concrete stage from the neighbouring pool with long bamboo poles, poking and prodding them as if to irritate them on purpose. Then one of the men would take a sip of some mysterious liquid, spit it onto the crocodile’s snout in a forceful spray, and perform insane feats, like sticking his head inside the crocodile’s mouth or lying down on top of it or, in the case of the baby crocodile, picking it up bodily and waving its arm at the crowd to scattered applause.

When the show was over, we wandered the rest of the compound in search of exotic reptiles from multiple continents, but could find nothing but dozens and dozens of crocodiles. The one item of interest was actually a plant whose leaves flattened and closed when you touched it.

I suppose maybe the plant and the show could have been worth the $30, but that’s where I draw the line. It was after the reptile park that we agreed to a detour to a tiny village named Jatiluwih, home to the aforementioned best view in all of Bali. There’s no denying the view was spectacular: off in the distance we could see the island’s largest volcanoes, just partially shrouded in early afternoon cloud cover, and it was truly a stunning vista of terraced rice paddies, coconut trees and forest. It was just annoying because from that point onward as we headed north to Munduk, we saw that view again and again, and it was often more spectacular (not to mention unobscured by power lines, which had made it difficult to get a good photo in Jatiluwih). To top it off, as it happens, we’ve decided we actually have the best view of all from our hotel balcony—free of charge.

Posted by The Rymans 05:41 Archived in Indonesia Tagged family_travel

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Yup. you've gone soft!! back @ the ranch we say u get what u pay for, things are definitely different on the road. I can just picture Mark's contorted face with all the cash 'goin' down da drain' ;) Glad to hear u met up with JP. Kids keep hydrated & good job on helping mom become resistant to vomit-fear. It's awfully quiet in the 'hood on this Labour Day weekend. Thanks for launching me into the blogging world. LL

by Lai-Ling Lee

So you got scammed - at least you still have your passports and good health!! Ahhh the oddities of the asian reptile park...we rememeber that ell - the look of horror on our ecotourist 4 yr olds face!!
Sorry to hear about the tummy troubles, try and get everyone to eat local yogurts or milkshakes I think it helps, the fevers are frightening but a good exit strategy makes it manageable.
Sounds like you're having a GREAT time, loving the blog.
Rachel xxxx


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