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Getting out of Dodge

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View Get Out The Map on The Rymans's travel map.

I've finally stumbled across a broadband connection and so have just uploaded about a dozen and a half new photos from the last few weeks. I'll just put one or two on this page; if you want to see more, check out the photo gallery (look for the link, I'm sure it's here somewhere!).

Since our last entry, we’ve been through the resort town of Sanur briefly and have now turned up in Nusa Lembongan, a tiny island about an hour by ferry from Bali. We’re all much happier here without all the animal life that plagued us in Padangbai, from enormous cockroaches to rats, bats and bedbugs.

Padangbai itself is actually a cute, mellow little place. When we visited 11 years ago, it was really more of a fishing village and jumping-off point for ferries to the Gili islands and Lombok. There were a few small budget hotels and restaurants, a nice beach we remembered known as the Blue Lagoon, and that was about it. Since then, it has evolved into a destination in its own right, with dozens more hotels, restaurants, shops, money changers and dive operations. Most of the hotels front a stretch of beach where the fishing boats tie up, and there are backpackers and divers wandering around all over the place. It still has a great, easygoing vibe.

All in all, not a bad place to be. But we chose to settle in at the Topi Inn, which was our main mistake. We liked the sound of it—it was supposed to be an open, breezy place with hammocks strung up here and there, common areas, a book exchange and “enthusiastic” owners who arrange cultural workshops and so on. When we emailed to make a booking, we were told by the owner that we could only do so by paying for the room in full ahead of time for as many nights as we wanted it. This involved traipsing around Ubud for ages looking for the local branch of BNI Bank and then figuring out how to deposit money into the Topi Inn owner’s account. We needed two rooms for four nights, at a cost of $28/night (a third of our daily budget), so once we had made our deposit, we were committed.

The Topi Inn was everything the guide book promised in many ways – there were hammocks, open common areas, excellent food, helpful staff and so on. But the rooms themselves were beyond grim. There were just five of them, all situated on the second floor directly above the kitchen, all about the size of a school locker. Constructed out of wood and bamboo, they offered zero buffer from the noises and smells of the kitchen—we went to bed listening to the sound of vegetables being chopped, pots clattering about, cooks chatting, music playing and other travellers in the common area skyping their boyfriends back home about overdoing the mushrooms. If someone so much as scratched themselves or blew their nose in a neighbouring room, we could hear it.

Chloe and I began in a squalid, tiny windowless room with bunk beds and an attached bathroom, but that was the only room without a mosquito net, so we moved the next day into a different, equally tiny room with a net. We lucked into a window this time, which made the room almost bearable—although now we had given up our bathroom and how had to use the shared ones. Mark and Ciaran were stuck in a cell of a room with no window at all where the temperature seemed to hover constantly around 40C and kitchen smells hung constantly in the air. (No bathroom for them either.) Mark likened it to being locked inside a hockey bag. The only upside to Mark and Ciaran’s room was that they didn’t see any cockroaches (of course, that doesn't mean anything, does it?). As I think I mentioned earlier, Chloe and I got quite a shock in our room when a spectacularly large one skittered out of our toiletry kit and ran under the bed. There was no way Chloe was going to bed after that until we’d checked every nook and cranny with a flashlight—as she put it, she wasn’t taking any chances. I didn’t tell her this, but I saw two more of these creatures in the shared bathroom (which, incidentally, was often filthy, out of both toilet paper and soap, and was the only bathroom for about 12 guests).

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Enough about the bad hotel, though—we did also have some fun in Padangbai. We began by checking out the Blue Lagoon, but after Chloe and I got tossed around in some powerful waves and came out with coral cuts, we decided it wasn’t a very family-friendly place. We swam instead at a beach we found about 15 minutes away with white sand and crashing waves. Well, I say “swim” but that’s a bit of a stretch; the waves were so powerful and large that swimming wasn’t really safe or possible. The main upside was the lack of rocks and other travellers. The kids amused themselves by staying near the edge of the surf and letting it bowl them around. I went in once or twice but gave up after a giant wave tossed me up like a small cookie with enough force to actually tear off the bottom of my bathing suit and then spit me out onto the sand, scuffed up and with a mouthful of saltwater.

The third day was the charm; we hired a fisherman to take us out snorkelling at a small, much calmer bay called Teluk Jepun.

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We had decided our next destination would be Nusa Lembongan, which is reached by ferry from Sanur, so we left Padangbai for Sanur, spent just one night at a lovely, cheap little homestay called Keke’s, and arrived here in Nusa Lembongan a couple of days ago. I’m still feeling somewhat the worse for wear from Padangbai…a bit sunburnt, with itchy mosquito bites and bedbug bites, coral cuts that are still healing, and a mild but mysterious rash on my arms. Also, I keep waking up with both of my entire arms so asleep that I can hardly even feel my fingers. Yesterday it took most of the day for my fingers to feel normal again. Today has been slightly better but it’s still sort of annoying. My fingers and toes are all somewhat swollen, probably from the heat. Of course, everyone else has adapted to the heat very well. I seem to be the only one with this problem.

Nusa Lembongan is a sleepy little island where the main economic pursuits are salt production and seaweed gathering. We were initially shown to a set of basic rooms here at Mainski Resort that looked about as appealing as those at Topi Inn – no mosquito nets, windows that didn’t lock or close properly, crooked, chipped furniture and so on. We had paid for these ahead of time too (we don’t learn, do we??), so right away we had a sinking feeling: shit, we’ve done it again! But we were able to remedy the problem this time by upgrading to a more expensive room with air-con. The pool here is a bit murky and there is far too much seaweed for the ocean to look appealing, but the kids are enjoying it.

Yesterday we explored the nearby village a bit and lucked into some cock fighting. Perhaps that’s a strange way to put it, but since none of us have ever seen cock fighting before, we were interested. That is, Mark and I were interested; both of the kids were appalled that a) cock fighting happens at all and b) we would want to witness it. Chloe in particular was outraged, saddened, disgusted, and of course disappointed with her parents, and stood outside the temple looking upset the entire time.

It was fascinating, actually; it was really well-organized. A small group of men in sarongs, hats and matching white shirts were clearly in charge. They stood in the ring giving instructions and assessing the various cocks to establish which pair would give a good fight. Meanwhile, a good deal of betting was going on—if you wanted to bet small money, you were part of the outer ring, while those on the inside bet larger amounts -- as much as $2,500, we were told. (The owner of the winning cock collects 10 per cent of the money wagered.) Most of those watching were men—probably about 150 of them—many of whom had brought along their own roosters in bamboo cages for later matches. The air was filled with the sounds of men shouting out bets and spitting betel juice, organizers calling out instructions, and dozens of caged roosters crowing raucously. Every so often a rooster would become agitated enough to tip its basket over onto one side (and Chloe would edge into the temple and right the basket).

When the white-shirted men had finally selected the two cocks that would fight in the first match, each rooster was fitted with a blade on one foot, strapped on by its owner. After the blades had been strapped on, the cocks were placed in the ring and started going at each other, pecking and clawing. Any time one rooster went down, a bell would clang. After just a few minutes and several clangs of the bell, they were both down; their owners put them back in their baskets, and the first one to regain its feet was declared the winner. (We were all relieved that nobody died, although Chloe insists she saw a rooster with a leg torn off.) I didn’t personally see any blood, but I’m short so I'm not assuming that means there wasn’t any. Apparently this cock fighting will go on almost all day, every day this week, until it moves to another island--so it's a bit of a main event here on Lembongan just now. We were also told the best roosters are those from Thailand because they can fly, which gives them an advantage.

Chloe was never so happy to leave a place, and warned us later that night not to blame her if she “woke up whimpering” from a nightmare related to cock fighting. We did reflect after the fact that maybe taking the kids to a cock fight was not a top parenting choice—but it certainly made for an unusual morning.

Today is our last day in Nusa Lembongan, and we spent a few hours snorkelling again. We had made our arrangements on the beach yesterday with a local fisherman, and the plan was to visit nearby Mushroom Bay, which has a beautiful seaweed-free beach, then do some snorkelling. But the fisherman, Helly, showed up this morning and said going to Mushroom Bay would not be possible because the swells were too big and a boat had already sunk this morning. We thought maybe old Helly was just trying to make his own life easier by taking us to a nearby mangrove area instead, but we later found out that the story was true -- in fact, the boat that sunk had two kids on it from our hotel, according to another traveller I talked to this morning. We went out anyway, but only to the mangrove area -- very choppy water and strong currents, but lots of fun nonetheless. Both kids are becoming expert snorkellers! We'll spend the rest of the day hanging out by the pool and trying to fit some school work in. Ciaran has got us set up with some dinner plans -- we're joining a New Zealand couple we've met who have a kid named Jed the same age as Ciaran.

Tomorrow we’re off to Sanur again early in the morning by ferry. We’ll have three days there before we fly to Singapore, and we plan to spend one of them at Waterbom, a big water park in nearby Kuta that is supposed to be a blast for kids. We figure it’s the least we can do for them after the hockey-bag hotel room, bedbugs, cockroaches and cock fights.

We have no easy internet access in Sanur, so this may be my last update from Bali. We’ll be in Singapore for three days from Sept. 17 to 20, then off to Malaysia by bus.

Posted by The Rymans 00:49 Archived in Indonesia Tagged family_travel

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Comments

I can't believe you took the kids to a cockfight! I was crying I was laughting so hard when I read that part. (Don't think that is in the "South East Asia with kids" handbook. God, they deserve that waterpark.
Also laughed pretty hard about your arms being numb. Sorry. Not that your condition is funny Patti. But when I read your discription of it as "annoying" I could hear your voice in my head Patti.

Well, hope your last days in Bali are fun. We were across the street from your house last night having drinks. Bruce tried to play the role of Mark in the drink pouring dept ... but no one can beat Mr. Newman.
I actually walked away, opposed to stumbling.

Happy Travels! xo Sarah

by Sarah

have you tried ratestogo.com for cheap sleeps? I tended to only book one night in advance so that if it was really awful we could move on! I don't think we ever ended up wanting to stay somewhere longer that didn't have space. Keep an eye on those coral cuts they can take ages to heal...surf and snorkelling sounds lovely, wish I was there!xxxx

by CRFS

Enjoying your latest from Bali, as I sip my morning coffee. Saw the photo of Chloe, outside the temple where the cock fighting took place, her face says it all. That would have been you, Patti, not that long ago, surprised Ciaran isn't outside with her as well. Seems like the weary traveller needs a massage and a night in a four-star hotel. Trust your cuts, bites, rash and swollen limbs have improved and you're ready for your next adventure.

Godspeed!
Love, Mom

by Anne

Howdy Rymans!
What a fabulous adventure you lot are having, crappy hotels, wonderful beaches and new discoveries! Sitting in my little living room reading your entries makes me want to run off and travel, but I'll live vicariously through you for the time being - I've had my share of adventures! Stay well, looking forward to more, more and more :-)

Christele

by Christele

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