Padangbai, Bali

March 24-31, 2023

I was in Padangbai, in Bali, Indonesia, for a week after the Ghan train trip.

The reason I came to Bali wasn’t anything to do with Bali at all. I was researching ways to get from Darwin to Taipei, but all the direct routes stopped in Bali. So I thought, why not stay a week?

Padangbai is the area in red in the above map; it’s about 55km from the airport.

I was in Bali last more than thirty years ago, in 1991. Even then there were pundits saying Bali was finished as a destination – too much hassling and corruption.

Bali is Hindu, as opposed to Moslem in the rest of Indonesia:

“About 1400 CE, the [Hindu] kingdoms on the Indonesian islands were attacked by coast-based Muslim armies… During the 15th and 16th centuries, this Muslim campaign led by Sultans targeted Hindu-Buddhist kingdoms and various communities in the Indonesian archipelago… Hindus of western Java moved east and then to the island of Bali and the neighbouring small islands, thus starting Balinese Hinduism”.

I put my mask on in the aeroplane just before disembarking, and the mask stayed on for almost 15 minutes before I realised that none of the people, Indonesian and foreign, were wearing one. It was as though COVID19 was just a bad dream.

Thirty years ago I passed through Padangbai and remembered it as small but charming. I took transportation directly from the airport in a private car; my driver and I took around 1 1/2 hours by road.

I took this photo just down from the hotel, of the beach and port of Padangbai. The ferry on the extreme right goes to Lombok. The hotel was right by the water, so this is similar to the view from the entrance gate.

The hotel had three swimming pools; the above photo shows only one. My room is just out of the photo on the right – I had the bottom left storey of the ‘hut’; an identical hut is top centre of the photo. During the day guests lounge about in the pools, or get massages from the workers. If you turn to the right you get a quintessential view of palm trees and tropical vegetation.

The hotel had flourishes, like (I think) Vishnu seated on the shoulders of Garuda.

The second day I awoke early to go to the local market (above). By memory it was 6:30 when I took this, but the market was quite lively. I saw no tourists like myself, but perhaps that was due to the early hour.

In the middle of the market was a structure containing a high empty chair (above).

I noticed these offerings (above), made of banana leaf with flowers and an incense stick, placed on the ground.

A side-street of Padangbai. Note the helmet-less head on the woman on a moto-scooter; I noticed helmets are rare.

There were alleyways connecting the streets. The alleyway above on the left looks to have a small temple. Although Padangbai was quite small, it has many temples.

Nyepi has just passed, but there was a frightening plaster woman demon in a sidestreet, about 4 meters tall, on a mobile stand – perhaps Kali?

After several days in Padangbai I hired a car and driver to take me to Ubud.

The above walking tour of Ubud was taken in September 2020 in the COVID19 pademic. Now the traffic on the streets is a lot busier.

Going to Ubud was all hilly narrow streets lined with shops, temples every few minutes, and glimpses of mountains and narrow ravines with rushing water far below.

We arrived in Goa Gajah, the ‘elephant cave’. After the entrance point, where the driver tied a sash around my waist, I decended some stairs, stopping to take a photo (above).

Goa Gajah contains a much-photographed cave (above). I went into this cave, remembering the dim light, the clammy rock, and the air thick with incense smoke.

“The pool, excavated in 1954, features 5 out of supposedly 7 statues depicting Hindu angels holding vases that act as waterspouts.”

There was a man cleaning the pool.

I took this at the edge of the temple looking down. The webpage says “… a little path leads to a waterfall, rice fields, and some Buddhist stupa fragments”. The air was steamy and the tropical jungle was so lush.

Next, we stopped at the Monkey Forest. I vaguely recalled it as a dappled forest where you could be reasonably certain of spotting monkeys. But now it’s very different. This is a major tourist attraction, with crowds, slick organisation, prices to match – and monkeys.

The monkeys were everywhere, and quite unafraid of humans. I snapped this little fellow eating a root vegetable. The last time I was this close to a monkey in Bali, it bit me.

These tourists are (I think) having a “monkey selfie”.

I enjoyed my time in Bali, understanding the attraction that pulls tourists again and again.

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