27.03.2012 – 29.03.2012 Sunny 32°C
Bayview Gardens was our preferred choice of the six listed places to stay on Trip Advisor but unfortunately they were full. This led us to the Golo Hilltop, run by a couple of Dutch women. The journey there was a piece of cake, arriving at Bali’s Domestic Terminal an hour before, getting on a plane with less that fifty seats inside for an hour and a bit, landing and being given your bag direct from the aircraft hold on the runway. We then walked through a corrugated roofed shack which was the terminal building and straight into an air-conditioned taxi arranged for £3 by Golo. Splendid. The resort was nice, set, you guessed it, on a hill. The view over the sea was spectacular and the swimming pool was nothing short of perfect. Our room was our own cabin, detached one side with a swanky bed and a wetroom shower. This was nice. The price was a bit high at £17 a night (it is Indonesia remember) but all the resorts were much of a muchness anyway. The rest of that day was spent organising our trip to Komodo for the following day and lazing around the pool. Ching!
Komodo Island. Getting up at 6am for our boat was not nice but we had to be in town by 7am. We’d decided to go to Rinca Island instead of Komodo Island, hence the title of the post is incorrect but Rinca and Komodo Island both come under the umbrella of Komodo National Park. There were two reasons for this, first, it was only two-hours each way as opposed to Komodo’s four and second we were more likely to see Komodo’s on Rinca, apparently. I don’t know if this is some tourist story to get more people to Rinca or why they would do that but it sounded a bit weird to me. Komodo Island is called Komodo for a reason. Our boat was 500,000RP (£30) return and we had to pay a further 300,000RP in various fees when we arrived, this did include 50,000RP for our guide which we doubled to 100,000RP such was the extent of his knowledge. As we walked into the camp there were Komodo’s everywhere, our guide, whose name escapes me so I’ll just call him Indo, told us they hang around knowing there is food about, but are never fed. Some of these lizards were six-foot long and I was three foot away from them having my photo taken. They looked cool. Although they don’t look too vicious. After hearing from Indo that his greatest ever sight though was one ripping a deer apart, I took a step back. Usually they bite, wait for the victim to die due to the amount of bacteria in their mouths or massive blood loss, return, and eat. The ones around the camp were amazing, all walking about, sniffing with their forked tongues the same way snakes do, laying down for a breather, then having another little walk. It really was good but the best bit was to come in the forest walk. Indo explained that we may not see any others but would circle back through the camp. Five-minutes into this sweaty walk Indo spotted a Komodo digging in a bird’s nest for eggs. The bird was hanging around behind the Komodo watching to see if it found them. It looked like a small black chicken and Indo told us it was from the same family and that the chicken thing digs many nests to confuse the dragons and other predators as to where the eggs really are. Clever a? This Komodo was having a right good dig, throwing dirt and mud behind its back with it’s four-inch claws, stopping to eyeball us a bit, sizing up the danger and continuing to dig. Indo said we were lucky to see this and it felt lucky too. We couldn’t stand around watching this Komodo ‘maybe’ find some eggs though, there may be other Komodo’s around! There wasn’t and we should have stayed longer to see if it found any. The walk was nice, if hot and mosquito ridden and we saw a wild bull bathing in a mud bath as well as various monkeys larking about. Our trip back to Labuan Bajo via a beach for snorkelling was good. We turned down the snorkelling part though, opting to sunbathe instead and speaking to a couple of Yanks there it sounded like we didn’t miss much. Another night at Golo and a fantastic all you can eat buffet at Paradise Bar down the road went down a treat. Back to Bali for 1 more night before Australia. Verdict: I would definitely recommend this. Seeing a Komodo in a zoo is nothing when compared with the real deal. Pricey but worth it. Tip: Go down to the dock and organise your own boat directly with the boatmen. They are sitting around early morning and you’ll get a rock bottom price.
29.03.2012 – 30.03.2012 Sunny 30°C
Bali again. We flew back into Bali from Labuan Bajo (minus a can of Baygon bug spray that was taken from us before boarding because it was ‘explosive’ even though we took it on our previous 2 flights) and checked back in to Mertha Jati for one more night. Balancing our remaining Rupiahs carefully, we planned out what we had left to spend on dinner but it wasn’t enough because of the 300,000RP international departure tax the both of us had to pay tomorrow. B had a $50 note her Dad had sent her for Christmas so we decided to change that up rather than withdrawing more cash and have an insignificant transaction appear on our statements. The rate was 9200RP to $1 US at best at the time so when we saw 9400RP we took it. Next to the sign was a guy baiting us to come and change the cash. We followed him a few meters off the street. We said we have $50 to change and he put the exchange rate into the calculator, 470,000RP was the total. He then whips out 400,000RP in green 20,000RP notes, a bit odd as blue 50,000RP notes are very common. I counted 23, 23 x 20,000RP = 460,000. He then gave me an extra 10,000RP note and we walked off. Walking down the road to the beachfront we spotted a J Co Donut which I couldn’t resist after my experience in KL back last July. We went in, bought a doughnut, paid, sat down and ate it when I decided to count the money again. We’d been done. We we’re 160,000RP (£11) short. After counting out the 23 20,000RP notes, he must have grabbed the last pile of eight notes and stuck it behind the counter leaving us with just fifteen notes plus the 10,000RP note. Beware, anyone who changes in small denominations and offers a better exchange rate is probably up to no good and there were lots of identical exchange rate signs to the guy we used quoting the same rate in and around the Poppies area. I wouldn’t mind betting they all do the same. They give you the notes to count as a convincer but then you put the cash back on the counter to count the smaller notes, in my case the 70,000RP, that’s when they make the grab. If you go to them, when they give you the cash, don’t hand it back over and if they touch it again at any point, re-count it, making sure the notes look and feel genuine at the same time. You do them rather than them doing you as they won’t make anything on the higher rate quoted. Better yet, use your bank card. ATMs aren’t conning sweaty goblins trying to rob you.
Feeling emotionally hungry after realising we were a tenner short we went for dinner down Poppies 1, where we met Maz and Bob an English guy and Australian bird from Perth. Bobs visa had run out so they had come to Bali to get an extension, he explained that you have to go out of Australia to get another one after your first visa and first extension. Maz gave us her number and told us to call her when we were in Perth, another contact for Aus. Are Australians the friendliest people about?
Bali Verdict: I was very happy at the thought of leaving Bali and never saying never, I will never return. Paying the 150,000RP exit tax each wasn’t fun as we’d already paid $25 US each to get in. That’s £17 entry and £11 exit in total. Bali wasn’t great for me, it wasn’t even good, average at best. As previously stated, once you have been to Borocay, it’s very hard to take any other beaches seriously. The partying is way outshone by Bangkok or Phuket or even Shanghai. Apart from diving and snorkelling there’s not a lot to do, horse riding and a safari in Ubud are star attractions but you can imagine how good the ‘safari’ would be. Ubud looked boring, better mountains, treks and sights in the Philippines and Amed and the surrounding towns where we had planned to go were described as ‘boring’ by locals if you didn’t dive. Kuta is the Australians playground, the same way parts of Spain are for the Brits. I was offered drugs and ripped off by taxi drivers and at the money exchange booth. Local food in local restaurants was outstanding, however western type places were overpriced and under portioned. We were warned off hiring a bike to go round the island by other travellers and horror stories on the internet, insurance scams, trouble with Police for no reason and the road conditions to name a few. Labuan Bajo is better, more relaxed, slightly cheaper and there are lots of trips to do, without fear of being ripped off. Rinca was excellent. Bali is one of those dream places people talk about but I can’t see what all the fuss is about.