The Amsterdam paused outside Benoa Harbor around 7am this morning to pick up the pilot for our final approach to our berth alongside the Benoa Cruise Terminal where we would moor around 8 am. Rain was in the forecast, along with heat and humidity, but it was surprisingly dry and not too unbearably hot, at least early in the morning.
Our gangways were in place around 8AM and the ship was cleared almost immediately. We had arranged for one of HALs private drivers, and were traveling with 2 other couples. With a hard meeting time of 8:30 AM in the Ocean Bar we quickly headed for the gangway for an 8:45 AM meeting the driver outside the terminal.
- NOTE: Normally Holland America’s private touring minivans are fairly expensive but for Bali, the price for an all-day minivan that would hold 6 people was $429. The same minivan in Jakarta is $1,250 and in Sydney it was $1,800. Based on this reasonable price and the concerns with missing the ship due to traffic we decided to book the all-day minivan and we found 2 other couples to join us thru our cruise critic roll call. Another benefit of the HAL private driver is that since you are on an official HAL tour – the ship will wait for you or bear the expense of getting you to the next port – if you are late returning.
- After you book a private driver with HAL and once the cruise begins, the excursions office will ask you for your proposed itinerary. They will send this to the tour operator who verifies that they can complete your desired trip in the allocated time. Once you and the tour operator agree on the schedule, HAL excursions will give you the tour ticket. The Minivan will be in your name only and you are responsible for letting everyone else know about the required meeting time. The Excursions office also gave us HAL Tour Dots, which we wore, but it turned out were really not necessary.
This was the first time we left the ship right after being cleared and there was quite a crowd on the stairs going down to A deck. There were many tours leaving at the same time with a lot of folks trying to get off all at once, but the line moved quickly and we were off in a few minutes.
In the terminal there was a large security X-ray machine that at first I started to walk around, assuming it was for returning passengers. A security guard motioned to me to send my bag thru the machine and that’s when I realized that they were checking the bags for people entering Bali, but as I learned later, not on the way out as is typical.
We rushed thru the terminal where we discovered a large scrum of tour operators, standing before numerous buses and vans, holding signs with numbers and names. After a few minutes, I found our tour guide, Harmoni, holding a sign with my name and after rounding up our group we headed over to the van. The vehicle was described as a minivan with a capacity of 6 in the brochure and I was pleasantly surprised when I discovered that the van was really more of a mini bus that would hold 12 people. After we all piled into the van, we verified our schedule and then our driver headed out of the parking lot and we were on our way.
With all the hype about traffic, I was fully expecting something similar to mid-town Manhattan during rush hour once we crossed the causeway and entered the city. I was not disappointed to find that the traffic, while busy, was really quite ordinary for a large city and was flowing easily. There were a large number of mopeds darting to and fro and they would freely hop on the sidewalk to keep moving. Driving among the mopeds was like driving thru a flock of birds standing in the road – ignore them and they will get out of your way. Drivers seemed to maneuver without regard to the 2 wheelers and the moped operators used their superior maneuverability to stay out of harm’s way.
I used to race bicycles and when confronting traffic here or in Rome, I realize that you simply act as if you are in a large bicycle race by following a few simple rules.
- Road lane markings are meaningless and should be ignored – traffic signals may indicate a change in traffic flow, but are advisory only.
- The vehicle in front has the right of way – this negates the need for rear view mirrors as you have the right of way over any vehicle behind you.
- Driving is allowed anywhere your vehicle will fit
- Ride a predictable line and avoid sudden moves or turns. Avoid using your brakes.
Wide 4 lane roads gave way to 2 lane roads as we left the city and headed up north into the hills. After 45 minutes we were in rural Bali with beautiful terraced rice paddies appearing alongside the road. We stopped after we saw a lone farmer working in knee deep water, clearing weeds out of the paddy. His “Be Happy” T shirt matched his mood as we discovered after our guide shouted to him and tossed him a cold bottle of water. He flashed a big smile as he retrieved the water bottle and we all waved. Harmoni informed us that these farmers have been working these fields for generations and that they will typically keep half the rice for their families use while selling the other half in the local markets.
A few minutes later we stopped again and Harmoni waved to two women working in their field. We learned that these women were in their 70’s but still putting in a hard day’s work. Harmoni tossed them cold bottles of water that they appreciated. Here at about 1800 feet above sea level, the temperature was in the low 80’s with a nice breeze and was really quite comfortable.
Across the street from the fields were several houses, or compounds. A local grandfather saw us wandering the road and he beckoned for us to come into his compound and look around. His compound consisted of a common room or living room, several separate buildings, one housing the kitchen and another a bedroom (with only 2 permanent walls) and a family temple. His 3 darling granddaughters watched us from the doorway smiling shyly. They graciously allowed photographs and we left the children with some keychains from San Diego that we bring with us for this purpose. We have learned that many people enjoy small gifts from your home town and we often receive a small gift in return.
Our first official stop would be the Jatiluwih Rice Terraces. The admission fee was 20,000 Rp or about $1.50 USD. The rice terraces sit below the road, which is lined with street vendors, cafes & shops, and offers beautiful vistas of the terraces and the distant mountains. While we were enjoying the view, our guide purchased some local snacks: Dried Bananas and some type of fruit they called Snake Skin Fruit. We never did learn the real name, but it peeled easily and tasted sorta like a cross between an apple and a plum. There were about two dozen other tourists, not from the cruise ship, and a couple of tour buses filled with Japanese who were also enjoying the cool, clear weather and the amazing views. We could have stopped for lunch here, but we elected to skip lunch (never hurts to skip a meal once in a while on a cruise) and spend more time touring.
Once we shut the door to our van, the rain came down in large buckets – then smaller buckets and finally settling down to a steady drizzle. The roads continued to narrow and the condition became worse and worse as we continued on toward our next stop: The Temple at Bali Ulun Dana on Lake Beratan.
By the time we arrived at The Temple at Bali Ulun Dana, the rain had slowed to a light drizzle, which still required an umbrella, but was light enough that you could set it aside to take a picture. Admission to this temple was 30,000 Rp ($2.25 US). The temple and grounds were flooded with tourists from around the world and was designed with tourism is mind as there were wide, well-marked paths in numerous languages and many souvenir shops.
We were warned prior to leaving the ship that entrance to these temples required having your legs and shoulders covered and to dress modestly. There was a sign, in English, reminding people to dress respectfully, but this was ignored by many as we saw quite a few women wearing short shorts, halter tops and men wearing shorts with cut off T –shirts. Later on we would learn from people on another tour, that the temple they visited enforced the dress code and was passing out sarongs as necessary.
Here is a photo of two women, related in some way since they are holding hands, but dressed very differently inside the temple grounds. Go figure.
This temple is featured on the Indonesian 50,000 Rp note. Many people amused themselves by attempting to photograph the actual temple in the background while holding a 50000 Rp note in the foreground. We gave it a shot, but the concept proved more interesting than the actual photograph.
After leaving Bali Ulun Dana, the rain let up and we were now heading back toward the ship. Narrow half lane and one lane roads started to widen as we continued down the mountains and toward to sea. Throughout the day we would come across amazing feats of people carrying heavy and weird stuff on mopeds and motorcycles. We learned that the minimum legal age to drive a moped was 16, but that was only advisory and not enforced.
Around one curve we were surprised to see a small swarm of children, wearing school uniforms (complete with blue ties) all riding motorcycles and scooters of various sizes. Here is a picture of the kids shot through the rain splattered windshield of our van.
Along the way to our last temple, we stopped by a coffee retailer called Mertha Sari Bhuana. They sell a variety of teas and coffees and were offering free samples for everything except their Luwak Coffee. A sample of Luwak coffee would cost 50,000 Rp or about $3.75. We learned that the Luwak coffee is made using beans that have passed thru the digestive system of a small animal called a Luwak by the locals. Well, where else can you get coffee like that! They produced the cup with great fanfare, covered by a special lid. It was very hot, but not very good. At least to my taste – it was very strong – but tasted overcooked rather than having a strong coffee taste like an espresso. But coffee is very subjective and I’m sure that others may find it more to their liking and I would encourage everyone to give it a try.
Back in the city, the Taman Ayun Temple was our final stop. Beautiful flowers and trees covered the grounds making the temple a lush oasis in the midst of the bustling city. A moat surrounded the temple and was lined with fisherman of all ages. By now the rain had completely stopped and the temperatures were quite pleasant. It was really turning out to be a nice day. We have learned in Bali, almost anything can appear at any moment and as we were leaving the temple we came across a person handling a Luwak (you know, the animal that makes coffee) and was offering the chance to let him crawl all over your shoulders. Our tour guide took advantage of the opportunity.
After a busy day we made our way back to the cruise terminal about 15 minutes before the all aboard time. We had Just enough time to buy some postcards and stamps from vendors inside the terminal. There was no security other than checking cruise cards prior to us boarding the ship. As per normal procedure, the ship uses its metal detectors and x ray machine whenever there isn’t any screening done in the terminal. As it turned out, there were a couple of late returning tours and the Captain announced that there was only 2 feet of water under the keel at the moment so he would wait until 7pm to depart when he would have more buffer from the bottom. He noted that it was a little disconcerting to see fisherman standing in water so close to the channel.
Once on board, we learned that the Sail Away was moved to the Crow’s nest even though the rain stopped in time to use the Sea View Pool had they stuck to the original plan. The Crow’s Nest had a couple dozen people, but looked more like a normal happy hour setup and was missing anyone passing out traditional sail away snacks.
Martin Lawson, one of the HAL singers, was featured at the 7:30 PM Spotlight Show. His performance was amazing and he was able to really showcase his wonderful voice. Singing one of his mother’s favorite songs – “Stars” from Les Miserable he displayed incredible range and ability to create an emotional tie to the audience. His final song was “Nessun Dorma” (None Shall Sleep), an aria from the final act of Puccini’s opera Turandot and he nailed it – bringing the audience to its feet with explosive applause.
Dinner was a joy as always as we everyone recounted their days of adventure and daring do. A few folks at our table traveled the luxury road and the spent the day being pampered at one of Bali’s many luxurious resort spas – Bali is a wonderful spot and is definitely on my list of places we need to visit again for an extended stay.
Spanish Guitarist Vincenzo finished our day with an incredible virtuoso performance on the Spanish Guitar. One of the many wonders of this Grand World Voyage has been the incredible entertainment. Night after night we have been exposed to a wide variety of high quality shows – ones we would normally never seek out at home, but are so glad we had the chance to sample their talent on the Amsterdam.
This entry was posted in Uncategorized