E-mail Update - 2005-07-04

Underwater Heaven in Bali

Happy Independence Day (US),

It is the 4th of July here right now, although there is obviously not a celebration for it :)

Wednesday June 29 - The morning was supposed to start at 6:30 when Grumpy was going to give us a wake-call for going to this hot spring spa.
However, I woke up about 2 minutes before the phone call & thought that maybe he had forgotten to call me because it looked later than 6:30 (I don't have a watch here intentionally so I never really know the time).
It just happened that I was the last one he called, although he called me 2 times because I was not there in like 1 minute, not very Bali like if you ask me. Almost everyone went even though several of the people had not slept a wink from the night before. It was nice but nothing spectacular. The best part was where this large amount of water came from high up creating a massage like effect. After that we headed back to get some breakfast. The cook prepared us Omelet's with everything as we waited which was fun to watch, complete with fired vegetables :)

After breakfast we went for a snorkeling trip in the local boats, complete with motors that seem very out of place. The boats themselves are very thin & have long balance beam on both side. They look like a small “m”.
The also don't seem to be that stable as a big wave looks like it could tip them over. As for the snorkeling itself that was great, I saw tons of fish & coral. Although I felt like I was getting stung by little organisms of some kind. It was fine & nothing came of it. After getting back I got a shower & got ready to leave. We were told that our next stop was Mt. Batur which was a 2 hour drive, so I used my trusty MP3 player to get a little shut eye. One funny thing is that I use the same 50 songs to both fall asleep & for running. They either get my excited or make me fall asleep :) I was disappointed to find out that our trip to Batur was only a stop at a restaurant where we had to pay for lunch & a view of the mountain from there. The mountain was absolutely beautiful though so that helped a little. We got the normal barrage of salespeople going into & coming out of the restaurant. After that we headed back to Kuta stopping at a few small craft shops & a silver shop. The second day's afternoon was mainly spent on the road before getting back to Kuta.

Once back in Kuta I checked e-mail & ate supper that they provided from the trip. It was an Aussie roast which was ok but nothing special. The other places we had ate along the way had been much better & mainly Asian food. After that I got my stuff ready to leave Troppo the next morning & got ready to go out. We started at the bar at Troppo Zone. Dave, Danny & I did shots that got us 2 free headbands & a shirt. After a little while there we went to a Rip Curl fashion show at another bar. It was ok, but we spent most of the time there looking at models & clothing,...ok mainly models for me ;) I had more fun talking to Dave & Laura while we watched everything going on. After a while there I decided to head home because it was 1am & the 6:30am wakeup call for the next day's scuba trip would come very quickly. I said goodbyes to Dave & Laura but wasn't able to find Danny.

Thursday June 30, started well as I got my wakeup call & even was ready to go a little earlier than requested. Pro Dive (www.prodivebali.com – 62-361 766753) was the scuba company I had went with for 2 reasons: (1) They were the same company I had used in Australia & were very good & (2) They were the only ones to offer a 5 day scuba tip which is the reason I came to Bali in the first place, to dive. The package was to be $550 USD everything included, but I worked out a deal, with them with help from Troppo, for $350 where I got my own Supper & Accommodation. Breakfast is always included with where you stay here & is usually rather good. This saved me a ton of money in the long run as I only paid about $30 for accommodation & meals. They always bought me a big lunch so my supper was always small. Anyways they picked me up & could see that I was rather tired so I slept on the bus trip for 2.5 hours to Tulamben. Once there they woke me up , went over everything with me & go me checked into my room (I had reserved a room for 2 nights as a start
- $6 USD per night). It was not as nice as Troppo but was about $22 less as well. It has a bed, fan, & toilet/shower.

After getting my stuff organized a little I met my dive leader Putu Arnama. He offered me a pancake & drink which I took. It was my first food of the day & was good :) The ended up picking up the bill on it, which was cool. We sat around and talked about my experience & the dive plan. Our first dive was on the USS Liberty which was shipwreck sunk during WW2 by a Japanese submarine. Shipwrecks are the best because there are always tons of fish & coral grows on the wreck, plus it is just cool to look at underwater. We entered from the shore which was rather tough & swam through most of the dive. One big advantage Pro Dive has over every other dive company I have used is that they provide an underwater camera.
Putu used it for most of the first dive, taking lots of pictures of me, but I used it for the majority of the rest of the dives. He told me that all I had to do is buy a $1 blank cd & they would even burn the pictures for me. The camera was about 2 weeks old & very nice, it takes spectacular pictures. He said originally they had planned to rent it to customers & still might but they wanted to use it some first, so maybe I got lucky on this one. Putu was also surprised on the dive because I did not need much weight to go down. He said normally a “big guy” like me would need about 18-21 pounds, where I use 6 pounds. Like I told him my advanced course in Australia had taught me how to dive with less weight.
Also my body composition being more muscular after weightlifting helps.
Either way it is easier to dive with less weight, so that is good :)

After the dive I went back to the room to catch a shower then joined Putu for lunch which was rather good because I was hungry. Then I went back to the room to catch a quick nap & we were going to dive at 3:30. However, Putu knew I was tired so he let me sleep :) I woke up at 5pm & we went then although he offered to let me do 3 dives the next day. It is really nice to have people who are cool to deal with & nice to be the only customer. On the second dive I learned how to take underwater pictures with the camera which was fun. We saw so many things on the day but here is a quick list for all my diving friends: Tons of coral, Anemone fish (Nemo), Angelfish, Scorpion fish, Sargent fish, Banner fish, Sweet Lips fish, Grouper, Stingrays & Shrimp (which would clean your fingernails), Lion fish, Cleaner fish, Dory fish, Morisch Idol, Clown Trigger Fish & Nudibranch, plus many other fish that I don't know by name!

After the dive I had supper which was tomato soup, a large bottle of water & a pizza which cost about $4 USD, you have to love that :) Then I did some reading about Bali from my lonely planet & started researching Thailand. After that I went to bed early (am I lazy or what) & got a good sleep because we were getting up early the next morning to beat the tourists to the wreck for a better dive (7:00am).

Friday July 1, the new month started on a good note as I woke up about 2 minutes before Putu came to knock & we got to the dive site in the water before 8. The early wake-up was worth it because we got to see some huge Parrot fish (15-20 of them), which were already gone by the time we were done with our dive. We also saw a few more things in this dive including Barracuda & Puffer fish. We also got to explore more of the wreck than the day before. After the dive I got to watch a Bali lady carry our 2 tanks & BCD's back on her head, which is impressive, since she was also walking on the unstable rock beach. The people carry everything on their head here, it is interesting to see. She did have a small towel on top of her head, but basically didn't even use her hands to balance the tanks.
Putu had told me the day before I might see this, but it really defies logic to see. After breakfast which made me rather full & a little reading of the trusty LP (lonely planet) we went to do another dive on the USS Liberty. This time we saw much of the same, but got deeper into the individual compartments of the ship. The Liberty is really nice, but it was still not as good as the SS Yongala in Australia, but I am not sure any other dive will beat that.

The rest of the day I spent writing in my journal, which is something I just started doing since I sent my laptop home. I also went for a run, which allowed me to find a place to get clothes washed by a local store & a small, but expensive Internet place. I had 1700 messages,...because a message had looped which someone had sent me. Lets just say it was not fun deleting those on a slow dial-up connection. I went to catch some supper around 7pm. I saw Putu there & we talked until they kicked us out of the restaurant when it closed around 11pm. He told me so much about Bali & its culture, it was really cool. There are so many things from the West that have gotten here & yet other things that have not. It was a different perspective that Grumpy had given to me, but similar. Putu told me how hard Bali has been hit by the terrorist bombing in 2002, & terrorist warnings. He says that he & almost all the other people in Bali have been directly affected. He was out of a job for 6 months because by 7 days after the bomb people stopped coming almost completely. He also told me about why people from Bali rarely travel (they must be at certain ceremonies every 6 months or they are basically shunned by their community). He even gave me some instances of what has happened to people in a few extreme cases. He also related that, like back home, the people with money can get away with anything. The kings son in Denpasar killed his brother, but his money continues to buy his freedom. He also told me about his life, his girl friend & the death of his father which had been only 6 weeks prior. It was really nice to learn so much about their culture & modern life. It is a real blend of new & old. What it all boils down to is that 99% of the people here are really good, which I have seen on so many instances. They also really need people to start coming here because so many business have had to shut their doors. Even now they are running around maybe 20-30% of what they saw before the bomb. He was also interested in the US & had some rather interesting questions. People have always heard these stories about crazy things like home & they ask if it is like that where I live. The most popular one is if I were to open a bank account, would I get a gun. I think this was in a Michael Moore movie (don't get me started on this idiot). I tried to give him a more accurate picture of things back home, although like I told him I live in a very small part of the US. After the talk I went back to the room & did some more reading & writing before going to sleep.

Saturday July 2 started with another fairly early morning because I had to get breakfast, pickup my clothes & pack before leaving for Amed. I got everything done & was ready about 5 minutes before they were ready to go.
Putu asked me if I wanted a picture of Agung, which is the highest mountain (volcano) in Bali. He had the driver stop at a perfect picture spot for it. I got one with my disposable camera. Yeah for those of you who don't know, I lost my new digital camera in Kakadu (Mosquito) National Park. That means Australia claimed 2 camera from me,..not good, I will have to buy a new digital in Thailand. One thing that is funny in Bali is that we just stopped right in the road, people just have to go around. It was like the day before when I had saw a huge pile of dirt fully blocking one lane. The guy shoveled a little then would go do something else. I think it probably had been there a few days & would be there several more. I know that would not work at home. The drive to Amed was also broken up when Putu asked me if I had ever tried suckling pig, to which an obvious no was the answer. He had the driver stop & he bought me some pig & a local Bali sweet cola. The pig was very spicy (although I say that about everything with any spice, yep I am weak!). Although it was good, I would probably not eat it or drink the cola again, not quite my taste. I was kinda wondering if it was my lunch, but it wasn't, Putu just wanted me to try it :)

Once in Amed I instantly go played by a 5 year-old salesman. He asked me where I was from, what my name was, & how I was doing, then he pulled out what he wanted me to buy. I didn't buy the little thing he had (no reason to encourage this). I know in Fiji the kids were just interested in telling you about themselves & learning about you. Just never that way here. He seemed rather offended when I didn't buy his trinket! Although later Putu started singing a song which he joined in on & that was cool.

Our first dive required a five minute boat ride (in a similar boat to the one that I went snorkeling on). The coral in Amed is not quite as nice due to a recent El Nino which broke some of it. It is more patchy than in Tulamben, but still very nice! We saw the same fish as the first dive in addition to a SHARK,....ok it was only a little white-tipped reef shark ;) We also saw our first Moray Eel, a Lizard fish & Sea Snugs. After the dives we headed back to the restaurant, but held off on lunch & just laid around for the required 45 minutes until we did our second dive. I caught up on some journal writing as well at that point & fended off some more sales attempts for my little entrepreneur.

On the second dive we saw more eels, but I called it the Sea cucumber dive because of how many kinds of them that we saw, it was very nice dive as well. After the dive & getting my log book updated I caught lunch. At Putu's encouragement I ended up having 3 courses. The first 2 were tomato soup & bread, then a chicken curry (which was in soup form & very spicy).
The topper was the banana split which had 3 different kinds of ice cream!
The ice cream helped my throat after the morning of spicy food, which was good. After that we got everything together & headed towards Padangbai.

Once in Padangbai I started to do some shopping for a place to stay, but it ended with one visit. I stayed in a room with a bed, fan & shower/toilet for about $4 USD, even though her first price was 50% higher,...the good old Bali walk away works every time! You state your price, then if they don't take it you just start to walk away. I have had people track me down as many as 3 buildings down to come back. It only took about 2 steps with her though. People here just can't stand to see money walk away, which given the economic state I can see why. I got all my stuff into the room them said good bye to the Pro Dive guys who were going back to Kuta for the night. I then went for a walk around town to find a place to eat, take pictures & find Internet. I also got another $2 massage, except this time it was really good. The original lady did my back then her sister did my back, because the first lady was a good saleswoman. It was about 20 times better than the Kuta massage & this one was on the beach as well. I always am very careful not to fall asleep though because I never 100% trust that my sandals & shirt would be there when I was done. After the massage I walked more of the town & did Internet. I had about 400 more messages from that looping one! This time the first place I chose was a total dog. After about 30 minutes I left, it was so bad. They didn't have change (no where here ever does) so I was just out about 50 cents. Considering how bad it was I think I should have paid less, but it doesn't seem to work that way. Then I went to another place, which was much faster, which is strange considering they were both dial-up & the second place had older computers. After that I went to get some supper at Ozone which was right next to my hotel. It was a pretty good fish, rice & vegetables fair, with water for about $3. The place also had pillows instead of chair which made it a comfortable place to read before you food comes. After that I went back to the hotel & did some reading & journal writing before getting to sleep.

Sunday July 3, started with a wake-up knock at 8am so that I could get breakfast & get packed before Pro Dive got there at 9. Breakfast consisted of an omelet (very common here) & a fruit platter, plus tea.
The fruit platter was good & included an orange with a green peel, which was something new to me :) After breakfast I got packed & met Pro Dive at 9, on time as usual :) We walked the short distance to the five site & got ready for our first 2 dives. I decided to just wait on the boat in the water for the 45 minutes in between dives before coming back for lunch. The first dive was tough for me, I had problems with water in my mask which took away from an otherwise good dive. I also just never got comfortable underwater which just happens sometimes. I still saw great stuff & it was not that bad, just not the way I would prefer it to be. I also ran out of air (we were looking at a cool lion fish & knew it would
happen) & shared air with Putu for the last 30 seconds of the dive. It was the first time I got to use an Alternate Air source in a real life experience, which was good experience considering that I want to become a dive master. Putu was also nearly caught by a fisherman on the dive when he had his hand hooked, he got it off quick before any damage was done.
On this dive we saw some cool frog fish, I even spotted one Putu didn't see, which is unusual because he usually points everything out to me since he knows the sites so well. We also saw pipe fish & a cow fish (our first, it is also called a box fish).

In between the dives Putu & I did more talking which is when he explained the economic collapse of 1997 that they experience here. 20000-40000 rupiah used to be a USD, which is almost 5 to 2.5 times less than now for my mathematically challenged friends :) He also explained things like how people who owned banks had been bailed out by the government only for many of them to take the money & flee the country. We talked about his view of other Asian countries, many about which ones would become powerful & where Bali imports/exports products to.

Our second dive was much better as I did great with my breathing. I had 500 psi left & it was my longest dive ever, 52 minutes. We also saw cuttlefish & garden eels plus a sting ray up close. I was trying to last over 50 minutes on the breathing for this one, but to have 500 psi left (I started with 2700psi) was something I was really happy with. I felt so comfortable it made up big time for the previous dive, plus I didn't have any problems with my mask on this one which was good, because I was using my own mask & didn't want to have to buy a new one.

After the dive we caught lunch & got hassled by people trying to sell me things. We also talked to a Japanese guy who had did one dive & was underwater for only 15 minutes :) He was funny plus he explained his views of countries, dislike for Korea & China especially & that he liked Australia & America. Putu was surprised by this because of the bombing of Japan by the US in WW2, but like the guy explained to Putu, this is in the far past & now the US is Japan's #1 ally. I knew this all from my time with Sayoko as I had talked with her about it, but it was new to Putu.
After that we got everything loaded & headed towards Ubud (where I am now).

Ok that is all for now (I know next time I will not be so short!). The next installment includes Ubud & beyond (tomorrow in Denpasar & Wednesday Scuba diving on the island).

Take Care!