Jakarta, many years back, was to me a testament to urban sprawl -- perennial traffic jams, unyielding pollution, denuded environs, an oppressively humid climate, crowded sidewalks, and a very slow bureaucracy. That might have been why I have never returned to Indonesia until now.
Bali is a tourist destination. The weather is not humid -- the highest temp, they say, is in the lower thirties. The streets are well paved but narrow and I suspect that this was a deliberate attempt to keep up appearances, hence mild traffic stops in certain places. There is so much greenery even along the streets juxtaposed alongside modern-looking but low buildings. One gets the feeling that the island is wirelessly linked as most shops/cafes proudly announce wi-fis.
Life on the island is relaxed despite the preponderance of business establishments throughout. Poverty if ever is not observable among the residents. The batik designs/prints on textile and clothing as well as wood-carved representations of local gods and animals are among take-home presents, if one wishes to make shopping a worthy endeavor. Bargaining however must be a skill that a determined shopper ought to employ.
The beach is something the island is proud of and I agree despite having enjoyed more fabulous beaches/sand before. I am lucky to stay in this fabulous resort-hotel which has its own beach frontage. It feels secure even at night -- one doesn't have to go to Kuta (the centre of Denpasar) to experience a holiday. A variety of international cuisine is available through restaurants along the road right outside our resort enclave and I would imagine everywhere on the island. Transport from place to place is easily available through identifiable taxis. Most importantly, the people are friendly and helpful (is that a southeast asian trait).
If you should go, my advice is GO with your loved one/s. See you there.
Tuesday, 15 June 2010
But one comes to tourist destinations and falls prey to the showcase landmarks.
I won't forget ascending Table Mountain, a flat-topped mountain overlooking Cape Town. We were there close to dusk and witnessed how the City sparkled at night. "What luxury, because in my country, we spend nights without any electricity", commented a colleague from Myanmar who marvelled as well at the sight. They said that one could actually walk to the top but we decided to take the short cable car ride which we never regretted. Viewing the scenery below and around the car as it slowly climbed was both a breathtaking and a thrilling experience.
We tasted history on Robben island where Nelson Mandela was imprisoned. The island accessible through a fast watercraft is now a tourist spot, looks barren nevertheless, but hosts flora and wild animals unique to Africa. An old prison bus took us to the former prison complex where we were led to Mandela's cell. Just one minute in front of that cell, a colleague wept incessantly and had to be taken away and back to the main island. Later that day, she expressed having been affected by the vision of Mandela's suffering. Incredibly, we agreed that it was this part of the trip that should be the most memorable.
Cape Town is a shopping haven, especially for those who come from countries that are devoid of life's luxuries. A friend bought a video game console for her son because there wasn't any demand for these gadgets in her country, Malawi. She found her object at the Victoria and Alfred Waterfront which is really an operating harbor and at the same time a complex of various shopping and entertainment venues, quite unusual in that it is set before the sea and within perfect view of Table Mountain. We brought home some local handicrafts.
These and the World Cup were very enticing reasons for us to have gone back this year. The year isn't over yet but the Cup will soon be. 2014 in Rio?
They say that not all cities of South Africa are safe to visit. Ma cherie recounts that one morning she came across a dead man who has been shot on the street fronting her apartment -- not quite a welcome event for a newcomer to Durban. They may be quite right but this country brims with promise, enough to convince us to GO back and for you dear reader to GO.