Wednesday 25 June 2008 – Seminyak to Lovina
I spent a peaceful couple of hours by the pool after breakfast and before packing ready for a 12noon checkout (so civilised) and pickup for the journey over the central mountains to Lovina on the north coast.
I was the sole passenger in the minivan to Lovina. It took about an hour and a half to grind its way through the outskirts of Denpassar then through rice fields so bright green they almost hurt one’s eyes, to the mountains. The climb, almost imperceptible at first, soon became apparent with many switchbacks making their way up to Bedegul past some delightful and substantial lakes. The higher we rose, the more frequent the showers and the cooler it became – I turned off the aircon long before the top.
After stopping briefly for a photo of the southern slopes, the driver pulled into a ‘traditional’ market at Bedegul. Along with some warungs and fruit, veg and plants (including roses – Bedegul is known as the food basket of Bali and it’s altitude makes growing species normally found in cooler climates possible), the hawlers had the urual range of tourist tatt and I wasn’t tempted to part with any hard-earned. The driver presumably went without commission, but I noticed paper (not cash) changing hands as we departed. Perhaps he earned a ‘delivery fee’ regardless.
We joined a line of large busses, some of which could scarcely navigate the tight bends as we descended the steep northern side of the mountains. We made another stop at Gitgit waterfalls. However it started to rain and as the falls were 1km from the car park, I told the driver to move on, direct to the hotel.
The Puri Bagus, which I’d seen apparently living up to its name as ‘the best resort in Lovina’ is a thorough-going resort. Perched right on the ocean and surrounded by verdant rice paddies, it is primped, preened and landscaped like a stage set. Individual villas nestle beneath palm trees in the garden, each beneath a high thatched roof.
Having a look around, it was soon apparent that it was not near Lovina, nor anything much other than a mosque opposite its entrance on the main road. The resort is inhabited mostly by diffident French and German tourists, mostly young couples or families. The only TV channel available in English is CNN, and for some reason the sound isn’t working, so I relied for news on the English language services of Deutsche Welle.
On inquiring at the hotel tour desk, the Balinese difference from the highly organised Thai tourist industry was apparent – everything here is geared to individuals, or more precisely couples, rather than joining groups, and is priced accordingly, complete with single supplements.
Starting to feel a bit isolated, I asked about a bus to Lovina (five kilometres to the west) or Singaraja (five kilometres to the east). There is a hotel shuttle to either each morning (except tomorrow!) leaving at 9am, returning at 11am. Fortunately Lonely Planet indicates that blue Bemos service the route regularly.
Shortly after arriving, a short but heavy downpour – the remnants of the rain we’d passed through on the way – cut the afternoon short, so I spent it by and in the very handsome swimming pool. A short stroll out to the main road revealed a couple of restaurants, clearly positioned to attract resort guests. But for my first night I decided to try the resort’s restaurant. I went out around 7pm and was one of the first in the restaurant (those Europeans do like to dine late). I was sorely outnumbered by the staff – one to greet, one to help me select a table, several to serve drinks, others to serve food, and presumably others to cook.
A barbecue buffet was on offer. It featured gado gado (some sliced vegies with a very sweet and insipid peanut sauce). Then a reasonable oxtail soup – but again, not exciting. The satays were overcooked and accompanied by the same insipid sauce, although sliced chillies were available to pep it up. The satays were also cold by the time they reached me. The Germans, who had all dressed for dinner, were insisting that fresh ones be cooled and served hot to them. Will certainly try the other local dining options tomorrow!