Silver and Rafting

It’s been a while since my last post, but we’ve been fairly busy.

We had a morning in Ubud at the Studio Perak silversmithing course. This was great fun, Vic and I both produced our own piece of jewellery in a few hours, with help from the instructor. Vic produced a very classy looking pendant, and I was pleased with my almost-circular, but not very classy pendant with a green peridot stone. I don’t have a photo yet but will get something sorted shortly.

A couple of days later we booked onto the Sobek rafting course at Telaga Waja. We had been with them at the Ayung River on our last trip to Bali and decided to go on the more exciting Telaga Waja course. It took about 45 minutes to get to the site from Ubud, travelling through beautiful hills and countryside with spectacular views over Bali.

We shared our raft with a couple from Denmark and our guide, Gabus. Only seconds after setting off we got our indication that this was going to be much more exciting than last time as the boat rose up against a large rock and the back end filled with water. A bit of scrambing and we were off again.

The course was much rougher than our first trip and all the more exciting for that. There was also a good deal more work involved paddling the raft, but we needed the exercise.
Rafting with Sobek on Bali
After about 7km of the 14km route. We stopped for a break by a fabulous waterfall where the guests from some of the other boats proceeded to slip about and fall in the water in various comical ways, including one English girl who had decided that a crochetted string bikini and wedge-heeled flip-flops would be suitable attire for whitewater rafting. She fell over at least 5 times and needed rescusing to avoid floating off down the river.

After the break it was on towards the big drop of the route, a dam with a 4 metre fall. We were instructed to lie back, almost flat as we went over, which we all did. I have no idea what happened next, but I suspect that as the boat hit the water at the bottom of the dam I bounced out. Next thing I knew I was lying on my back in about a foot of water, with one hand still on the safety rope in the boat. 15 seconds later I was back in the boat, unhurt but slightly wetter. Great fun!

An excellent lunch was provided at the end of the trip, before the drive back to our hotel.

Since then we’ve spent some time back in Kuta and flown back to KL, but I’m out of time to write about that right now. Some more photos from Bali are in the gallery

Passing Time in Ubud

As I mentioned earlier, we’re on Bali at the moment. I’ve been here twice before, in 1999 and for our honeymoon in October 2003. Last time we were here was just over one year after the bombs which killed so many people. The memorial in Kuta at the site of the bombings is now completed and lists all of those known to have died in the blasts. It’s likely that even more people died, as it’s thought that some Balinese people were injured and returned to their villages where they later died.

The island has only recently recovered from the tragedy, and it’s notable that there are a lot more Australians here than last time.

We spent a week in Kuta, browsing the shops and relaxing. There are loads of surf-wear shops selling Billabong, Quiksilver, Rip Curl, Cult, Roxy and other Australian brands. Prices are cheaper than back home (and I guess cheaper than in Australia, given the number of Aussies buying stuff). DVDs here are even cheaper than they were in Thailand, with the usual caveat that the more recent films tend to be very poor quality. There are also quite a few shops selling genuine Stussy and Mooks clothing, rather than the poor imitations that are available here and in Thailand. Vic purchased quite a few items of clothing (I’m sure there was an inch or two of spare space in her luggage…) but I held off for the time being.

On Saturday we got a taxi out here to Ubud, about an hour from Kuta. It’s quite a bit cooler here, certainly during the evenings, and much calmer. In Kuta, you’d be stopped in the street every few yards and offered transport, massages, t-shirts, leather jackets, “young ladies”, DVDs, newspapers and more, but here it’s much quieter, with only the transport guys being prevalent.

Rice fields near Ubud,Bali

Ubud is beautiful, most buildings being built in the Balinese style with intricate stone carvings and gorgeous stone entrance ways. There are also loads of very good places to eat and drink, even the most expensive topping out at about £10 for a main course (usually fillet steak). We’ve been eating two courses with drinks for less than £10 for two of us.

The town is surrounded by hillside rice fields, adding to the calm atmosphere. Some of the cafes and restaurants look over the fields making for relaxing eating.

We’ve been looking at the possibility of doing some courses while we’re here as there are silversmithing, cookery, batik, painting, and carving classes held in Ubud, which is renown for its arts scene.

We’ve even found a decent gym, though it’s quite a trek from our hotel. It’s also at the end of a road which is inhabited by a series of bitey-looking dogs which barked and sniffed at us when we checked the gym out on Sunday.

We’re in Ubud for ten nights, then back to Kuta for a couple before we fly back to KL and then through to Koh Samui for another month at the gym in Koh Phangan.

That’s assuming that the current haze problems in Malaysia get better before we’re due to fly to KL next week. If they get worse, they may declare a state of emergency in Malaysia and close non-essential workplaces. That might well include the airport, preventing us flying back to KL, and possibly our later flight to Bangkok. So fingers crossed on that front.

Sad News

I received some very sad news earlier this week. A friend of mine, Dixon Coulbourn , died on Sunday after a tragic accident.

I knew Dixon through his website dedicated to The Pop Group , a band who influenced a lot of the music I like, and who Simon Underwood of Pigbag played bass with before joining Pigbag. In 1999, Dixon came over from his home in Austin, Texas to the UK to visit some friends and do some research into The Pop Group for a few weeks. He stayed with me for a few days in my flat in London, and we got on well, sharing a common interest in the music. We went to see Asian Dub Foundation at The Forum and generally had a good time.

We kept in touch by email, usually dropping each other an email when something of interest to the other person crossed our radar. Dixon and his partner, Jenni, visited London again in 2001 and we met up again briefly.

On Wednesday I picked up my email at an internet cafe, here in Kuta, Bali. There was a message from Jenni with the news of Dixon’s death. It would appear that Dixon was electrocuted by a faulty light in the pool at their apartments while celebrating Jenni’s birthday.

Both Vic and I are shocked and devastated by the news. Although we only met a couple of times, we exchanged email regularly and we felt close. It’s painful to think that he isn’t there any more and we won’t be able to meet up again. Dixon was only 4 years older than me.

It’s a terrible tragedy for Jenni and Dixon’s family and friends, the pain they must be feeling must be enormous.

The funeral was held yesterday, sadly there was no way we could attend, but we sent some flowers. The funeral directors have a website with a guestbook for obituaries and it was wonderful to read how many people had been inspired by Dixon and how well loved he was.

The Pop Group were very fortunate to have their works promoted by someone with such passion.

Dixon, we’ll all miss you.

On another sad note, another friend of mine, Beermat (aka Greg), is splitting up with Sam, his wife of 6 years. I’ve know Beermat for about 15 years and attended their wedding in 1999, one of the most unusual wedding ceremonies I’ve ever attended. Beermat also has to find somewhere new to live as he and Sam were living with her parents, and to top it all, he’s looking for a job too.

Reading his blog, it looks like he’s sorting out the practicalities but it must be very hard for him with this all coming as a surprise to him.

Back to beautiful Bali

We’re in Bali now, arrived on Friday.

Vic’s got a terrible cold which makes her sneeze and sniffle all the time. I try to be kind :)

We’re staying at the Legian Village Hotel north of Kuta at the moment. It’s okay but we’re moving tomorrow to the Bali Sorgawi Hotel which is more central, better equipped and much cleaner.

We’ll stay there for a few days and then go to Ubud for a while.

The weather’s lovely and warm, without being too hot. Bali smells as good as I remember (but the drains are as stinky as ever).

More when we get time/photos.