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Written on: Thursday July 3rd, 2008

A journal entry from: Around The World Without A Plane

I didn't get too far from the beaches of Kuta, but headed north to the centre of Bali and the picturesque and laid-back village of Ubud. Sadly like most of the villages and areas around Bali it is tainted by the thirst of profit and so locals are always fiercely competing for your rupiah, be that meeting you where the bus drops you off to take you to their losman (hotel), dragging you in to their gallery, of which there are hundreds in Ubud or trying to talk you in to letting them take you on a tour. Sadly I fell foul of all these profiteers, but thankfully came out relatively unscathed with some good results. "Good deal for you, good deal for me!" I'd arrived with a Swiss girl, a Chinese girl and a guy who decided he would be from a different place every time he spoke to somebody new. He told me he was American, he'd been living in China, was returning to Sweden and was born in England so swapped his nationality most of the time between Swedish and American depending on if he thought the person he was talking too would be anti-American or not. Many people I've met on my travels tend to be. It's a shame really, I'm quite fond of the Americans, and the ones that you find travelling are usually a great bunch, but all the American travellers I have met (and compared to other nationalities there haven't been many) have all voiced their anger at being labelled and taunted so much because of their nutty current president and the country's political stance on many issues. It's why all the Canadians always have a maple leaf sewn in to their backpacks. Anyhow, the four of us were met by a guy at the bus stop who wanted to take us to his hotel. It turned out it wasn't his hotel after all, just one where he'd receive good commission, but it was cheap, centrally located and actually very, very nice. We spent the day together exploring the village, being pounced upon by determined shopkeepers intent on you leaving their shop with a 10 foot by 5 foot canvas oil painting, a 2 metre carved wooden mask or a hand crafted ebony chess set, none of which would possibly fit in my backpack. Then we were molested by monkeys at the Jalan Monkey Forest. It was quite a fun visit actually, despite having overdosed on monkeys now throughout my trip in Asia. I'd been put off this place by a number of people who had said that the forest was a lot smaller than they'd expected and not really worth the rupiah. We didn't get charged any rupiah in the end and the size of the forest meant a higher concentration of monkeys all running in and around you searching for the tiniest morsel of food or perhaps a camera or two, anything they could get their troublesome mitts on. The supposed highlight of the trip to Ubud was actually a lowlight. Carmen, the Swiss girl had agreed to take a day trip north of Ubud to several places of apparent interest, and so like travelling amateurs we all agreed to join her, so that we could all get a better price as our guide for the day told us. We paid 150,000 rupiah each (about 9 quid) which would include everything except our lunch and entry to one temple which would cost us an extra 6,000 rupiah (30p). The tour would take us to the base of Gunung Batar, one of the volcanoes on Bali, to several temples and to a traditional Balinese village. So I wasn't the only surprised one when for our first stop we were dropped at was a traditional Balinese dance show we hadn't been told anything about where the cover was 100,000 rupiah. Carmen and Dan decided to pay anyway, but I'd already seen the Ramayana ballet in Yogyakarta and the Chinese girl and I had managed to see a rehearsal of another part of the Ramayana the previous afternoon back in Ubud at the Royal Palace, and because of all the money I had spent going to Australia and back I was really having to manage my budget, so I declined going in and went shopping for a new pair of flip-flops instead, my 14th pair. I'd begun a mission to try and swap a flip-flop with every person I came in to contact with so that by the end of my trip most people on the earth would have non-matching flip-flops. I was actually doing pretty well and when explaining my mission to fellow travellers most were only too happy to trade, but my current left flip-flop, a particularly fetching pink one that Josie from Sweden had traded with me bit the dust walking around Ubud the day before so I needed some new ones. Back to the tour anyway, if that had have been the only surprise extra cost to us that day it would have been fine, but as the day went on more and more supplementary payments were expected. We paid an entrance fee to a National Park that we were only taken in to so that our tour guide could take us to one of the most expensive restaurants on the island where he was able to eat for free, even after we had requested him to take us to a local restaurant where the local people eat and not some mass-produced just-for-tourists shindig. When we all piped up and said we wanted to eat somewhere different because we couldn't afford the food at the overly priced place, he told us there wasn't another restaurant for two hours. In two hours I could get to Lombok I told him and set off up the road to find some cuisine of my own. Within 3 minutes I'd come across a great little cosy café specialising in local fare for about a twentieth of the price our misconstrued guide had wished us to eat at. It continued after lunch as it had before with the guide taking us to so-called attractions and us having to pay extra monies to gain entrance. It wasn't a massive amount of money, but the fact that he had so blatantly lied about our package and even as I jokingly brought it up with him he still tried to tell us that he had told us all about these extra costs the day previous, really pissed me off. At the last temple we'd all had enough of shelling out more than we thought we would have to and also of temples so we just told him to take us back to the town, and no he didn't get a tip. The main highlight turned out in the end to be the live music scene in Ubud. On the Friday night we went to see a Reggae band who tossed out Bob Marley song after Bob Marley song, interspersed with a bit of UB40 here and there, but were actually quite impressive. The bar filled up with forty and fifty somethings, who before we knew it were drunk and dancing all over the place. It was like being a wedding with some of the most atrocious and entertaining dance-moves I've ever witnessed, great to watch from a safe distance. Later on that night we heard a guy playing a guitar in another bar on the way home and ended up meeting him and singing away to his playing until the early hours of the morning, with the Arak fast flowing. We returned back here the following night and spent the entire night with him and his band and a group of other travellers who also enjoyed screaming out the words to The Goo Goo Dolls and a very popular rendition of a Dixie Chicks' classic, if there is such a thing. With my weak resolve I caved in and was talked into hitting the one nightclub in the area where we raved the night away with bubbles sporadically being expelled out on to the dance floor to anthems like Higher State of Consciousness