Wednesday, 27 March 2013

Rabies and dogs

Rabies and dogs

The Australian press is divided into two groups, those who support Bali and those who take every opportunity to put Bali in a negative light.

When the rabies outbreak started in 2008 some of the press delighted in saying how dangerous Bali had become. Absolutely no mention that travellers to Europe and the USA should also avoid being bitten not only by dogs but by many other mammals that can carry the rabies virus.

Dogs to the Balinese are considered to be the reincarnation of evil spirits and to be left well alone. Stray and feral dogs were a real problem prior to 2008. Often tourists could see dogs that had been run over with fur torn off , exposed flesh visible and  limping along with broken bones. No one took any care of them. the most humane thing would have been to have them put down.

There is a charity group, the name of which escapes me at the moment, based near Ubud, that look after stray Balinese dogs.

Gradually the attitude towards dogs has changed. Possibly because so many ex pats have dogs as pets. Also there are a number of pet shops that cater for the need of pets. Now quite a number of Balinese keep dogs as pets and not just guard dogs.

Anyway back to rabies. At the outset dogs were hunted and exterminated. In one area I know the army came and went into the bush shooting. The number of dogs decreased rapidly!

Dogs are now required to have a collar indicating thet they have been vaccinated and are supposed to be kept within the family compound.

Dogs found near monkey colonies and bat colonies are collected and "dealt with".

I go walking through Balinese villages and since the culling of stray dogs it has been so much more pleasant.

Because I do a lot of walking and encountered may feral dogs I did get the vaccination. A course of three injections costing $300. For the average visitor, who usually stay in the main tourist areas it in not essential to get vaccinated. The likelihood of getting bitten by an infected dog is now extremely remote.

If a tourist is bitten by a dog, bat or monkey it is wise to get the ant dote as soon as possible.

The deaths from rabies has been confined to Balinese who failed to seek treatment. They failed to get treatment because they thought they had to pay for it. in fact the government has introduced free treatment.

One reason why Balinese do not look after their pets as well as tourists do is the cost. I have a cat in Bali. I had it neutered at a cost of $50 - very cheap. My Balinese friends were horrified - they were thinking of what they could do with $50. The cat also lives like a queen having a diet of  "Whiskas"

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Money - what to take and money changers

Money and what to take  
Most people take cash. All major currencies are easy to exchange, Au$, US$, UK sterling, Euros, Yen. The place I ALWAYS use is P T Kuta Central. They have red and blue signs. The head office, more like a bank, is about 400m from Bemo Corner, going away from the beach. They have agencies in many Kodak shops. Large amounts of cash can be exchanged. The main office has a computer display of the latest exchange rates. They give a print out of each transaction. You can count your money as many times as you like before you leave. I have NEVER known them to be wrong.
Over the past few years a number of other reliable changers have opened up. They all have well signed frontages and good displays of the rate of the day. Shonky money changers usually have hand written signs.

NEVER go to money changers at the back of small shops or stalls or to those offering rates above any one else. There is always a trick. The money changers are quicker than magicians and you will find several notes have fallen into their laps or back into the cash drawer. I even experienced one who "doctored" the calculator so when he showed the amount he intended to give it was always lower than it should have been. When I pointed out his calculator was wrong he suddenly decided he did not have enough cash to complete the transaction.

Indonesian bank notes
Indonesian money has many 0000s which can be very confusing. Some notes are of a similar colour, especially the 10 000Rp note a reddish purple colour and the 100 000Rp note a red colour. Take time to check when you are paying or receiving money.

I keep large denomination notes in one pocket and smaller denomination notes in another. I also never bring out wads of notes so that the sellers can see.
I try to take out just what I need.
Many people make little conversion tables for themselves. At the moment with the exchnge rate close to $1 = 10 000Rp it is quite simple.

Bali - weather

Bali - weather and money changers

So many posts on travel forums about the weather.
Day time temperatures are ALWAYS about 30 degrees and at night 25 degrees. There is very little variation.
The difference is in the humidity and that can make a great difference.
In the wet season, usually November through to March, humidity can be very high and many people find it uncomfortable. The only places to be are in air conditioned rooms, in front of or under a fan, find a cool breeze, or if you have to indoors without air conditioning by an open window to catch any breeze there may be.
Many people like to be in Bali during June and July, the dry season,  when the humidity is much lower.

When it is the wet season it does not rain every day. Typically rain is in very heavy showers that may last 1/2 hour or so. Some of the showers can be torrential. It is not usual to have steady rain all day. Frequently the rain is during the night, early morning or late afternoon.

Thunder and lightning are quite common but it is mostly between cloud masses. Lightning does not often strike the ground.

Rain patterns have been changing over the years and there has been heavy rain during the dry months of June and July.

Of course any time of the year is time to relax by the pool.

Bargaining at the markets

Bargaining at markets

Bargaining at markets is expected.
It should be played like a charade and with good humour.

Never go to the markets wearing heaps of jewellery. You give out the message that you are rich and the prices will start very high. Even just being a tourist you are considered as being rich. Any one who can afford to travel in Balinese eyes is rich.

There are several levels of starting price depending on where the tourist is from, the highest price to the lowest :-  Japanese, American, European, Australian and then local. Tourists will never get local prices.

It is a good idea to go to one of the supermarkets or large souvenir shops that are now open to get a rough idea of the price. Of course this is difficult to  apply to original paintings or carvings.

Play it "cool". Don't look over interested in the item you want to buy. Certainly never say to a friend or to the seller, "I like that." The price goes up straight away. If there are two of you, one should play the part "You don't want a ......", give the impression you don't really want to buy.

Here is the drama of bargaining:-
Shopper casually asks, " How much is this ....?"
Seller, " 500 000Rp"
Shopper, with an amazed look, "Wow that is expensive."
Seller, " It is good quality."
Shopper, " How about 150 000Rp?" ( Many people suggest starting at 1/3 of the original offer and working up to 1/2 the original asking price.)
Seller, usually laughing, " I can not sell at that price I will be bankrupt. I'll let you have it for 400 000Rp."

Shopper, still smiling, "I have seen them for 200 000Rp. I'll give you 200 000Rp."
Seller, "my best price is 250 000Rp."
Shopper, carefully checking the item, "Humm, not really the colour I wanted." ( here the friend can say " We saw some that you liked in Kuta")
Shopper, "Last price 220 000Rp"
Seller, "250 000Rp. I can not sell for less. Honest."
Shopper, losing interest and walking away.
Seller, "OK, OK, 220 000Rp"
At this point the seller agreed to the Shopper's price and the shopper is morally obliged to buy as the bargain has been made.
If the shopper has offered a price too low then the seller will let the shopper walk away.
The shopper can try again at another place.
Somehow stall holders seem to know the second a shopper takes an interest in something and the whole market will offer the same item.

The first sale of the day, is extremely important to sellers. Balinese are very superstitious and if the first contact of the day with a tourist results in a sale they consider they will have good luck all day. Conversely if the first contact of the day does not result in a sale the whole day is ruined. Sellers therefore offer what is known as "Morning Price" to ensure a sale as soon as possible. Sometimes Morning Price can be below cost - just to get a sale.
After the first sale of the day the seller will brush all their stock with the money from the sale to further increase their luck.

Always act out the play.

Almost all sellers are honest however the sellers at the look outs at Kintamani are less than honest.
Even an old Bali traveller like myself can get caught out.
The sellers crowd around the tourist buses or cars.
They show tourists beautiful carvings at ridiculously low prices.
Once the tourist has handed over the cash the seller switches the carving for a very inferior one that looks as though the apprentice made it. This is done quicker than the eye can see. The seller has a friend standing behind them. This is easily done as the sellers usually crowd around. As the seller pops the beautiful carving into the plastic bag it changes into the dud one - quicker than a magician can produce an ace. The buyer opening the bag realises they have been had. The seller has vanished like the Phantom.
If you buy a carving at Kintamani, get it in your bus or car and then give the seller the money.

Health, Dengue fever, travel insurance

Health Dengue mosquitoes

There is an old saying; "If you can not afford Travel Insurance - you can not afford to travel", is as true for Bali as it is for any other journey.

For those living in Australia, especially Perth and Darwin, Bali is cheap and quick to get to and there is the temptation to forgo travel insurance.

Without getting paranoid travellers should take sensible precautions. Even the smallest graze should be carefully watched in case it becomes infected.

Luckily now in Bali there are several places where tourists can seek treatment, if needed. Two of the best known are BIMC ( Bali International Medical Centre ) and SOS. Both are close to each other on the road to Sanur almost opposite Bali Galeria.

With the outdoor living style of Bali mosquitoes can be a problem. Until recently fly screens were unknown in Bali. When I wanted to fly screen my villa I had to take fly netting from Australia.

Insect repellents are easy to get in Bali. One common local brand is Autan and it is very effective. Many travellers recommend insect spray that is high in DEET content. I usually spray hotel bedrooms before going to bed. Mosquito coils can also be effective. The latest electronic devices where a vapour is released every so often are also excellent.

The small cicaks seen crawling up walls and on ceilings are tourists best friends as their main diet is mosquitoes and flies.

Much has been written about Dengue fever during the last year. It is a fact that Australia especially Queensland, in 2010, has had the highest recorded cases of Dengue fever.

Dengue fever is transmitted by a DAYTIME mosquito. In Bali it is a black and white striped mosquito known as the zebra mosquito.

In Bali there are 4 strains of Dengue. Once you have had one strain you are immune to that one strain. I am not sure how many strains there are in Australia.

I contracted my Dengue on Lembongan Island in 2005. Five days after returning to Bali I woke up feeling terrible. The symptoms like severe flu. I insisted on being taken to BIMC. I spent a week there on a drip. Dengue reduces the number of white cells in the blood and the patient becomes susceptible to secondary infections. The nursing staff monitor bleeding, which can occur from gums, eyes, urine and even through hands. Normally the white count is in 1000s. Mine dropped to 32. A count of 30 is  critical and evacuation back to Australia considered. Luckily after my lowest count I recovered quite quickly. The Balinese often do not seek medical help as it is too expensive for them. Deaths do occur, mainly in the very young, old and those with other complications.

My Balinese friends did not accept that a mosquito caused my Dengue. They said "the wind caused it." this is a quite common explanation. To ensure it did not happen again I had to have a bigger and more elaborate temple built in the garden. It has worked I have not had Dengue again.

I have been back to Bali 25 times since my bout of Dengue. I take precautions but do not let it spoil my holiday by worrying too much.
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Monkeys at Ubud, Uluwatu and Sangeh


There are many colonies of monkeys in Bali. The three most popular visited are Monkey Forest in Ubud, Uluwatu and Sangeh north west of Ubud.

Ubud Monkey Forest
This is probably the most visited as it is in a central position. There is a fee of 20 000Rp to enter the area. Since the monkey have been protected and fed their numbers have increased rapidly to the point that the area may be over populated with monkeys. Prior to protection they were quite shy and usually turned their backs when tourists tried to take  photos. Now they wander about unconcerned. Mostly they do not worry about tourists UNLESS you have food, then they may jump on you, especially early in the morning. The best thing is NOT to have food for them. Avoid the alpha males and females with young.

Whilst in the Monkey Forest there are other things to see.
1. The main temple - turn away from the entry area - about 100m.

2. The ravine with some good views of tropical jungle. Go down the steps - quite a lot of them. Over the bridge by the huge banyan tree. Turn right and find the huge lizards carved into the rock. Explore the small temple with koi fish. On you way back observe the bridge. The original supports have all been eroded away and the bridge is now held up by the roots of the banyan tree.

3. Go up a short set of steps to the burial area. Observe the small head stones. Here the dead are buried until the families have saved enough money for a cremation ceremony. Usually several families will join together and have a combined cremation ceremony. Cremation ceremonies only take place at special times of the year.

4. Nearby is a temple with grotesque carvings. This temple is to appease the evil spirits. The evil spirits are not worshiped but paid homage to. In Balinese culture good and evil exist together. Balinese folk tales do not end with the "bad person" being killed such as the wolf in Little Red Riding Hood. In a Balinese story the wolf would run away and live to fight another day. The co existence of good and evil is expressed in the black and white checked material used to decorate statues etc.

Some of the monkeys here are not very friendly. They will grab any earings, necklaces, sunglasses etc. I have seen them grab a child's thong ( flip flop ) and tear it to shreds. I have a suspicion that some monkeys have been trained to grab sun glasses etc, for as soon as the monkey takes of a guy appears and tells you he will retrieve the "stolen" item for you. Of course he expects a reward!
Whils ta Uluwatu go to the Kecak and Fire Dance. Start time 6pm but get your tickets early. Cost 70 000Rp. There are great shots of the sun setting behind the performers and you have the opportunity to get a photo with the performers in their costumes.

One time I was at Uluwatu I thought my wife was stroking my hair. I though it was my lucky day ( maybe lucky night ). We were with a group of friends and I realised they were laughing. I looked around to find my hair was being groomed by a monkey!!!


A forest area a few Km north west of Ubud. The monkey are more in their natural habitat here

Pool fences at villas

Pool Fences at Villas

Many people ask about pool fences at villas. They are not common. Some places will erect a barrier made of an old tennis net or badminton net. They are not very strong. As I often have my grandchildren at the villa I decided to make an improvement. I constructed a frame and used strong shade cloth. Although still not as strong as a metal fence it has proven to be very effective. When the children are not at the villa it can be packed up and stored out of sight.


"Let me in!"

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