Bali was a dream. Just a dream. I enjoyed every second of it. Here's how the trip went. . .
On Thursday, the 25th We arrived in Bali, and settled into the Legian Beach Hotel.
The next morning, I awoke to the astonishing news that Michael Jackson had died. Say what you want, the man is a legend. I know he was a little whackadoo, but you've gotta admit that he had some amazing talent and influenced pop music immeasurably. With the strange behavior and tabloid stories aside, there is a special place in my heart for his music and dancing. Personally, I love the Jackson 5 days. He was such a cute kid with precocious talent; not to mention, he lead the last successful act of the Motown era. I think this video from '77 is fascinating. It really shows how he began to develop his own style that launched his solo career at the end of the J5 years. And the metallic space suits really do it for me!
Good thing I had this place to brighten my day after the news of Jackson's passing!
Kris and Sam takin' it to the waves.
Oh yeah, I took surfing lessons. It was my first time, and I am horrible! I felt really sorry for my patient and smiley Javanese surf instructors, but I did manage to get up on the board several times. I found out that surfing really isn't my forte (look at my horrible form), but at least I made good friends with the Legian Surfer bunch. They even offered me a beer after my lesson! I felt really cool and accepted. I was sure that this meant I was "in" with the surfers . . . but I opted for water.
Myself and Antonio, one of my instructors-- I don't think that Antonio is an Indonesian name. Oh well. I have to say, Antonio's poor English skills and my lack of effort to learn Indonesian made the lessons interesting. I think the language barrier actually made things less awkward for me-- He struggled to give me pointers. I struggled to stay on the board. Every time I failed, we just shrugged our shoulders and laughed at each other-- or just me, I guess. There wasn't anything else to do or say. No pressure. Just fun and laughs.
The cousins at Legian
We spent two days here at the beach. It was really touristy, but hey-- there must be a reason for tourist attractions! Believe it or not, touristy places are actually enjoyable! Sometimes I just wish I could have them all to myself. Even with the tourist-loaded beaches and pushy vendors, it felt really hard to leave the beach. Did I mention that I had the most incredible 2-hour massage/facial of my life at a hotel spa, and it was way cheaper than what I would have paid anywhere else?! ( the exchange rate is 10,000 rupiah to one U.S. Dollar. Cheap!) I seriously had two people massaging me at the same time in a perfectly choreographed and synchronized routine, emphasizing asian principles of balance and harmony. Yes, it was all hard to leave the beach resort scene, but I didn't know what the rest of the week had in store.
This vehicle took us to Ubud. I like the way "taksi" is spelled.
As we drove to Ubud, I became excited. Looking out the car window, I quickly realized that I was entering a completely different world-- rich and exotic. I couldn't wait to see where we would be staying. When the taxi stopped in a shabby little part of town, I was puzzled. Where is the pretty villa, rice paddies, and the sound of bull frogs I had heard about? Suddenly, my attention was directed to the stairs accompanied by stone guardians and overhanging vines. I knew this was the passageway to our place. Luckily, we had two strong Balinese guys there to carry our luggage all the way up the steps on their heads-- the Balinese way, of course.
We then arrived at the gates of Naga Naga, our lovely villa. Apparently the name means "Serpent Serpent," an important symbol in Hindu culture. I thought it was very appropriate with the stone carvings that guarded the entrance.
The villa was spectacular-- complete with fish pond, swimming pool, and an open air bathroom. I loved the feeling of showering outdoors in a large stone tub with the sounds of nature all around me.
The view outside my bedroom-- a panorama of palms, lush vegetation, and pagoda rooftops.
In the mornings, the owners of the villa, Kadek and Kadek (names in Bali have to do with order or birth. Whether you are a boy or girl, you just get your designated name. After child number four, the pattern starts over again. Consequentially, many Balinese have the same names. I can't tell you how many Ketuts I met!), came and made us a breakfast of banana panckaes (more like crepes), toast, eggs, and a large bowl of tropical fruit. Kadek and Kadek (cousins) are standing behind the table in this pic.
Morning faces at breakfast.
And the site-seeing begins!
Goa Gajah or "Elephant Cave"
This is a 10th-11th century temple that is still in use today. Apparently the face represents time, which we are consumed by as we enter. Time consumes all things. I thought it looked like the cave of wonders from Aladdin.
These are the Gunung Kawi Royal Monuments-- all carved out of the stone wall.
I am sporting my sarong, and liking it. Still, with my blonde hair and lazer pink t-shirt, I stood out. When we left the temple, we passed a large group of school kids heading for the temple and I heard a boy yell, "Hey, blondie!" I looked around, but I was the only one in the vicinity. Blending ain't easy!
There, we met a cute family at the temple to give an offering. It had something to do with the protection of Bali. They were really sweet and friendly, and gave ust some of the offering when they were through. (It consisted of ritz crackers, bananas, etc.) Of course, the gods got first dibs!
They wanted to take a picture with us!
As soon as people in Bali find out that Kris and Sam are really Krishna and Samuth (Hindu names) they become instant BFFs.
Krishna chilling at the temple.
There are free-roaming chickens everywhere!
For Lunch our driver took us to this nice Indonesian Buffet overlooking the lake valley and volcano. Very beautiful.
You can't see the volcano, but we look nice, right??
Next our driver, Deva, took us to this awesome coffee plantation where they grow all kinds of herbs, spices, fruit, and of course, coffee. The above pic are the cocoa beans and vanilla sun-drying. They smelled awesome!
We sat down and sampled the plantation products. I didn't have coffee, but I really enjoyed the hot cocoa and the ginger tea.
A cocoa bean.
Where they roast the coffee and cocoa.
We bought a few things at the plantation shop, and our driver was very proud of himself for bringing us to this lovely hidden spot. "I bring you to a good place, right?" he kept asking. Yes, yes. Thanks, Deva.
Pura Pirta Empul
The temple with the holy water pool-- I'm not sure if that's the right way to describe it, but I liked it.
I liked watching the people doing their ritual from fountain to fountain, making their way down the pool. (there were at least twenty fountains) The kids really seemed to enjoy their swim as their parents made their offerings. It looked like fun. An old Balinese man with no teeth kept gesturing for me to bathe in the holy water. Too bad I didn't bring a change of clothes!
At this temple, we met another lovely Balinese family (again, intrigued by Purni, Krishna, and Samuth's Hindu names). They were VERY friendly! At first, I thought they were asking us to take a picture of them, or they were offering to take a picture of us. . . NOPE! After a few moments of meeting, it was time for a group photo and to exchange addresses and contact info. Like I said, instant BFFs.
This is "Norman" (Actually his name is Nyoman-- the Balinese name for child #3) Norman was the leader of the pack, and extremely friendly. It was his idea to pose like this, and when I showed him the picture, he said " Oooh, I look very ancient! haha!"
People worshipping at the shrines around Pura Pirta Empul.
Notice the flowers and leaves from the offerings scattered everywhere.
At night we saw a wayang kulit-- a traditional Balinese shadow puppet play. It was all in Balinese, but the written synopsis helped. I liked it when the puppets fought each other. They just became blurs flying around the screen in a fury. It was funny.
Behind the scenes. The crew consisted of one man controlling all of the puppets and doing their voices, as the mini-orchestra accompanied.
Before bed, we played a round of dominoes and ate chocolate. Family tradition.
Okay. Those were the first three days of Bali. More to come!