Bali Hai –August 22nd Post

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Two days have passed since my last entry and much has taken place in those two days. To be honest traveling alone is not the easiest thing to do, especially when it seems like I’m the only one traveling alone. Elizabeth Gilbert the author of Eat Pray Love (part of the reason for this journey) painted a pretty picture of solo uno travel; however she forgot to mention that until you make friends along the way, you’re lonely, self-reliant and self-conscious. However, if there is one place in the world to travel solo uno, Bali is the place. Bali is one of the most beautiful places I’ve ever traveled. The landscape is so lush and so green. There are rice paddies and coconut groves as far as the eye can see. But the landscape isn’t the most beautiful aspect of Bali – the people are. Never before have I come in contact with such warm, genuine and embracing group of people. The Balinese are eager and happy to say “hello” and offer a kind word of English. Don’t get too excited, generally the Balinese only know about five English words and a conversation generally goes a little something like this? Me: Hello (smile) Balinese: Hallo (smile). How are you? Me: Well, thank you. How are you? Balinese: Hallo (smile). Bye-bye. I can’t talk, here I am a visitor to this beautiful country and I’m embarrassed to say I haven’t practiced a bit of Bahasa. Well at least I personify the typical American tourist. The President should be so proud.

Back to the people, in addition to being very warm and eager to meet and greet strangers they too are physically beautiful. Ranging in complexions from café au lait to deep mocha, their beauty is unparalleled.

Thursday was my first full day in Bali. After writing my first Bali post, which hopefully you’ve read by now, I had breakfast which consisted of fresh fruit, tea, apple juice a croissant and the best fruit jam I’ve ever tasted. I can’t recognize the flavor but it’s absolutely delicious, which is great because the croissant as well as the other breads are a little dry and crumbly, at least that’s what I found. Having absolutely no plan and traveling solo uno, of course I wanted to go into the city to experience the flavor of Ubud, the closest city to Keliki Village where the hotel is located. Of course I choose a hotel somewhat off the beaten path so I am at the mercy of hotel shuttles or drivers to get me to and from Ubud. Walking is possible but where it’s a: 15 drive into Ubud it’s more like a 3 hour walk. Not that I mind walking as we’ve all experienced, but a sista is tired. By the time I inquired about the shuttle the first one had already left. They leave at 9am, 12pm, and 5pm. Fortunately and I do mean fortunately, a couple who were also staying at the hotel had arranged for a driver to take them into Ubud and welcomed me to join them. So in we climbed into the Balinese version of the Toyota Highlander with Ketut the driver into Ubud.

The couple, Corrine and Dominique is native French but live in Ft. Lauderdale and have lived there for the past 17 years give or take a year or two. They are a lively couple who have such great and positive energy about them. You can tell they really enjoy life and living it with one another. They arrived in Bali two days before I did and at the time of our ride into the city were planning to rent a scooter to tool around Bali for the day. Because they had been there two days before they were able to help me navigate Ubud – giving me advice as to where to use the internet, where to eat, what dances to watch, how much to pay a taxi back to the hotel, etc…

Before we arrived into the city, we stopped at and artists studio. The village of Keliki is known for its artist and art colonies. Each village in Bali is known for producing something. In Keliki it’s art; in Celuk it’s siver-smithing, in Mas it’s teak furniture (thanks to Dominique and Corrine I now know how to ship furniture back to the States, in case you’re interested in doing so) and in Batuan, its stone carvings. Anyway we stop at the studio of 1Wayan something or another (I have his card somewhere). The studio is apart of 1 Wayan’s family home, farm and temple. It’s important to know that the Hindus in Bali take their worshipping seriously. Not only is there a village temple that all of the villager use, each family dwelling has a temple on the grounds for familiar/every day worshipping.

Fortunately for me, I arrived during a time of celebrations and ceremonies. I arrived at the start of Galulang a ceremony that celebrates good and evil. As I understand, it’s important for the Hindus to celebrate the balance of life. There can be no good if there is no evil and Galulang is the time the Hindus celebrate good winning over evil. This is a high holiday as stores are closed and there is a processional and ceremony taking place throughout day in all the villages across Bali. I was fortunate to witness this celebration, as I truly wasn’t expecting to land right smack dab into a celebration, but that’s the Universe for you – full of surprises.

Back to 1 Wayan, his art is absolutely stunning. The portraits mainly of Hindu Gods in set in traditional Hindu stories are so detailed and vivid. I’m thinking about making a purchase or two before I leave. 1 Wayan invited us to look around his home and temple and even invited us to meet his pig and her new piglets. Again, not something I expected to do. Thank you, Universe.

We left 1 Wayan headed for the city; we drove about a half a mile right to my very first rice paddy field. You should know that Bali is rice paddy, upon rice paddy, upon rice paddy and if that’s not enough rice for you, I just learned that the Balinese government imports rice for Thailand. The rice paddies are so intricately designed and make up the landscape of Bali. Rice paddies are built like stair steps one after the other, either carved into a mountain or stacked on both sides of the road. It’s very interesting how it’s done. Furthermore the paddies are systematically irrigated so basically all you see is rice reeds peeping up from the water – it’s quite a sight. So much so, I have about 100 pictures of just rice paddies. What can I say, I like looking at them.

When we finally arrived at the center of Ubud, the city was already abuzz with mopeds, taxis and tourist. So many tourists. Throughout my trip with the exception of Beijing, I had not come across as many tourists I have in Bali. Most of them French tourist, so it forces one to wonder if the French has some special discount going one. Oh, and remember when I wasn’t feeling special in Seoul? Well, I’m very, very, very special in Bali. The Balinese, ask me if I’m South African. They don’t expect me to say that I’m American. Oh well, SawauBona (Afrikaans for Hello). Once we arrived at the town center, Corrine, Dominique and I parted ways and I started on my exploration of Ubud central. First I found Bali 3000 Internet Café then I found a money changer establishment, but never fear money changers are prolific in Bali. I quickly changed my $100US into 900,000Rupiah, yes folks 900,000Rupiah, which to the Balinese is a lot of money and can go a long way.

I walked down the main street in Ubud, and FYI there are two main streets in Ubud, and they intersect one another: Jual Raya Ubud runs east to west and Monkey Forest Road which runs north to south, but turns into Jual Raya Campuan at Jual Raya Ubud. After exploring some of the shops (I decided not to do any shopping until the day before I leave) and wandering aimlessly, I had lunch at Bumi Bali on Monkey Forest. It’s a cute restaurant, with indoor and outdoor seating. The food was very good and I tried the black rice pudding for dessert. The rice pudding was served warm, almost like a cereal but it can be served cold as I experienced on Saturday.

After lunch I headed further south down Monkey Forrest and ended up at the Monkey Forest Sanctuary. For 10,000 Rupiah you can commune with a troop of Macaques monkeys. For 10,000 more you can buy bananas and feed the monkeys. Yeah about that, you should know that manners are not these monkeys strong suit. Now don’t get me wrong the monkeys are really cute and they are friendly for the most part, but when food is involved, just GIVE IT TO THEM! I was trying to be nice and distribute the bananas evenly amongst the troop. Either I wasn’t moving fast enough or Grandpa Monkey just decided my bananas were his, because the next thing I know I became a human monkey bar for Grandpa Monkey. To everyone else it was quite comical to me; I was just violated and defiled by a monkey. To know surprise I quickly gave up my bananas and that was that for me and monkeys. Fortunately for me, this was not caught on tape, but there were quite a few laughs from the other tourists.

Once I gave up on the Monkeys I explored the other areas of the park, which also serves as temple for funerals. It seems that families come there to cremate their recently departed as per the Hindu tradition of funeral pyres. However if the family can’t afford a cremation at the time, they bury the departed until they can afford it, sometimes it takes six months. I happened upon a recent burial; poor Jedar left here on August 5 and is still waiting to be given over to the afterlife yet. You’ll see in the picture, once I post it.

As I was leaving the Monkey Sanctuary and crematorium, I ran into Corrine and Dominique who were looking for a restaurant, Lake Leke someone told them about. I had to go to the bathroom, plus I was tired of being alone, so I volunteered to accompany them to the restaurant, so that I could use the facilities. The according the source and the guide book, the restaurant was just off of Monkey Forrest Road. We searched Monkey Forrest Road high and low, up and down and couldn’t find this darn place. Finally we asked the guides that monkey sanctuary, and he pointed to a road that looked more like an alley way and told us to go that way. The Balinese are quick to point somewhere, giving the impression that they just want to point you away from them, but as it turns out, they are being very helpful. We followed the road which runs behind the Monkey Sanctuary until we found the restaurant and a very nice restaurant it was, on a rice paddy (of course) with delicious food, according to Corrine and Dominique. I only had a taste of the coconut cream pie – it was good too.

We walked a little further after that and then we parted because I wanted to catch the traditional Balinese dance that was being performed at the main temple in Ubud. The dance was quite a spectacle, full of color and rhythm and of course each dance tells a story about the balance between good and evil. The good thing about the dance is that it’s not a cheesy as you would expect – for it to be a tourist attraction. For me it was a cultural experience and leads to further insight and appreciation of the Balinese culture.

After the dance it was time to go back to the hotel, I made plans to meet up with Dominique and Corrine early the next morning to experience the outdoor market that opened at 5am and closed at 9am. One thing you should know about the Balinese is that they like to bargain with you, to them its good luck if everyone walks away happy. Those of you, who know me, know that I don’t like to bargain, I get no thrill out of it at all. Just give me a fair price and I’ll be happy. Yes, yes, I know, I’m a car salesman’s dream. Anyway, I made my first attempt of Balinese bargaining with a taxi. You remember my hotel, although very nice is quite a ways from central Ubud, so I had the pleasure of trying to secure a taxi for a reasonable price. According to Dominique 60K rupiah was sufficient. So here I go, trying to bargain with the taxi driver. I told him where I needed to go, he said: Oh very far, 100,000 rupiah ($10US); I said 60K rupiah; he said oh no, very, very far, 85 rupiah, I said $70 rupiah was the best I could do. In reality I had no bargaining power, I had no idea where I was, I was alone and I was totally dependent on the kindness of strangers. Thank God this taxi driver was kind. He accepted my offer and drove me back to the hotel for 70,000 rupiah, to Dominique’s dismay, as he felt I paid too much. C’est la vie.

Pictures to follow

~ by abroadnasia on August 25, 2008.

One Response to “Bali Hai –August 22nd Post”

  1. Hi Deanna. I am now caught up with all of your posts. They are hysterical. I hope you will compile them when you return and submit to Essence or something. Can’t wait to hear more about your trip of a lifetime. See you soon. hope

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