Thursday, March 10, 2011

Bali!

I awoke today to a wall of sound at 5:50 AM. Roosters cock a doodle do-ing, dogs barking in symphony together, tropical birds tweeting and cawing, hands hammering, babies laughing and crying, children running and laughing. I loved it. The world felt alive and excited to start its new day.

How do I describe Bali? It is bursting with color, smells and sounds. When we stepped off of the plane it immediately smelled like strong incense, clove cigarettes and an earthy mustiness. All around the country, everywhere you walk, there are small offerings to the Hindu gods. Little banana leaves filled with flowers, rice, little crackers or banana slices, incense, sometimes even a cigarette or other treat. They are beautiful and they are everywhere. I awoke this morning to a small square of banana leaf filled with rice and flowers outside of our door. They seem to magically appear out of nowhere and are created and distributed throughout the day. Those offerings that are placed up high, usually near or on statues of Gods are offered to “God”. Those offerings that are placed on the ground are offered to “Spirit”. Each Balinese must make three offerings a day.

There are stunning sandstone statues everywhere of Hindu gods. Some of them are down right giant. There are holy temples everywhere here in Ubud that emanate an ancient and mystical air.


Walking through Ubud, the sidewalks are made of sandstone tiles that move and click as you step on them. The streets and sidewalks are all quite narrow and usually you have to walk one at a time in single file. Locals often shout out “taxi” and make the motion of driving a steering wheel as you walk past. A quiet “no thank you” seems to be sufficient for anyone that approaches you for a service, which is nice.

The shops are teeming with gorgeous silk offerings. I haven’t had the desire to shop in a long time, but here I feel like I want to purchase so many things. Because of our need to conserve money and also the scant room in our backpacks, we haven’t purchased one thing yet as an indulgence. Maybe Bali is the time :)

The Balinese to me seem warm, happy, and personable. Their smiles are wide, bright and infectious. Yesterday Brian and I got a one hour massage together by two sweet women. It cost us about $6 each and was probably one of the best massages I have ever had. The women’s hands were strong but loving and we felt incredible as we left.

We went for a long walk to visit a very old temple today called Goa Gajah. Along the way we saw enormous rice patty fields. I have never seen anything like this in my life. I had to show you up close because it was fascinating for me to finally see what rice actually looks like growing in nature. Did you know it was this beautiful?

At the temple we were required to wear sarongs before we entered because we were both wearing shorts. We washed our faces with the water that will give us eternal life,

entered the cave of meditation that was carved in the 11th century,


and then walked to another temple called Yeh Pulu with relief carvings dating back to the 14th century.


I took my first yoga class yesterday. It was 2 hours long and the most challenging class I have ever attended. It was comprised of mostly Americans that all seemed to know each other. The ex-pat community here is interesting to me. I have asked a few of the Balinese what they think about so many westerners coming to live, work and develop businesses here in Bali, particularly Ubud. Those I spoke with seemed indifferent to it. There is such a huge yoga culture here, yoga shops, studios, workshops, etc. but the Balinese don’t really practice yoga. It is entirely for westerners. I find this a bit odd but am enjoying the yoga just the same.

The yoga teacher talked about road rage this morning, and why she felt like the Balinese don't have it. Most Balinese drive motorbikes and the streets are these living, pulsating, flowing waves of motorbikes weaving in and out of each other. As I watch it, sometimes I can't fathom why I don't see more accidents. Babies ride the motorbikes without a helmet, just holding onto the handlebars in front of their parents! Anyway, the teacher said that the Balinese have such strong community here, that even when driving, they feel connected to one another.



In the U.S. we all drive in our little boxes, isolated from one another. I wonder if we were all on motorbikes without helmets, if we would look out for one another more on the road. If there would be a communal traveling experience, instead of an individual one. It's something to think about.

We’ve enjoyed some delicious cheap meals so far. I’ve been eating a lot of tofu and veggies with peanut sauce with either rice or noodles. Last night at dinner we got a young coconut to drink with our meal. It was green on the outside and full with sweet clear coconut juice. We squeezed a little lime and added a little bit of sugar and it was delicious.

Tomorrow we are off on an eco bike tour around the region. I'm looking forward to telling you about it!

2 comments:

  1. Wow, Bali seems incredible and beautiful! Would love to see some pics of those babies riding on motorbikes. :)

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  2. Katie- you arrived in NZ just after the Australian floods; left NZ just before the earthquake; and traveled toward Japan just before the tsunami. We are looking forward to seeing you ASAP in the Capital Region but would please be so kind as to advise when you are planning to arrive? :)

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