Paradise is definitely not just around the corner. After a fairly uneventful albeit extremely long flight we finally made it to Bali. The only three things of significant note during the initial part of our travels are one; the frequency with which the initial pilot turned on the seatbelt sign due to turbulence. From my perspective however, there was no turbulence to speak of… nothing that is in comparison to the numerous trips I’ve taken in the past. The second thing of interest was the efficiency and poise with which the flight attendants of Korean Air conduct hem selves. It was very reminiscent of long expired culture of “Pan Air”. Flight attendants all dressed the same with a sense of perfection, from their pencil skirts, to the silk scarves around their necks . It was quite elegant and made for a wonderful presentation. The third and somewhat embarrassing event was of my own doing When in the comforts of home I have a tendency to react vocally to movies. Of course that is fine when you’re all alone with no one to disturb, but at 2:00 in the morning on a sleeping plane full of weary travelers… not so much. Apparently I was so engrossed in “The Life of PI” that at one part of the movie, I completely forgot where I was and let out a very load very vocal “UGH’. Let’s just say the looks from my fellow passengers were less than friendly
Ubud: Alila Day 1
March 20th 2013Today was a jam packed whirl wind of culinary, cultural and natural Experiences. After a wonderful breakfast at the resort with monkeys peering on from the nearby trees and what at this point I can only describe as mystery fruit… until I figure out exactly what it was, we started out on our first day. Our first destination was to a local Banjar for a Barong. A Banjar is a small community made up of family member all working toward the greater good of its members. The Banjar is in charge of everything that helps the community survive and prosper… covers everything from healthcare, weddings and even funerals. In the US there is the saying "it takes a village"… Well the Balinese truly live with that concept in mind. A Barong is a play that represents the eternal fight between good and evil spirits and was a delightful glimpse in to the local religious beliefs . Unlike the rest of Indonesia which is predominantly Muslim, the people of Bali are predominantly Hindu. From the Barong we went off in search of highlights showcasing the amazingly artistic talents of the locals… silver and gold smithing, wood carving and many others. The traditional artistic culture came from the initial from the early years of Bali and adorning the temples. Once tourism started taking hold it was quickly determined that those same skills could be very profitable. The sites of resplendent silver and luxurious woods were followed by a visit to one of the many local temples. From the spiritual side of Bali, we then quickly turned to explore the natural with a visit to Mt. Batur and a brief visit to the Monkey Forest of Ubud… I'll definitely be going back to visit the monkeys again tomorrow.
Ubud: - Day 2
March 21th 2013Today started off a bit rougher than I would have liked with regards to my plans to return to the Monkey Forest. Scheduling conflicts put the return closer to noon. After a very brief, but disappointing visit, I decided to momentarily cut my loses and try to return to the Monkey Forest one more time before leaving the area. With that in mind, the rest of the afternoon was spent wandering around town and perusing the wares of some of the local vendors. In the evening was a brief trip to Tanah Lot which is referred to as the "floating temple" or as the guide called it "the Grand Canyon of Bali". Of course due to communication differences we were thinking big canyon while it turns out he just meant its popularity as a holy site and for tourist. On the return trip to the resort there was an event that had me once again questioning the civilization that we call America. We have so many wonderful things and opportunities, but we've lost a lot of what it means to be civilized... respect and concern for your fellow humans. There was a young woman driving down a rural road at night on her moped and apparently didn't see the damage in the road ahead of her. That being the case, she hit it and took a spill... rather than gawking or ignoring her completely as is far too often the case in the US, everyone stopped to help. It was a beautiful moment.
Ubud: Defeat on Batur - Day 3
March 22th 2013Wow, talk about not knowing your limits… or should I say quickly learning and accepting them. Today started off at 1:45 am, yep that was am. I joined two other travelers and we went off on an early morning adventure to climb/hike up Mt. Batur to see a nice sunrise. Well the thought was nice, but the reality was something quite different. My adventure companions were quite a bit more physically active than I and as such set quite a brisk pace. I guess that would be all well and good if not for the fact that I was carrying a good 40 pounds of camera equipment. The guide and I sent the two other travelers on ahead, while I set my pace in the rear. After awhile I felt like one of the dying members of an expedition and finally told the guide to go on without me. If not for the initial rapid pace that quickly sapped my energy, I feel I could have made it to the top… well at least, that's what I'll keep telling myself. My hiking inadequacies aside, there were still some quite beautiful sites at the elevation I reached... as beautiful as at the top, I'll never know but am satisfied none the less. After returning to the resort and some brief local wandering it was time to settled in and enjoy a little spice celebration prepared by the hotel.
Ubud: Monkey Forest bound! - Day 4
March 23th 2013Today was the last shot I had for getting back to the Monkey Forest to capture some of the scenes I had seen on the two previous visits. Yes, I realize that to most people reading this (maybe about 4 out of the 5 actual readers) are thinking to themselves… "ummm, you were there twice why didn't you just take the damn pictures then?". Well the quick answer to that is because I'm a photographer. The long answer is if the lighting isn't right or if there are too many tourist congesting the image you have in mind, then it kind kills your enthusiasm. This time around things worked out exactly as planned... primarily because this time I only had to worry about my own schedule. So after finally having a successful visit to the home of the monkeys it was off to the local market to possibly by a few trinkets to carry home with me before heading back to the hotel for a transfer to Alila Manggis (The next resort). On the way we made a quick detour to the traditional Balinese village of Penglipuran where we were able to see inside some of the homes of that particular Desa. Many of the "Traditional Desas keep marriages between the members of the Desa. Property is the main reason for this. Each Desa has a limited amount of land owned by that Desa. When a young couple gets married, they receive a home and land from the Desa. If someone from the Desa wants to marry someone from outside the Desa, they have to leave the Desa. I neglected to ask what happens in the case of divorce, but hopefully will remember to do so later.
Tenganan and Candidasa - Day 5
March 24th 2013There’s traditional and then there’s traditional. Penglipuran is considered a traditional Balinese village, but it is quite modern when compared to Tenganan. I think for the locals, the term traditional may be more specific to the customs held within the village in comparison to the village lifestyle. I feel that the Architecture and overall lifestyle of the inhabitants of Tenganan shows a bit more of their heritage. Of course nothing stops the march of progress and in time Tenganan may also fall to the comforts of modern life, but for now things seem to be as they should. I guess that’s a very simplistic way of looking at it, but seeing the culture as it stands and knowing the potential corruption of modernity, it kind of makes me hope the status quo holds out a little bit longer. The other threat to their way of life is much the same as it was for the American farmer. The land is maintained for only so many generations until one comes along that no longer embrace that lifestyle and move away to fulfill their own destiny. Candidasa on the other hand is a town that is clearly rooted in the tourist industry. If it were not so small, it might be a bit overwhelming. Lucking, at a standard pace, you can walk from end to end in under an hour and the sights along the way aren’t too bad.
Road Trip - Day 6
March 25th 2013When things are right, they’re right!! For a lack of a better term, today was kind of magical. One of those days where the planets aligned the sun was shining and all was right with the world. Picture this… driving along through a tropical island, eating fresh fruit from a roadside stand, listening to and singing along with Bob Marley. I don’t know, there’s just something right about that. I think a lot of the enjoyment could be attributed to my driver Inyoman Mustika who was an incredibly nice guy. Additionally he was a great tour guide, providing lots of information and making stops where he knew I’d like to take pictures. Our first stop of the morning was Ujung the Floating Palace. If memory serves correctly, the last King to use it was in 1922. It was partially destroyed by a volcanic eruption from Mt Agung in 1963, but has been fully restored. The next stop was Tirta Gangga the water temple whose name roughly translates to holy water. I could have easily spent an afternoon at either location as the watery surroundings were quite peaceful. As was frequently discussed between Mustika and I, “It was good to be King”. After leaving the two watery delights, we headed to Besakih the Mother Temple… first however, Mustika had a stop for me… an amazing vantage point overlooking a large terraced rice field. Besakih is the largest temple in Bali with some 300 meters of steps to climb to reach the top. It is quite an amazing site. At points along the walk I started having flashes of King Kong go through my head as the entire structure is massive and the traditional split gates at several of the landings (representing a balance of good and evil) brought to mind images of Fay Wray strung up in between.
Candidasa - Day 7
March 26th 2013Today was primarily about taking it easy. It’s been one nonstop vacation and I felt a bit of rest was in order. A leisurely day around the hotel with another stop in Candidasa marks the extent of today’s journey. Considering I’m a bit behind on my journaling and photos, it’s also a great day to play a bit of catch up.
Candidasa and Goa Lowah: The Bat Cave – Day 8
March 27th 2013
With today being the last day of my journey, it was time to wind down and prepare for my return home. Of course, that doesn’t mean that there was no time for a quick excursion. Unfortunately the trip to Goa Lowah was just that, a quick excursion. While the visit was not without its charm and its inherent cultural beauty much like the other temples that I’d visited, this time since the community was celebrating Galungan and in the middle of prayer I felt like I was intruding. Galungan is a major Balinese festival when all the gods and dead ancestors are thought to come down to earth to join the festivities. I attempted to be as respectful as possible and stayed in the back area of the temple. While that was the case, I still chose to cut my visit short and head back to the resort.