Monday, March 30, 2009

Monkey Forest Ubud, Bali

We have been busy trying to experience as much as possible while here in Ubud. It's still hot and humid being tropical, and I am sure I must be losing weight - at least there are some benefits to being dripping wet most of the time!
We went to the Monkey Forest Saturday afternoon, and I had heard so much about how obnoxious the monkeys are - and they were, but since we did not bring any food with us, we were pretty much left alone, and no monkey stole my camera! The temple there was just like out of a Indiana Jones movie, and the little bit of jungle was fun to experience - kind of spooky!

The Beauty of Bali

Now that I have had a chance to spent a bit more time here on Bali, I am beginning to see what it is about Bali that people find so alluring - it still shines through, even though I am sure much has changed here over the past 20 or more years with all the tourism and development. It's the Balinese People - they are beautiful and very open and friendly, and it feels genuine. You can tell they love beauty - they make something beautiful out of even the most mundane things. when have you last felt like taking a photo at the public restroom of a restaurant???

Sunday, March 29, 2009

Blessings in Ubud

We arrived in Ubud on Friday after Nyupi, and we love it here - it is much more relaxed, and everything worked out beautifully! The driver we had hired a few days earlier showed up as promised - we were a bit uncertain if we had explained correctly how he would find us, but there he was at 9 AM on Liv's little bumpy road! We have noticed that the Balinese we have dealt with so far are very punctual, not to mention extremely friendly! Our driver Wayan had brought his little daughter along - it's a school holiday, and we drove through village after village on the way to Ubud, and stopped at a couple of places - the villages specialize in various crafts, so we saw a big jewelry workshop and a wood carving gallery and an art gallery on the way.
We arrived at Ubud Inn which Liv had recommended, and they had room for us, so we were installed and settled in by lunchtime. Jan didn't feel well, so she napped and I walked around a bit, found an internet cafe right across from the Ubud Inn, and enjoyed the feel of Ubud!
That night we went to dinner at the lovely Lotus Cafe overlooking the lotus pond and temple - on the way back to our hotel we stopped and watched a traditional Barong dance performance for a bit, before we headed for bed.
The next morning we walked to a temple as we followed the locals, who were dressed up and many of the women were carrying their baskets with blessings on their heads. We bought a couple of sarongs so we could dress properly for the temple and went in with a group to partake in the prayers and receive the blessings - it was truly a wonderful and exotic experience to be part of it!

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Nyepi - New Year Balinese Style

My friend Jan arrived Monday afternoon, and I picked her up in the airport with a taxi - all be it a bit late, because the roads were crowded as the down-town areas were closed due to processions in anticipation of Nyepi - the Balinese New Year, which I was told was quite a serious matter.
We got back to the hotel I had booked and Jan and I settled in, and went over to my cousin Liv's house to visit one of her Danish friends who happened to live right around the corner! We had drinks and enjoyed visiting - as it turned out, we were going to cat-sit during Nyepi for John, as he had to leave for a business trip, and during Nyepi nobody is allowed out for 36 hours, so Liv would not be able to tend to her cats and John's, so we lucked out! Instead of being cooped up in a hotel room, we were going to enjoy a nice villa with a big wall around, air conditioning and a pool!! We spent a quiet day reading, emailing, a bit of painting and the day before we had shopped at the Bali Deli, so we were well-stocked and had breakfast, lunch and dinner - loads of wine and just enjoyed being. Before we went to bed we slid into the pool for a night swim - very quietly - and the stars were amazing! The whole island being in the dark combined with the new moon made for a starry sky unlike any I have seen!
Early in the morning i awoke to thunder and lightening, and I could hear the rain just pouring down in bucket, but when we got up it was another sunny, hot day.

Sunday, March 22, 2009

A Day's Work In Bali

My first day in Bali was spent shadowing my cousin Liv as she whisked me expertly through the narrow streets of Seminyak to get to the house she is renovating. The heat and humidity is slowing me down, it will surely take a while to get used to! I enjoyed seeing Liv instruct the workers in balinese - such a completely different language, nothing sounds the least bit familiar! She is pretty much taking the whole house apart and redoing it, and once finished it is going to be quite amazing. There are green fields around it, a little creek, and as every place here, a small temple just outside the wall of her back yard.
Later we drive to the newly opened hardware store similar to a Home Depot to check out tiles for the floor and pick up various shades for the outside paint. As always Liv has a clear vision of what she wants!
Then we proceed to check out a couple of hotels for Jan's arrival tomorrow, and settle on a small, cozy place owned by an Aussie in a quiet part of town, but still walking distance to the beach. Then we stop by a hotel and restaurant on the beach where Liv has designed the lobby, restaurant and big outside patio - everything right down to the napkins! It is still a work in progress, but I am truly impressed at her keen eye for details and style!
As we are driving through the narrow streets I am amazed at how many shops line the streets - seemingly endless! Fashion, home decor, jewelry, etc. Mopeds and cars everywhere, it really takes guts to drive here! I did read in my Lonely Planet guide that Seminyak is the happening place here on Bali with endless shopping, and I can only confirm that's exactly what it looks like. I am looking forward to experience the more laid-back Bali when we venture up north and inland in a few days!
We end the day down by the beach at a nice little restaurant and soak in the sunset and a well-deserved ice-cold ginger vodka concoction! Indeed a full day and I go to bed as soon as we get home, and soon I am fast asleep in Liv's big, cozy bed with the AC on to get me through the night!

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Waking up in Bali

I had a nice afternoon in Singapore taking the free tour, and even though it was raining so we could not get out of the bus, it was interesting to get a bit of Singapore's history refreshed and seeing some of the historic places.
The flight to Bali was a couple of hours delayed - so I got in around midnight. As I was entering the customs area I saw a man with my name as Liv had promised, and in no time I was wisked past immigration, my luggage arrived soon after, and through customs we zoomed - I think I was the first out! Not bad being treated as a VIP!!! It was wonderful to see Liv again, it's been about 3 years I think! She of course, looks just like her beautiful self!
Soon we were on our way as Liv skilfully maneuvered the bumpy roads in the dark!
Even though it was late and we were both tired we ended up sitting in her cozy livingroom over a cold drink and chatted and cought up, before we went to bed around 3 AM.
This morning we woke up to bells & chatter and stumbled out of bed to see a procession go by - so far I have seen 4 processions this morning! From what I understand that is a part of daily life in Bali!

Friday, March 20, 2009

Thoughts at Changi Airport, Singapore

Well, it has been a while since I had a chance to post last - life went too fast, and now I will try to catch up. I am bound and determined to learn to slow down!
Right now I am sitting at the Singapore airport transit area after a long trip.
Everything went smooth - not a given in these times! I started out from Reno via SFO - Hong Kong - arrived in Singapore late last night after 26 hours travel. All flights on time!!!
I am taking today for my soul to catch up with me!
Singapore is probably the best airport in the world, (even better than Copenhagen, which is one of my favorite airports).
I knew it would be a grueling trip, so I made reservations at the Transit hotel here in Singapore, to give myself a good night's sleep and a day to rest, before I fly on to Bali tonight. It is a bit of an extra expense, but well worth the less than $100 for 12 hours in a very nice hotel room right here in the Transit area. I could walk straight from the gate to the hotel, my luggage will (hopefully) be automatically transferred to my Bali flight, so no need to go through customs or immigrations here, just straight to bed! I slept until about 8 AM Singapore time, got up and went down the escalator to get a Starbuck coffee and went back to bed for a couple of hours! Took a soak in the tub, and now I am getting ready to take advantage of the free 2-hour bus tour of the major sights in Singapore before I board my flight to Bali - only about a 3-hour flight, so no biggie!
My cousin Liv emailed me that she is sending in a VIP-guy to get me through the Bali Customs and Immigrations area in record-time, and she will be picking me up at the airport, so I am feeling very special!