Doing your Laundry – Balinese Style

When I travel with the Intrepid Traveller – we always carry a clothes line and soap – and do our ‘laundry’ almost every night. Thank goodness for Tilly Clothing – you need stuff that will dry quickly – and Tilly totally does the trick.

But here in Ubud in particular – and Bali in general – laundry places abound. There is one in every village – and almost one on every street corner. They are more popular – and certainly easier to spot – then proper petrol stations!

Blessing note – I saw them doing prayers for both the washers and dryers yesterday – so just like cars and motorbikes – apparently any machine that you count on – needs to be rid of evil spirits.

So of course – I had to try it out. And I admit to becoming adicted. Ok – color me blonde – but here was my latest laundry list:

8 t-shirts
2 trousers
3 under shorts (I think they mean – underware)
1 dress (actually – I think this actually was a longer t-shirt – but I’m not going to argue)
4 Bras

Total cost – for everything – $3.60

Keep in mind that not only do they wash and dry the clothes – they iron them. I saw them ironing my bras – I’m not kidding. And they give you same day service – bring your clothes in by 9:00 am – they are ready by 5:00 pm.

These people work amazing hours – and as far as I can tell – 7 days a week. They might be closed on Sunday – its a bit hard to be sure because we just finished Nyepi – and of course they were closed.

Now that’s what I call service – If we could get our laundry done at home for that price – who would ever buy a washer and dryer!

One fast note about petrol stations – there appear to be 2 kinds of stations – ones that look like ones at home for cars – and street vendors selling gasoline in glass 1 litre jugs. I’m guessing those are for motorbikes – not that i’ve seen a motor bike pull up to one of these street vendors and fill up. And speaking of motor bikes – The Lady in Pink says that when she was here 13 years ago – there were no cars, some motor bikes and tons of bicycles. Today there are tons of cars – about three times as many motor bikes as cars – and almost no bikes. I actually have seen 5 bikes in 2 weeks – and 3 of them were being ridden by serious long distance bikers like you see in California. The other 2 were school kids.

Photo preview of tomorrow’s Blog – market day and view of Mt Agung – Bali’s active volcano. A must see – must photograph view!

Signing off to bring the laundromat more laundry – The Soup Lady




Math at the Yellow Flower – Ubud, Bali

Food in Ubud is dirt cheap by Western standards – seriously really really cheap. Dinner for under $10 isn’t a surprise – it’s the norm. The last time I remember seeing these kinds of bargain prices was in Laos.

But just because the prices are reasonable doesn’t translate to great food everywhere – there are clearly pecking orders – and so far we’ve eaten in 2 restaurants – The Yellow Flower and The Yoga Barn’s Garden Grill.

First the Yellow Flower. It’s in a great location for us – seriously close to where we are living, just an open air space with a kitchen smaller than mine at home and about 10 tables. Max. There is one waitress – maybe 2 (there’s one gal that triples as cook, bartender and waitress.). The rest of the staff (another 2?) does the cooking and I’m guessing the washing of dishes. Never actually saw that happening!

Anyway – we ordered a dish described as 7 Indonesian Dishes in one – turns out it was a sampler platter – served with 1/2 red, 1/2 white rice. It was delicous – and enough for 2 considering The Lady in Pink and I had agreed that we definitely wanted to try the 1/2 coconut dessert – which was bananas, coconut and a carmel sauce. It was quite tasty. In fact the entire meal was delicous. So where does the math come in? We first noticed a dog that relieved himself on every chair at any empty table. No one else seemed aware of this – which says something about the dog population of Ubud. Anyway – because we were watching the table – we noticed a man and his 2 young kids take a chair there. We started to chat – and the younger of the kids says something funny – so I ask his age. He’s 6. He immediately asks me my age – and I answer truthfully – 66. Then I ask him – how much older am I than you are. He thinks a bit – and comes up with 60. Pretty good!

Then here comes the challenge – I turn to his older sister and ask – what year will it be when your brother is half my age now. Blank stares. What is this lady thinking. Then she says – 33. Very good – that’s 1/2 my age. But what year will it be when your brother is that old?

The Lady in Pink and I, our jobs done here, leave stage right.

Now – the Garden Grill. You must understand that the Yoga Barn is the premier place to do holistic healings, yoga, meditation and the like in Ubud – which is a center for that stuff to start with. So the Yoga Barn is the center of the center – it’s a big deal.

And it is huge – the Garden Grill alone is probably 50 tables – there were at least 4 waitress – and it was 30 minutes to closing time. We get seated and handed menus (in English) and my jaw drops. There is something I don’t recognizee in every dish. Clearly these guys are the vegan, rushi, healthy body eathing specialist – but for some one just looking for dinner – the task is daunting. I end up by asking the adorable waitress – Do you have something for beginners – like beginners Yoga?

Yes – they do. The waitress recommends that we try the Balinese Pumpkin Stew. I do – it was great.

Our drinks where to my mind less successful. I got a mint lime slush – thinking it would be mostly shaved ice – nope. And very minty. We decided to try the vegan ice cream, it’s made out of coconut milk – should be yummy – but despite our ordering it in plenty of time, it never arrives. Oh well – a reason to go back I suppose.

I’ve heard good things about several other eating establishments – and I’m going to give them a try. But probably without the math quiz.

Signing off – the Soup Lady.

Traveling the Back Roads of Bali

Getting out of the city isn’t as easy as one would think in Bali. The odds are you are staying in Denpassar, on the southern island with the fancy resorts and the beach vibe, or in Ubud – with it’s Yoga culture and Organic emphasis.

But if you want to see the Bali that dreams are made of – the isolated communities, the farmers tilling their fields in ways that date back hundreds of years – you must leave the hustle and money grubbing tourist culture behind and head into the hills.

Diane (driver extradinare) decided to take me towards the far Western end of Bali – a land of ravines and forests – waterfalls and clove trees – that is dominated by the simply enormous Taman Nasional Bali Barat (West Bali National Park). There are several ways to get from here to there – and Diane selected the back road route. Tiny roads barely a car and a half wide – filled with pot holes deep enough to break an axle. But worth hanging tough to see the farmers lovingly tending their fields – acres of rice fields, tomato gardens, and flower gardens stretching out before us in a crazy patch work of infinite growth.

The best word I’ve found to describe Bali is succulent – over-ripe in many ways. There’s so much life all around you – all the time. Nothing is done half way – people don’t just smile – their faces light up when they say hi. Houses aren’t just buildings – they are compounds bursting with people, pets, children, life. It’s so over the top – it’s almost overwhelming.

And that’s the case with the farms. You don’t just see tomatoes growing. In the same field might also be lettuce, cabbage, and perhaps tempe. Green houses are suprisingly common – and don’t just grow strawberries – in amonst the strawberry plants there are long beans, onions, perhaps marigolds.

Flower fields – particularly marigolds that are present in all offerings, on all tables, in every bathroom – including the bathrooms at the airport (who ever saw fresh flowers in the bathroom of an airport before?) – abound. There’s a real industry in marigold buying I guess – all the women I’ve spotted doing offerings – and some women do this every day, to every car, motor bike, entrance way, and hindu statue in their living space – use marigolds. And yet I’ve never seen them for sale.

We drive up and down and around – spotting Ogoh-Ogoh’s hidden in community halls, entrance ways to temples, or proudly displayed on street corners in every village. As we go from Sea Level to over 4500 feet in elevation (over 1000 meters) – the vegetation changes – it’s still Rain Forest – but now the plants are Clove Trees (did you know Cloves grew on trees – I didn’t), Coffee Trees, Jack Fruit Trees, Durum Fruit trees – you name it – and it grows wild here.

Diane says that these aren’t really that wild. All land – except that in the National Park – belongs to someone – and the Clove Trees get harvested in their season, as does the coffee, the vanilla, the nutmeg, and the fruits. Sure enough – we arrive at the ridge line road that runs along the top of the mountain – and on our right – the side that is less steep – but still pretty steep – are compounds. And in front of every one is a stand holding todays market garden harvest. This time of year it’s Mangosteens and Mandarin Oranges. We stop and buy 3 kg of Mangosteens for 20,000 RLP (about $2) – and enjoy their burst in your mouth flavor.

Diane does a rest stop at one of the view spots for the national park – and an enterprising young man has picked the same location to display his animal collection – 2 huge fruit bats, a snake the size of – well – a big snake, and a giant lizard. I’m intrigued by the bats. They are huge – over a foot long from tip to bottom with a wing spread of at least 2 yards (2 meters). They are soft to the touch, and their wings feel like baby skin. I feed one a bit of banana and watch it’s tongue move in and out as it slowly enjoys the snack.

The young man has had the bats for 3 years – raised them from babies – and they are amazingly calm. He puts one on my hips – and it walks its way up to have it’s legs around my neck as I stretch out it’s wings and Diane snaps a picture. Oh – is this weird. And only on a mountain top in Bali I’m guessing.

We hike down a rough trail to see a waterfall that tumbles over 400 feet (100 meters) from high above us. At the bottom of the water fall is a walking area that you can use to reach the bottom of the fall – it’s too cold and wet for me to venture in too far – but I get the idea. Beautiful.

We head back down the mountain – and stop at one of the 7 main Hindu temples in Bali – The Lake temple. There is a festival happening – Diane thinks it’s a family gathering related to the cremation of a relative – these happen 5 years after the death of the relative – and serve as an opportunity to provide the priests with offerings of live ducks apparently! Neat.

The grounds of the lake temple have been turned into a Balinese style amusement area – play ground for the kids – and paddle boats – including a pink swan boat – for the adults. We wander around – enjoying the atmosphere for a while. One thing that surprised me – just 100 meters from the entrance to this famous old temple is a brand new – very large – mosque. And while we were wandering around – we hear the call to prayer echoing across the park. Nothing says religious tension like putting your religious site on top of someone elses…

Our next stop was supposed to be lunch – but we get a bit lost on the way – and pass an official looking sign. I ask what it is for – and Diane says – Hot Spring! Oh I really want to visit a Hot Springs – so he backs up – parks – and we follow the trail down to the spring. Curiously, it leads thru a farmers yard with his fighting cocks in their individual cages made from bamboo – and around his fields, before we enter thru an offical looking gate way. The Hot spring has been relatively (by Bali Standards) built up. There’s a ticket booth, a toilet (squat only – no toilet paper), private bathing rooms that one can hire, changing rooms with showers – and 2 hot baths made of stone. One is fairly large – and about 98 degrees. The other is quite small – 1 or 2 persons at a time – max – and quite a bit warmer. Using my hand – I’d guess at least 104 degrees. There’s a third pool – but this one requires an additional fee – apparently it has a greater mineral content and offers more healing power – so we opt to just admire the setting.

We hike back up to the car – and continue on. I’m really getting hungry now. The road gets smaller and smaller – and the pot holes deeper and deeper. I’m seriously questioning Diane’s ‘short-cut’ when we suddenly pop out onto a more major road – and suddently there are the famous rice fields of Bali. Unfortunately – here comes the rain as well. Hey – it’s a rain forest – into your life some rain must fall.

We eat lunch in a restaurant with an amazing view of the rice fields – if it wasn’t pouring so hard that even the restaurant dog is looking for shelter. Diane gets nervous for his car when a wind blast hits so hard that the bamboo shades that protect the open air restaurnat from the sun are blown hard into the posts that support the ceiling. Really – really hard. plants are blown over – and the few patrons hurridly change tables for ones that are more centered and away from the wind. The temperature plummets – and for the first time in 2 weeks – I’m a bit cool!

But this too shall pass – and before we can pay our bill – the rain is over, the sun is out – and the rice fields are once again visible thru the fog. We admire them – and then head on down – a quick stop at the Butterfly park to see butterflies bigger than many birds (6 to 8″ across), a giant dung beatle, and leaf bugs. There is even a black widow spider. And then home – pool, shower, dinner and bed.

Signing off to consider her next jaunt… The Soup Lady

Being in Bali Makes you want to…

Get a tattoo – Maybe it’s a natural result of seeing so many people wearing so little clothing – but the number of amazing tattoo’s is hard to believe. Vines on feet, flowers on wrists, entire arms, chests, legs, if there’s visible skin – it often sports an amazing tattoo. One guy actually showed me the map of Indonesia on his arm. Handy if you get lost I suppose. I think I’d prefer a GPS or a good compass.

Fast – As in not eat. Overheard at the Yoga Barn in Ubud – “I’m on the third day of my fast – and it’s not so bad. I’m a bit dizzy – but it’s ok”. My idea of a fast – missing lunch!

Drink incredibly great coffee – Yes this is the home of the Civet Cats that eat the coffee beans and poop them out – which apparently makes for a coffee you must try to believe (haven’t tried it yet) – but even the normal – $4 a kilo coffee is incredibly yummy. Guess what friends and family are getting as gifts this year…

Take most of your clothes off and DANCE – I think this is a Yoga Barn/Ubud thing – but the Estatic Dances and Sunday Dances are pretty incredible happenings. 150 to 250 people crowded into a large – but not infinite space in order to jive to the sounds of a DJ. no partners, no talking, just dance. If you try to partner, or break the rule of silence, you can expect to be quietly and quickly corrected. This is a seriously no talking activity. My favorite part – lying down afterwards and relaxing to the sound of a gamalin.

Drink delicous Iced Tea with the sugar syrup on the side – It’s hot, Ice Tea is cold – so of course this is going to work. But the tea is particularly good here – brewed and iced, not instant junk – and having the sugar syurp served on the side makes it super eady to control your sugar fix.

Really listen to the words of John Lennon’s Imagine.

Eat Gado-Gado (vegetables in peanut sauce) in a different restaurant every night to compare recipes. This is possible because food here in Bali is very cheap – $3 to $4 for a main dish if you steer clear of restaurants that look fancy. Even a fancy duck dinner (and I’ve yet to try Duck – bummer) goes for about $30 for 2 – so it’s pretty challenging to run up a bill that requires using your credit card. Just don’t do buffets (so dangerous in this climate for our poor western tummies), and steer clear of a hotel brand you recognize and you’ll be fine!

Talk to strangers – I don’t know what it is about me and traveling – but I’m constantly chatting with strangers – and they get right to the nitty gritty of what is bothering them. I promise – this happened – a woman starts telling me about her hike up Mount Batur to see sunrise, and the fact that she missed it because her son’s tummy wasn’t doing great. I asked – is your family brushing their teeth with bottled water? Answer – No. Well – says I – try that. Might help your son’s tummy. (sigh – imagine – medical advice from the uninformed to the unwary on a walk thru the rice fields. Really?? Only in Bali.)

Get rid of your aggression by having your incisor teeth filed down. This is a traditional rite of passage for Balinese teens – and while I’m not sure it works to get rid of agression – it does go a long way to explaining why food here is so often served in tiny chunks of intense flavor. No Incisors – no cutting the meat off the bone with your teeth!

Ride a Motor Bike Taxi – Again – I haven’t quite worked up the nerve to do this yet – but everyone else does it. If I’m truly brave – I might work up my nerve – or get desperate enough to do it. That almost happened the other night – It was late, I was facing an hour walk back to the Pink Lady’s Palace – and the first taxi offer was a motor bike. Saved by the guy behind him! But it was a close call.

Stand out in the warm rain – just because you can! It’s hot here – and the rain doesn’t always cool things down. So risk of chill for us northern types is pretty well nil. On the other hand – locals wear long sleeves and even sweaters at night. I’m still in shorts and a t-shirt – and sweating! What a difference getting used to a climate makes.

And most importantly – Buy a stone statue of Ganesha (elephant headed Hindu God) to bring home in your luggage – but be sure to learn the story first. Ganesha is the God of protection – and all traditional homes (and most homes are traditional) have one. He sits just inside the front gate of all compounds – and his important job is to keep out those evil spirts. And he does a pretty good job! I really wanted to buy a statue – I was hoping for a Monkey King – but Diane – source of all local info – decided that I absolutely needed Ganesha first. He’ll look great guarding the entrance to my garden at home – just hope he doesn’t find the winters too cold!

Signing off to go White Water Rafting – another must do in Bali – The Soup Lady

Compound Living – Balinesian Style

I’m back on land finally – and living the Bali Life Style. And today was a cool lesson in the reality of Bali living for locals.

Diane – our 46 year old Male driver – lives in a compound with 49 of his nearest and dearest relatives. And lucky me – today I finally scored a tour!

I’ve been dying to see the inside of his compound since it was pointed out to me – the highly carved stone front gate is easily the nicest on our block – and if you peek in past the highly useful ramp that covers 1/2 the front steps and provides easy access to motor scooters – you can spot a gold and gilt covered prayer statue. So i was pretty hyped to go in – but afraid to ask. Thank goodness Diane must have read my vibes – he asked me first.

Compounds are family owned plots of land – often seriously huge so that they can harbor several generations of extended family. Effectively – these are villages within a village – providing housing for brothers, sisters, husbands and wifes, cousins and their children. Male children stay in the family compound, female children must leave to follow their husbands family. All things being equal – and baring either a sudden lack of interest in having kids, or a mini family unit that decides to have a dozen kids, the number of people living in the compound is generally stable. About the same number of births and folks leaving the compound either thru death or marriage means that the optimum number is about the realistic number – 50.

Interestingly – Diane doesn’t remember when his family got the compound – he was ‘born’ into it – and even when he was young – it had been in his family ‘a long time’.

But on to the nitty gritty of Diane’s compound. Starting at the gate – to the left is first the house of a cousin, and then the ‘big’ house – the home of the clan senior. in Diane’s case – this is his older brother – the one born first. How to spot the ‘big house’? Glit on the door frames and window edging of course!

Opposite the houses is the kitchen. Diane tells me that there is basically one kitchen for every living space – no communal cooking unless it’s a feast or festival day. I got a quick peek – stove top (no oven), fridge, sink, prep areas. Basic and functional.

Just near the ‘big’ house are two key parts of every family compound in Bali, and Diane tells me that everyone lives in a family compound. Key component 1 – a space for ceremonies. In Diane’s compound, this is a raised tiled open on 3 sides roofed area that contained just a large wooden table. This space serves as a funderal hall should a member of the family die, a wedding chapel is someone gets married – etc. you get the picture. Bodies lie in state till the next day if they died after lunch, and get buried in teh afternoon if they died in the morning. Next to that is the family compound temple.

This is the most interesting part of the compound to my mind. Apparently all compounds must have a temple – and once you realize that is what you are looking at – sure enough you can spot one in every compound. This enclosed space houses the most important spirtual elements of the home – the houses for the different members of the divine family. And in the north-east corner stands the link between this family temple and the major temple in all of Bali – situated at the foot of Mount Argung.

The entrance to the temple area is a set of raised steps – Diane tells me that this is to remind family members that you are entering a unique and special space. Found in the temple grounds is a larger platform that Diane tells me is used by the priest if there is a cermoney to be held at the temple. There is also a chair – and that holds the holy relic that is stored in a locked cabinet in one of the prayer houses. I know this because one of the prayer houses had a locked door – and I asked why.

Now that I know to look for these family sized temples – it’s easy to spot them. Often they are on the roof of a family home that is multiple floors, sometimes they are hiddlen in the middle of a compound, and sometimes they take up valuable space right along side the entrance gate.

The rest of the compound held a series of resting tables – large open air decks that had thached roofs and now walls, along with a brother’s batick making business in one area and his neices painting efforts in another. There’s a garden area – unplanted in the case of Diane’s family, and at the far end is a house that Diane’s brother has decided to rent out to paying guests. There are also ‘garages’ for the always present mo-peds and motor scycles.

Enough with the noisy inspection – Diane and I quickly gather our stuff and head out for a day of touring.

Signing off – The Soup Lady.

Was doing a Live-aboard on the Mangguanna in Komodo National Park worth It?

Interesting question. Glad I asked myself. The diving varied between Spectacular – 5 Star – Best I’ve ever done – diving, and pretty medicore. Sometimes on the same dive.

I asked Denny (dive master extraordinare) why we didn’t do some of the seriously famous dives in Komodo National Park (3 sisters, Cannibal Rock, etc.) – instead of hanging just in the more northern part of the park where the water is warmer, but the visibility very constricted by Indonesian standards. Our last dive was a muck dive (Denny’s description during the briefing) and it had water so cloudy I couldn’t see the bottom when I back-rolled in off the tender – and it was just 12 meters (30 feet) below. Visiblity like this means it will be challenging to see the sharks and other larger fish that circle around the reef.

And this was the case on several of the dives – and absolutely true for all the dives on days 3 and 4.

Denny explained that the safety of the guests came first – and they weren’t sure we could handle the serious drift dives. Ok – I can appreciate that I might be of concern, and maybe the vegetarian who just did her 99th dive – but the rest of the group was highly experienced, and would have done them with ease. So I don’t buy that as a reason. I think the issue was that we had to stay close to Labaun Bajo to pick up the Aussies on day 3 – and thus couldn’t just take the boat further away from the home base. This is disappointing to say the least – and not what I and the rest of the group that originally had booked on Moana Crusing had expected, been told, or wanted to happen.

Because we were joined on day 3 by 2 new divers – I believe that the 2 morning dives of day 3 had to be done within speed boat distance of Labaun Bajo, and the afternoon and night dives of day 3 had to be done in easy to dive locations so that the dive master could check out the new comers. This basically cost us one precious day of diving. On day 4 we could only do 2 dives because most of us were flying the next day – and we were scheduled to see the Komodo Dragons – but since the Aussies were doing 4 dives – again the locations were compromised. Yes – I was annoyed.

So – let’s say 1 star for dive site planning, 3 stars for the diving – and 5 stars for criter viewing. I would have loved to do a proper drift dive – I’ve done several before and enjoyed them – and expected that this time – but it didn’t happen. 5 or 6 of the 15 dives we did were outstanding – but that’s just 1/3. I know you can do better.

Another issue – the rats. Ok – it’s a boat – rats happen. I’m not stupid, I’m not ignorant – I know this. But it doesn’t make me happy. But what was of greater concern was the attitude among the crew. When guests comment about the rats eating our toothpaste, leaving droppings everywhere, climbing on our legs while we sleep – we don’t expect a shrug. Even if you can’t really DO anything – pretend to do something.

And this wasn’t just noticed on day 3 or 4 – On day 1 I spotted rat droppings on top of the cupboard in my room – pointed them out to the ‘chef’ – who did arrange to get them swept up. But clearly didn’t even try to arrange for some rat poisoin – and at that point we were close enough to Labaun Bajo to send a tender back. It’s ignoring the issue that makes it a problem.

Food – I commented in an earlier blog that the food varied considerably. I give the ‘chef’ points for trying hard – and there were some serious highlights – Those banana pancakes – perfect. And his smoothies were yummy. But there was a frustrating lack of variety, and nothing really new. Hey – how about some Snake Fruit or Mangosteens? Tempt us – tease us – challenge us. Don’t bore us!

Cabins – except for the rats – were great. My bed was extremely comfortable – plenty of head room even for an upper bunk. I would have liked a shelf in the cupboard – but that’s being fussy. And while the toilet arrangement wasn’t 5 star – it worked great.

Comfort – there were 3 chaises for 6 to 8 divers. So we constantly were fighting, or trying not to fight about who got the chaises. The bean bags were extremely comfortable – but had holes so the little white styrofoam beads keep falling out all over the deck. We complained, we asked for duct tape – we got told ok – and no duct tape EVER showed up.

Library – 3 fish books – NO reef animal book. So it was a good thing that Denny had his personal copy.

Amenities – no decks of cards, no dominos, nothing. No attempt to show videos, no photography station, no where to even plug in rechargeables if you didn’t bring your own converters.

So – would I go back to the Mangguanna? No.

Would I dive with. Komodo Diving? No

Would I dive again in Komodo National Park – Yes. Absolutely. Tomorrow if time, space on board a better boat, and money allowed.

So – bought the T-shirt – have extremely fond memories!

Signing off – The Soup Lady

200 Dives and Counting!

On March 18th I did my 200th Scuba Dive. Isn’t that cool?

Denny was my dive buddy – and the location was Palau Tenght in Komodo National Park.

I distinctly remember the first time I tried scuba diving – it was at a swimming pool at a hotel in Puerto Rico in 1976 – my husband and I ran into the guy running the resort course and he convinced my husband that even though he had horrid issues with his nose – he could teach him to dive – or his money back.

Such an offer my husband could not refuse.

So – we did it. We took the 1/2 day scuba intro at the pool – which ended up taking us into the swimming lagoon off the beach of the hotel. I’ll bet if we went 10 feet deep – it was a lot.

But we learned to take off our masks, how to breathe thru the regulators, how not to panic if you lost your regulator, and some more of the very basics of scuba.

The really attractive part of the deal was an offer to go to a small island 17 miles off the coast of Puerto Rico – Culebra – and do 2 boat dives there. To avoid the issues of flying after diving, the plane was actually open to the air (no pressure) and flew less than 200 feet above the waves – and they had to weigh us to determine where we should sit. In order to land – the plane tipped sideways thru 2 mountain peaks.

What nuts we were – but we did get to do 2 dives in crystal clear waters – and probably to a max depth of 25 feet. It was awesome.

Went home – got certified.

And now I’m doing #200. Wow – been a long way, lady.

I admit to hoping that #200 would be as memorable as #1 – but it was not to be. The memorable dives here in Indonesia (Komodo National Park) were 197 (Manta Point), 194 (Shot Gun), 189 (Castle Rock), 190 and 193 (Crystal Rock), and 191 (Secret Garden). The rest – including #200 – are a blur, nice but not spectacular.

There are other dives among the 200 that stand out – the overhangs and tunnels off the east coast of Grand Cayman, muck diving in the seriously cold water in Trinity Bay, Newfoundland, and of course the Roraima – a wooden sailing boat that sits in 185 feet of water off the coast of Martinque. That was done as a decompression dive of course – with tanks tied off at 25 feet and 15 feet. I also fondly remember the sponges in the cave in Greece, and the octopus that AquaMan – our dive master in Greece – found for us to play with underwater.

Nice memories of blowing bubbles. Here’s the next 50 (I’m doubting I’ll make more than that.. To busy doing too many other things)

Signing off – The Soup Lady

Food aboard the Manguanna – Komodo Cruising – Komodo National Park

Scuba Diving is hungry work. I looked it up – and scuba diving for an hour burns 333 calories. 3 to 4 dives a day – you are talking twice my normal diet! So food is going to be important – divers want food now – and they want it plentiful – and of course they want it good.

How does the chef on the Manguanna deliver? Well – variable is the best answer.

The quantity is perfect – there are always left overs at every meal – even with 6 divers and 2 dive masters chomping in. And there’s more than just 3 meals – there’s a cooked snack after the mid day dive, plus food available in the common area fridge. So quantity – got that covered.

And there is certainly no question about the variety. We’ve eaten about 10 meals now – and there have been no repeats of the final dish. There are repeating ingredients however – banana shows up in about 1 of 4 meals, rice shows up in 3 out of 4 meals, and mystery meat appears in dishes almost all the time. There’s mystery beef, mystery chicken, and mystery fish, served grilled in the case of the fish – and in sauces in the case of the beef and chicken.

There is always something that looks like a vegetable – once it was an Inodesian dish of noodles and vegetables with peanut sauce (Yum), mostly it’s sliced tomatoes with seasoning – or sliced cucumbers with seasoning – or a mixure of both. My husband would be moaning about the overall quality – but I’m happy. It’s hot, well cooked, not overly salty (everyone but me adds salt), and the chef always makes a smoothie to go with lunch and dinner.

My favorite – last nights Pineapple smoothie. Delicous.

For desert – fruit. We’ve had watermelon, Passion fruit, Pineapple, etc. There’s a big box of Khong Guan Biscuits – the club price size – sitting out at all times if you need a munch. Plus loaves of bread, peanut butter – and a variety of Indonesian spreads (Brand is Morin) – Orange Marmalade, Strawberry Jam, Pineapple Jam, Chocolate Peanut, Morin Kaya Spread (with a picture of a coconut on the label), and of course Nutello. The Sisters – being Swiss – are doing a number on the Nutello!

Breakfast is hit or miss. The first morning the chef blew me away with his banana pancakes – oh man were they good. Since then its been more American Dinner with a kick – Pancakes with Hot Dogs, Sunny side up eggs on top of Ramen Noodles, like that. I keep hoping that those banana pancakes will come back – but even if they don’t I’m ok. I had 2 of those!

What’s notably lacking is brewed coffee. So I’ve been coffee free for 2 days and have the caffeine withdrawal headaches to show for it. But it’s probably better for my diving in the long run – so I’m avoiding all caffinated beverages – its water, water and soda water. Plus those smoothies lets not forget.

So – bottom line on the food. A for punctual. A for quanitity. And a C+ for quality. But I’m a tough judge, and those pancakes were wonderful – Ok – give him a B for quality. You don’t have to be 5 star to impress me.

Signing off to go on dive #10! – The Soup Lady blowing bubbles your way….

Manta Rays – the B-52 Bombers of the Pacific Ocean

Manta Rays are cool. And huge. Seriously huge. They act like they own the seas – and I suppose in a way they do. I can’t imagine a shark taking down a manta – I can’t even imagine them wanting too!

And Manta’s don’t eat divers – I’m not actually sure that they eat meat. Which brings up one severe lack on this dive boat – no one with a background in fish behavior – at least no one who speaks English. So I don’t really have anyone to ask. And the fall back solution for lack of knowledge – Google – is definitely hors de combat – No internet here – there’s barely cell phone coverage. Ok – actually – there isn’t cell phone coverage in any of the protected ancorages we’ve been in – even if you can see a tower – and there are towers – it’s still a challenge.

Anyway – back to the dive at Manta Point.

Because Manta’s need space – no protected reefs for them – the dive starts on a rubble field. The challenge – find the mantas! We’d seen several on the surface from the boat – SC actually threw on his fins and mask and snorkled out to get a good look – but now we had to find them in their element.

Good news – Denny has a 6th sense for this – and with only a few twists and turns – got me to exactly the right spot. The trick is to get up current from the Manta’s – so they swim towards you against the current. No problem for the Mantas – but us poor humans don’t swim up current very well. So we have to go in above where we hope they will be hanging getting a nice cleaning from the cleaning crew, and then drift down towards them. We catch a glimpse in the gloom of these large triangular shapes, and sink to the bottom and hold on for dear life. The current tries to pull us down stream – but we want to stay here in hopes the Mantas will do a ‘fly by’.

And surprisingly – the magic works! Denny and I hold on to the rubble at the bottom – and the Mantas arch and curve and glide their ways towards us. There are 2 at first – a Giant Black Manta, and then close on his heels is a smaller – but still huge – Devil Ray Manta. Like Giant vaccum cleaners, their open mouths sweep in all the algae they can devour, and they continue swooping and swerving around us for what feels like several minutes. After these 2 leave – 2 more appear – Wow. That’s 4.

They are so close you can see their eyes, their mouths, the fish doing the cleaning – litterally B52 fly bys underwater.

They eventually are above us – and we release our hold on the rubble to continue the drift dive. We come across 4 turtles – each more adorable than the last, and a small shark asleep on the sand. Among the rubble are coral mounds with lots of fish – but between the Mantas, the turtles, and the shark – what more do you need? Apparently Nudibranches and Lion Fish!

The first dive of the day was also glorious – a fish market or Aqurium as you will. The funniest moment of the dive – we pass a group from another boat who are surrounding a turtle taking pictures. And one diver takes a SELFIE with the turtle. He has one of those long stick remotes – and is holding it out in front of him while he poses near the turtle. I almost swallowed my regulator laughing!

Huge Porcupine fish, huge morays, lots of micro stuff, huge Sweetlips, and of course a shark. My favorite moment – well aside from the turtle seflie – was later in the dive when Benny and I found a turtle on it’s own. I was above him, Benny below – and he swam right up to me – so close I could have kissed him! Imagine – me nose to nose with a turtle – very cute.

Signing off to get ready for my 200th dive!

The Soup Lady

What a difference a day makes – More excitement on the Liveaboard!

Last night the Vegetarian showed up at my door – sobbing and needing a hug. What the? Just goes to show ya – never make assumptions about people – you are so often completely off base!

While I don’t think the Vegetarian and I would ever be best buddies – I talk way too much for her – we did find a common ground – and agreed to be friends. How cool is that!

I’ll back track a bit. At dinner, the dive masters announced that the next morning we’d be doing two really cool dives – Batu Balong and Manta Point. That was the high point. Then they announced that after the 2nd dive, we’d be joined by two more divers. They were coming by speed boat from Labaun Bajo. Oops – that messes the sleeping arrangements – big time. And how is that going to impact the buddy teams? Questions – Questions!

To review – there are only 4 cabins. The Vegetarian has one, the German has one – I’m sharing with SC, and the Sisters have a cabin. Where are we going to put 2 more people? Clearly – either the Vegetarian and German bunk together – or the new folks split up and sleep in different cabins. Either way – the Vegetarian is losing her single cabin. And she was broken up about it.

Turns out it wasn’t just that either. Her father was having surgery that day – and that was putting pressure on her. Plus – she stopped working a year ago to rebalance herself – what ever that means. She wants only positive energy in her life – and when things go against plan – it just becomes challenging to stay positive.

All of which makes me feel sorry for her of course – and part of me wants to tell her – shape up. You are 35 years old, you have enough money to travel at will in facinating places, you are healthy – get a grip. But that isn’t the whole truth – it’s hard to be alone. And I’m sure without her admiting to that issue – the lack of support network hurts. You need to be able to reach out to people and be sure in your own mind that the reaching out will be welcome. That of course is the trick – how do you know your reaching out will be greeted with concern, interest, and thoughts for your well being?

Heavy thoughts for such a beautiful place!

But things do work out. The 2 dives were amazing – more on that later – and the new couple are very experienced – and have their own dive master from Komodo Diving. So our buddy teams don’t change, which is a good thing.

As for sleeping arrangements – the German gallantly offers to move in with the Vegetarian – who can’t take the additional pressure of a change in rooms – and the couple (lets call them Aussies) gets the German’s room. Of course this morning the gal of the Aussies complained bitterly about how her bed is uncomfortable – a comment that all of us completely ignored.

And while they are seriously on the hefty side – the guy is 6’3″ and I’d guess well over 250 lbs and the gal is about 5′ 8″ and around the same weight – they are highly experienced divers, have 6 grandkids, and even better – Speak English! So, while accented, it tips the scales towards English as the main language. They also turn out to be very very funny! They completely cracked us all up talking about the Kangaroo’s in Austrialia. Turns out that she likes to take in the babies to raise when their mother’s dies – and he likes to run them over with his SUV equipped with a ‘Roo Bar’! Not only are they funny, well traveled, and English – they work full time. She manages a chain of homes for the disabled, he’s a project manager for a mining company in Austrialia. Very nice folks, and great at keep the conversation going over dinner. Their dream – to own a yacht and cruise the world – diving all the way around. Good luck to them I say!

And the Vegetarian got word that her Dad is fine. Trama over for now.

Personally – I’m going Scuba Diving.

Signing off – The Soup Lady