Women in Bali use their heads – Literally!

Women in Bali carry everything on their heads – sometimes using caps that provide a flat surface, and sometimes it appears as if there is simply a rag between their hair and the object to be carried.

I’ve seen women carrying water bottles – just one. Clearly it’s easier to walk if your hands are free. I’ve seen and photographed women carrying 45 kg, 100 lb bags of cement and/or sand on their heads – as they navigate tiny passageways and staircases. I’ve seen women carrying tree trunks, stacks of bamboo logs, baskets with unknown contents. I’ve even seen men with wheelbarrows holding exactly the same thing that a woman behind them has on her head. Bottom line – woman in Bali use their heads the way we’d use backpacks, wheelbarrows and lift trucks!

And one thing you don’t see in Bali – ladies with widow’s humps – the sure sign of osteoporosis. Clearly – standing absolutely upright your entire life is good for the spine!

Most commonly, and certainly most photogenically – It’s the ladies with their offerings on their heads on their way to the ever on-going festivals that captured my attention. It’s easy to wonder where that stuff is kept when it’s not on your head or in the temple – and so of course – I asked.

When we went to visit Diana’s home – we explored their back rooms to see what they stored where – and the truth is that most of the storage place is occupied by the items required for these offerings.

Stacks of banana palm leaves, officially made baskets – either from the more solid rattain, or the younger lighter cheaper version – palm fronds, and several of those gaily painted wooden platters that nested and I’m guessing – stacked. What you didn’t see is what we’d be storing in the same space – bags of rice, bunches of cans of this and that, boxes of cereal. In fact – there was almost no food at all stored in the kitchen – which explains the daily shopping habits! Our hosts explained that they had gone out that morning to buy the food stuff for lunch. It’s not totally about the money either – I think keeping the insect population in check has to figure into the decision not to keep bags of raw rice in the house.

Diana also explained that generally – meals are not eaten together. Woman prepare the food in the morning – and leave it out during the day. Members of the family – and extended family – just walk in to the kitchen area when they are hungrey and help themselves. The only problem? A 4 year old nephew who’d discovered Diana’s love of ice cream and was now tall enough to reach into the freezer.

But back to the heads – Most women carried at all times a small round basket shaped item – which it turns out is the cushion on which you balance things on your head. If you look at the images – you can see woman shading their faces from the sun with those baskets – and then in the picture of the parade of women going to the temple with offerings – the same baskets now used to protect their heads.

It’s not that you don’t see Western influences in Bali – you do. But you can also see people practicing the traditional behaviors as well – and that is what made Bali so wonderful – look and you can find farmers tilling their rice fields the old fashioned way, brides getting married in outfits so splendid it took your breathe away, and lots and lots of woman – using their heads.

Signing off – The Soup Lady




Suggestion 2 – How to Travel far from the ‘Madding Crowd’

Connect with people, and try to understand them.

Oh – interesting. How do you ‘connect’ with people in general – and with people who live in a different place and speak a different language in particular.

This is a pretty important question – I have issues meeting my next door neighbors – how do I start up a conversation with someone in Bali? Berlin? St. Petersburg?

Well – in my case – it’s actually easier to meet people when travelling then it is when I’m at home. This is particularly true when I make itinerary decisions that put me out into the public eye – staying in youth hostels for example.

When you stay in a youth hostel – you might not qet quality time with locals – other than the hosts of the hostel – but you can be sure to get quality time with travellers who come from radically different backgrounds and parts of the world. I’ve meet and become friends with families from Polynesia while in Korea, chatted with people from Australia when in Rome, and memorably spent time avoiding Americans in almost every hostel I’ve been in! So – youth hostels, home stays, temple stays, Air BnB – staying anywhere other than a name brand hotel is going to put you in a position of getting to know other people. There is nothing quite like sharing a toilet and a kitchen to force conversation!

Another idea – do a group tour with a company that doesn’t cater to your kinda of folks. I know – it’s hard to break away from just booking with someone based in your country of origin – but the rewards can be huge. We have friends – really really good friends – in Germany and Switzerland because we booked our Botswana Safari thru a tour group based in Europe.

But neither of these ideas will net you local connections. The best way I’ve found to met locals is to smile. Ask Questions. Be interested in what they are doing. My travel partners sometimes get annoyed at me because this slows me down – but the net results are sometimes so amazing! I had dance lessons in Bali because I asked how to bend my fingers just so. I met a bride and groom on their wedding day (and have the pictures to prove it) because I wanted to know why there were fancy decorations outside of their home.

I wandered into a wedding in Vietnam in similar circumstances. Just color me curious – but if I see something interesting – I don’t rush by because I’m on a mission to get somewhere else – I slow down, look, watch, listen, admire, act interested. Language barriers amazingly drop away when your actions say – I’m curious!

Companion advice – don’t be judgmental. This is their world – admire it!

Another – well, let’s call it a trick – I photo-bomb. Seriously. If I see someone taking a picture of someone in their group – I’ll either offer to help – or I’ll join the photo. This is a huge ice breaker for most folks! They laugh – and then we do a group shot – and then logically start sharing our experiences – where are you from, where are you going. I’ve bonded with all kinds of people this way – and had people do the same with me. One memorable experience – in Japan on top of Mt Fuju. We saw people eating eggs with black shells – and were curious. We bought some too – and sat down to figure out what next. And here’s the fun part – people around us noticed our attempts – and immediately came over to offer advice, to give help – and to have their picture taken. I don’t speak Japanese – in those days few people in Japan spoke English – but we had a blast. Made our day!

Similar experience in Bali – we offered to help 3 gals get a group shot – and ended up learning that they were friends from Java – celebrating their 50th birthdays by taking a trip to Bali! We chatted for a few minutes – exchanged email addresses – and moved on. Surprise – a day later – a photo of us, taken by them – just to say hi.

And my last, but not least, piece of advice. Talk to the kids. Smile at them, chat with them, pick easy words and see if anyone knows them. Often there will be one kid in the group that is a bit braver than the rest – and they will at least try to speak to you! Kids are the best hosts in a new (to you) country – and they don’t worry so much about what you are thinking of them. Just a smile works wonders. Hand bumps, high 5’s, even low 5’s all act as ice breakers with kids. They are generally thrilled to know they can relate to someone so foreign – so strange – and yet willing to smile with them.

So – Connect with people – new people – when you travel. Your travel experiences will be richer for the time spent seeing what it like in their shoes. And often the fit is surprisingly great.

Attached is my favorite group hug from Bali – the boys and I spent a good 5 minutes trying to chat – and ended up only knowing each other’s names. But that was enough to ensure that these young men will always have a place in my heart!

Signing off to go smile at someone – The Soup Lady


Goodbye to Bali

It’s my last morning in Bali – and I’m feeling pretty sorry for myself

It’s been an amazing 3 weeks in an amazing place. Bali really has something to offer anyone who can stand the heat. And if you can’t stand the heat – get out of the kitchen.

OK – so it’s been hot. And humid. And getting into a swimming pool every evening isn’t optional – it’s required. But it’s also been intriguing, and exciting, and stimulating, and fun.

I’ve done stuff that I really never thought I’d do – and yes – Yoga, Pilates, and Tibetian Gong mediation are on that list. I’ve done things that I’ve loved to do before – and was thrilled to have another go at them – White Water Rafting, Jungle Treks, Fish Market Visits, Art Galleries, Unique Dance and Puppet performances. I’ve participated in Nyepi, I’ve shaken hands and been photographed with a bride and groom on their wedding day (glorious outfits – trust me), and done a ton of walking.

I’ve yet to ride a motor bike – but Diana is threatening to take me on one today – just to break that ice cube.

So – last morning – the workmen are quietly chatting on their way to wherever they go as they pass behind my wall – the roosters are crowing, the ducks are strangely silent – but I think they have been moved to another rice field, and even the lizards are just quietly climbing the walls.

My mosquito canopied bed has been a cozy place to write my blogs, admire my photos and charge my iphone. It’s been a comfy place to sleep too.

But it’s the last morning. I must pack – which should be a challenge since I have a lot more stuff than I had when I arrived. The Lady in Pink, her BFF, and myself have been invited to lunch at Diana’s compound – he wants his wife to prepare us a traditional meal. I hope she’s on board with this! Then I plan to take one last swim, one last shower – and head to the airport to start my long 25 hour journey back to Montreal.

it’s a bitter sweet feeling – leaving is sad – going home is exciting.

Signing off to pack – The Soup Lady

PS: oops – forgot my appreciation challenge – I appreciate the opportunity I had to meet all these wonderful people here in Bali – I shall treasure my group hug photos forever. Thank you Bali – I had a ball.



The Toilets of Bali

It seems that everywhere I travel, eventually I do a toilet blog. Why I must wonder are toilets such a re-occuring theme – and then of course I answer myself – silly woman – it’s so obvious.

I’m a older woman – I need to USE a toilet frequently – and unlike a guy – a nearby tree is hardly satisfactory. I care about these things – I think about these things – and I’m willing to chat about them. Ipsofactso – Toilet Blog.

What does the perfect toilet need? My daughter and I, travelling thru Greece many years ago now, actually came with a check list – and then proceeded to rate all the toilets. I’m guessing the list hasn’t changed.

1. Privacy – sometimes toilets are just a bit too open to the breezes. My toilet on the Live-aboard boat in Komodo National Park definitely lost it in the privacy department. A shower curtain just doesn’t cut it. And there were toilets in some places in Bali (mostly off the beaten track for those worried about this) that had doors that didn’t close tightly – although none matched some of the total open to the world toilets in China. So 3 Stars for this one Bali

2. A Flushing toilet – no joke – lots of toilets in 3rd and 2nd world countries that I’ve visited skip the flushing aspect. It’s mechanical – it breaks – taking a bucket and pouring water to get rid of the ‘evidence’ is an inexpensive functional solution. I’d say a third of the toilets I visited in Bali had this issue – simply didn’t/couldn’t flush. 2 Stars here

3. A throne – not a squat. Sorry – bad knees, and squarts are hard on me. I’m a lot better than I used to be about making sure my feet stay dry and my clothes the same – but still. Please – give me a throne. Squats in Bali are not unusual – but you do have to go out of your way to find them – gas stations, private homes in country compounds, if you look – you will find. I did. Too bad too. I’m giving Bali 4 Stars for really just a few squats – and those were so clean.

4. Toilet Paper – now this is interesting. Not all toilets in Bali had toilet paper – and most needed you to put the used paper in a side trash can – but almost all of the toilets had a hose attachment for – well – bidet purposes. One even had a sign cautioning westerners Not to use the hose to waash their feet. Too fun, that. It’s hard to knock a place that values cleanliness as much as Bali – I’m thinking 5 stars here – although keeping some paper in your pocket is a really good idea.

5. A working sink – preferably with some way to dry your hands after you washed them. I’m not convinced that folks in Bali understand drying hands after washing them – nor do they seem to grasp the importance of napkins – at least from the folks I travelled with. I need both to be happy – and I definitely want a working sink. Critical actually. And less satisfactory if it’s shared by both men and women, but I’ll compromise on that. Places in Bali wihtout a sink were rare – but it wasn’t unusual to have to search for the darn thing. Why hide them I wonder? 4 stars and a flashlight for this one.

6. Level floor. I hate having to step up to get onto the toilet or the squat. It’s unblanced and feels awkward – but often they build up to hide the sewer tank. Guess that’s better than no sewer. 4 Stars

7. Clean – All the toilets in Bali – no matter how back woods, no matter how isolated, no matter what kind of silly establishment (a tiny all night grocery store springs to mind) – were clean. In fact – Bali was generally one of the cleanest places I’ve been. I saw ladies out sweeping and cleaning the roadways in front of their shops every day. Yes I did see a rat – but with everything out in the open air – and daily food offerings everywhere – that’s probably to be expected. Another note – Cleanliness is part of the version of Hindu popular in Bali – people have special clothes to wear to temple – and many of the most important temples including bathing rituals in a visit. And i saw people bathing in the rivers and streams quite frequently. So people are generally very very clean, Despite the heat! Bali in general rates very high on the clean scale. Impressive. 4 Stars.

7. Optional upgrades – fresh flowers (in the airport), options for towel, paper towel, or blow drying (fancy hotel on the beach that we popped in to visit), TV’s in the mirrors (never saw that here), granite/marble floors (only the fancy places did this – for most people tile worked fine. And every bathroom I entered was tiled.) And last but not least – locking doors if it’s a public place. I found several toilets in Bali that just simply didn’t lock closed. My favorite – someone had tied a nail to a cord – and you threaded the nail thru the former lock mechanism to hold it shut. Another memorable toilet was one that trapped a girl inside. She was hammering madly to get out – it took 3 of us pushing hard to free her.

So – Bali – 4 Stars overall. Better than some places – A lot lot better than other places – but not the best for fussy North Americans. Japan and South Korea are still my favorite Toileting places for this part of the world!

Yoga, Pilates, Ecstatic Dancing and Tibetan Bowl Meditation

When in Rome – do like the Romans. When in Ubud – do Yoga, Pilates, and Meditations!

As I quickly discovered – Ubud is the hot bed of Yoga, Organic Food, Pilates, and like activities – including Mediation in Bali – and since Bali is one of the major places to go for these kinds of activities – that means that in Ubud – Yoga is big. Really Big. Almost every other building either featured Yoga based Home Stays, Yoga Studios, or both! Curiously – all this healthy life style stuff is smack dab on top of a society where the average wage is $200 a month. Interesting counterpoints are simply bound to happen, eh?

So where to go in Ubud for the best Healthy Life-Style experience? I’ll be frank – I don’t know. I did one Pilates class at Ubud Pilaties, one Sunrise Yoga class at Intuitive Flow, and 3 Ecstatic Dances at the Yoga Barn. In addition – I also did a Tibetan Gong and Bowl Meditation at the Yoga Bar. I have my favorites – but as to a definitive ‘best’ – nope – not going there!

But since I’m always willing to share my opinons – I’ll start by comparing the studios – then I’ll talk about the classes!

The Yoga Barn in Ubud is a giant, multi-level space where hippies of all ages hang out. As I blogged early in this series – it offers a board spectrum of different types of Meditation, Yoga, and Movement based classes, courses, and community events. It also is the home for the Bali Yoga Spirit Festival – one of the top 5 Yoga related festivals in the world. Clearly – I was absolutely going to try some of these activities out – it was really just a question of picking and choosing.

I ended up doing 3 Ecstatic Dances and a Tibetan Bowl meditation class at the Yoga Barn. I would have simply loved to do more there – the Yoga and Meditation Music Experience class sounded fun, and I’d have liked to participate in the Spirit Festival – but time and airline tickets proved limiting factors. Maybe next time I visit Bali…

The Lady in Pink’s palace was located in a ‘village’ near but not in Ubud. We were a 15 minute walk to the outskirts of the city – and over a hour walk from the Yoga Barn. Clearly we were taking taxi’s to sessions at the Yoga Barn – and best intentions aside – that seemed to contribute to us doing less – not more – there.

However – within about 10 minutes walk from the Palace were Intuitive Flow (for Yoga), and Ubud Pilates. Liane had already purchased bulk tickets for sessions in both places – so clearly they were on the hot list of places to go.

Despite planning on doing more – I ended up just doing one class each at these smaller studios. Enough to get the idea, but not enough to do any accidental damage.

Ubud Pilates first. I loved the feeling of this space – open to the gardens on 2 sides, closed by bamboo screening on the other two sides – the feeling was calming and comfortable. The teacher worked on a slight raised platform, which made it much easier to see what she was doing – and I loved the tiny gardens on the two open sides – the sound of running water is so relaxing.

Pilates for the uninformed – and I’m pretty uninformed – consisted mainly of laying on a mat and doing core exercises – knee pushups – full pushups – crunches and the like. All done slowly – concentrating more on breathing correctly than on high number of repetitions. It wasn’t exactly hard to do – but fear of harming my back made me stop after only a few reps of each exercise. Anna – 80 years young – is one of the strong students – and some people go every day. If I wasn’t so keen on seeing Bali – I’d have loved to do more of this – and I was highly impressed with how well the Lady in Pink performed. Something to think about when I get back home I suppose.

Is there a Pilates class in my future? Who knows!

Intuitive Flow is more of a broader based exercise space/program. Unlike Ubud Pilates – it is on the 2nd floor of a building, has windows on 3 sides (all of which were slid open) – and has a marvelous orientation towards the East North East. You can enjoy watching sunrise over Mt. Agung – Bali’s active volcano – and can admire the way the birds celebrate the birth of a new day while you hold Yoga poses.

The specific class we attended was a pretty much a beginner’s version – and I quickly learned that Backwards Leaning Dog isn’t going to happen for this body. I simply couldn’t hold that position without my back talking to me – and what it had to say wasn’t very nice. The good news – the very nice instructor (slim, pretty, in awesome shape) quickly caught on to my seriously beginner status – and just would say – you are doing fine when I collapsed into the Chakra position of knees on floor – head on floor – arms out.

I did find that there were some stretches I could do with ease. Other positions needed the leader’s gentle hands on my back and sides and shoulders to get things just so. I seriously have tense shoulders – relax your shoulders and breathe were constant reminders. Really should work more on that.

So – 5 stars for Intuitive Flow (mostly for that amazing view), and 3 stars for the Pilaties – it was more expensive, and the leader didn’t really come by to help me out at all. Maybe I was doing everything perfectly – but I think it more likely that she made the business decision of working with the people most likely to return.

On to the Yoga Barn. I’ve talked about the Ecstatic Dances – Friday night and Sunday morning – several times. These are dance till you sweat thru your clothes events – or as the DJ said – we’re trying to get a natural high. No talking – no thinking – just free movement. Lots of fun – and a 5 star – must do rating – for these. If you end up in Ubud on a Friday night or Sunday morning you must go. Only one hesitation – I have serious trouble turning my over active brain off – even in Ubud, even at the Yoga Barn.

Good thing I don’t mind my own constant internal monolog, eh?

Tibetian Bowl and Gong Meditation – that’s a class of a different animal completely. Held in the same space as the Ecstatic Dances – wide open, roofed, amazingly beautiful wooden big plank floor – it’s strictly limited to 35 participants. The mats are carefully arrange in a giant 1/2 circle around the leader – leaving most of the space open between our heads – pointed towards the bowls when we lie down – and the bowls themselves.

The session begins with us all filing into the space as they call our names – a strangely intimate way of counting heads. We climb the stairs barefoot to the upper level, put our belonging against the wall or in the provided open shelves, and pick a mat. We sit in lotus position, quietly waiting for the instructor to begin.

He starts by lighting candles and placing them at the cardinal points – then he invites us to lie down on the mats – heads pointing towards the bowls. No instruction, no advice – just the suggestion that we relax and let the music of the gongs and bowls carry our thoughts away.

I make a serious first mistake – I lie down flat on my back. Which is not totally comfortable for me. I should have gotten onto my side – and put a pillow between my knees. It would have been more comfortable and more conducive to meditation.

Then the leader started to play the bowls and gongs – occasionally letting them continue to ring as he walked around the space holding different kinds of incense over our heads. I know it was different – partly from the smell – and partly because I opened my eyes. One time the incense was thin long sticks – another time it looked a bit like an ear of corn on the cob. Great smell either way.

I know that for some people – this became a period of serious relaxation – there was definitley a guy snoring to my right. For me however, the uncomforable position, and my wide ranging mind spent most of the time occasionally listening to the bowls – which were highly melodic and very comforable to hear, and mostly musing on my own thoughts.

About half way thru I became aware that the wooden floor was conducting the vibrations of the bowls and gongs into my bones – a strange singing sensation. I’m not actually sure this was expected – and since we had been asked to be silent until we got back down to where we’d left our shoes, I had no way to ask.

That tingling sensation lasted well into the night – and made it a bit difficult to sleep – although it had totally disipated by the time I got up the next morning.

So bottom line on Tibetian Bowl and Gong Mediation – I need to take a meditation class for beginingers before I try this again – it bothered me that I wasn’t sure I was doing it right. Which is probably wrong too.

But would I recommend it – absolutely Yes. It’s a wonderfully peaceful way to spend an hour or so – and it’s so important to find Peace in Your Life. Definitely 5 stars.

Signing off to go consider where to find a beginner’s beginning meditation class – The Soup Lady

** Appreciation Challenge – I appreciate the existence of Pilates and Yoga – even if I con’t ways get a chance to participate.

Edible Bali

Food is a constant theme in my life – my husband is a chef, my daughter is a chef, my other kids love to cook, my grand-daughter is a complete fan – and my life has been spent around food and restaurants.

But nothing really prepares you for the food experiences of Bali.

As I observed before – There is a ripeness, a lushness, a over-whelming abundance of growing things in Bali that both bemuses, amuses, and fascinates one. It’s easy to understand why visitors to this island became residents. I suppose that growing up here would almost ruin it – how can you be surprised when it has always been like this?

So – Outstanding food experiences…

We took a Jungle Trek – really more like a farm explore if the farm was up and down crazy ravines, mad paths, and had little apparent organization. The Lady in Pink observed that in Bali one doesn’t have to encourage growth – the rain takes care of that – one has to prune and control. Which explains Avocado trees that tower above you, coffee trees that are 6 foot high – and thats with constant pruning, and the wealth of fruits that quite literally grow wild everywhere.

Bananas, jack fruit, Durian, Pineapples, Coffee, Cocoa, Vanalia, Tumeric, Clove, Mangos, Mangosteens (in season now and a wonderful discovery), Papya, ferns, long beans, edible vines, Coconut trees (providing leaves, coconuts, coconut milk, and even coconut oil), Palm trees (for Palm oil and Palm Sugar), the list is endless. And we saw and tasted everything we could.

It’s truly overwhelming, surprising, astonishing, wonderful, and joyously edible.

Our Jungle Trek starts and ends in Stoned Goat Village – a village so small – it doesn’t even have a repair shop for motor scooters. And trust me – that’s small. Our host tells us that the village official population is 300 – but lots of people are actually living in Ubud or Denpassar in order to go to school, get a good paying job, or just get away from village life.

Our pair of fearless leaders – for our group of 4 senior ladies ranging from 60 to 80 years of age – guided us and helped us up and down and around – pointing out all the edible things, and giving us tastes of those that were ripe. Land in Bali is deeded to individuals, and recently the government has been sending survey teams out to provide land owners with proper paper work, so it is clear when you move from one family’s land to the land belonging to a local Temple, to the land of another family. But the food that grows on the land – except the cash crops like Coffee – appear to be ‘open season’. If it’s ripe – and you see it first – it’s yours!

So we munch our way around the forest, eventually getting back to the family compound of one of our guides. It’s not much – the toilet is a stand-upon, the shower is a hand wand serving multiple duty as toilet paper and body wash, but it’s warm, it’s friendly – and they have spent hours cooking us a huge lunch.

There are at least 8 serving bowls – each containing a uniquely flavored dish – one has tempe – a soy bean option – that has been fried. Yum. Another contains fried eels from the river that runs behind the compound. There are 2 omlet like dishes – maybe a bit more like highly seasoned crepes than our fluffy omlets. There’s pieces of tofu that have been cooked, 2 long bean dishes – one so heavily garliced that I tell everyone to eat it – we’ve got to sit in a car for hours – and we might as all have bad breathe.

And of course there is rice.

Yummy – spicy – not spicy – crispy – soft – sweet and sour – The meal manages to hit all the taste buds and all the texture points.

For desert they are making Palm Sugar – it’s been boiling over a wood fire stove since last night – and they’ve carefully timed things so that the sugar firms up just as we finish our lunch. It’s a sugar high – super hot – and tasting vaguely of caremel.

After the meal – the wife and 14 year old daughter of the host puts on a Balinese traditional dance performance for us – and I even get rolling eye lessons. Such fun. Such Food. Like being on Food Network without the camera issues!

But that’s not the top food experience I had. The absolute best experience was at the home of Diana – our driver extraordinaire. He invited us to lunch at his compound on my last day in Bali – and he and his wife started preparing the day before.

I arrived at their place about 30 minutes early (I’d walked back from downtown Ubud – it’s hard to judge how long the walk will take) – and I’m relaxing in the shade when I realize that men are delivering a huge wooden table and 6 simple but elegant wooden chairs to Diana’s house. He bought a table and chairs so that they could serve us lunch.

Think about it – he went out and bought a table – he didn’t have one when he invited us over for lunch – and then figured he’d need something to feed us on. Later I asked about it – and he said he’d decided that it would be easier on us – and besides he didn’t have one. He and his wife rarely get the luxury of eating together – they work crazy hours – so you eat when you are personally hungry.

The meal they served us – while less variety then the Jungle Feast – was positively delicous. A whole roasted chicken – Diana said it was boiled – but the skin was a bit crispy – so maybe boiled then roasted? Yummy in any case. There was Rice – of course. There were the traditional long bean vegetable dish – which was delightful. They served Chicken Satay – which put me into the mind set of Kebbe – it was seasoned ground chicken wrapped around a bamboo stick and then grilled. I ate 5. There was roasted pork – full fat of course – and wonderful.

After the meal they served us leaf wrapped sticky rice – one set had bananas in the rice, the other had coconut. Diana refered to these as snack food – you can put a bunch into a backpack – and pull one out when you feel a bit needy.

The meal ended with ice cream – in celebration of me – the Lady who stops for Ice Cream.

My description simply can’t do justice to the depth of flavors there were in these dishes – again – salty, sweet, bitter, sour – all the taste buds rejoyed with every bite.

After lunch, and a tour of the compound, Diana took us to meet one of his uncles – who has 5 fighting cocks. The old man gladly showed me how to hold the bird and massage him – something that all the cock fighter owners do on a daily basis to keep the birds in perfect shape. Easy once you learned the trick – hold both wings down – or the bird will start flapping and things get seriously out of control from there!

During another trip around the island, we stop at a coffee roaster to see how they make Litwak coffee – that’s the one where the Civet cat eats the coffee beans, and then the cat shit is roasted. They also had ginger tea, lemon grass tea, coffee with ginger, and even plain coffee. It was all delicious, but horribly expensive – so while I tasted – I didn’t buy.

So – while in Bali – I’ve had Crispy Duck, Chicken Curry, Fried Pork, Beef Rendang, more rice that I ever thought I’d eat, at least a dozen different flavors of ice pops, long beans, tempe and soy beans prepared in many different ways, fried chicken, fried eels, Banana Pancakes, fried rice with vegges, fried noodles with veggies, and enough Mangosteens to sink a battle ship.

I didn’t try Dragon Fly – apparently a staple of Diana’s diet when he was growing up, the only fish I had was Tuna – although I saw tons of fish at the daily morning fish market – ranging from all kids of groupers, to cuttle fish, shrimp, small sliver fish (herring?), octopus, shark fins, and a host of fish that I didn’t quite for sure recognize out of the ocean. We ate at a wide range of restaurant types – some more touristy then other – prices ranging from $2.50 per person to $25 per person. We generally avoided alcohol – although the local beer – Bintang – is supposed to be quite good. And we never ever ate at a buffet.

And yes – I did 3 different grocery stores – just to see what purchased foods look like here.

Overall Food in Bali – a super easy 5 stars!

Signing off to consider her next meal in Bali – The Soup Lady

White Water Rafting down the Ayung River in Ubud – Too much Fun!

This should be illegal – or at least immoral. It is simply too much fun.

I’ve always been a fan of white water rafting – particularly in hot climates. The water in the rivers that have rapids are generally cool, the shade of the canyons welcoming, and of course – it’s a hoot and a half to boot.

There are 3 downsides to taking a white water rafting trip – the price (sigh – always the US$ – even in Bali), the hike down to the river, and the hike back up. But overlooking those 3 issues – this is a total must do if you have the opportunity.

Diana found me a 2 hour rafting trip for a fairly reasonable price – downside – it started early. We had to be at the rafting ‘headquarters’ at 9:00 AM – which meant leaving home at 8:15. Oh how I suffer to have fun.

The name of my rafting group was Sari Profit Rafting – and they were really full service. Their ‘headquarter’s’ had changing rooms, showers, and lockers – I got into my bathing suit, threw everything except my trusty iphone (aka Camera) and my Tilly Hat into the locker and jumped into a 7 passenger van for the quick trip up river to the jumping in point. We were going to be rafting for 1 KM on the Ayung River – described as having 28 Class II and III rapids – and being suitable for ages 5 to 65. Oops – I’m 66 going on 67. Oh well – they didn’t ask my age at headquarters – and I only fessed up after we started the trip.

The starting off point was in a beautiful rice field and a ‘shed’ filled with rafting supplies – tons of floation vests, paddles and helmets. I guess in season they are planning on a lot more rafters – we are just 2 boats of 6. In my boat are 4 friends from Vietnam (total weight of maybe 200 lbs) – a tall thin German fellow – the guide – and yours truly. We suit up and head out – across the rice fields and then into the descent into the gorge. It’s 350 meters pretty much straight down – about 1/2 of the descent is on cement steps, and 1/2 is a scramble over mud steps, tree roots and the occasional rock. Nothing horribly difficult – but enough to slow me down to the point that I’m not the last of my group to arrive – I’m the last of both groups.

Sorry people.

The rafts are already down and full of air – carried down on the heads of Balinese Women – proudly wearing t-shirts that proclaim – ‘Porters’.

At this point our guide is a tad concerned about my ability to do the rafting (66 years old, seriously slow walking down) – and decides to put me on the back right – what is best known as the safety seat – least bouncing, less important for paddling. Who am I to argue – I am 66 – and I am never going to be a strong paddler! My idea of a great rafting trip – grabbing tight to a rope tied securely to the raft and going – “Whee”.

A quick lesson on paddling – in English – which only I can completely understand – (Guide’s English isn’t great – and it’s no one else’s first language!) and we’re off.

He has taught us some key words – Forward, Backwards, BANG (we’re going to hit something – brace yourself), and Stop. That’s enough for our group – I guess we’ll figure anything else out on a ‘Need to Know’ basis.

This is the tail end of rainy season – good news actually. the rapids are at best level II and III – and generally pretty easy. That said – I’m still having a ball as we bounce down the river – hitting rocks that jut out into our path with great abandon. The advantage of rubber rafts – you definitely bounce! One of my fellow passengers quips – these are like the roads of Bali – an observation I must agree with – rubble rapids complete with the occasional pothole! Only major difference, no motor bikes. Instead we get to dodge the occasional other raft full of people!

Our guide takes us to 3 different waterfalls each at least 100 to 200 meters high – and allows us out to swim in the falls before getting everyone back in the boat for another series of rapids.

I opt to stay in the boat – I’m not sure I could get back in if I flung myself out over the side! Certainly not in deep water. So the guide gets out and drags our raft (with me inside) under the water fall. Hey – I need to get the experience – right? Its pummeling – but fun! And wonderfully cooling.

The scenery is outstanding – vertical cliffs tower above us on both sides – interrupted by water falls, rock falls – several other rafting trip starting points – and at one point – a magnificent hotel – the Royal Pita Maya. Oh my – what a magnificant looking place to stay. We wave at the guests as we paddle by on our way to the next set of rapids.

We drift past a huge rock out-cropping that has been carved with images from the story of Rama Sita – featuring among other things – a huge crocodile. This is the only time my camera makes it out of the water proof bag – so enjoy the image below!

At the 1/2 way point – we take a rest at a beach. Ladies with drinks are at the ready to provide sustenance – with a cheerful – no money – no worries – you pay when you get back to headquarters… The best part of the break – a rock out-cropping over a very deep pool. Our guide does a back-flip and roll into the water – and the rest of us gradually get up the nerve to make a least a belly flop into the water. I’m happy just letting my self get caught up in the current, swept down stream a bit – then paddle back and do it again. So much fun – and so totally refreshing!

Eventually we must paddle on. I’ve finally earned the right to sit in front – which is fun too. We play splash the other rafters – race a team down a quieter path – and generally just laugh and have fun.

All good things must end – even rafting trips. So we arrive – get out of our raft – and begin the long hike (only 250 meters as per the guide) back up. How do the rafts get ‘up’ you ask? Balanced on the heads of the female ‘Porters’ who have magically appeared here.

Surprise Surprise – when we reach the top – we’re at Headquarters! No car ride required. That never happened to me before.

Nice Showers, Hot towels, and a free lunch complete the experience.

Oh was that fun.

** Keeping with the ‘find something to appreciate challenge’ – I really appreciate having the health to make it down and back up so I didn’t have to miss doing the White Water Rafting here in Bali.**

Signing off to find something else that is this much fun to do – The Soup Lady




Irresistible things to do in Bali ….

Being in Bali Makes you want to… (PART 2)

Do Yoga or Pilates – it’s almost a national sport here in Ubud – at least among the ex-pats and foreign visitors. Everyone in all the Yoga classes and Pilates classes I’ve peeked in on has been a foreigner – I think the Balinese are too busy working to need to go to class to stay fit. I’ve tried one of each – plus a Tibetian Gong Mediation class – but more on that in another blog! While you wait – do put one of these classes on your ‘got-ta do it’ list for Ubud.

Visit the Rain Forest – Oh wait – you don’t have to visit it – you are in it – all the time. The flowers are amazing. But when the heavens decide its time for rain – it’s like someone unzipped a huge bag of water – torrents pour out! It’s generally warm water – but still – you, the cars, the dogs, the roads, the rice fields – everything gets soaked. We got caught in one yesterday – We’d gone up to visit Mt Batur to see the volcano – and just as we paid our entrance fee – the black clouds and rain rolled in. Nothing to see – a wall of grey. Absolutely grey. You could imagine that someone had built a room around you, painted the walls light grey – and wished you good luck finding a way out. Clearly we’re going back tomorrow. I do want to see that Volcano!

See Mt Batur, Mt. Agung (the Volcano), and the Mother Temple! It took 2 drives up the mountain roads, winding and curving thru villages and rice fields to get the job done – but we succeeded. First day was a total rain out – 2nd day was Glorious. Amazing photos, beautiful place, and the mother Temple is worth at least one visit. It would be nicer if you are Hindu of course – but I’m still glad I went.

Pat a Snake or a Bat – or both. Why not. Snakes are easy to find if you really want to hold one – big ones too – I’m talking over 15 feet long – minimum. But I just smile and shake my head – no thanks! (Bats on the other hand…)

Pick something you eat that grows wild in Bali! The choices are endless – Mangasteens, bananas, cloves, coffee, cocoa beans (chocolate eventually), pineapples, jack fruit, dumum, vanilla beans, star anis, madarine oranges, the list goes on and on.

Admire the Poinsettas – They grow wild on the slopes of Mt Batur. Both Red and White are considered weeds – they just grow to huge sizes! Diana tells us that they used to grow wild around Ubud – but they actively killed them off – they are weeds – and poisonous to boot.

Perform Kajeng – Every 15 days you must feed the spirts – otherwise who knows what will happen. They might get upset, the good ones desert your family and your compound, and the bad ones, who apparently love food too – will find their way in. And this particular offering series is quite important. Diana’s car – which up to now has not been sporting an offering – today has one. It’s Kajeng.

Chat with School Kids. Okay – this might just be something I love – but they are all learning English after about 10 years old – so the odds are that at least one in the group (they only travel in packs) – will be willing to take a chance and answer your ‘Hello’. Once you’ve broken the ice – it’s a free for all of English – you’ll learn their names, their ages – and you can be sure they will ask ‘What is your name’ – which often comes out as ‘What is my name’ – and eventually you’ll be fast friends. In many cases – the teacher eventually will show up to see what the kids are doing/saying – and this too generates those amazingly beautiful Balinese smiles.

Eat a Paddle Pop – or one of the many competitors. These cost from 3000 to 4000 ruplies – (30 cents to 40 cents) – and are uniformly delicious. They come in tons of flavors, often 3 or 4 to the single pop. Sometimes I think I recognize the flavor – and I do know when it’s chocolate – but sometimes I’m just going for the great name. Coco Lava, Mama Blue, Sunshine, Magic, Red Rocket, Frozen Frenzy – those are just the ones that attempt an English translation. Diana has decided that I’m the Lady that stops for Ice Cream, and I think he’s absolutely correct. It’s hard to pass by a freezer without checking to see if there’s a new surprise hidden in it’s depths.

Side note – a friend of mine has challenged her followers to find something to appreciate every day this month of April – so here’s my April First Appreciation note – I deeply appreciate The Lady in Pink for inviting me to accompany her to Bali. Thank you – Lady in Pink.

Last irresistible thing to do in Bali – Dance till you sweat thru your clothes! That’s my plan for today. I’m waiting at the Yoga Barn for the Sunday Dance to start – 150 people jamming for the fun of jamming – all hot, all sweaty, all smiles.

Signing off to register for my turn to sweat till I drop – The Soup Lady




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




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