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




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