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.

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




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.

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

Cold Coffee, Snake Fruit and Nyepi – The Day of Silence

March 21, 2015 – and along with the rest of Bali – I’m celebrating the festival of Nyepi – the Day of Silence.

Some one clearly forgot to tell the bird in my room or the rooster – but for the rest of Bali – today is a day to reflect, to think, to consider. The 4 rules are simple – no fires, no entertainment, no travel, no working. On Nyepi the world is born anew – and in respect – we are silent.

An alternative explanation – on this day the Bad Spirits fly by the island – and if there is no sound and no lights and no fires, they will think it is uninhabited – and avoid us for another year. To be sure they are distracted – yesterday all the ladies were busy putting offerings out to distract them from entering the house – offerings including whole opened coconuts, rice, flowers, and in at least one case – candy bars!

Even the airport closes for 24 hours. I’ve been told that if you try to travel, you will be stopped and politely asked to go back home. People staying in hotels have told me that some hotels will prepare food for that day – others expect you to fend for yourself by stocking up the day before. Needless to say the little 24 hour stores that mainly stock crackers and cookies were doing a landslide business last night.

Some people leave Bali for Nyepi – fleeing to less restrictive locations like the Gill Islands or even Java – but we decided to experience it here in the Lady in Pink’s 2 bedroom palace. We have food (albeit cold – hence the cold coffee and Snake Fruit – names for it’s snake like outer peel – its actually a cross between an apple and a pear with 3 large pits), we have a swimming pool, and I have my trusty ipad. Blogging is my way of thinking introspectively – in case you didn’t notice!

But let’s backtrack to last night – Pre-Nyepi day – when all of Bali celebrates – Big Time. Seriously Big Time – with huge Ogoh-Ogoh being paraded thru the streets. This is traditionally an exorcism ceremony – held in every village in Bali. The idea is to vanquish the negative elements and create balance with God, Mankind, and nature.

Starting months earlier – each community group gets together to design, build and chorograph their part in these ceremonies. The ‘Build’ portion are the Ogoh-Ogoh – puppets or demonic statues that tower above the troops of young men who carry them on Bamboo platforms. These huge (15 – 20 – even 30 feet tall) monsters and mythological beings are built of bamboo, foam, electrical wire, whatever can be found. They stand on large bamboo platforms that provide room for the 30 or so people who will be charged with carrying them thru the street – and DANCING with them during the actual ceremony.

We saw groups of young people – 5 and 6 years old – with smaller Ogoh-Ogoh, totally proud that they were participating in such an important event. The larger, more massive Ogoh-Ogoh are carried by older teens and young men. Balinese orchestras of gongs and drums accompany each group – and some groups had female dancers – highly made up – that danced along too. One group was totally playing with fire – live flames carried as torches, and used to light hula hoops during their part of the ceremony. All I could think was – Disney would DIE at the risk – imagine 20 or so young dancers – live flames – and NO audience control what so ever.

The parade starts with each group man-handling their Ogoh-Ogoh to the local football field in Ubud (obviously – other villages have other gathering points). This would be easier if not for the advent of electrictity. There are wires strung across the streets haphazardly – and mostly way too low to allow these huge creatures with their massive wing spans, demon riders, or tall feather head-dresses to pass. So each creature has it’s pole bearers. Men who carry 40 foot long bamboo poles with Y shaped ends. The idea – they use the poles to push the wires out of the way – while the guys tasked with moving the Ogoh-Ogoh lower it all the way to the ground and push it past. Over and Over again. The effort required is stunning.

At the football field, the Ogoh-Ogoh gather, along with their carriers, their bands, their dancers, the proud parents, hackers of balloons and glow in the dark headresses, and the crowds of on-lookers. A carnival atmosphere develops as more and more Ogoh-Ogoh take the field. From 5:30 until time to depart for the parade and ceremony at the main cross-roads – the numbers grow from a few hundred to several thousand people. And that’s just here in Ubud – the same gatherings and celebrations is happening in every community all over Bali. The magnitude is challenging to appreciate.

The Lady in Pink and I hung out at a local restaurant with a great view of the field – watching the action without having to withstand the brunt of the heat of the day. Our table sat 4 – so we were joined by 3 different groups of fellow tourists in shifts – 2 female artists from Germany, an older woman, also an artist, from Amsterdam, and then a couple of tourists also from Germany. Good think the Lady speaks German, eh? I drank tons of water – had a Pineapple Ice Cream Milkshake – and occasionally ventured onto the field to take pictures. The Lady held onto our table (more and more valuable as the sun began to set), and chatted with our new friends.

I even joined one of the community groups (bought the T-shirt) – but they wouldn’t let me help carry. Hey – I offered! I’m not sure what it means – but my shirt says Tabeng Dada and sports an image of their Ogoh-Ogoh.

Finally – all the groups have gathered – and it’s time for the parade to start. The Lady and I opt to avoid the crowds – and take the longer, but less travelled route back to the main intersection. We arrive just as the largest of the Ogoh-Ogoh – the one with the wings and the rider on the back of the monster arrives – and are duly frightened as it swings menacingly above our heads.

This is truly the mosh pit to end all mosh pits. And we opt out. Mistake actually. Had we stopped and thought about things a bit better – we’d have gone for high ground with a view of the intersection – but we underestimated how important and how long the ceremonies at the intersection would be. We’d have been much better having a good view. Eventually we realized our error – and worked our way back into the fray – but higher so less pushing. We got to watch one group do it’s entire 20 minute performance – and then bailed to begin our long – 40 minute – up hill walk home. This was actually not nearly as difficult as I had imagined it would be – I only stopped twice, once for a delicous 30 cent flavored popcycle – and once for a rush bathroom stop. And the temperature had cooled off considerably – which made walking much much easier.

Never-the-less – it was home, swimming pool, bed.

Signing off to think deep thoughts on Nyepi – The Soup Lady





Life in a Rain Forest – Ubud does Water World

Start with some Simple Geography – Ubud is built upon a series of ravines between, beside, and parallel to the parths 2 rivers. We hiked about 10 KM total along the ridge line that divides theses rivers this morning – (it was lovely) – but this blog is not about that hike – it’s about living in a rain forest.

To the south of Ubud is the plain of Dempasseur – the main city of Bali and the location of the airport. To the north East of Ubud is Mount Agung – a volcano that errupted most recently in 1963 and is still considered active. At 9,944 feet – it dominates the skyline from all directions – and is actually clearly visible from the back porch of our ‘Balanese Palace.”

Naturally – the clouds are forced upwards as they move from the hot wet coast towards the mountain – and thus we get rain here in Ubud. Lots of rain. Even now – at the ‘end’ of the rainy season, there are 2 or 3 rain storms a day – and the one last night was a dosy.

At about 3:30 AM I shot upright in bed to the sound of a clap of thunder so loud the house shook. With no insulation to speak of – and basically a thatched roof – while water tight – our little home is barely protection from the elements – it’s certainly not entirely safe in a thunder and lightening storm – at least that is what went thru my mind at 3:30 AM!

Next thought – what’s the tallest thing around? There’s a series of Palm trees at one edge of the rice fields that surround us – and there’s a magnificant Banyon tree South East of us that fairly large. But in the general height department – there’s not a lot to choose from. It’s a random chance if lightining should hit us rather than our neighters.

So – it rained, and rained, and rained. I had visions of flood warnings – but Ubud takes rain in it’s stride. All streets have 2 foot deep tranches on the sides – and the roads are slopped to drain into the trenches. The trenches funnel the water from the frequent rain storms into one of the 2 rivers – after providing water for the multitude of rice plantings that occupy any land not uesd for housing.

So Ubud can handle the rain. And it sure looks pretty while doing so! The flowers are amazing – everywhere you look there is one flower more glorious, more prefect – than the next. I had to look them up – Heliconia (red firm flowers (leaves?) hanging down from trees everywhere, Bananas – both wild and cultivated – and even growing in our back yard, Flamboyant trees are everywhere – in fact avoiding them is harder than finding them. Water Lilys, Bamboo trees, lotus flowers, the list is never ending – and all are lovely.

For a rain forest habitat – Ubud does not disappoint.

Clearly the issue around here is not on how to get plants watered – it’s how to deal with incredibly rapid growth. Trees have amazingly huge roots, statues if not cleaned frequently quickly develop a glorious green hue – and there are water falls – and signs of wash outs everywhere. But if you’ve always wanted to know what a rain forest feels like – Ubud is your place.

Signing off to go dry her feet – The Soup Lady

Mosh Pit Party – Balinese Style – Getting High Naturally

Getting high – Naturally is the subtext – Enjoying yourself the point. This was totally way fun.

Tonight The Lady in Pink and I went to an Ecstatic Dance party held at the world famous Yoga Barn. This is a not to be missed experience that I’m going to attempt to describe – but trust me – seeing is believing.

The Yoga Barn is known for it’s incredible number of yoga related offerings – but it also has something happening every night. Monday night is movie night, for example. And Friday night is Ecstatic Dance night.

The rules are simple. No talking, Move freely, Leave electronics outside. No Alcohol. This is about getting high naturally – and while I’m not sure about high – and I definitely tell you it’s about getting hot.

There were over 250 people (unlimited is the that the gal taking the entrance fee used to describe the attendance) in a magnificant space – high ceiling, glorious wooden floor that I would love to take home with me, and shelves along the side for stuffing back packs and water bottles.

Average age – maybe 30, could be younger. Fitness level – high. Clothing – for Bali – very revealing – bra tops only were the norm for woman, bare chested the norm for the guys. The abs on display were ourstanding. Women wore loose fitting, flowing pants, yoga pants, or short shorts. I actually watched one woman go commando! Hair – loose and flowing – and that was true for the guys as well as the girls. I saw guys with such glorious long hair – every girl had to be jealous.

The dance started with dancers warming up in their own individual ways – one woman was even dancing with a hula hoop – and she knew how to use it. Once the serious music started – the crowd got larger and larger – and the temperature got higher and higher. There was actually a wall of heat around the core group of dancers – i couldn’t go there – although the Lady in Pink had no issues joining in and staying in.

I found a cooler (maybe 100?) spot – and danced my little heart out. The music wasn’t completely familiar – but it felt familiar.

After 90 minutes of non-stop dancing – people collapsed on the floor -formed a circle for the final meditation and hand holding. This is the Yoga Barn – you have to expect a spirtual aspect.

Then we pounded the floor to thank the dance master and headed home – tired but inspired.

I loved it.

Signing off – The Soup Lady

The dance started with dancers

Morning One in Ubud, Bali – Roosters, Ducks and Fish – Oh My!

I wake in my over the top comfy 4 poster bed to the sound of rain splashing gently on the ground outside my room. We’re just at the end of the raining season – early March – and rain is a relatively\ constant companion to most day trips – but it’s not a sit at home rain – it’s an on again/off again rain that is gentle and warm. Totally brightens the colors.

What – besides the rain – woke me? I hear the clacking of ducks outside – with the occasional loud cry of the local – and apparently in good voice and not in a good mood – Rooster.

I grab my iphone – it’s also my camera – and dash outside. The colors are completely stunning. The lush greens contrast with the reds and yellows and oranges and purples of the flowers. I’m dutifully impressed. Our house overlooks a rice field – sections of which are flooded and provide a perfect breeding ground for a local flock, carefully tended by an elderly, but still very capable man. I’m going to try for a photo op – but I think he needs to see me as someone friendly first.

Our rental home – found by my friends on VRBO – which now I can see clearly around – contains 2 bedrooms with ensuite bathrooms (and the master bathroom is even nicer than mine – with an indoor and outdoor shower), a long and thin main room with a work desk, a TV and a sofa – and what passes as a kitchen. There’s a full sized fridge – a 2 burner stove top, and a tiny toaster oven. But there’s plenty of storage, a giant sink, and since water in the pipes is not potable – there’s a dispenser that holds those plastic 5 gallons water containers. The main living area is the back porch – and it’s huge. At least 40 foot long – with 2 comfy sofas and a wooden dining table that is totally Balinease. Perfect.

The thatched ceiling is vaulted and at least 25 feet high at the highest point. Since the living room is not Air Conditioned, the tops of the walls don’t meet the roof. Instead there is room for lots of air circulation – even if the glass doors to outside are closed.

But the coolest part of the house are the water ways. You enter by stepping on huge stones that are sitting in a pool of water. All around the ouside of the house is flowing water in narrow streams – several sections of which are wide enough to house fish that Liane feeds every night. You are always surrounded by the sound of flowing water – but it is a bit ‘watch your step’ when exiting the house. You don’t want to miss the edige and fall into the water.

There’s a lovely infinity pool that drains into a white rock studded drain – a wooden resting platform with a roof for relaxing out of the sun – and sun chaises to relac in the sun.

Rumor has it that the place is for sale – $200,000 buys you a 28 year lease – at the end of which time – the home goes back to the owner of the land – who can sell it again. hmm – Not buying in Bali I guess. But hey – I’m not even the rentor – just the guest of the rentor. It’s perfect.

I’m sitting on the desk, typing my blog, when a young woman rounds the corner of the house. She owns the land (houses in Bali can not be owned outright by foreigners – instead they get a lease on the land), and has come to bless the house.

I’m going to repeat that so you’ll know it’s not a typo. Yes – she’s blessing the house. Every exit – and every stair case (just one – but if there were more, she’d be keen). She is carrying a large tray with flower baskets and Incense on it – and proceeds to go to the 2 stone altars on the property. She uses a flower placked from one of out trees to waft the smoke from the incense into the altar. She repeats this process again and again, at the edge of the pool where you would exit it, on the stairs leading up to the porch, on the porch just above the stairs, at the front door and the back door – Keeping this up until every entrance to our house is protected and blessed.

I discover in walking around that all the women have been doing this today – and there are tiny baskets with flowers and the remains of incense sticks everywhere. More popular sites have piles of baskets – as each woman did her personal series of prayers.

What a lovely introduction to Bali. Birds flying everywhere – flowers everywhere – and the protection of the spirts.

Great coffee too.

I might stay here a long time! It’s perfect.

Signing off to enjoy the peace and quiet and to commune with the spirts of the house who are feeling very warm and fuzzy – The Soup Lady