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Back to Bali

Written on: Thursday October 2nd, 2008

Departing Sulawesi, I had many thoughts about where I'd like to spend the next week before mom arrived. Under consideration were Java, Lombok and Eastern Bali. Eventually, the idea of staying in one spot...and relaxing...won out, so I headed back to Senen Beach Inn in Legian.

The week was good. I ran on the beach. I dived with manta rays. I surfed. I ate sushi. Lots of it. I met some cool people (even a girl from Ufa...how 'bout THAT, Elvira!). I added to the list of countries in which I have a place to crash. I thought about serious things. I thought about nothing. I contemplated life. I meditated. I changed my plan. But mostly, I relaxed. Nursed my injury (leg wound in Sulawesi...didn't have proper medicine for a while...in the water too much...got infected). Read a couple books. Ate some comfort food. It was all good preparation for 28SEP, which is when mom arrived in Bali.

How cool is that...I've been traveling for ten weeks throughout the pacific and SE Asia, and the first person that visits me is my mother!?! I must admit I was quite excited all week, and the wait for her to clear customs seemed to last forever. She made it in from California without incident and we made it safely to our hotel. Even received a complimentary room upgrade. Nice start.

Little time was wasted breaking her in to Balinese lifestyle. I rented a scooter and two helmets for the week, plopped her on the back, and off we went to explore! Now...I've driven a scooter on many previous vacations. Liz can attest to some of the challenging roads, beaches and traffic that have existed throughout past trips; however, none of it was even close to as challenging as navigating the streets and allies of the Kuta-Legian region of Bali. Traffic is chaotic. The vast majority of intersections are uncontrolled. Hell, the vast majority of pavement is uncontrolled. One-way streets mean nothing, as do speed limits. Oversized tour busses clog the tiny, winding streets, while scooters go zipping past by the hundreds.

There seem to be only three basic rules: 1) wear a helmet (unless, of course, you're a child; then it isn't required...strange but true); 2) only worry about what's in front of you (the thirteen other bikes screaming up behind and beside you to sneak past the bus will somehow not crash into you); 3) drive with controlled aggressiveness (it is mandatory to cut people off when entering traffic at an intersection; they'll bend enough for you to become part of the chaos). So, bad leg and all, this was mom's first experience. I handed her a helmet, told her hold on tight and took off for the beach district in Kuta. After watching a brilliant sunset on the beach, we arrived at Kuta Beach Club, where we drank a couple mojitos, snacked on fresh seafood, and watched the fire dancing show by the pool. Not a bad first night for her in the Southern Hemisphere.

Next couple days we were beach bums, renting an umbrella and shooing away all the vendors selling their wares. Well, maybe not ALL the vendors were shooed away...a pedicure was needed, as was a massage. We even got a couple tats (only one was matching). The mango lady was a welcome sight, as the nectar of this fruit in Bali might quite possibly be more tasty than anywhere else in the world. And of course there's the beverage lady...we kept her busy. Mom soaked up the sun while I surfed and ran. We chatted and caught up on all the happenings of the last few months.

After exploring for so long on my own, it was nice to have somebody here...to travel with...to eat with...to share the experience with, but the fact that it was mom made it so much more special.

Yesterday we went off to tour inland Bali. What a day! We started off watching traditional Balinese dancing in a beautiful outdoor theater. It was a wonderful performance, filled with all the drama and charisma one would expect on Broadway. From there we ventured to a wood carving market. The masks of the Hindu gods were exquisite...I only wish that I had Will's knowledge when discussing them with the artists. Next stop was a gallery of local paintings: traditional, modern, tropical or Balinese. All were nice, but by the end I was just happy to get my sandals back. :) Fourth stop was a traditional Hindu temple. This one gave me mixed emotions: one the one hand, it was absolutely gorgeous; the man-made structures blended in harmoniously with the environment and a tranquil vibe settled upon me. The unfortunate thing was that it was overrun with tourists. Personally, I felt very guilty walking around the temple, knowing that there were folks praying here for the last 50+ years who probably wished Bali never made it onto the internatinal map. Nonetheless, it was a powerful experience. Lunchtime arrived and we dined upon Balinese cuisine while overlooking Lake Batur and the volcano with three culderas, literally above the mountain.

First stop post-lunch was a visit to the spice and coffee plantation, which proved to be quite interesting. We were able to view a variety of fruit trees and spices, as well as sample multiple variations of local coffees and teas. From there we experienced a classic: the terraced rice fields of inland Bali. It is almost a cliche, but the rice fields DO define Bali, and they do not disappoint. We took in the views for quite some time before setting off for the sacred monkey forest.

Now this one was fun. It is just a tiny, little forest...virtually a park...in southern Ubud. Here, there are hundreds of monkeys that are not shy in the least. After navgating away from the hoards, we found ourselves the sole humans amidst several curious and hungry monkeys. It did not take long before I was startled by the grip of one of the creatures as he climbed up my back and came to rest upon my head, as content there as a bird in its nest. Shite! What do I do?!? Fortunately, there were no claws digging in to me, so I just covered my eyes for good measured and laughed my arse off. Eventually I shook him off, but only for a few seconds; he made it back up atop my head and chilled again. By now I knew how to handle the situation, so when I flung him off the second time, and he prepared to launch upward, I simply backed away a few steps, therefore making mom the unknowing target of the next monkey leap! It lept; she freaked! Couldn't have planned it better! It climbed stright to the top of her head and started sifting through her hair, looking for god-knows-what. After the initial startle, she accepted it and dealt with it, having a good laugh about the situation.  But her new friend did not want to leave his new lair. Eventually she was able to get the monkey off her back and we quickly ski-daddled to more populated areas of the park!

Our last stop of the night was the famous Kecuk, or fire, dance! "Tuka, tuka, Tuka tuka, Tuka tuka, Tuka tuka"....over and over we heard the rythem of this dance, but it was not being played by an exotic instrument. Nope, the soundtrack for this dance was sung completely by a chorus of 30+ men - no instruments were used. Again, I longed for Will's intimate knowledge of the stories and characters, but was content to learn a bit on my own as we watched this amazing ritual from the second row off the stage.

Eventually we made it home...with enough gusto to celebrate some friends' last evening in Bali. We cleaned up and headed off to Mama's - the local German bar - for some tasty pork cutlets and even tastier litres of beer. Miriam and Steve met us half way through, and a good time was had by all.

Since then we've returned to what we know best: chilling on the beach, shopping, having a couple beers and dining on very tasty food. One more day of this 'torture' exists before we fly east to the island of Flores, gateway to the famous Komodo Dragon! We hope to track them down in their only native environment on Earth! If all goes well, we'll respectfully snap a few pics and return to the safety of our hut.

Can't wait!

 

From Ella on Nov 2nd, 2008

Did your mom get permanent or temprary tatoos? they look great. I loved your pictures where you and your mom at the restoran overlooking on volcano! I might go there just because of that! And I liked pic of monkey attak! so funny=)))

From Ella on Nov 2nd, 2008

OMG,girls from Ufa are everywhere! take pics of them, may be I know them=)