Greetings from halfway around the globe. I am sitting in an internet cafe in Bali, Indonesia. It's 10:30pm on Saturday night, which makes it 7:30am on the West Coast of the US. Why am I sitting in an internet cafe at 10:30pm on a Saturday night? Because we have actually found a place with less nightlife than Issaquah. We are in Ubud, Bali, about one hour north of the famous beaches.
It's been nearly a year since Matt and I travelled- while the clothing we packed was the same for this trip as our previous trip to Kenya and Tanzania, I am happy to report that the FILTH is not the same. In fact, this has so far been a paradise-type holiday.
After a 14-hour flight from Vancouver to Hong Kong, and a four-hour flight to Denpasar, Bali, we arrived Thursday in the afternoon. Our bungalow is lovely- overlooking a pool, set in a garden, and a Balinese man serves us tea on a platter every day at 4pm (the people here are SO nice). It's simple but gorgeous. Ubud is the culinary capital of Bali, and after settling in we headed to dinner at a place called Bumbu Bali, which was featured on a Food Network show. We had a "Balinese Feast," which included roasted duck and this amazing coconut rice. We also sampled their local booze- arak, palm wine, and brem, rice wine- which we decided had the distinctive aroma of FEET. We are sticking to Bintang, the local beer.
On Friday morning, we hired a driver and set off for Bali's most famous temples. Bali, unlike the rest of Indonesia, is 90% Hindu, and their waterfront temples are stunning. We started at an outdoor theater to see the famous dances of Bali, which tell the story of good versus evil spirits. We're not much for native dances, but this was really cool. We then visited the south coast of Bali, to Tanah Lot Temple, with the Indian Ocean's waves crashing over the temple. You'd recognize this place- it's the poster child for Bali tourism. We then headed to the mountains of North Bali to see a temple whose name escapes me, but it's gorgeous too, and set among the famous rice terraces of Bali. The rice terraces are stair-stepped rice fields that line the shockingly green mountainous valley. It's very different from the beachy area of the south.
Along the way we sampled some Balinese foods- jackfruit, a fruit that I find a tad nasty, and nasi goreng, which is a fried rice dish, and pretty much the national dish. I love the satay, which comes drenched in peanut sauce. Yum. We ate at a roadside ghetto-type diner with the locals- flies everywhere and toilet paper for napkins- and had the best chicken satay I've ever had.
We went to a Balinese fusion place for dinner, which for $40 US (three courses with four drinks) was sky-high expensive!! We have decided that the roadside diners are far better.
We have been frequenting a reggae bar near our hotel at night, and until you've heard Bob Marley sung phonetically by non-English-speaking Balinese, you haven't heard Bob Marley. For example, the words to "Three Little Birds" is actually "Emeril thing gonna be fight." And it's not "Exodus," it's "Accident." Just so you know for your next trip to Jamaica, mon.
Today we indulged in the pampering of Bali...they are famous for spas. You can't roll a bowling ball down the main street without hitting one. We went to a place called Verona, and we shared a "couples room" with two massage tables, and an open air bath so you could feel the breeze off the rice paddies. Matt got an hourlong massage (including being dipped in honey and wrapped in plastic), and a soak in a rose petal bath (whee I got photos), and I got an hourlong facial and a manicure. Total cost with tip: $22 USD. I love this place. And only in Bali would this thought cross my mind: "I hope using that squat toilet doesn't mess up my new manicure."
Our bungalow is right off the main road called Monkey Forest Road, which is lined with tons of shops selling beautiful clothing and jewelry. (I have a good friend's and a niece's birthday coming up, and this is shopping Disneyland!! One US dollar is equal to 10,000 Indonesian rupiah. 'nuff said.) But at the end of Monkey Forest Road is the Monkey Forest Sanctuary- a holy place of temples overrun with Balinese macaque monkeys. It's really amazing- the monkeys are everywhere, and the place looks like an Indiana Jones set- but it's authentic. But I did learn today that I am scared to death of small human-like furry creatures. Those things are evil. I was walking down a path and one grabbed the hanging strap of my backpack and tried to pull it off me. The monkey was half the size of my cat but freakishly strong. The birthing season was last month, so there were lots of cute baby monkeys, though. See for yourself: http://www.BaliMonkey.com
Tonight, after a long walk down Monkey Forest, we ended up at a place called Dirty Duck Diner. Imagine the most Disney-like Tiki Room/Indiana Jones movie set in your mind, and this was our restaurant. I stopped at one Bintang beer on the fear that I would fall off the stone walkway and plunge into the rice paddy pond surrounding the place. But the crispy fried duck, a Balinese specialty, was delicious.
Anyway...tomorrow we explore Gulung Kawi, a sacred stone monument, and maybe return to the spa for a pedicure. Monday Matt has cooking school, which of course is the official "reason" for the trip. I will keep you posted.
Our bungalow on the rice paddies
Puru Bratan Temple
Tanah Lot Temple