Saturday, October 4, 2014


What people say about Bali is true. The tropical island in the Indian Ocean is really magical, but you can't see the magic in the pictures we took. Instead the magic is in the air, and also in the smiles of the people who live there. The magic is ingrained in the Balinese culture, similar to what we experienced when we traveled to other countries, where Buddhism and Hinduism are inculcated into people's lives.

You feel the magic the minute you meet the driver who greets you at the airport with a sign that has your name on it. There is something very comforting to arrive in a foreign land, after what seems like days of travel, and see your name written in big bold letters on a white sign that a stranger is holding up. With palms held close together and with his head slightly bowed, our driver, Kutuk, dressed in traditional Balinese clothing, made us feel as though we were coming home to the land that we loved, not going on a vacation to a place we'd never been to before.

We were slightly shell shocked and exhausted from 24 hours of travel squeezed in the back of the giant plane sitting in seats that we all know as coach. And yet, after arriving at Amori Villas, high in the mountains above the town of Ubud, and feeling the warmth of the people who worked there and the tranquility of the scenery around us, we quickly bounced back. We felt like someone had infused us with a big dose of energy. Although we can no longer call ourselves true honeymooners, Bruce had reserved the honeymoon suite, which didn't really surprise me because he's such a sucker for outdoor showers. Everyone at Amori greeted us like long-lost friends -- Rick and Peta, an Australian couple who own the mountain resort and their Balinese staff, like Mosie and Avi, made our three-night stay one of the most luxurious experiences we've had in a long time.

Our visit to Bali was really a stopover on our way to Australia, but after only a few hours, we realized that this spectacular place deserved more than just a short visit. The next time we will try and come for a couple of weeks. With only three nights and two full days, we crammed a lot in, not taking adequate time to relax and swim in the infinity pool at Amori or explore the charm of the small village down the road.

Instead, on the first day we hiked the Campuan Ridge trail, which took us up the hillside on dirt paths, through acres of bright green rice fields, and finally back to Ubud on a busy paved road that included a couple of very steep hills. If I had been on my bike, I definitely would have had to walk it. Trying to find the Ridge trailhead, which essentially started very close to a Hindu Temple, where a special ceremony was going on, was our first adventure. Not wanting to miss any of the ceremony we witnessed from the bridge above, we quickly put on the paisley print sarong and purple sash that our hosts had loaned us to wear, since this traditional dress is required for entry into temples. This gave us a good laugh as we struggled to properly wrap the three yards of fabric, so we wouldn't trip on the long hem while walking down the steep steps to the river to witness the ceremony below.

It seemed that our trip to Bali not only happened at the same time as the famous Ubud Festival of Writers and Readers that is held every year, but it also coincided with several religious events around the revered Saraswati, the Hindu God of Wisdom and Education. So, In addition to the streets being filled with foreign visitors on vacation and writers and readers from around the world, the local kids were also out of school. For the next several days Balinese people would be coming to and going from the many temples to make their offerings to the worshipped God, Saraswati. Incense filled the air, drumbeats and bells rang out, and chanting could be heard from the temple by the river. Although wearing a sarong was essential in order to get close enough to simply take pictures, we were told that the ceremony was off limits to tourists, and that it was time for us to move on. That worked fine with us because the sun was becoming very hot and that, along with the humidity of the tropics, made us feel sticky and drippy, and we hadn't even begun our ridge loop walk. Since I wasn't wearing my Fitbit device, which determines how many miles we'd walked, all I can say is that other than stopping to take pictures and to share a bowl of Indonesian noodles at a small cafe in the rice fields, we walked continuously from 10:30 am to 4:00 pm. The Lonely Planet guidebook said the trail was 8 kilometers, but someone at the hotel told us that it was 24 km. All I can say is that we definitely walked more than 8 km and no way did we do 24.

On our second day in Bali we thought we'd take it easy by hiring a car and driver to drive us around to see the sights, since the price to do so seemed very reasonable. Ha, Ha, taking it easy. What a joke. Seeing the sights near and around Ubud meant plenty of walking, and a long climb down and up 350 steps to view the Puranas Gunung Kawi, not including all the walking we did at the ancient temple site itself. And I must tell you that this was done in the high heat and humidity wearing three yards of fabric that hung down below your knees and under which you wore a pair of already sweaty shorts. Another well known site we visited was the Tirta Empul or also known as the Holy Water Temple, where we walked, and watched myriads of people bathe in the healing holy waters, and fill plastic jugs to take home to their families. Friends of mine in California actually participated in the bathing ritual when they visited Bali a couple of years ago, and even though the cool water would have felt great against my hot and sticky skin, the idea of spending the rest of the day in wet clothes did not sound very appealing. Instead I looked forward to returning to the air conditioned car. We also visited some of the wood carvers in the adjacent village of Mas. Although we were open to buying something if something special caught our eye, we, unfortunately left the town of Mas empty handed. Not the least bit deterred, we later combed the streets of Ubud looking for shops and galleries that had the perfect mask to add to our tribal collection at home. And voila, we were successful. I'm not sure how many miles we walked on day two, but we walked a lot -- maybe not as many miles as the day before, but pretty darn close.

I am writing this post while flying to Australia. In a couple of days we will be exploring the wild Kimberly Coast on a small 50 passenger catamaran ship. I don't know how much Wifi we will have, but stay tuned. The adventure continues.............

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