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A Memorable Solo Month in Singapore, Java, and Bali

A Memorable Solo Month in Singapore, Java, and Bali

Old Jul 14th, 2016, 05:47 AM
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I hit the submit button too soon so let me continue and say that actually the price for the drivers did not seem too bad at least compared to what you would pay in more developed countries. Israel in particular was literally about 10 times that cost per day.

Your descriptions of Indonesia really make me want to go there and I can't wait to hear about what is coming next, Bali. We were in Fiji once and those people also were very very friendly and I think it's part of their culture. When we got out of the cab one day some stranger came to open the door and as I was looking for change to pay the driver another one came to my help and wanted to know if I needed change and was pointing me to a place where I could get it. Their version of "Aloha" is "Bula" and it is truly more than a greeting it is also a spirit or a way that they treat you with his with great hospitality. I wanted to try their ceremonial drink called Kava and a lady who was trying to direct me to her shop knew where some men were drinking this and she took us there. We sat down with them and it look like they were in their native garb and they were drinking this out of a wooden bowl. Before you drink it you have to clap your hands three times and then scoop it up and smaller wooden bowls and then drink it. It's made from the roots of a pepper plant and indeed it is a mild stimulant and I did feel it's effects for a couple of hrs.

Of course this is the real beauty of travel.

And now I'm looking forward to the rest of your report which is quite possibly one of the best I have ever seen here on this forum. Actually it's the best report sense reports we have seen here from the late and great poster "The Dogster" and if you know him then you will know this is quite a compliment and it is well deserved !
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Old Jul 14th, 2016, 07:05 AM
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"When we were in Hong Kong the trick to eating noodles with chopsticks is to bring the noodles up with the chopsticks and then drop them in a spoon"

A waitress in South Korea showed me (very decidedly, lol) that I should pick noodles or kimchi up with tongs, cut off a section with scissors and add them to a spoon of soup... Given that Korean chopsticks are horribly slippery flat metal, it was a lot easier her way.

On the matter of religion in Indonesia, there was this rather worrying piece in the NYT last week:

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Old Jul 14th, 2016, 08:17 AM
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Religion in Indonesia is a very complex matter. I remember my first trip to Java, and how our guide said that Indonesia prides itself on all of the religions living together in harmony. That is a wonderful ideal, one that most countries, including Indonesia, have had difficulty actualizing.

Indonesia is currently predominantly Muslim, though Bali is predominantly Hindu, and Aceh, for instance, is predominantly Christian. Historically, There were times when Java was mostly Buddhist and later, mostly Hindu. There are still both Buddhists and Hindus on Java, as well as Christians.

Jacketwatch, your comment "I did not know that Bali was primarily Hindu. I wonder if that has something to do with the violence that you see there from time to time." is off the mark. The terrorist attacks in Bali were not attacks on the local Hindu population, and have had little to do with religion and much to do with politics, just like terrorist attacks elsewhere in Indonesia. Bali was targeted because of the many foreign tourists there. Extremists were hoping to scare away the tourists.

Thursdays, it is clear there is much division in the Muslim world, and that the extremists and the moderates are clashing in many places in the world. The people caught in these clashes are sad victims of religious extremism.
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Old Jul 14th, 2016, 08:25 AM
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Kathie I did not know why there was violence there but I was wondering if the Hindu religion had something to do with that. I did not say that it did and thank you for the clarification. .
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Old Jul 14th, 2016, 04:01 PM
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"But if you go to the shopping mall, there’s no problem whatsoever,” as the restaurants are open during the day, said Bahtiar Effendy, the dean of the department of social and political sciences at the State Islamic University in Jakarta.

He said there were no police or public order officers in the malls, “raiding and asking questions.”

The answer is I think that they, the police can get away with this only in certain circumstances. They can bully the lone shop owner.

I am glad that this matter or case has brought so much attention to the cops who did this and to these practices. Tolerance for ones differences. Seems like an impossibility these days, at least with some people.

Thursdaysd if I am ever in So. Korea and I hope to be some day Ill look for that. It seems to require three instruments, tongs, scissors and a spoon. I hope after all that its really good! .

Looking f/w to kja's next segment. .
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Old Jul 14th, 2016, 05:18 PM
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jacketwatch - an extra hand would be handy (sorry...)
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Old Jul 14th, 2016, 05:23 PM
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. I luv it!
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Old Jul 14th, 2016, 07:22 PM
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@ sartoric: I greatly appreciate your compliments and am happy to have your continued vicarious companionship!

@ linawood: Glad to know you’ve found some value in my report – thanks!

@ tripplanner001: I was incredibly glad that I chose to visit Bromo, and was blown away by it -- metaphorically! You might want to defer a full and irrevocable commitment to travelling there until closer to the time…. Just a thought! ;-) In the meantime, I’m looking forward to hearing what you choose to share about how my experiences of Bali mesh with yours.

@ crellson: I’m glad to see you chime in, as I definitely wanted you to know that I benefited greatly from your trip report and advice! (All mis-steps in implementation are mine, and mine alone. ;-) )

@ jacketwatch: Thank you for sharing some of your travel experiences, and thank you VERY much for such a grand compliment. (blushing)

@ thursdaysd: That article was worrying, indeed. Let us sincerely hope that tolerant voices prevail, in Indonesia and elsewhere.

@ Kathie: Thank you for making sure the tragic attacks in Bali were promptly identified as terrorism.

Time for tales of BALI!

Day 20: Java to Bali -- Bromo to Ubud, continued…

• Even a short flight can seem to require a huge chunk of time – and in this case, it seemed to do so, and not just because of my planning error. My Garuda flight was pleasant enough, but
• even with the help of a driver from my hotel, I didn’t reach that lodging – the Kampoeng Joglo Abangan -- until about 8:15 p.m. or so. Only to find that
• the hotel’s restaurant had closed! And I was HUNGRY!
• The hotel’s web-site very clearly said that it was open all day, and when I pointed that out, staff very kindly offered to make me a meal. I chose nasi goreng (thanks, tripplanner001, for ensuring I knew the name for fried rice!) with chicken and vegetables, and it was perfect. My kudos to the staff for both a very tasty meal and their responsiveness to my needs!

• Reminding myself that I often find the first few moments ANYWHERE stressful, I
• settled in to my delightful bungalow (if not perfect, it was certainly VERY nice! – spacious, dominated by a super-king-size 4-poster bed draped with netting, and with several pleasant seating options, both indoors and out), and
• enjoyed a quick dip in the hotel’s small outdoor infinity pool.
• Taking a moment to simply float, I looked up and … OMG -- what glorious stars! Oh, I’m in the southern hemisphere – these are not the constellations I know!
• Exhausted (it was just this morning that I’d gotten up for sunrise at Bromo!), I retired to my palatial bed and was soon asleep.

Day 21: Bali -- Ubud

• For a tiny place (just 6 bungalows, only some of which were occupied when I was there), I was impressed with the Kampoeng Joglo Abangan’s breakfast buffet – at least three different Indonesian dishes each day, various sausages, an egg station, breads and fruits and juices and coffee or tea, etc.
• I had two immediate goals for the day: (1) to find Rondji, a restaurant for which I had a lunch reservation through the Ubud Food Festival and that I believed would be nearby, and (2) to find the main Tourist Information desk, because I had reserved a ticket for a performance that was to occur the following night, but then received a message that I must PRINT my ticket – something I could not do! I soon set off in pursuit of these seemingly nominal goals. (Have I “given away” the fact that neither task would prove all that easy? I sure hope I haven’t eliminated the suspense! ;-) )

• I must admit that my first few daytime impressions of Ubud were not particularly favorable. The main street that I walked that morning – and indeed, most of the streets of Ubud that I explored in my time there – seemed to me almost endless stretches of high-end shops, souvenier shops, tour stands, restaurants, spas, hotels, currency exchanges, etc.; rows of men sit outside all these businesses offering taxis or motorbikes or whatever and apparently not even paying attention to who is passing; masses of tourists walk narrow sidewalks with no apparent regard for anyone else with whom they might share those sidewalks; and there seemed to be a ridiculous amount of litter on those sidewalks. Growl!
• … OK, I should have been prepared – but I had been so intent on avoiding the tourism of places like Kuta that I really hadn’t thought about how tourist-oriented Ubud would be! Clearly an example of poor planning on my part – really, I should have figured it out! And OMG, thank goodness I did skip the so-called “touristed” parts of Bali!!!
• (That said, there are many good reasons why tourists – including me – come to Ubud, and of course it also meant a good selection of restaurants, etc. In the end, I was very glad I stayed in Ubud! )
• (BTW, every time I walked by those men hawking taxis or motorbikes, I nodded and said, in Indonesian, “no, thank you” and within days, they began greeting me politely and, however briefly, always with a huge smile. )

• I reminded myself that I often find my first few hours in a new city a bit disorienting, tooked several deep breaths, and told myself to be patient. That proved to be a bit of a challenge:
… Why can’t I find Rondji? It’s supposed to be very close to my hotel…
… Why all the litter? OMG, that isn’t litter – those are Hindu offerings that have been placed along the sidewalk, offerings that unthinking tourists simply walked on and through! I certainly didn’t understand the traditions, but I loved that people had left these little offerings outside their shops and homes and temples!
… I walked by any number of “tourist information” offices, only to learn then they were really just places to hawk tours, etc. Why can’t I find the one I need? Is it just another counter hawking overpriced options?
• I’m glad to say that I finally found the Tourist Information office, right where it was supposed to be. I had managed to walk past at least three times. (My bad!) I then
• had to work with quite a few staff before they figured out how to print my ticket.
• Once they did, they confirmed that they would provde transportation to the performance, as long as I reached them by 6:30 or 6:40 p.m.
• They were also able to direct me to Rondji – oh, it’s a bit to the other side of my hotel. Oops! ;-)

• Once I had the information I needed, I visited an interesting pavillion across the street, used in the past, I believe, for village meetings and traditional events, and used today for various events and just relaxing, and
• I strolled a random side street before stopping
• at the Pura Taman Saraswati – OMG, what a stunning temple entryway! Walkways to either side of a small building open onto, and then join to bisect a large lotus pond, where just one bud had blossomed and others looked ready to do so. The front area of the temple was (I was to learn) typical of Ubud – reddish-orange structures were edged with stone in a pale tan; flowers adorned statuary carved of black lava; various incense and blossom bearing offerings were arrayed about… breathtaking!! And
• … SOooo very different from the Hindu temples of Singapore! While in Bali, I never saw the paint mentioned upthread. The temples I saw were made in either this style or of black lava. Many bore carved decorations, but not painted ones, wth the occasional exception of gilt trim. There were many things in brilliant colors – various plants and offerings and decorative items, but the buildings themselves were not painted. So different!
• Although the main part of Pura Taman Saraswati was closed to tourists, there were a number of nooks and niches that I found well worth seeing.
• Too, one corner of the entry area, with tables overlooking the lotus pond, was a Starbuck’s, and the other side held a restaurant, Café Lotus – I knew I would return!
• My initial irritation with Ubud was wearing off quite nicely.

• As noon approached, I headed to Rondji Restaurant, which wasn’t very far away. I walked the relatively flat road back to my lodging, then downhill a bit, crossed a bridge, and then climbed just a bit of a VERY steep hill, followed by stairs. It was hot, it was humid, I was tired, and a thigh injury was making itself all too clearly known. I huffed and I puffed, and even though it wasn’t far at all, OMG, those last few steps were a struggle! I finally made it, and took some seriously needed time to freshen up before being seated.
• Once I deemed myself as presentable as I could make myself, I went back to the hostess, who immediately exclaimed that I must be lonely, and she would, of course, find me a seat with other people. OMG, that is the LAST thing I wanted at the moment! It took an incredible effort to convince the well-intentioned hostess that I did NOT want to join anyone else. (IMO, her offer was incredibly nice, and I’m sure it took a bit of courage to commit to approaching others about letting me join them, so I give her full credit for suggesting it!)

• Finally seated – alone – at a table that offered some glimpses of the lovely setting, the event unfolded:
… Mario Blanco – the son of the artist, Antonio Blanco, whose work was featured in the adjacent Blanco Renaissance Museum, welcomed us and invited us to tour the property. We saw
… magnificent birds – various macaws and others – that are rehabilitated here. And the
… wonderful collection of the museum itself. Returning to the dining terrace, we were given a
… demonstration of the preparation of the restaurant’s signature duck entrée and then
… served a delicious three-course meal. (Thanks, marmot, for encouraging me to pursue options for the Ubud Food Festival!)

• After lunch, I headed to the nearby
Camphuan Ridge Walk, and once I found the right route (despite a few initial mis-steps -- such as heading down to the streambed, from which I had to climb back up ), I soon crossed a small bridge, passed an interesting temple, and was on my way.
• Slowly climbing higher and higher, and exchanging a few words with others on the path, I passed areas where a deep valley separated the walk from buildings topping the opposite ridge, and areas where farmers were reaping crops, and lots of places where clusters of families or young people were picnicing or where couples had sought a bit of privacy. (And since I saw them, I have to guess that didn’t work too well ;-) !) Reaching the top, I found myself in
• an area of vast rice fields, broken here and there for a row of trees or a smattering of other crops or a small spa or restaurant or a few joined shops selling paintings or handcrafted goods or souvenirs, and a yellow triangular sign (complete with appropriate illustration) warning of “downward facing dogs” in the area. ;-)
• I eventually stopped for a very welcome, cold beer at a café by a lovely lotus pond. Then, back on the path,

• I was stunned to find that as the day lengthened, a row of glorious volcanos emerged against the western horizon – OMG!!!
• And there was a huge volcano – maybe two? -- on my right, too – and is one of them actually smoking?!? Wow!
• I had already decided not to try the variant of the Camphuan Ridge Walk that takes one down that ridge into a valley to the west and then up to a different ridge, but I went WELL beyond the turn-off for that route, savoring my views of these glorious distant volcanos, with lush rice fields in the foreground and various trees and buildings and birds in between.
• Finally turning back, I gave the other side of my neck it’s share of exercise -- I could barely keep my eyes off that horizon! I stopped for another beer at the lotus-pond café and,
• as I was preparing to leave, watched a small flock of magnificent birds – cranes? – take off from a distant rice field with haze-muted silhouettes of that glorious line of volcanic cones and pastel skies as a backdrop. Oh my!!! I’ve said it before, and I will say it again: I am so very, very lucky to see these things!

• On the way back to my hotel, I bargained successfully for a few unusual hand-crafted items and a pair of T-shirts that struck my fancy, and then
• back in my bungalow, I quickly showered and changed and went back into the heart of Ubud to
• the Palace, where I was able to see most (not all – I was late) of a delightful and very skilled performance of legong, a traditional Balinese dance with amazingly intricate movements, glorious costumes, awesome makeup, and the wonderful sounds of a gamelan orchestra. Fabulous! Although it didn’t have the staging or scale of the Ramayana Ballet at Candi Prambanan, it was similar, and I was even closer to the performers in this more intimate setting.

• I took a long stroll through Ubud (during which I never escaped tourism) before returning to my bungalow. There,
• I again enjoyed the pool and the awesome night sky. No trace, whatsover, of my earlier frustrations.

(to be continued…)
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Old Jul 14th, 2016, 07:39 PM
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Thigh injury?
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Old Jul 14th, 2016, 08:39 PM
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As always your report is such good reading. I'm very interested in your thoughts on Bali. I haven't been there for 30 years but often wonder about returning. Even back then I disliked Kuta/Legian where we stayed part of the time. At that stage our hotel in Legian was on the edge of the rice paddies and now is in the thick of it all. Likewise Ubud, which I liked a lot, has of course grown. We stayed at a small place on the Monkey Forest Road about a ten minute walk from the market. There was only one other small hotel and a warung on the road into town with the rest just open fields. It was a pitch black walk on the unmade road at night (thank goodness for torches) and the only noise the wonderful but very loud chorus of frogs.

Its such a short trip from Australia but consequently gets over run with partying Aussies which is something to avoid. I stopped briefly at the "new" airport recently for a transit flight and sadly that kind of put me off. The airport, while it looked a nice building, was very dirty with peeling carpet on stairs and much that didn't work. I know its Indonesia but I had just gone through Jakarta which was much better kept and I travel a fair bit in Asia and thought it probably the dirtiest, poorly maintained of airports I've seen in a long time. A lot to do with the masses going through I'm sure.

If I go back I intend heading for the hills and the east coast away from the masses and try to find a compromise between the good and bad of development. Lots of people just love Kuta but its not for me.

Looking forward to more of your report.
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Old Jul 14th, 2016, 09:40 PM
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Amazing! I based my entire time on Bali in Ubud and absolutely adored it. I enjoyed the character and found it charming, even with the very touristy main street. I too loved Pura Taman Saraswati. We were among those we walked up Campuan Ridge crossed the valley and wanted down the other side; it's not as scenic as the ridge itself but I enjoyed the quiet, unvisited temples along that section of the walk as well as catching glimpses of the homes in the area.
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Old Jul 15th, 2016, 07:00 AM
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Garuda per the latest skytrax ratings is in the top ten worldwide. How did you finds their services albeit for a short flight?

I am surprised that the hotel could not print out that ticket for you. Wow!

After the long way to get to Rondji I would be starving and dehydrated as well! Glad to see they serve beer. A cold one would be most welcome at some point. Maybe two. .

Your descriptions paint such a vivid picture of what you saw its very cool. You must be in very good shape to do as much as you did. Were you an athlete or do you train regularly?

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Old Jul 15th, 2016, 06:54 PM
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(Oops: crellston – sorry!)

@ thursdaysd: I’m not exactly sure what or why, but partway through this trip, I found myself unable to climb by stepping up with my right leg. The last time I felt anything like that was when I was in high school, at which time I believe I was told that I had “torn a muscle.” It was quite irritating for a while, but fortunately, it only interfered with climbing stairs – I could walk on level surfaces, or descend stairs, quite easily – thank goodness! And I could ascend stairs, but only slowly and by leading with my left leg and with some discomfort. I am VERY pleased to report that whatever it was has since vanished. Thanks for asking!

@ MaryW:
…I envy you a visit to Bali “back in the day.” I’m glad that I got to see it now, before it changes even further. I remember a place where the Monkey Forest Road takes a 90 degrees turn just at the entrance to the Monkey Forest, and although there were lights RIGHT there, there was a space to either side of that corner where it was REALLY dark and where I felt the need for the flashlight I had with me. It was disconscerting to encounter such dark spaces, given how fully developed every other yard of the road had been, but I’m glad, for the monkeys, that they haven’t been FULLY surrounded yet….
… More to the point, perhaps: According to my drivers in the area, the prices that hotel developers have been offering to local people for their property are high enough to create a serious incentive to sell, despite some real dllemmas, including how to balance the uncertainties of the future and the prospect of giving up a home or fields or way of life that have been part of one’s family for generations. A few of my day trips took me along the one street in Ubud that my driver said was not yet part of the tourism area, and the differences were obvious to even my untrained eyes – these were the establishments that served a local community! I had planned to walk that street on my last day, but ended up with insufficient time to do so. I wish I’d made it a higher priority….

@ tripplaner001: Your walk down the “other” side of the Campuhan Ridge sounds lovely – sorry I missed it!

@ jacketwatch: I thought the Garuda staff very pleasant and attentive, and remember thinking that they were extremely efficient in deliverying a round of boxed snacks and beverages to so many people in so little time. As for me, I wouldn’t say I’m in particularly good shape; I just love to walk!

Day 22: Bali -- Ubud

• After another pleasant breakfast, I roamed through town on my way to
Threads of Life, a shop that sells local textiles and other hand-crafted Indonesian goods of extremely high-quality and that works with their makers – mostly women -- to promote sustainable and fair trade. It almost felt like visiting a tiny, exquisite museum, except that I could actually touch the work! I didn’t buy anything that day -- my goal was to get a sense of their wares and prices to inform me as I began to consider purchases for family and friends, whether there or elsewhere. I then went to

Ubud’s Palace, where only the entry area (including the space in which I had seen the legong) was open. There are some lovely things to admire there, IME, from huge old trees to beautifully crafted portals. Just beyond is the
Pura Marajan Agung, a private temple for the royal family, but with an absolutely extraordinary gate that can be seen by anyone. The birds and other constituent elements, carved in 3D to either side of the main portal seemed real from any angle! I then returned to
• The Lotus Café, where I enjoyed a beer and a pleasant conversation with my waiter while again admiring the entry to the Pura Taman Saraswati and its lotus pond. Next up:
• The remarkable Museum Puri Lukisan. With its impressive entryway, delightful gardens, and wonderful collection of Balinesian arts, it easily merits several hours, IMO. One question, though:
• Why do Japanese tourists who realize you are trying to take a picture assume that you want them to pose, rather than to move out of the area? Hmm…

• After a few relaxing moments at the museum’s pleasant café, I
• returned to my hotel for a quick dip and change of clothing, and then took
• a long walk through rice paddies to the north of my hotel. Much of that walk involved a very narrow path, so I had to step off frequently for motorcycles and scooters and bicycles.
• Once, after stepping off and taking a few pictures, I became a bit frustrated – why was the motorcycle taking so long to pass? When I looked, I saw an extremely wide-eyed blond woman, every muscle tense, her entire attention clearly focused on the path in front of her, and a look of absolute terror on her face. Bless her heart! (Nelson – when I read your comment about trying to ride a motorcycle in SE Asia, I thought you might appreciate this particular image.)
• I admired the rice fields and various scarecrows and occasional shops or spas or lodgings before turning back.

• After once again freshening up (did I mention that it had been hot and humid?), I had time to
• Stop for a beer at a little café before reaching the
• Tourist Information Office in plenty of time for my scheduled transportation to the evening’s kecak performance at Junjungan Village. The man who greeted me seemed very surprised to see me, as did several other men he consulted. They each studied my printed information very carefully. (Thank goodness I had made sure to have it printed!) Finally,
• only 10 minutes before the performance, in another village, was to begin, the man who seemed to be in charge said that since no one else was going, perhaps I would go by motorbike? Hmm, I said, I’ve never ridden one – would I have a helmet and goggles? Long pause. Then,
• “we’ll get you a car.” Sure enough, a (free) taxi came soon thereafter – now only minutes before the performance was to begin. The driver, who was from Junjungan Village, assured me that the performance would not start before I got there, and indeed, it did not.

• Once in Junjungan, my driver showed me where to look for him at the end of the performance and
• I was given a seat in a temple’s forecourt – literally: one of the ticket takers took his chair into the area and added it to the semicircle that had been formed around a tall, central candelabra holding dozens of candles and rendering the temple entrance, which led to what seemed a steep staircase in the background, in evocatively mysterious flickers of light and shade. Wonderful! I was admiring the setting when
• it began raining, and not just a drop or too – it was raining hard enough to force relocation to an adjacent indoor performance space. We were soon reseated and

• the Kecak began. What fun! A version of the same story I had seen at Candi Prambanan, this performance featured
• dozens of men arrayed in three concentric ovals around the central candelabra – men of every age from late teens through old age. They chanted, they waived their arms, they signaled their reactions to the unfolding events, they occasionally prostrated themselves, and they were, in every moment, a delight!
• Some of the men had individual roles from time to time, a voice or two in a different tone or rhythm here and there. I found it quite surprisingly melodic for an “orchestra” of voices that otherwise seemed percusive.
• And there were dancers, too – each of the key characters depicted by beautifully costumed and engaging and skilled entertainers.
• I’m so glad I made this performance a part of my time in Bali! (Again, my thanks to marmot for the recommendation.) And even if I saw it indoors, I also got to see the outdoor “stage” – that magnificently firelit and dramatic temple entrance.

• Once it ended, I was met by someone who looked a lot like, but I was pretty sure was not, my original driver … but he seemed to know who I was…? My original driver’s brother, he delivered me safely, and free of charge, to the TI office in Ubud. I was only steps from
Arang, a satay restaurant that I thoroughly enjoyed.
• And from there, it was only a short walk back to my lodging and
• another delightful view of the star-lit sky from the hotel’s pool.

Day 23: Bali -- Jatiluwih Rice Terraces +

• After another nice breakfast, I met
• Amik, who was – to my great good fortune – my driver for most of my time in the area. A very gentle and kind man, he is also very knowledgeable about, and understandably proud of, Bali, and he proved invaluable in proposing tweaks to the itineraries that I suggested -- tweaks that maximized my experience of this delightful island. I also found him a very interesting person, and with his excellent command of English, it was easy to converse with him. He often works with the Alam Indah Group, through which you can find him; I happily and wholeheartedly recommend him.

• Our first stop of this day was Pura Taman Ayun, but as we reached the area near the temple, he noted that a ceremony / celebration was occurring!
• A family with a compound near the temple was hosting what I was told (I think!) was the last of the ceremonies to be held for a Brahman prior to cremation. There were MANY people there, all in their very finest clothes, and there were huge piles of food and other offerings, including glorious flowers and aromatic incense.
• Because I was wearing a sarong (just in case!), I was allowed in, but even though several people assured me that it was OK, I felt too much like an intruder to take more than a few steps into the compound. I stood near the entrance for quite a while, though, and spoke with a number of kind and gracious people who made me feel completely welcome. What a special experience!
• (Having been aware that a sarong might be necessary for occasions just like this one, I had purchased a couple of Indonesian sarongs – the kind that are basically tubes – in advance so I could learn how to wear them with confidence that they wouldn’t fall off. ;-) I adored the graceful beauty of the Indonesian women I saw wearing sarongs! I did not look like them. Quite in contrast, I knew I looked ridiculous in a sarong, and just hope that no one thought I wore one in mockery.)

• It was only steps to
• the stunning Pura Taman Ayun ! I loved this temple, with its lovely lawns, park, stream, and canals, and especially its mutliple absolutely glorious meru (tall, thin, pagoda-like structures with black thatching at every level – and there can be many levels, as long as the number is odd. I believe the tallest meru I saw here had 11 levels.) Soon after leaving this beautiful temple place, Amik and I found ourselves

• in a drenching downpour, with water falling in sheets about us, low points in the road fully flooded, hillsides and stairs looking more like waterfalls than anything else, and even a tree in the road. I made it clear that I would be happy to wait the storm out on the sidelines, but Amik wanted to go on, and he was an excellent driver, so on we went, until we reached
• a warung (basically, a little eatery) with views over the Jatiluwih Rice Terraces. As we savored coffee, I admired the gloriously voluptuous curves of these ancient rice terraces, separated by edges of taller plants. And oh my, I think those scarecrows are wearing sarongs!
• Obscured at first by the rain, the day began to clear: Steady rain turned to drizzle, and then mists and fog, and then bits of clearing here and there, and … OMG, there’s a mountain over there! No, two; no, oh my!, several! – and mountains in a different direction, too…!
• IMO, this area is spectacularly beautiful, full of so many different shades of green and yellow and nuances of light that Monet could easily have spent ages and ages at just this one warung, and I was so very fortunate to see it in each of these different conditions from pastels barely glimpsed through the veils of mist and rain through the saturated, glistening hues the followed the rain. I can’t imagine that I would have asked to come here on THIS day if I had known that we would end up in that torrential rain, but … wow!
• I took a few moments to walk a few terraces, just enough to see the bamboo waterworks that serve these ancient rice fields. Unfortunately, the steps had been covered with slippery mud, so I soon went back to the top.

• By the time I was ready to leave, it was too late for the other temple on my proposed itinerary (Pura Luhur Batukaru), so Amik proposed an alternative, the
Pura Ulun Danu Bratan – and what a great choice that proved! A lovely temple surrounded by gorgeous flowers and with a stunning meru set just off the shoreline in a scenic moutain-edged lake, it was a perfect compliment to the other temples I planned to visit on this trip! Having nixed Tanah Lot and Pura Luhur Uluwatu because they are too heavily touristed, I didn’t expect to see any temples in, on, or near a body of water. This temple filled that gap admirably, and I am grateful to Amik for recommending it! Even large cartoon-like frogs set among the grounds and a bus-load or two of adolescents who wanted to take their pictures with me couldn’t detract from this special place.

• We had a long ride back to Ubud, but what a wonderful day! Once back at the hotel, I freshened and headed to
Casa Luna for dinner – perfect! I savored a delicious Balinese seafood dish at a tree and vine shrouded table before
• another quick star-studded and very refreshing dip.

(to be continued…)
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Old Jul 16th, 2016, 05:36 AM
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We had a day very similar to yours on Bali; thanks for helping me relive it.
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Old Jul 16th, 2016, 06:49 AM
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It's great to read about present-day Bali as I was there in Dec 1998. I think the Cafe Lotus is where I ate if that's the one that was a 5-minute walk from Han Snel Bungalows (Siti Bungalows) where I first stayed. However, due to some bungalow problems, after 2-3 nights the staff recommended that I move across the street to the royal palace and they helped me move.

I had initially booked Han Snel Bungalow as Han Snel lived there with his wife and kids and I wanted to meet him. He was a famous, Dutch artist who moved to Bali in the 1940s and married a local woman, Siti. He had his art gallery there on the premises. So, I booked, many months in advance, to stay at his place. But, he died in 1998, and I arrived at the end of 1998. By the time I had arrived, the place had changed although his wife lived in the bungalow next to one of the ones that I was assigned. I heard that Hans was a colorful fellow and ran the place which is why a lot of guest had stayed there for many years. I was told that he had died of skin cancer.

Bali was interesting and I was staying at the royal palace when an elderly royal person had died and the palace staff asked if I wanted to join in the funeral procession.

Happy Travels!
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Old Jul 16th, 2016, 08:34 AM
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Very much enjoying your report. I was first in Bali in the late 1980s. Ubud had gotten electricity just the year before. Obviously, things have changed a lot. I went back to Bali 10 years later and was amazed at how much Ubud had changed... the other places we visited seemed much the same.

I remember meeting the Dutch painter (though I couldn't have told you his name) as we spent a day in Ubud visiting various painter's studios.
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Old Jul 16th, 2016, 10:54 AM
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@ tripplanner001: I’m glad I helped bring back some nice memories!

@ Guenmai: What unusual experiences! Did you join the funeral procession?

@ Kathie: OMG, Ubud didn’t get electricity until the late 1970s?!? Wow!
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Old Jul 16th, 2016, 11:39 AM
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Kja: I didn't participate in the whole funeral procedure as I think I left Bali either the day of or the day before. But, I was there when the arrangements were being done as I'd sit and chat with the staff and watch them work.

Happy Travels!
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Old Jul 16th, 2016, 06:22 PM
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@ Guenmai: That must have been fascinating!

Day 24: Bali -- Tampaksiring, Pura Bekasih, +

• I began with another tasty breakfast, and, when Amik arrived, we went, at his invitation, to

his family’s compound in Bedulu -- a very old village near Ubud – where he and his wife and mother and son provided a very warm and gracious welcome and a delicious cup of coffee. Amik showed me key features of a traditional Balinese Hindu family compound – the ceremonial pavillion (for rituals associated with life and death) and living quarters and family temple, with its shrines, and kitchens and well, and he patiently explained many customs and traditions. What a treasured glimpse into local life! I am sincerely grateful to Amik for extending this honor to me.

• After a memorable visit, we went to
Tampaksiring, and oh! I loved this temple for so many reasons.
… Many Hindus come to this temple to seek the healing powers of its waters, and there are pools in which gorgeous statues of women serve as fountains. Offerings of flowers, food, and incense overflowed from every available surface.
… Elsewhere, koi swam in another pond and the burbling water of yet a third pond showed the original spring….
… In another part of the temple, a large space in front of a shrine held a central table on which many offerings had been arrayed, and I got there just as a group of men and women come to prepare those offerings for a procession. (OMG, another stroke of incredible good fortune!) Each offering, and each of several ritual objects, was subjected to smoke from incense and sprinkles of water and blessings from priests….
… Too, there was a pavillion in which an older woman, surrounded by priests, was making offerings, and in another pavillion, a gamelan orchestra performed.
• What a gorgeous temple and what a privelege to witness these things!

• Amik then took me to a place on the rim of the ancient caldera surrounding Mt. Batur – I think it was in Kintamani -- where an overlook offered a gorgeous view over an enormous caldera, the newer Mt. Batur rising from its midst, and, in the flooor of the caldera, a crescent lake that had formed to the east…. Glorious! And not something I had on my itinerary – so again, kudos to Amik for making sure I saw this beautiful place.

Per my proposed itinerary for the day, our next stop was Pura Bekasih, where I
• offered a small “voluntary” contribution and was assigned a local guide. Given all the warnings I had read, a bit more detail may be in order:
… When I arrived at the entry area, I was politely asked to provide a monetary contribution for a local guide, and I was told that most Americans offer at least 200,000 IDR per person. Armed with guidance from both Amik and marmot (via an article she sent me on my Bali thread), I
… laid 50,000 IDR on the counter and said, politely and with a smile, that that was what I would pay.
… After a brief silence, when the men clearly hoped that I would relent and during which I simply waited, they
… finally accepted the money, gave me the ticket I needed, and designated a local guide to escort me. And
… to jump ahead just a bit, as I had been forwarned, this guide asked me, at the end of the tour, whether I might give him a tip.
… As some of you may know, I am perfectly willing to tip in accordance with local norms, but I do not like to tip in excess of local norms -- and I believe, in this case, the expectation is to NOT tip.
… I paused, I considered, and then I said (as politely as I could) that I was a bit surprised that he asked me, but I did appreciate his services (which I did!) and so … I gave him 5,000 IDR – a pittance.
• Having gained access to the temple, I was completely prepared to have to don full body armor to deal with touts. I’m pleased to say that I was only hassled by one – a woman selling offerings. My guide tried pulling me along, ignoring her, but she trotted along beside us, repeatedly shoving offerings in front of me, and pleading as though not aiming for a sale, but pleading for my soul (“you MUST take an offering!”). I stopped; looked her in the eye; and quietly, clearly, and very firmly said, in my limited Indonesian, “don’t want -- thank you.” To my astonishment, that worked! (I think she was astonished, too -- too astonished to continue.) ;-)

• Pura Bekasih is an enormous complex that holds a massive step-pyramid of black stone, with a staircase in the center and brilliantly colored plants adorning each tier, topped by a stunningly tall split gate, with multiple terraces and side lanes and stairs connecting an array of gated temple areas, many with glorious meru or other stunning features.
• Much of the complex was off-limits due to preparations for an upcoming ceremony, but my guide showed me several beautiful sections and helped me understand their purposes. There were impressive temples for the ancestors of several castes, and even a temple for non-Hindus, which I was able to enter.
• Some of my clearest recollections of Pura Bekasih had nothing to do with the temple per se:
…There were some absolutely specatular – if hazy – views from the top of Pura Bekasih out to the distant sea. Wow!
… There are some small carnivorous plants edging the highest level of the temple: with just a tiny touch, the leaves close up; they would easily catch an insect. Fascinating! (Part of the reason I was willing to tip the guide was that he showed me these plants. ) And
… there was a HUGE spider – it’s body seemed at least 6 inches long! – centered in a web between the entry posts of one temple. The guide said it had been there for about a month.
• Reaching the bottom of the temple stairs, I looked back – and OMG, the steps of the pyramid look like they climb to the top of Mt. Agung (which hadn’t been visible at all when I got there), and the mists around the mountain were clearing! Just moments later, I had an absolutely breathtaking view of this mountain towering directly above Pura Behaskih’s impressively terraced pyramid. Wow!

• Amik then took me to a restaurant with another stunning view of Mt. Agung and some beautifully curving rice terraces – maybe the Artha Agung Resort and Restaurant? (Sorry, I haven’t found the restaurant’s card.) We each enjoyed a refreshing beverage before
• stopping at a coffee plantation that Amik thought I might enjoy, where a young woman walked me through a jungle-like setting with coffee and cacao and ginger and vanilla orchids and LOTs of other plants. There was also a caged civit. If I recall correctly, she said that all their civits were wild and uncaged save this one, which was too young to be allowed to roam safely. I hope so, as I’ve read some disturbing stories about the treatment of civits in coffee-producing parts of SE Asia.
• There was also an area where a woman roasted coffee beans (they smelled divine!), and then
• a very pleasant seating area that overlooked a vegetation-screened valley, where I was served an extraordinarily tray filled with generous tastes of various coffees and teas. I think there were 18 all together, and every one was delicious. The tour and tastes were all free; one could pay extra for copy luwak, but I declined.
• There was also a small shop, where the mangosteen tea called to me.

• The day before, I had mentioned to Amik that I wanted to try babi guling (a local roast pork dish), so he had suggested one more stop for this day: the
Gianyar night market, where there was an incredible array of enticing food stands. Amik told me about the various foods we were seeing as we wended our way through the many people who were enjoying the meals on offer. We took a few steps into the area where clothes and other goods were sold and then
• ordered food and found a place to sit. We had babi guling and a delicious tofu dish that Amik wanted me to try and freshly-cooked vegetables and rice – I couldn’t finish all the delicious food! When I could eat no more, Amik bought me packages of two desserts that he thought I should try later – and OMG, they were incredible!
• This market was another place I would never have seen had Amik not made it part of our plan – and it meant this HIS day was hours longer than contracted. His response: He wanted me to see these places. Awesome! I really need to say it again: I am so very fortunate!
• Soon back at my hotel, I took a quick dip, took care of my nightly chores, and then crashed. What a long and wonderful day!

Day 25: Bali -- Goa Gajah + museums + Ubud

• After another satisfying breakfast, I joined Amik, with whom I had planned a half-day tour. We started with
Goa Gajah. I had read about this temple, and had decided to skip it because I didn’t think I had time to fit it in. Amik strongly recommended it, and I had learned to trust his judgement – and I am so glad I did, even if it did make for more huffing and puffing moments than might have been ideal! With a pool and statues of women serving as fountains to dispense sacred waters (similar to Tampaksiring), a cave that held some memorable artifacts and is entered through an elaborately carved rock wall, a lotus pond, an enormously towering old tree, and paths up, down, through, and around a wooded hillside – with interesting things to see at almost every bend, it was a very special place.

• Next: Bedulu's Museum Purbakala, which I had chosen to visit in lieu of a visit to Denpasar’s museum. It holds some fascinating displays of prehistoric artifacts from the area – including some unusual and, to my eye, intriguing sarcophagi. Then, on to
• the impressive Setia Darma House of Mask and Puppets. Over the years, I’ve had the good fortune to visit two other somewhat similar collections – the Hahoe Mask Museum in Andong, South Korea, and the Field Museum in Chicago; I would hate to say which is best, as they have different strengths. Suffice it to say that I was deeply impressed by the scope and depth of THIS museum, and very, very, very glad to have been able to visit it! (Again, thanks marmot!) By the time I finished,
• Amik and I agreed that it was too late to include the Museum Rudana in our half-day plan for this day, and that was fine with me -- after all, I’m the one who set the pace! I would FAR rather explore the things I do see with some depth than to skim them, even if that means I have to skip some things. Instead, we agreed that he would leave me off at Ubud’s

Neka Art Museum, where I enjoyed a long, leisurely visit. I found many pieces of great interest, and was glad to be introduced to the works of Arie Smit and I Gusti Nyoman Lempad, who were featured there. I also appreciated the ways in which the museum used windows and passageways to incorporate its pleasant grounds and a gamelan percussionist into one’s visit. After a refreshing drink on the museum’s terrace, I
• slowly made my way to the

Tamarind Spa -- wonderful! I had a few moments at first to enjoy the lovely setting, where statuary and plants create a peaceful and welcoming entry area. Strictly for the purpose of learning how a Balinese treatment differs from a Javanese one ( ;-) ), I chose a 2-hour treatment: massage, lulur scrub, yogurt moisterizer, and finally a flower bath (with a tray of ginger tea and treat)… ooh, I could learn to love such treatments! With some effort, I found the wherewithal to
• cross to my hotel, don appropriate attire, and walk to

bridges Bali for a very, very nice dinner – one of the best of my trip. (My main course was duck in Balinese spices, but apparently, it isn’t really a Balinese dish – just one inspired by the local cuisine.) It’s in a lovely setting, and the service was outstanding.
• I finally walked back to my hotel, took a last quick dip in my starlit pool, and soon fell asleep.

(to be continued)
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Old Jul 16th, 2016, 07:31 PM
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Simply outstanding! I love your description of these places. I am glad you were able to enjoy Besakih in spite of the minor annoyances.
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