Inspiration Bali, 2010

Old Oct 12th, 2009, 10:41 PM
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Inspiration Bali, 2010

Please help us with ideas, memories & guidance for a first-time experience to Bali, for our trip between 1/10 to 3/10/2010. We're interested in off-the-beaten-path, boutique-type lodgings or small homes for rent, snorkeling, masks, temples, massages, drivers for distances or hidden treasures, local places to eat, local music, & festivals. As much community, "local" feeling experience as we can create in 2-3 weeks. We're in our late 50's, active, not big consumers but understand about supporting the local community,
Thanks very much for any guidance, or memories to share.
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Old Oct 13th, 2009, 12:12 AM
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ceili, there are bounteous opportunities to do everything on your wishlist in Bali. If you've done any preliminary research you'll know that you'll want to spend some time in the Ubud area. Choices of accommodation are plentiful and come in all price ranges -- from extravagant to humble to everything in between. If you could give an idea of your nightly budget range we could better recommend.

There's so much to do in the area that it's hard to know where to start, but for little known treasures I'd recommend the House of Masks and Puppets - Rumah Topeng dan Wayang - was in Kububingin, near Ubud for an extraordinary collection.

If you're interested in architecture visit the Green School. Como Shambhala Estate is also a unique and spiritually rich experience. Even if you don't stay there you can take a tour and/or patronize the spa.

I'd also suggest that you take a look at Danu Enterprises, either the scheduled events or a personalized itinerary. These people really know the artistic and magical side of Bali. The founding partner, Judy Slattum, wrote the definitive book on Balinese masks.

I recently spent a few days in North Bali at Villa Puri Ganesha which was a wonderful experience on many fronts. Serene and charming environment, great food and access to some of the best snorkling in Bali. If this is too pricy there are other more moderate places in the area.

And lastly, even though you haven't even arrived in Bali yet, since you have a sizeable chunk of time I'd suggest that you consider tying in a visit to Central Java / Borobudur / Yogyakarta.
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Old Oct 13th, 2009, 01:05 AM
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I can’t quite figure if you are staying 3 weeks or 3 months. But even for 2-3 weeks, I think you should rent a house. I would suggest you look at something like which offers many homes for rent in Bali. You could even rent two houses in different areas. This should be cheaper than a hotel, and would give you a kitchen to cook in (who wants to eat out every meal?) and more space. Typically they either come with laundry facilities or you can get a local person to take on your laundry (may be treated a bit harshly, don’t bring anything you really love and would be upset if it were ruined).

You may find that a bicycle and your feet are all that you want to really get to know the area. If you really want the local experience, IMO, you need to stay very local. You would be amazed at the richness of culture you can find in a small area, and locals will only invite you to family events once they get to know you, which can’t be accomplished by jumping around the island. (Which is perfectly fine if you want to sightsee, but you seem to express an interest in other things.) If you want to take the odd longer trip, you can hire a driver for the day, or take a local bemo bus with the Balinese, or perhaps you will be brave enough for a motorbike after some time experiencing the roads there.

You may find locals on the shy side as far as forming friendships, so you might want to try to get involved with a local expat group, something like the Hash House Harriers may be a place to start, see I lived in Ubud for about 6 months and met many people that way and through a women’s group which was started by an Australian woman who was married to a Balinese there – I met her initially by patronizing her business, an internet centre, a few times and in a small town you can get to know people that way. If you settle in a place you can get to know the locals, which includes foreigners living in the area, and they can really clue you in to the experiences in that area.

As religion is really the centre of Balinese culture, and since you will be there for such a long time, you will hopefully be able to see some of the major Hindu festivals which will be celebrated, including the Balinese New Year which is in March. Some to look for are below. The actual dates will depend on the moon phase, so check local websites and ask around. I looked up the date for the Balinese Hindu New Year and have listed it below. Festivities would be centered around temples, sometimes there are parades, and usually there are special foods on offer as well.

Hari Raya Saraswati /Vasant Panchami - late January. This is dedicated to Saraswati, the goddess of learning. This is a fairly important goddess in the Bali pantheon.

Maha Shivaratri – early to mid Feb. This is dedicated to Shiva.

Hari Raya Nyepi – March 16 2010 – this is the Balinese Hindu New Year. This is a major holiday on the calendar, and there is a day of silence before it and other events. You can find information in guidebooks and websites.

Holi – early to mid-March. This is the spring festival. It is hugely celebrated in India, I have not been in Bali for this holiday so can’t say the extent to which it is celebrated.

Rami Navami – late March. This celebrates the birth of Lord Rama.

Other things to look out for are rice harvest festivals in your local village (there are harvests several times a year) and weddings and funerals. While you may not be invited to the former unless you have been in a place for a while, you can usually observe the latter from street processions. Local dance is everywhere, from professional troupes to local temple dancers to children’s troupes and is easy to find.
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Old Oct 13th, 2009, 03:06 AM
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I'll second the recommendation of spending some significant time in Ubud. It's one of those places that captivates, so rich in culture and art.
Just last week I was in one of my favorite used bookstores and came across Janet De Neefe's 2004 book, 'Fragrant Rice' which makes for some good insights into Bali and Ubud. Janet owns a successful restuarant on the mainstreet called Casa Luna and she also has a cooking school. She's married to a Balinese. I've only started reading this book and she starts with the events of the Bali bombing and how much it affected the lives of those living there. Thus far it's very good reading and evokes many nostalgic memories of my visits there.

And yes, can't recommend attending those dance performances in the evening enough! So artistic.
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Old Oct 13th, 2009, 01:28 PM
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Thank you for such wonderful, initial ideas! I usually start my trip thinking & planning at Fodors and I'm never disappointed. I had already contacted Danu so we're on the same wave-length. Sorry I was unclear about time-I WISH we'd be there 3 months but the dates I mentioned were our outside parameters which have, sadly, narrowed even more. We will only have between 1/15/10 and the end of February, for this first trip. We had also thought about the advantages of renting small houses in 2 places and have found wonderful homes in other places thru VRBO, so that's another shared wave-length! Are bikes easy to rent for a week or 2 or do they come with the accomodations?

So, if we pick the Ubud area for part of our time, what other areas would you suggest-to get an alternative type of experience? We have to deal with some medical problems upon our return and would like to do as much inner (& outer) nurturing, mental clearing and balancing, as our time allows. Massage, rituals, learning about Balinese health practices. I would love more book recommendations- such a great way to begin a journey before leaving.
Thank you for your thoughts & insights,
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Old Oct 13th, 2009, 11:50 PM
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From January 3 through mid-February (lunar new year) should be a quiet time in Bali and rates should be negotiable.

Como Shambhala is an extraordinary wellness experience for body and soul. It’s also quite pricey, though. Whether it’s worth it depends on your point of view.

Same goes for Puri Ganesha in North Bali. Very expensive but a wonderful environment. The owner, Diana von Cranach is a premier Bali personality (in a good way) and her innovative raw food cuisine has been adopted by wellness resorts all over Bali. But it’s best from her own kitchen.

Some other, more moderate, resorts in the Ubud area that offer good orientation to Bali life and arts are Alam Sari and Ketut’s Place. You’ll be well taken care of.

Most resorts have bicycles. I’ve never noticed a bike rental place but I’m sure someone would accommodate you. There are also plenty of bike touring companies.

Bali rental houses are called villas. Don’t be put off by the label: they can be humble or luxurious. There are zillions of villas in the southern beach area, fewer in Ubud and still fewer in other parts of Bali. What you see on the internet may or may not be applicable IRL. Maintenance, management and environs – especially nearby construction or road traffic – can be difficult to gauge. Try to get a personal recommendation.

I'd still consider Central Java as a secondary destination.

I have lots of books on Bali. These are some of my favorites. I found them on Amazon so I know you can access them:

Bali Dance Drama and Music
This is a “glossy” picture book, but it has a very good comprehensive overview of dance and drama. And excellent illustrations.

Balinese Masks: Spirits of an Ancient Drama
Judy Slattum’s book

Negara, the theater State in 19th Century Bali
Or anything by Clifford Geertz, the Granddaddy of Balinese anthropology (serious academic reading)

Music in Bali: Experiencing music, expressing culture
This is a new one for me, but it looks good and comes with a CD. Same series also has a book on Javanese music

Bali Sekala and Niskala
Dense, esoteric reading, but wonderful illustrations

Architecture of Bali
A source book that explains it all. By Made Wijaya AKA Michael White who transformed tropical architecture landscaping worldwide
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