Archive for November, 2009

Thanks for all your lovely e-mails, gives me a welcome taste of home. My senses are on overload and exploding every minute.  There is so much to see, hear, taste and experience in Bali.

A few days ago I attended a wedding in Karangasem, the rural part of Bali, a two hour drive from Ubud.  I was invited by a friend of a friend, Denise Abe, and her husband, Ketut.  Denise is a former Seattleite and now owns the Three Monkeys Cafe in Ubud.  Denise, Ketut and the groom are all involved in the East Bali Poverty Project (www.eastbalipovertyproject.org). They have impressive outcomes including reducing infant mortality from 50 percent to 25 percent through public health outreach, developing and running four new schools (illiteracy rate was 100 percent), installing the first road into the region which will spur economic development, developing infrastructure for water, on and on.  Donations stretch really far here so please check out the web site to learn more.

Yesterday was the beginning of a four-day festival for Ubud, marking the anniversary of one of their temples.  The hotel staff asked if I wanted to go to a beach ceremony.  I tried to ask what it entails and just went along with no idea what to expect.  And it was just extraordinary.  That’s what Bali is like, I don’t know where I am going and then loveliness and magic abounds.  About 1,000 people attended with only a handful of tourists, offerings were carried down the road surrounded by rice patty fields and we end at the beach.  More offerings and prayers and the surf is pounding away.  Words can not explain how lucky I felt to be experiencing this ceremony.  Today, I attended a cremation, one of the most holy ceremonies in Bali.  Three different bodies were placed in separate huge paper mache animals and then burned.  The gamelan music is playing the entire time and no one is crying, it’s a festive occasion because now the souls are finally freed.  I sat next to the daughter of one of the deceased and she really wasn’t sad at all.

I just love Ubud, and have been fighting my instinct to plan my days and move on to the next town.  Right now, for the first time in many years, I am just taking it one day at a time.  It is a liberating feeling and exactly what I need for now.  Soon, I will hit the beach though! I wish I could attach many photos because there is so much to share with you, but the internet connection is too slow.  The attached photos include my morning walk in the rice paddy fields, beach ceremony, and the wedding couple.

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I’ve settled into Bali and bliss has already occurred, but not before a few moments of panic! It took me 24 hours to get to Bali with a layover in Taipei so I was pretty exhausted when I arrived.  I’m in Ubud, Bali, the interior of the island and the cultural heart of Bali, surrounded by rice patty fields.  When I arrived, I was a bit disappointed because my room was very small, bathroom was dingy but what can I expect for $20?  Didn’t sleep well at all and woke up disoriented and don’t even have a clock. It was rough goings in the morning and I was feeling frustrated and wondering if I have made a horrible mistake travelling alone on a backpackers budget of $50/day with two months stretching in front of me.  At first, I couldn’t figure out where the free breakfast was (the hotel staff gave me vague directions), it was hot, my new sandals gave me blisters, I didn’t know where to buy water and was parched, on and on. 

After breakfast, I wandered down a side street and found another guesthouse for the same price with a much better room/bathroom. So I returned ready to check out and wound up haggling for a massive upgrade and now have an amazing huge deluxe room with air conditioning, beautiful sitting area overlooking the rice patties.  Then I found this amazing spa reservation service that will get me discounts anywhere and make all the arrangements. I had a two hour session that included a Balinese massage, scrub of sandalwood/tumeric/rice, detoxification with cool yogurt, and finished off with a bathtub of flowers overlooking rice patties — all for $15! So all is well in the world once again. 

The food is delicious and the drinks are so refreshing (watermelon mint juice, ginger lemon squash).  The people are very kind and there are offerings everywhere. It really is a magical beginning to my journey.  Tonight, I’ll have Thanksgiving dinner with friends from Seattle who happen to be in Ubud as well.  I’m loving it so much here that I will likely stay for two weeks, skip Thailand and head to Laos next.  Attached are a few photos of me in the flower-filled bathtub, doorway to my room, view from the hotel’s outdoor area.

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