Bali - Our Island Paradise, don't make us leave...

Trip Start Oct 13, 2004
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Trip End Jun 21, 2005


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Saturday, February 19, 2005

She Said:

Imagine if you will, waking up in an antique 4 poster bed of the most intricately carved wood. You walk out onto your huge marble veranda, ornately decorated with stone and wood carvings. You settle onto your comfy leather chaise overlooking the garden and mystical rice paddies. The nature sounds are like a symphony. Soon someone will bring breakfast for you and you family. Does this sound amazing? Oh ya, did I mention cost per day - $35 Cdn.

Imagine if you will, sitting by the pool. A smiling woman comes by balancing a basket of steaming fresh food on her head. You pick out a treasure of rice, chicken and noodles all so deliciously seasoned in a wrapper....40 cents Cdn. Many other little bags of local goodies are also tucked away - turmeric peanuts, shrimp crackers, soups and so many tempting, fresh pockets of local fare that I'm not even familiar with....7 cents each. Everything is absolutely delicious. The kind woman moves on with her basket, but not before taking the time to teach the children the art of carrying things on their heads. They are absolutely fascinated by the immense loads these women carry - everything from a load of bricks (truly) to a room service meal with a hot plate, hot coffee & juice....unreal.

But back to my fantasy land....you finish your 40 cent meal, stretch out and decide it's really too hot to do much so you call for a massage and depending on the treatment will cost you between $3 and $10/hr.

Doesn't this sound a little bit like I've had too much sun? Actually, it's Balinese paradise at it's finest...beautiful, friendly and out-of-this-world cheap!!! I have found my utopia. My girlfriend, Val, said before we left "Once you hit Bali, you'll never want to leave" - I now understand what she meant! Maybe that's why they only allow 30 day visas, to force people like us to move on! :)

Of course, it's not without it's problems - on the streets you will be inundated with people offering their wares. In Ubud, the cultural capital, people are peddling their many beautiful crafts - wood carvings, stone, silver, paintings and there are the ever present calls of "Transport, Transport" offering to take you to the many temples or performances or anywhere you'd like.

On the beaches they are more creative, offering services of hair braiding, manicures, pedicures, massage, boat rides, newspapers....anything really. Before we learned that you don't engage at all unless you're interested, a lady came up to Mark as he was finishing a run along the beach "Pedicure?" "No, thank you." Apparently she looked at his hand and saw he wasn't wearing rings...'"You like I put a ring on this finger?" How flexible - a pedicure or a wife ...your choice. ;)

The driving is outrageous - it only took us about a second to decide if we would rent a car. NOT! Our travel guide indicated that the theory is, in the event of an accident it is automatically the foreigners fault, because it you hadn't been there in the first place it never would have happened. Sooooo, add that to the fact that there are seemingly NO road rules that we could understand, we decided to simply take advantage of the cheap transport offered everywhere.

That aside, you could live like absolute royalty here... for a few rupiah a day you could have a driver, a chef, a cleaner and a nanny to meet your every need. It is so cheap to live here and yet such a warm and inviting country. I am absolutely taken with the people, the culture, the countryside, everything - the first week I was here I had read three books on the Balinese culture and people. There is just a magical feel to this place. It is spiritual in such a unique way - every part of their lives is dominated by their religion. I despise legalism and religiosity, but am so enriched by a culture that embraces ritual and spirituality as a foundation for better living. What an amazing, beautiful place.

I must say, I am overwhelmed writing about my experiences in Bali....I loved it and can rarely think of a day where I wasn't in a state of absolute serenity. Everywhere I went I experienced synchronicity and epiphany, joy and revelation, happiness and peace. I will try to summarize some of the things we did tho' I know I am incapable of capturing the essence of what made it so magical...

The People
I'm not sure I've ever been anywhere where the people are warmer and friendlier - you rarely see anyone without a smile on their face. Particularly in Ubud, we felt like we were treasured family members. Dewa, our assigned 'houseboy' at Oka Wati, our first hotel in Ubud, was unreal - so kind and efficient. The children loved him too and Tyler and him were particularly good buddies. Ty & I were always the first ones up, so he would come around and discuss with Ty what to bring us for breakfast and when the appropriate time would be to bring it to us. It was so cute. He even came in on his day off to get us breakfast and make up our room - it was like he didn't trust our welfare to anyone else. When I inquired when he would get a day off in lieu (after all he'd only been married two weeks and could only imagine that he would be thinking of nothing else but his 1 day off in 8) he just smiled and shrugged "no problem, I get a day off next week".

It wasn't only Balinese people we met in Ubud, but we used to joke that anything we ever needed would show up in our pool. Within the first couple days there, we were sitting by the pool and met Maxine - a beautiful woman from Canmore that lives in Bali 6 months a year. She told us ALL the ins and outs of life in Ubud and was an amazing resource for anything we needed. She became a great friend too, teaching the children tile rummy and going with me to yet another dance, when Mark had had it with too much cultural stuff. She also taught us that despite that fact that we thought we'd died and gone to heaven at $35/nite for a hotel and $7/hr for a massage - she was paying $5/day and $3/hr for massage. AMAZING! She also introduced us to so many wonderful ex-pats and locals, particularly Jean (Cdn) and Charles (Danish) who looked after the children when we went to a cooking class.

The pool was also where we met Jake, a Calgary importer and her boyfriend Glenn, as well as Mac & Peggy - the bro/sis Cdn duo staying upstairs from us and many other friendly, interesting sorts.

Food...ahhh the food!
The food was SO great and SO cheap. In Ubud, I can not think of even one marginal experience - everywhere we went, whether it was the local .30 cent lunches or the high end restaurants, the food was delicious. We have always been Asian food aficionados; particularly Thai food which this is similar too, so decided to take a Cooking Class one day. It was so fun and our creations were magnificent, if I do say so myself. See Mark for details.

In Legian, as long as you stayed with the local fare it was awesome and cheap - the hotel and tourist strip of beach restaurants was sometimes a bit dodgy, especially after Ubud. Sanur and Tulamben were mostly good experiences.

The Dances
Particularly in Ubud, culture and dance are a big part of life there. We went to a dance the first night here and I could have easily went to a different one every night thereafter - Mark not so much. I did end up going to around 10 different performances. The music is this weird, almost a cacophony of sound on an instrument called the gamelan (a xylophone like instrument). The corresponding dancing is equally 'weird' by western standards....slow and jerky, deliberate and mystical. Every movement has significance, from the angle of the fingers right down to the eyes which seem almost eerie as they dart back and forth. For a westerner, it initially seems just plain strange, but I found myself fascinated by it, the costumes so vibrant and bright and the make-up very ornate - almost geisha-like for the women. There are intricate stories to every dance though they are often difficult to interpret. Apart from the performances done purely for our tourist pleasure - the core dances are an important part of their spiritual story-telling. Of the many dances we went to, the family highlights included:

the Kecak and Fire Dance where a man walked on burning coconut husks (looking at his feet after, it's definitely not the best gig in town!)

the Barong (where two men simulate a fun-loving tiger)

the Kris (where men go into a 'trance' and take a sword [kris] to their chests)

Tyler was particularly mesmerized by the Kris dance and did it for us on many occasions. We ended up buying him a ceremonial sword, as it was just too cute to watch his enthusiasm.

The Frog Dance was a great dance for the children (a very simple allegory similar to our western Frog-turns-into-a-Prince-when-kissed-by-a-Princess theme). One of our special pool-friends, Mac, decided to go to pick up a rare Balinese instrument there and took Tyler for his second experience. It was a very special night for Tyler as it was his first "Boys Night Out" and he had the BEST time. Mac was one floor above us at our hotel and for at least an hour before they were to go, Tyler stood under his deck (just to be sure he wouldn't leave without him). He was SO excited to go and it turned out Mac spoiled him terribly as he came home with his very own frog mask and stories of chocolate cake and fun times.

My personal favorite experience was attending a Legong one night with Maxine. We arrived at the temple and were escorted to the side as all the front row seating was now replaced with beautifully decorated round tables, with crisp linens, flowers, candles and lovely china. They were also setting up 4 different food pavilions around the area with heaps of food. As the show was about to start, a man in very formal, traditional wear came up and told us that they were very privileged to be hosting some VIP Dignitaries from Jakarata and would be pleased if we would join them for the dinner performance. So for $7, not only were the dancers the best-of-the-best and costumes spectacular, but absolutely gourmet food in a fabulous setting. Maxine later told me, that the man at the table beside us was the King so it was a pretty special nite rubbing shoulders with royalty.

Shopping
The shopping was nothing short of spectacular. The artisans in Bali are renowned for their incredible handiwork ranging from silver to wood carving to stonework to leather to furniture and art. Add that to the fact that they are consummate entrepreneurs monopolizing on ANYTHING that will sell and you have quite an assortment to choose from. In Legian, we found lots of knock offs - " Lady, You like Prada, Louis Bitton (love that translation), Gucci or Chanel (pronounced so earnestly as Channel)" how could you not just love these people. When I joked with them about the fact that it wasn't the real thing, they seemed so shocked...." Oh no, it's not used!" They thought I was inferring that it was second-hand. :)

Bartering is the order of the day and I LOVED it! I love a deal and it was great fun to spar with the masters...I don't know who enjoyed it more, them or me as it's quite a game. They would often congratulate me after 'the match' and I them.

We were very grateful to have met Jake at our pool - she's a Bali importer from Calgary who offered to let us ship some stuff back in her next container arriving in Calgary in June. We took her up on her most generous offer and decided to get a few pieces of furniture to remind us of this special place. Plus, we rationalized, what a great welcome home present!

Monkeys
We thought we'd had the ultimate monkey experience in Costa Rica, but had yet to meet the 'extortionist monkeys' of Bali. In CR, at least some attempt has been made to retain their natural habitat with no feeding allowed - au contraire here. Not only do they feed their holy monkeys, but stands are set up outside the temples with food for sale for them. These little creatures are very smart, VERY cheeky and have become full-scale extortionists. At Uluwatu in particular, if you wear anything that they have learned is valuable (glasses, jewelry, hats etc) they will jump on you and take them off you. Of course they return them, but only after they are given food in exchange...it's quite a gig they've got going.

The ones in the Monkey Forest are less brazen, tho' I did have one crawl up on my shoulders and head to investigate if I had any bananas in my bag. Kayla was also 'befriended' as she had a water bottle in her fanny pack and the monkey jumped up and grabbed her around the waist, sucking on her water bottle. He finally pulled it out and took off with it. I record this very matter-of-factly but rest assured it's actually quite a bizarre experience to have a monkey wrap itself around your 7 year old's waist. She was so amazingly calm, I couldn't believe it. It's a good thing it was her and not Tyler (his eyes were like huge, fearful saucers observing all this action), as we learned that if you panic and try to push them away they think you are attacking them and will bite. Otherwise, they're really quite harmless but in listening to the newcomer screeches, it's obvious that many had not adopted Kayla's calm demeanor.

Our guide, Rai warned us that the Uluwatu monkeys might take a liking to the beads in her hair. We completed the temple tour and dance with nary a problem and then as we were walking to the car, a big alpha male went racing towards her and jumped up on her. I looked in horror wondering what would happen, imagining him ripping the beads off her braids. As it turned out, he was solely interested in the chip bag she was carrying and scurried away. We were speechless - how would she react to this 'attack'...she just looked at us and laughed "I thought I was done for, but I sure got the last laugh with him ... that chip bag was empty".

We went back a few times to the Monkey Forest as they really are quite fascinating and many of them had newborns/young ones with them so it was a total blast to watch. Kayla would always regale everyone with her version of the "Monkey Rules" 1. Stay Calm - no screaming, pushing or slapping them away 2. Don't bring any bags/water bottles with you 3. Have fun and enjoy them. She keeps claiming she wants to be a Biologist when she grows up - I wouldn't be surprised.

Batik class
Kayla and I decided we needed a Girls Day Out, so took a Batik class for a couple of days - we had a blast and made some lovely works of art. We met a great family from California with children the same age as ours (also travelling for a year) who joined us and some wonderful designs were created. Certainly gives you a whole new appreciation for the effort put into this art.

Bill & Di
Having Di and Bill arrive for of our time in Bali was a real treat. I had a much-needed shopping buddy, the kids loved the change of faces (and Uncle Bill & Auntie Di are SO much fun), Mark got to surf again and all-in-all it was just great to spend time with family members. Di and I became the "Bintang Babies" and challenged the men to our nightly crib tourneys - can't say for sure who came out victorious in the end, but a good time was had by all.

Temples
There are so many temples to see, it's crazy. Our favorite was Uluwatu which is built perched out over a cliff. Amazingly spectacular view. This is also the home of the extortionist monkeys I talked about and a beautiful Kecak & Fire Dance done over sunset. Unfortunately, the nite we went our sunset was replaced with a torrential downpour, but they performed the dance anyway with big smiles on their faces. We finished up our nite with a seafood dinner on the beach at Jimbaran Bay. Highly recommended combo.

Diving
We ended the trip by touring across the island for a few days of diving at Tulamben. What a wonderful diverse way to see Bali, completely quiet and we stayed at a Dive Resort (Tauch Terminal) so met another entirely different group of travelers. Christian, a French man living in Morocco was particularly informative - he decided like us, that he needed to embrace his passion and 'drop out' for a while to travel. He had been doing it for 4 years...what an inspiration! He was obviously a wealth of information on travel suggestions and I was so grateful to be able to pick his brain for hours. We're actually adjusting our itinerary in a few places based based on his recommendations.

All in all, I can't say enough about Bali except....Love this place! We ran into this ex-pat man on the street and he started chatting with us - "Where are you from?, How long are you here? etc etc"...when we said we were traveling around the world for 9 months his jaw dropped and he looked at the children and then looked around "WHAT? - Are you on one of those reality programs or what?" We laughed at the time, but you know this truly is the kind of reality program that we should all be on instead of sick viewing with people eating gross bugs or back-stabbing in unhealthy situations. What a difference it would be if the focus was instead on something positive - making memories with the most important people in your life, truly experiencing the world, it's cultures and amazing gifts it has to offer. Not a perfect world, but so amazing. I feel so blessed.

Highlights:
1. Di & Bill's visit - how fun to share one of our fav countries with family. It was a great treat for everyone!

2. The Balinese people - warm, friendly people of character with such a strong sense of spirituality.

3. Massages every couple of days - HEAVEN!!!! and for ave $5/hr - come on....does it get any better than this!!

4. Ubud - loved everything about it.

5. Diving at Tulamben, especially the Liberty Wreck.

6. The rice fields - SO beautiful.

7. The deals - bartering and buying.

8. Our cooking class.

9. Cultural experiences - dances, temples, Balinese rituals...

Lowlights:
1. Leaving my purse in the van that picked us up at the airport...I of course expected the worst, but was so wonderfully surprised when it came back with everything 100% intact! What an amazing introduction to this country.

2. The driving - pedestrians have NO rights in Bali. I often felt like I was taking some big risks just crossing the street!

3. The volcano tour - we had heard such wonderful things about the active volcano and of course had to check it out. Imagine our dismay, after a long drive to arrive at ..... a mountain. Come on, we come from the Rockies! And we've been to Costa Rica and the Big Island of Hawaii where active means hot red lava pouring down the side! Beautiful views aside, the volcano piece was completely overrated.

He Said:

Highlights:
1. Ubud, Ubud, Ubud
2. $3/hour for a full body massage
3. Feeding the family for $8
4. The People of Bali
5. Living very large for $100/day and loving it
6. Sacred Monkey Forest
7. Running on the Beaches in Legian and Sanur
8. Did I mention Ubud...
9. Diving in Tulamben - the Liberty Wreck Dive is Awesome!
10. Shopping, Knock-Offs and Teak Furniture
11. Our man Rai, Rai was our tour guide extraordinaire. If you go to Bali we highly recommend him. (Contact info: )
12. Bill and Di being here for two weeks
13. The Food, The People, The Island and it is an Island in Indonesia, not a country - I was corrected very directly on that by a non-Bali native from Java.
14. Running through the Rice Fields and back roads around Ubud. Bloody hot and humid though!!!

Lowlights:
1. The hour or so the first morning on Bali when Shannon's purse was lost and we weren't sure if we'd get it back or not.

2. Only being able to stay here for 30 days :(.

3. Having to say "No" constantly to the hawkers, the transport drivers, the shop owners etc. That said they are all very friendly and the "hassle factor" is not that bad. You just get used to it.

4. Bali Belly at the end of our first stay in Ubud - I was laid flat out for over 36 hours.

5. Tyler's face plant on the steps at Tauche Terminal - that had to hurt
6. The traffic in Bali, I'm not sure if it is the traffic or just the general chaos of being on and around the roads in Bali. I would not, unless absolutely necessary, drive there. Having Rai and our driver Tan was the best thing we could have done with regards to getting around. We'd just plan a day ahead or so and off we'd go. If it was just Shannon and I, I could go for a scooter especially up in Ubud as you could get around to the other little villages etc. a lot easier. But not with the kids.

Bali - "The Morning of the world"

We spent our first 3 days in Bali just getting acclimatized etc. in Legian one of Beach areas in South Bali. It was a great place just to get our bearings and put together a plan for the next week or so until Bill and Di arrive. We chilled out at the pool, experienced torrential downpours like I have never seen before, explored a bit and had some $10 massages. All in all it was a great start to the trip. We found a great little restaurant down the road from the Hotel where we ate dinner one night, a good dinner at that, for $57,000 INR or about $8 CDN. We are paying $46 USD/Night for our Hotel including Breakfast and some free drinks. It is hard for my mind to comprehend just how inexpensive it is here. Especially after spending the last 2 months in the Cook Islands, New Zealand and Australia which are by no means budget destinations.

After we got settled in Bali we decided to head up to Ubud. Now everyone and every book says Ubud is nothing like it was and for me I can't fathom that because even though there are tons of galleries, stores, restaurants and Spas it does not seem they have lost it's soul to the gods of commercialism and greed. It is my hope they never do because that would be a true tragedy. That said I'm sure to many who were here 5 or 10 or more years ago, that is exactly what has already happened.

For me however, it is pure paradise. A very warm and humid paradise but paradise none the less. We can easily live comfortably, very comfortably, including daily massages for less than $100 CDN/day. I mean you can eat a big lunch for 4 including Sodas and Beer for $100,000 INR or approx. $14 CDN. Or if you want to get some serious value pick up some Padang food - we had lunch the other day for 16,000 INR or $2.25 CDN. I mean seriously.
Quite frankly if we could I would be more than happy to just stay here for a couple months. I can't imagine it gets much better than this. And I have not even talked about the spirituality, the ceremonies and the dancing yet. And seeing as Shannon has covered those areas in detail in the She Said section I will not duplicate her efforts here.

The only downer so far has been my case of "Bali Belly" which laid me out for the better part of 2 days and had me completely laid out for a solid 36 hours. I never left the bed except to go to the bathroom. Not a particularly enjoyable experience and one that, for the first time on this trip, had me wishing I was back home in our house and in our bed. The good news is the Chinese medicine we got from Dennis and Dana worked wonders on getting the diarrhea under control and some of the homeopathy from Dr. D's travel pack broke my fever within an hour or so of me taking it. It was truly miraculous and if I had any doubts about Homeopathy lingering about they were totally erased after that.

The Sacred Monkey Forest was a blast, and to say that these monkey's are cheeky would be putting it mildly. We were foolish enough to buy some bananas on the way in and before we even got in the gates one monkey was upon us, oddly they don't bother the women selling bananas 10 feet outside the gate but once inside you're fair game and we were. See Shannon's post for details.

We also decided to take in a Balinese Cooking School while in Ubud. There are several around but we chose Casa Luna as Shannon read the book by the ex-pat Aussie Woman who runs it (Janet de Neuf sp??), the Honeymoon Guest House and Indus (another restaurant). As part of it we got a tour of the local market which was as I said above an experience for the senses, sometimes pleasantly so, other times not so much. That said it was great to have a guide if you will take us through, describe the key ingredients for Balinese cooking, the chili's, the different gingers, spices etc. plus how much you should be paying for these various ingredients among other things in the market. Because as you might imagine in a bartering market you could easily overpay.

After our Market experience where we saw everything from fresh fruit and spices to seafood and fresh meat (not that nice to see really as you have to eat later and you know all the things you eat were probably laying on the various slabs at the market) we headed to the Honeymoon Guest House where the actual cooking class was held. The host for the class was the right hand man from Casa Luna and he was awesome. He explained the ins and outs of Balinese cooking, took us through making our own curry from scratch including grinding it all into a curry paste with a mortar and pestle. He explained the various dishes we were going to make and we got at it. It was a lot of fun and the best part was we got to eat the end result which was delicious. He kept reminding us the secret ingredient to Balinese cooking was Palm Sugar which of course will be hard to find at home so we purchase some at the market. What we'll do with it until July I have no idea :).

Palm Sugar update: we forgot to send it home with Bill and Di thus our driver Tan was the recipient of a Kg of Palm Sugar on our way to the Airport. I guess brown sugar will have to do but it won't be the same. :(

Exploring Ubud is something you could do for weeks, just wandering in and out of the little craft stores or maybe wandering over to some of the other villages near by. The crafts range from woodworking to furniture, from painting to silver and goldsmithing and everything in between. Some of it is wonderful and quite frankly some of it is very tacky, the most outrageous item being the penis bottle openers. Does it get much tackier than that? Wonderful or tacky, the prices are amazing from a North American perspective. One of the couples we met at our cooking class was over buying a bunch of stuff ranging from furniture to tiles for their home back in California, and why not even with shipping and duty you're still way, way ahead of the game.

So, shop we did and all the small stuff like silver, knock-off accessories, DVD's etc. went home with Bill and Di. Our larger purchases furniture items, art, leather coat are going to Canada in Jake's container and should arrive in Calgary right around the same time we do. You just can't beat the prices and the craftsmanship can be very good if you take the time to look around. Most of our large purchases we sourced out of Ubud and the villages near by. The leather we bought in Sanur. All in all we're very excited and can't wait to get home and get all of new purchases uncrated.

Uncle Bill and Auntie Di:
After Ubud we headed back down to Legian to meet up with Shannon's sister Diane and her husband Bill. It was awesome to see them and it was a great change of pace for the Duke/Schewe's. It was so awesome to have some folks we know and love around for a couple weeks and the kids were totally thrilled to have some one else other than us to hang with. Tyler is particularly happy whenever Uncle Bill is around as he knows treats are never far away. Thus, he was running regular recon missions to their room during their time in Bali.

Bill is a big surfer and with the waves not amounting to much at Legian we moved locations over to Sanur in hopes of some better waves and quite frankly a change from the whole Kuta/Legian scene. Sanur was much more laid back, the hotels are right on the beach and the hawkers are far less prominent, at least in front of the hotels. As luck would have it we only headed out surfing twice as the sea was generally pretty flat. That combined with a lack of a good Long Board rental, I'm not ready for a short board made the surfing experience less than stellar. I felt bad for Bill who had hauled a board at additional expense all the way from Canada. That said it was fun to get out with him and while I did not get up a lot I did enjoy being out there with him and have developed a real liking for the sport.

Sanur also has this amazing laid brick walkway all along the beach which allows you to wander along the beach in search of a new restaurant, shop, or in my case go for a run, which I did regularly both at Legian and Sanur. The walkway is so nice as you can stroll along a world away from the noisy streets in front of the hotel and when your fancy strikes you pull in for a cold drink or some great food. As with Ubud we were never disappointed with the food anywhere in Sanur. That said the Ubud restaurant scene is, in my opinion, the source of the best food on Bali.

The two weeks with Bill and Di were a lot of fun and while Shannon refused to make a call on the Crib matches I am confident that in the end the Boys came out on top by a narrow margin. :)

Diving at Tulamben:
After saying farewell to Bill and Di we headed up the coast a couple of hours to Tulamben for some diving. We had not gotten any diving in so far on this trip and it was looking like it was not going to happen on Bali either. Then Shannon had a very fortuitous encounter with woman from Singapore in one of the leather shops in Sanur. As it turned out she was from Singapore and was in Bali gathering information for a book on shopping in Bali. Her husband and her run a Dive Centre in Singapore and she said Tulamben and specifically the Liberty Wreck Dive there were a must do on Bali. Our friend Michael had recently been to Bali and had also said great things about Tulamben. So based on that double barrel recommendation we made last minute arrangements to go diving in Tulamben. We were not disappointed!

We stayed at a Dive oriented hotel named Tauche Terminal. It is a partnership between a German and a Balinese and it is excellent. Located right on the bay you just wake up in the morning, get on your wet suit and walk down the beach to your entry point and go diving. This is made even better by the fact that you don't have to carry your own gear. There are porters, in our case women who stack 2-3 sets of gear on their heads and haul it down the beach for you. I was totally amazed by this feat. The beach is just black sand and black volcanic rock. Not easy to just casually walk on let alone with 2-3 sets of tanks etc. on your head and flip flops on your feet. I was stunned and in awe as I watched them head down the beach fully loaded several times a day.

We did two dives - the Liberty Wreck and the Drop Off. Both were very nice dives with an amazing Fan Coral at the turn around point of the drop-off. That said the Liberty Wreck was the highlight. It was my/our first wreck dive and it was spectacular. The sea life was amazing, and the colors spectacular. Definitely a must do for any divers who venture to Bali.

Soap Box Corner:
After Tulamben we finished up in Ubud and spent a couple days finalizing our larger purchases, shipping arrangements etc. All in all, Bali was amazing. The rest of this post is just me on my soap box. Reader beware! :)

Well we have two more sleeps here in Bali and while I'm excited to be moving on to the next phase of our adventure I am also very sad to be leaving. We ran into a couple up here in Ubud who is staying here for 6 months and I must say I am very envious. I could easily do 3 months in Bali, maybe on an annual basis ;). This island has so much to offer and so much to do and see. We will definitely be back.

It is also a place that a person should look into from an investment perspective. Sooner or later the world at large will discover "The morning of the world!" and there in lies the challenge. To keep Bali, Bali and not see the spectacle that is Kuta spread to the rest of Bali. It would truly be a loss, some would say much has already been lost, if Kuta is what Bali becomes. Even with all the changes that we have heard about over the past decade or so Bali is still enchanting. The people, the culture, the history are all very rich and all very alive, yet many here are do not have much by western standards. They get by, some barely, while others I believe do ok. Yet in many ways they are richer than many of us in the west could ever hope to be. Their faith and their families run through the very fabric of life and are still very important pieces of day to day life on Bali.

My hope for the Balinese people is that they can retain that rich culture and family life while improving their financial prospects and their quality of life when it comes to things like health care, education and opportunity. That means that over time Bali will not be the inexpensive travelers paradise that it is today but hopefully it will never become an over-priced and over-rated resort destination either. That I believe would be to high a price to pay and way too much would be lost in the process.

If you want to witness what the dark side of tourism has done to Bali just wander the streets of Kuta for a day or two. There you don't experience the richness of Bali, there you experience the exported greed of western consumerism. And don't get me wrong, I don't begrudge or judge the Balinese for this. They are purely responding to the selfish desires of western tourists, in this case generally Australians. But in other parts of the world it is Americans, Canadians, Japanese or maybe Europeans although I sense that the Europeans are more into experience than consumption. I could be wrong but that is the sense I get.

The fear I have is that consumerism like a bad flu is very contagious. It spreads from those who have it to those who do not creating in those exposed to it an insatiable desire to have. Based on my experience in Bali the consumer flu is limited primarily, but not exclusively to Kuta. As you move away from Kuta even just over to Sanur it has a much different and much more laid back and relaxed feel. By the time we hit Ubud we felt like we were a million miles from the franticness of Kuta and Legian. It is a completely different world. Not unchanged by tourism but seemingly keeping its soul in the face of progress, change and increased exposure to tourists.

We/I also found that you meet a very different type of traveler in Ubud that you meet in Kuta/Legian. Even in Sanur the people that we met were after something other than the Kuta experience. That difference is even more pronounced once you head up to Ubud and beyond. Here we met people who were interested in just being in the now. People wanting to experience the richness of Balinese culture, food, craftsmanship, artistry and hospitality. People just as apt to go to a Yoga class as go shopping both of which can be easily be done in Ubud. The people here seem to have found a balance, imperfect as it may be, between meeting the needs of the throngs of travelers and yet retaining the richness and the spirit that makes Bali and the Balinese so attractive.

In Ubud you can experience some of the best food I have ever tasted, shop for silver, art, furniture, wood carvings etc. visit a temple and take in a dance all in a matter of a few hours. You can wander the lively market, you can pause for a gelato and a cappuccino or grab an amazingly tasty lunch at one of the many Warungs. Some of the best can be found on the narrow side roads that run parallel to the main roads. These are indeed a treat. And when your body has had enough find a spa and have a wonderful massage, sign up for a meditation class or track down a yoga class to refresh body, mind and spirit. What more could you ask for really. Well how about doing all this for well under $100 Canadian a day for a family of 4. With that I rest my case as to why Bali and in particular Ubud gets my vote for place I'm most likely to return to as soon as I can. In reality my words cannot do it justice. If you're past the party and night club scene and looking for someplace real, some place to renew yourself then Ubud just might be the place for you. Who knows you may never leave!

I sure wish didn't have to. :(


Kid's Said:
Highlights:

Tyler:
- Auntie Di and Uncle Bill meeting us, especially treats and playing with them @ the pool
- Swimming everyday (not quite everyday but pretty darn close)

- Having Special Drinks (Sprite with a splash of Grenadine) forget the $10 Shirley Temples at the Long Bar. (See our Singapore Post for more on that)

- The food - Dewa's French Toast and Fish and Chips (made with fresh fish - what fish and chips are supposed to be like)

- The Barong Dance especially the part where the men are in a trance and have these long squiggly knives called kris and doing this almost hari kari. Tyler has been imitating it for weeks. We even had to buy a kris, it went home with Bill and Di.

- Boys night out with Mac (Tyler's friend from our stay at Oka Wati's in Ubud) Mac took Tyler to the Frog dance, got him a hand carved frog mask and bought him chocolate cake. Mac is his buddy for life after that!

- The Monkey Forest

- Maxine

- Dewa, Tyler's other buddy from Oka Wati's. Dewa took care of us during our stay and took quite a liking to Tyler and Tyler to him. Dewa totally exemplified the spirit of the Balinese people.

Kayla:
- Seeing Auntie Di and Uncle Bill
- Swimming every day
- Balinese Dances, favorites were the Barong and Kecak Fire Dance
- Taking a Batik making class with Mom and making her own Batiks
- Sacred Monkey 'Forest
- Snorkeling with Mom at Tulamben
- Kayla's first 'spa' experience including Massage, Hair Braiding and Manicure
- The Elephant Cave Temple
- Reading Tolkien's "The Hobbit"

Lowlights:
Tyler:
- wiping out face first into some stone steps at Tauche Terminal where we went diving.

Ouch!!! That had to hurt.

- Uncle Bill and Auntie Di leaving to go home

Kayla:
- Uncle Bill and Auntie Di leaving
Slideshow Report as Spam

Comments

BL on

Ubud is amazing. We love Dirty Duck and Ibu Oka there. Absolutely to die for.

BL
http://www.iluxuryvillasbali.com

andy alyson on

bali have a beautyfull panorama

John on

You have a very interesting story, not boring at all! I wish also I can live in Ubud...

Marga on

Hi,
You really took some amazing pictures there! I can see that you do enjoy the traveling.

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