Time to Relax

Trip Start Apr 10, 2012
Trip End Apr 06, 2013

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Flag of Indonesia  , Bali,
Monday, October 21, 2013

After finally saying goodbye to Australia we boarded the
Plane and 2 and half hours later we touched down in Bali, Indonesia. Both AK
& SJ had that sense of adventure returning. Heading into the unknown, a
country very different from Australia or England with new exciting experiences

First challenge though was finding the driver we had
arranged to meet us who would take us to the town we were staying. Most people
who land in Bali head straight to Kuta Bali where they spend the next 2 weeks
living it up drinking and partying. While that's all well and good it is not
really what AK and SJ came traveling for.

As we exited the airport our driver was standing there with
a piece of card displaying AK’s name so we headed off on the 2.5 hour journey
North. It was pretty uneventful after we got out of the crazy rush hour
Denpasar traffic.

It was a shame that it was dark as we missed all the Bali
countryside but we did manage to people watch the passing scooters. It was at
first very shocking to see a man driving the scooter, his pregnant wife on the
back cradling a small child with a slightly older child stood up at the front
of the scooter holding onto the handle bar! No one was wearing a helmet and the
roads are crazy! Cars, bikes and trucks were all weaving in and out of each
other and all this to the constant background noise of people beeping their
horns. We came to realise that this was actually pretty normal and the most
common way to get around in Indonesia.

We arrived at our accommodation, a homestay in a little town
called Amed which is on the North East coast of Bali. The owners were there to
meet us (after being told several times their names but still failing to
understand what they were we gave up asking as we did not want to seem rude or
impolite). We had a welcome drink and ordered some dinner. They seemed very
nice and friendly and the food was great. They didn’t speak the best English
but then we do not speak Indonesian or Balinese so we could not complain!

We were eventually shown to our room and we were very happy!
It was a lovely little 'bungalow’ with a big (and I mean big) 4post bed, our
own bathroom and a balcony with views out to sea. It was luxury after the
camping and crap hostels on out East Coast Australia trip!

We got settled down and fell asleep, very exhausted

The next couple of days passed very peacefully and other
than AK venturing out to buy Sim Cards it consisted of lots of sleep, swimming
and snorkelling near the Homestay. We found a little cove where you could hire
a sunbed for about 80p and spent the afternoon exploring. Most of the coral was
dead but there was still quite a few nice fish to see and some sections were
still alive and colourful. AK found a sunken temple and came back to tell SJ
who went to explore. In typical SJ style it freaked her out at first but after
having a go at approaching it a few times she eventually was able to swim over
it. AK chilled out watching the world go by and drinking a few beers.

All in all it was a much needed peaceful and restful few
days. We did however; start to get a little bored.

We received a welcome invitation from the homestay owners to
join them at the temple on Thursday evening. There was a big Hindu religious
ceremony while we were in Bali and we were getting a chance to be a part of it.
It was called Galungan and is the most important feast for Balinese Hindus, a celebration to honor the creator of the universe (Ida Sang Hyang Widi) and the spirits of the honored ancestors. The festival symbolizes the victory of good (Dharma) over evil (Adharma), and encourages the Balinese to show their gratitude to the creator and sainted ancestors.

We arrived in the restaurant in the evening and were taken,
on the back of the Moped, to the owners home (it was actually the Husbands
family’s home) where we were to get dressed for the occasion. We arrived in a
smallish courtyard with brick and wood building surrounding it. The husband
climbed up a tree and picked some strange looking fruit called Jambu Air or
Rose Apple. They were a pale pink in colour, bell shaped and when you bit into
them there was a small seed in the centre which, after watching the little girl
crack one open and remove the seed, we followed suit. They were delicious and
tasted sweet and juicy a bit of a cross between an apple and a watermelon.

Then it was time to get dressed. Alan was given a funny
little hat, several sarongs and smart jacket over the top. The husband helped
to dress him and he was ready to go.

SJ was a bit more of a struggle. The sarongs went on ok,
being wrapped very tightly around the waist (with the leggings she was wearing
underneath it was going to be one warm and sweaty night!) followed by a wide
elasticated belt to keep it in place – so that is how they keep them on and
they never seem to fall down! Next came the lace, long sleeve top that goes
over the top. SJ immediately saw that it was going to be too small. The
Balinese women are very petite and definitely have much smaller busts than us
western women. So after trying to squash SJ into the, approximately 3-4 sizes
too small, top the wife gave up and disappeared. She returned with a slightly
larger top that SJ just about squeezed into (it had a definite slight whiff of
BO but SJ did not want to say anything and would probably be adding to the
smell as she was well and truly trussed up and would be ready for a day out in
the British winter weather! Over the top of all that went a sash around the
waist. The end result did look good and both AK and SJ felt very privileged to
be involved in this special religious time.

Next it was back on the bikes, this time AK driving one and
SJ, sarong hitched up, on the back (the Indonesian women ride kind of side
saddle, dangling their legs over one side and often carrying large baskets or
small children. As SJ was a novice at balancing on the back of a moped she thought
it best to hold on with all limbs!)

We had a beautiful drive through the countryside as the sun
was setting. There were decorations along the side of the streets and everyone
was in their traditional dress heading to the temple. It felt really good to be
a part of it. As we approached the temple, it was mayhem. Many scooters were
trying to all find a parking space. We eventually found one and after adjusting
the clothing we followed the husband and wife toward the temple.

We had to walk a short distance past street vendors selling
all kinds of stuff - Kids toys, drinks, street food consisting of meat, rice,
deep fried batter and bags of boiled quail eggs. It was noisy and crazy and
didn’t fit in at all with the occasion but then what did we know about these

We eventually got to the temple gates. The temple was fairly
big and although it was not the most beautiful temple it was still very grand
and had nice carvings into the stone. The first part of the ceremony consisted
of the husband flicking water onto each of our heads. He used a wooden
implement with tassles on the end. Then it was on up the stairs and into the
main part of the temple. People were lined up, sat down, in front of a long and
high table like structure that was made from stone, the same stone as the
temple. The wife had brought along a colourful woven basket which she took
around to the back of the table, lit an incense stick and then came back and
sat down with our little group. It seemed that just the women presented the
woven boxes, which came in different shapes and sizes. Some were not woven at
all and seemed to be made from a solid material. Some were very humble and
others were very large and flashy. The ladies with the larger boxes were often
dressed in richer looking materials with lots of jewellery and just seemed in
general more wealthy. Maybe the size and design of the box reflects your
position in Balinese society or reflects the size of your family you are
representing. Maybe it’s just a case of ‘my box is better than your box’, who
knows. It was all very different and interesting.

So AK and SJ watched the husband and wife and tried to copy
what they were doing, we think we have the correct order of things but as it
was all quite a new experience the sequence might be slightly wrong. We all sat
down, shoes off and legs crossed. There were many temple people (all men) sat
ringing little bells continuously for a period of time. During this time we
placed our hands in a prayer position with thumbs pressed against our forehead
in the centre between the eyes. As each bell ring stopped we took a pinch of
fresh flower petals and placed them at different locations each time. In the
hair (women tucked into their bun and the men into the funny little hats) then
behind each ear. Eventually they stood up and approached each group (from what
we could gather, a group consisted of a family, possibly friends but we are not
sure) where we were again, each in turn, splashed with water while our arms
were held out to the side. Then we were given more water into our cupped hands
from a little silver teapot. This was done 3 times for drinking and once for
splashing over your head.

Once this was complete we took a small amount of sticky
uncooked rice and put some in between your eyes, at each temple and at your
throat. Then we headed around the back of the big stone table where there was a
tiled area where everyone was sat down. We retrieved our woven box and then it
was opened. It was like Pandora’s box in there! Out came a whole cake, apples,
pears, several boiled eggs still in shells, packets of sweets and deep fried
objects that taste a bit like batter. It was basically crammed full of goodies.
We then proceeded to eat the contents while sat talking and socialising with
the other temple goers.

It was a very different but interesting experience. The
small amount we understood gave us the impression that the Hindu faith is very
peaceful. The ceremony was full of little actions that mean something although
we didn’t understand and it’s a social affair, everyone seems happy and
friendly. We did get some strange looks being the only white people there but
mostly people were just saying hello and ‘welcome’ which was lovely.

Eventually it was time to leave, but not before we purchased
a raffle ticket to win a scooter! The husband seemed quite excited at the
thought of winning but I am not sure what we would have done with a scooter had
we won!

Walking back along the street to the scooters the husband
wanted to buy some street food but the meat was not ready (probably a good
thing for AK) so he bought several bags of boiled Quail eggs. We located our
scooters and headed back to the homestay.

We had some pictures taken, ate the Quail eggs with the
children and then headed off to bed, it was a very tiring night. Just before
heading off to bed they invited us to the temple again the following night
where there would be Balinese dancing. We said yes and thanked them or a lovely

On Saturday we decided to hire the scooter again and after
breakfast headed out into the countryside, not before stopping for fuel. So,
you would imagine that stopping for fuel involves visiting a petrol station but
that’s not the Balinese way. Instead you stop at the convenience store, usually
the smaller independent ones where the building is basically a shed and the
food on offer may have expired a good 6 months before! Nonetheless it’s where
you go for fuel and the proprietor brings out old plastic water bottles which
contain 1 or 2 litres of petrol. You open up the petrol tank, pay her 7000rps
per litre first and then she pours it in. Crazy but very true.

So we hit the road and along the way we saw rice paddy
fields at the sides of hills and beautiful countryside. We stopped in a town
where there was a large football pitch. AK wanted a picture as the view in the
background was the still very active Mount Agung volcano. Wow, the kids here
have a great place for a kick around…beats the back field in Brooky.

Eventually the roads got just a little bit too crazy for us
so we turned around and headed back to Amed. We stopped off at the little cove
for a snorkel and a beer and headed back to the homestay.

That night we were to see some Balinese dancing so we
showered and headed down to the homestay restaurant and ordered dinner. Then
the two oldest girls, dressed in pretty Balinese clothes, performed dances for
us. It was really nice and you could see they were a little shy but enjoyed
dancing. The children of the family consisted of three girls with the wife 7
months pregnant. They were all very different. The oldest was tall and thin,
about 9 or 10 years of age although it’s hard to judge. She was sweet and kind
of bossy like a mother hen, a typical first born. She was pretty and elegant.
The second was about 7 or 8. She was much quieter and seemed to be a little
left out by the other two. She was a little plumper and a bit clumsy and
tomboyish. AK and SJ felt a bit sorry for her although she was obsessed with
SJ’s boobs and kept pulling down her top to have a look!

Then there was the youngest, probably about 3 or 4 and very
cute. She had the sweetest little face and big eyes. She was a typical youngest
child and was a bit spoilt. She also could be a bit nasty to middle sister and
would pinch you really hard if she didn’t get her own way. She was very
demanding and it was hard work being around her. SJ would not tolerate the
tantrums so if she was trying to climb on her knee and be a brat SJ would lift
her onto the floor and leave her there. It seemed to work and she realised she
wasn’t getting her own way.

The wife was hoping for a boy but was not confident and
thought she was having another girl. In Balinese culture, family’s hope to have
a son. Daughters are expensive as their weddings have to be paid for by their
father and then the daughter will go off and live with her husband’s family.
Sons stay with their parents and bring a wife home. They also care for their
parents into old age so the husband and wife were very keen on this baby being
a boy. The wife was nice and friendly but you sometimes felt she had the weight
of the world on her shoulders, maybe she was getting more and more anxious as
the birth approached, praying for a boy.

So our time in Amed, Bali was nearly over and we had really
enjoyed our time there. We felt that we would be back but for now it was time
to say goodbye. All that was left was to rise early the following morning and
take a taxi to Padang Bali where we would take a ferry to Lombok, an Island
further east. 

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