Bali Hai Life!

Trip Start Sep 14, 2009
Trip End Aug 16, 2010

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Monday, March 15, 2010

Bali was always intended as a"holiday” for us. I know it sounds contradictory, but after six months on the road, we needed a place to unpack everything, buy food in a supermarket, cook for ourselves and just stay in doing not a lot but reading and vegging out.

We had found a small Balinese villa on the web and booked a week's stay at Villa Yeh Behu, just outside Ubud starting on the 17th March.

Liz had spent a couple of weeks on Bali twenty years ago with Sal, her sister and we hired a car to tour around, retracing some of her steps. As you can imagine, it is not the same Bali now as it was twenty years ago. Firstly there is tarmac and not mud on the roads, then the increased amount of hotels and housing has meant that things are practically unrecognisable now. The thing that has not altered are the Temples, and Bali ahs thousands of them, in fact most homes have a temple of some description constructed onto their house. We went first up the east coast to Candidasa where we spent two nights in a lovely room overlooking the ocean. During the day we travelled up to Besikeh Temple where Liz and Sal had broken down in their jeep 20 years ago at dusk with nobody around but the eerie buildings. Nowadays there are guides and tourist traps lining the way up to the temple and it would be impossible to get lost. Luckily the temple itself has not changed and we were very fortunate to be in Bali at the time of the Hindu New Year as there were constant ceremonies and festivals going on in every temple and local village. Huge papier-mâché sculptures of the demons and the good guys are made by each local village and paraded down the streets by the children before they are burnt in the evening to ward off the evil spirits. We also saw the remnants of a buffalo being sacrificed in front of the big temple.

The villa was lovely being furnished with beautiful Balinese artefacts and in the garden there was a small house with a bedroom, kitchenette and outdoor bathroom that Ady and Issy commandeered. There were also modern luxuries such as an infinity swimming pool and plasma TVs and DVD players in all the rooms. With a house selection of over 2000 DVDs we had our dreams come true of lazing by the pool and watching films together in the evening.

Ubud itself is now a large town that still retains its artistic and craft roots but is now interlaced with 5 star resorts and spas. That being said it is lovely, with cafes and restaurants everywhere offering cafe lattes and salads in abundance – a real treat for us after Asian coffee and noodles.

We spent the week lounging by the pool venturing out for supplies and basics. One evening we did go to a traditional dance show that was held in the grounds of a local temple. It portrayed the story of Hindu gods and the dance focused on the fight of good versus evil. The music was made by the men chanting and it created a very mystical atmosphere. The culmination of the evening was the "Fire Dance”. One of the men had worked himself into a trance and then proceeded to dance through burning charcoal on the back of a wooden toy type cock-horse. Ady went up afterwards to take in an inspection of the man’s feet that were caked in burning black charcoal. We said the “Don’t try this at home” message to the kids!

After a fabulous week in Villa Yeh Behu, we travelled up to Amed on the north east coast. This area is famous for diving and we organised it so that the kids could take their open water diving certification. We were unsure as to whether they would still be so keen to do it but after a few moments at EcoDive with Pierre and his wife Sonrisa, they were hooked and eager to learn. The dive course is both practical and theoretical and fortunately Sonrisa, who had stopped instructing as she was seven months pregnant, kindly, spent all of the mornings going through the necessary theory which we then went over again at night. It took three days and on the last day, Liz and I joined them on a dive which was a great experience. It is very emotional to see your own children master something that has quite a dangerous element to it, and then go with them, fifty feet under the ocean swimming with the amazing sea life. Issy and Ady have written their own blog about their course and first diving experiences.

For the last two days we went back to so called civilisation around the busy resort of Kuta. We stayed a bit further north in Legian which is a little nicer as Kuta itself is a bit like Benidorm for the British. That’s to say full of Australians on their beer, beach and sun holiday, not a pretty sight!

There is a lovely long beach with good surf and so Ady and I decided to try our hand at surfing. Having seen the high cost of the branded schools such as Quiksilver and Billabong, we bargained with a Balinese local to teach us for a quarter of the price. Whilst we managed to get on our feet a couple of times, there is something in the old adage of “you get what you pay for” and after 30 minutes the bloke had lost interest and kept his money. It also coincided with Ady getting a bang on his head from his board and retiring hurt and I bruised my finger when I was hurled off by a big wave. The hour long surf teaching deal involved the use of two sun beds but when we tried to use another couple as we had not used all our time, the friendly local turned nasty and wouldn’t let us. An argument pursued that resulted in an exchange of opinions including a threat to go and see the tourist police (to which he laughed knowingly!)

Bali will get more attention in the coming months as Julia Roberts was out there making the Bali part of the film from the book Eat, Pray, Love which will be out later this year. We also came across “Jules” when we were in India, maybe she is following us?

Bali provided us with a very relaxing couple of weeks at exactly the right time and also marked the end of our six month Asian Adventure.

We will leave Asia with some unforgettable experiences and memories that have been every bit as exciting and different as we had hoped. We have also still got other countries such as Laos and Myanmar to go back to at sometime and discover in the future.
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