9lives and Local Love

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Flag of Indonesia  , Bali,
Saturday, September 15, 2012

Sept 10th 2012
  I arrived in Bali(Denpasar Airport) on the 10th of September at 11pm. The hotel (Tune Hotel) I booked in Kuta was only 20 minutes away. I was Tired and the
curiosity to explore was overwhelming. I almost forgot how heightened your
senses become when you first arrive in a developing country. Asian countries
always seem to have two commonalities: the smell,which is somewhat like fermented fish and foreign spices and the eagerness of the locals trying to hustle a dollar.

Sept 11th 2012

    I woke up early in the morning( I like to call the first day of travelling Christmas morning!) and went for a walk down the main street in Kuta, I Noticed a massage parlour with one hour massages for 60 thousand Rupiah, roughly 6 dollars and of course a daily habit of this is a given.
    In the afternoon I rented a scooter and decided to take a
leisurely ride around the suburbs Kuta, Legian and Seminyak- Getting lost
several times and not to mention there are no yellow brick roads in Bali. Mid-afternoon
I decided to relax on the beach (Legian Beach) and here is where I met some locals,
who have worked on this section of the beach for years- They spoke very limited
English but hand gestures and smiles always seem to cut it. One man by the name
of Yoga who was the local surf teacher had offered to take me for a tour around
the village he and his family had grown up in. Without hesitation of course I
accepted the offer! No better way to learn about the culture!

As the sun was setting I was off and yoga had decided he would show me the way back to the hotel.  There happened to be a Balinese ceremony taking place and the streets were quite busy, so Yoga had decided to take a short cut back to my hotel. We were traveling on our mopeds through narrow two-way alleys with wild dogs, cats, children, unexpected open sewer holes and not to mention traveling at what felt like NASCAR speed. Returning back onto the main street a young boy on a pedal bike cut in front, causing me to brake abruptly and sending me off the bike. The fall left only superficial wounds, thankfully! As much as I love the adrenaline and joy of riding a moped in Asia, I think I may have to use the two foot express for a while.

Sept 12th 2012

Sunrise - Mount Batur Volcano-

    A man who works at the hotel by the name of De De had offered to be my driver for the day. We started the day early and left the hotel at 2am. The drive was one and a half hours north of Kuta. when we arrived It was pitch black, De offered me a
torch and showed me the way to a local hut where I could buy coffee and water
before the climb.

The climb started at approx 4am, it was very exhausting at times as some sections had difficult inclines. We arrived at the top of mount Batur reaching 1,500 meters in altitude and waited eagerly for the famous Mt Batur sunrise. The view was spectacular with the sunrise overlooking the lake and the fresh morning fog captivating the picturesque mountains in the distance.

The climb down was a bit challenging as the inclines were now steep sections with small rocks/sand and nothing to hold onto- although I did use De and the guide as stabilizers, also made a point stating if I go down so do they! ;) Luckily,there were no falls.
 At the bottom of the mountain I had asked De to take me to some local villages and to Ubud- which is a town most commonly known to the locals as the medicine Town (spiritual and naturopathic) but more famous to foreigners for its filming from the movie Eat Pray Love, with Julia Roberts. Ubud was much more beautiful in person than pictures. The endless rows of rice fields, towering palm trees, wandering locals with traditonal ways, and the fine line between the rich and the poor really portray the essence of Ubud in its natural harmony.

Later in the night after breifly travelling Ubud, De had decided he would show me more of it tomorrow as we had a full day to explore. During the ride home I had asked De about Ketut Liyer ,the medicine man Elizabeth Gilbert meets during her travels in Bali and who she descibed as a very dear friend.  De called his family home and organized a meeting for the two of us to sit and talk and of course do a palm reading.

Sept 13th 2012

We left the hotel for Ubud around 10am and travelled directly to Ketut's family home. The house was a tradtional style balinese home with stone statue carvings bordering the enterance. As we walked in the entrance the home resembled a blossoming greenhouse full of all kinds of well kept flowers and tropical plants.  ketut and his family were wandering the garden and greeted us upon arrival. Ketut's toothless yet warm smile was very welcoming. He ushered me to come and sit on the floor, where some bamboo mats were layed out. Ketut started by saying he would first read my palm, my face and than my back. - " you very very pretty, and much success come."  "You be very rich and have very handsome boyfriend. Good luck for you. You will live to 100." You have three children and good life, You very impatient you go go go, take time" "you very smart and very pretty"
Much of what he said is the same for everybody but all-in-all it was a very interesting experience to meet this man and be welcomed into his home.

After the meet with ketut, De had showed me what was left to see of Ubud- local homes, rice terraces, the way of life for most of the individuals living in poverty outside of ubud, temples, and monkey forest which inhabited several roaming monkeys and hindu temples.
Later on in the night we went to a balinese fire dance perfromance, known as the Kecak (The Ramayana monkey chant) traditionally performed by men chanting "Cak" in a rhythmic hymn surrounded by a large fire.

Sept 17th 2012

Samuel Johnson once quoted these words, "The use of traveling is to regulate imagination by reality, and instead of thinking how things may be, to see them as they are." 

The reality is much more gratifying, it brings imagination to life and frees us from prejudice schemes and bigotry frames of mind. One of my favourite aspects of traveling is immersing oneself in the culture.

Today Yoga took me to the village he had grown up in. He picked me up from the hotel at 9am and we travelled by motorcycle. It took nearly two hours before we arrived at the village in east Bali, known as Karangasem. The village was fairly remote from tourism and encompassed a wide range of striking landscapes from: rice paddies with colossal palm trees to soaring mountains with and ocean view.

When we had arrived at the village I was definitely the rainbow on a black and white painting. The locals were staring with an unsubtle curiosity.  The children greeted me with warm smiles and adoration. Yoga's family was very welcoming and offered me Bali coffee upon arrival. The traditional Balinese Family homes typically incorporate the entire extended family and are built by the family out of local materials, such as bamboo and wood. Each family home in the village encompasses a Hindu temple for which they hold monthly ceremonies and make offerings to their god daily. Each Village also has three public temples, most of which are built from volcanic ash.

The day consisted mainly of: trekking in the jungle outside his village, which led to a Muslim village situated in rows of rice fields, learning how they preform burial ceremonies, meeting most of Yoga’s extended family, and eating the local Balinese food called Satay- (Barbecued pork on a stick with rice- almost like eating raw chilli!). I also learnt that the water they drink is also the water they bathe in and dispose of crematory remains. It’s a very shocking reality to observe this way of life and makes one appreciate the knowledge and privileges we have when living in a western world.

Yoga was very helpful in allowing me to become more knowledgeable with the way of life for the Balinese. What I will remember most is their infectious smiles and love for life even though they live in a very primitive world.

During the journey home I decided to stop at a local coffee
place, which sold Luwak Coffee- This type of coffee is one of the world’s most
expensive types of coffee. In Short, the coffee bean is collected from an
animal’s feces after the digestion process. It is cleaned than processed like
regular coffee, only it is said that Luwak coffee is inferior tasting to
original coffee and a delicacy. To be honest I didn’t notice much of a
difference. I failed to recognize the inferiority, maybe the thought of how it
was processed clouded my connoisseur judgement ;)

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