June 8 - Livin' In Luxury In KutaWe are now living in luxury. Bali is so cool! We are in Kuta, the main tourist area in a decent hotel for $15 US that includes breakfast in the open-air restaurant and there’s an awesome pool. W arrived late at night so we just asked our taxi driver to take us to a decent but cheap hotel. This place is fantastic. Totally touristy, but I just got my hair braded for $2! Now I have the Bo Derrik thing goin’ on, or a messy version of it anyway. Our lunch with drinks and ice cream (a splurge for us) was less than $4 total.
Tomorrow one of the guys who works here and his little brother are going to drive us up to Ubud and we can stop at a bunch of cool places along the way. We’re paying them 100,000 rupiah at about 8,600R per dollar. It’s weird dealing in so many thousands you automatically try to bargain even though it’s cheap in US dollars.
The weather here is hot and humid but not unbearable. The villages have narrow rutty streets and have a lot of hustle bustle (best way I could think to explain it). Nothing like Fiji villages. Ubud has lots of shops like Kuta and it’s all Tijuana style. Let’s make a deal. There are some intricately carved coconuts that I want but are $300,000R each. I’ll have to haggle. All the prices have about tripled from what it says in our guidebook. But I really do think it’s inflation and things like that rather than us getting ripped off.
There are little offerings with flowers, food, and incense, (sometimes even money or candy) all over the place. In Bali, Hindu people give 2 offerings per day at home or where they work. It's hard not to step on them!
Jun 9 - Getting Lost in the Rice PaddiesAfter 2 days in Kuta, we got a ride to Ubud with Wayan and his brother, Madeh. We saw a Balinese dance, "Barong Kris dance" incorporating Hindu themes of good & evil, child sacrifice, immortality, and animal morphing. We also visited a batik (hot wax art on cloth) shop, wood cutting shop, stone carving shop, and an authentic traditional village (chickens running around, many stone buildings, thatched roofs, and temples.
It is so great here in Bali, and cheap! We are so spoiled with dinner in restaurants, our hotel (that has a private bath), and a fully body massage for four dollars! We hardly feel like backpackers. They say you can get by on $5 per day in Indonesia, and totally spoil yourself for a few bucks more.
We took a walk along the streets. After a few turns we found ourselves in a small village with pigs, roosters, cows, and some artisan areas. Beautiful rice fields, but we got a bit lost and it was getting dark. A very cheerful man, Nyoman, met us (he had just caught 4 snakes to eat). He kept chatting even though he knew no English and we knew no Balinese. He helped us find our way out of the rice paddies though, following him on the 2 ft. sections between the rice paddies, which is a good thing seeing how dark it was getting.
Jun 10 - Monkey Forest and MoreWe went to the sacred monkey forest today. The locals really respect this place and there are huge temples and many stone monuments inside. This is different: they will bury a loved one in the sacred grounds, just as a temporary resting spot util they can save up enough money for a proper cremation. We saw a grave that was only three days old.
The monkeys are all over the place, playing in the trees or in the temples. They will take a banana right from your hand. Sometimes they get greedy and want the whole bunch - I had to tell one a stern "No!" but he hissed at me and showed his 2 inch teeth. Scared and shocked, I dropped the rest of the bananas. One cute baby monkey couldn’t get up the temple wall, so mom put him on her belly and climbed him up.
Common Balinese names for children 1 thru 4: Wayan, Madeh, Nyoman, Ketut. We’ve met all but a Ketut so far.
Jun 11We had a long walk through rice paddies and among little villages. A young man named Ketut asked if he could join us in our walk to practice his English. Sure. He said all banyan trees are sacred - there is a temple next to every banyan tree on Bali.
He told us a nice river/cave walk to go on. We saw the Ubud final soccer game that ended in penalty kicks but we couldn’t see them because the entire crowd gathered around the 18yd box. The people in trees had a good view, and some people tried to jump at the exact moment of the kick to see.
Jun 13We rented moped and saw the Goa Gajah Cave that has 900 year old carvings! An earthquake in the early 1900s broke most of it though. We saw a fruit blessing ceremony and got a flat tire.
Jun 14We took the moped back out to the cave walk area. A local cop stopped us. He was nice but told us to turn around because of some "project". We went by a beautiful river (people rafting) and took a rice paddie walk to the cave temple. We never would have found it but a nice local showed us where it was.
After he left, another nice local showed us the bridge walk, some great views, and a cremation ceremony area. He took us to his house, climbed a tree, and got down a coconut for us to drink. He’s an engineer at the local hotel. We got soaked in the rain and rushed home for hot showers and tea. We are also taking a meditation class in Ubud.
Shopping in Ubud has been great. We got a barong woodcarving (mythical beast representing cleansing forces in the universe), a cloth painting, and an carved ebony box all for insanely cheap prices direct from the artisans. We then bought 2 more oil candles (3 men and bird), 6 barongs, and droopy old lady statue for our friend Jesse. We mailed all the stuff home. I hope it makes it.