I will admit that it has been so long since my last post, that I forgot my password for WordPress. Again. I have had this final installment of my trip to Bali on my mind, and more specifically, on my to do list for a long time. Recently, a friend texted, “I am still waiting for Part 3 of your Bali blog.” Good thing she wasn’t holding her breath! Thanks for the reminder, D.R.! I apologize that this is not as well written as I would like, and there are probably errors. Please tell me! Ok. Enough stalling.
There was another wonderful send off from our hotel in Pemutaren. On our way to Ubud, we stopped at Pura Ulun Danu Temple which is dedicated to/for Rivers and Lakes. We also stopped at a market so that we could practice our bargaining skills. We were given a lesson in bargaining, which was quite entertaining. The whole idea was that you will probably not pay the full asking price for anything. First, we were supposed to ask how much the item cost. Then, when the sales person/owner/employee told us the price we were to respond by saying in a shocked voice, “Mahal!?!” Which roughly translates to, “Get out of here!” That was my favorite part. I did not have much interest in the bargaining (or shopping), but I helped a fellow traveler out, and it was quite entertaining (I experienced it first hand a few days later). Later that afternoon, we arrived at our hotel, Alam Indah. We had time for afternoon yoga, and after yoga we selected our temple clothes. Each women had to find a sarong (as a skirt), kabayeh (the shirt), and a selendang (sash). These clothes are required if you want to enter a temple. The men have to wear two sarongs, a special hat, and a plain shirt. The sarongs and shirts can be representative of the village one lives in. I remember seeing lots of Harley Davidson on the shirts that the men/boys wore.
Alam Indah (the hotel in Ubud) is owned by Ibu Wayan who is one of James’ friends. James met her when he first came to Bali about 25 years ago. They have maintained a friendship, and Ibu Wayan is now the owner of several hotels and restaurants in Ubud. Ubud has a population of approximately 30,000 people.
March 28 Melasti Festival Day
After our morning routine of tea/coffee, yoga, and breakfast, we prepared to go to temple. We went to Tampaksiring Temple, where there are special healing springs. We wore bathing suits underneath our temple clothes, so that we could go into the springs for purification rites. It was very interesting. We got into a pool of water that was about 3 or 4 feet deep, and we walked up to each faucet and splashed water on our heads three times, then three drinks, then three splashes to the face. I think there were three faucets that we had to skip because those were for the Balinese. After we were purified, we went into the temple to pray and get blessed. In this ceremony, women sit on their knees (yikes!) throughout. Men can sit cross-legged. We followed along with what the priest was doing. Every few people had a little basket that had flower petals that are used during the service. You also place incense in the ground in front of you and use the smoke from the incense to kind of wash your hands at certain points. There is a specific way to hold the petals between your fingers and hold them up. You also have to follow the priest so you know which color petal to hold up at the appropriate time. When that part is finished, then the priest blesses each person. This involves some water being sprinkled on each person, and then you place rice on your forehead and sometimes behind the ears, or at the top of your clavicle. At that point, the blessing ceremony was over. We changed out of our wet temple clothes, and into dry temple clothes. We had the option to see a temple from the 11th century. This was optional because it was approximately 300 steps down, and you know what that means!
After lunch in Ubud, we drove to Sanur to join a processional to the sea for purification rites. This was so amazing. At first, we watched as villages walked by with their offerings.
We were complimented by the adults, who appreciated our efforts in dressing in temple clothes. Many people would approach us, flash a beautiful smile, and tell us how nice we looked. The younger people (mainly kids) laughed at us, but I am sure we looked quite out of place. At one point, we joined in with a village. This was really quite an experience to walk along with the sound of the gamelan. Once everyone arrived, and each village made their offerings, the blessing ceremony began. It was much like the ceremony that we took part in at the temple that morning. However, there were hundreds (maybe more?) of people sitting on the beach. It was really nice because the people sitting near us would pass incense and flower petals to us, noticing that we were empty handed.
After that, we headed back to Ubud for dinner at Laka Leke. This restaurant was just down the road from our hotel, and owned by the same person, Ibu Wayan. On this night, we celebrated James’ birthday. James is a celebrity there, so it was quite an event to end such a memorable day.
After yoga and breakfast, we started our day by taking a walk through Monkey Forest. This is much like a park, but a ticket is needed to go through. It was a short cut to our hotel, so we used it frequently. As the name Monkey Forest suggests, it is a forest where there are monkeys EVERYWHERE! There are people selling bananas for the tourists to buy to feed the monkeys, so the monkeys were certainly not scared. We were warned ahead of time not to wear anything shiny, and to remain calm should a monkey jump on you. One monkey did jump on a member of our group. Just hopped right on her shoulder. Apparently there are a few tribes of monkeys in the forest. They are fascinating to watch, and it was quite something to be so close, and without the glass between me and the monkey.
The rest of the day was spent walking around Ubud, shopping, and doing whatever we wanted to. In the late afternoon, we went to a spa for an herbal body treatment followed by a massage. That was quite something. We were taken into a private room that was outside. There was a table for massage, and a bathtub that was filled with flower petals. After we were sufficiently scrubbed and massaged, we went to see a Kechak dance. I have borrowed a description from Wikipedia for further explanation: Also known as the Ramayana Monkey Chant, the piece, performed by a circle of 150 or more performers wearing checked cloth around their waists, percussively chanting “cak” and throwing up their arms, depicts a battle from the Ramayana. The monkey-like Vanara helped Prince Rama fight the evil King Ravana. Kecak has roots in sanghyang, a trance-inducing exorcism dance.
March 30 Mecaru Festival Day
This day is the before the Day of Silence (Nyepi). I will attempt to describe what I understood and experienced. For some time before this day, the villages work on creating statues called Ogoh Ogohs. The idea is that you create the scariest, ugliest, most deranged statue (sometimes X-rated) that will scare away the evil spirits. These statues are paraded through the streets on this night. It is also important to make a lot of noise. If you make a lot of noise and parade the Ogoh Ogohs around, you are sure to scare away the evil spirits. Then, the following day (Nyepi) it is imperative to be silent all day so when the evil spirits fly back over Bali, they cannot find you. We ended our day at the Football (Soccer) Field to watch the Ogoh Ogohs gather. At sunset, the procession of Ogoh Ogohs begins. The Ogoh Ogohs are carried by the youth (boys) of each village. This was quite a sight.
Here is one that was waiting to be completed:
The smallest Ogoh Ogoh carried by the smallest children:
A collection of Ogoh Ogohs:
As the sun set, the special effects became evident…
Many of the Ogoh Ogohs were also accompanied by the village gamelan.
March 31 Day of Silence (Hari Raya Nyepi)
The whole island is silent. There are to be no fires lighted, no cooking done, no travel, no work…complete and total silence. This worked pretty well until I smelled gas in our room, and felt it was necessary to report that to the hotel staff. It turns out we just needed a new propane tank. I spent most of the day at the pool. That is when I was entertained by one of the monkeys from the Monkey Forest. I noticed that the monkeys would eat the offerings that were left out daily, and this monkey was no different. He (?) even drank out of the pool when he was finished eating the offerings.
It was quite interesting and enjoyable to spend a day in silence. It is nice to settle the mind that way. In fact, several of us discussed the idea of the United States having a Day of Silence. Wouldn’t that be something?
Today we took a drive to see the Mother Temple, Besakih, which is located at the base of the sacred volcano (Gunung Agung). We hiked up the steps to pray and be blessed:
After we were blessed, we enjoyed the view.
The little cutie to the right was working at the Mother Temple selling post cards. She was encouraged to say things like, “You are very beautiful. You buy postcard?” Our local guide, Kari, told her that he would give her some money, but only if she answered his math questions! I loved it. She followed us all the way to the top, and walked down with us, too. She did a great job with her math facts.
After we left Besakih, we stopped at the Palace of Justice (Klungkung). The ceiling is painted with all of the punishments available in the after life at the time (17th century), all of which were the result of karma. This was for those who were waiting to be sentenced. Some of the punishments were quite graphic.
On this morning, we took a class on how to make the very ornate offerings that are put out each morning. Every day, the women (all over) create offerings which usually include food and flowers. I can assure you that there was no stapler or scotch tape involved. Very small pieces of wood were used as a way to keep everything in place.
The rest of the day we were free to explore. That evening after dinner, I had the opportunity to ride on the back of James’ moped through the Monkey Forest. According to local legend, if you want to ride through the Monkey Forest at night, you have to ask permission from the spirits (“permisi”). That was a fun ride! I was not attacked by monkeys (I was assured they were sleeping).
This was our last full day as a group. We started the morning with an early morning walk through a rice field.
What a unique experience. It required a bit of flexibility and athleticism as we navigated our way through the rice fields. It was a good thing we had been doing yoga twice a day.
That afternoon, several us went to the spa at another hotel (same owner). This time I opted for reflexology and a cream rinse. Both were fabulous, but the cream rinse was great because it left my hair so soft. To be clear, the spas were very affordable. I think I had a massage that was $25 for 90 minutes. That evening, we had a farewell dinner and dance at Laka Leke (which means Hideaway). Here were some of the highlights:
Almost everyone left on this day. Some of us who remained, went back to the spa. This time I went for a facial, and a neck and shoulders massage. That evening, a few of us went to a cooking class. We made some local favorites (black rice pudding – yum!), and the best part was eating what we made. Here was our menu:
This is the day we left Bali. Next stop…Hong Kong! We got to the hotel late that night, so it was right to bed.
We essentially only had one full day in Hong Kong. The first order of business was to purchase an Octopus pass which allowed us to take many modes of transportation. We took the ferry from Kowloon to Hong Kong Island. From there, we got on a bus that took us up a long and winding road to The Peak. Althought it was raining, it was still an amazing view.
We took the tram back down, and then just spent some time walking around. That night we had dinner in the restaurant that is on the top floor of the Sheraton Kowloon. There is a light show, which was pretty cool to see from that height (the 17th floor, I believe).* There is a lot of shopping in Hong Kong. I was less than interested in that, but I was amazed at how many Louis Vuitton stores could be within 1 mile of each other.
*A big thank you to my high school classmates, Mark N. and Maggie S., who gave me excellent suggestions for 36 hours in Hong Kong!
The last day of my journey, which also happened to be my birthday. The best part about it was getting to celebrate for 36 hours! Before we had to leave for the airport, I walked along the water. Here I came across the Avenue of Stars. and the Hong Kong Museum of Art. There was not time to go into the museum, so it was nice that they had lots of pieces outside.
We arrived in Los Angeles at about 2pm. We had a nice dinner out in Santa Monica, followed by approximately 15 hours of sleep! Before I headed back to Oregon, I stopped at Shutters (one of my favorite places in Santa Monica) for a drink and a bite before departing.That is the Cliff Notes version of the rest of the trip to Bali. It was a trip for the mind, body, and soul. What an adventure!