Monday, November 21, 2011

Bali in October

This past October we took a vacation to Bali. Bali is an island that is part of Indonesia. It is located south of Borneo in between the Java Sea and the Indian Ocean. The coasts are popular with surfers and are adorned with miles and miles of white sandy beaches with blue waves crashing on them. We stayed at those too, but our first few days we spent near the center of the island in Ubud. In contrast to the white beaches with blue waters, the interior of the island is dominated by deep shades of green. Lush jungles and terraced rice paddies cover every inch of bare ground. Here we are in front of a terraced rice paddy.

Ubud was home to the ruling family of Bali until the Dutch established colonial rule in the 1800's. Now it's a small quirky town full of tiny boutique shops, family shrines, and rice paddies. Our hotel, the Alam Jiwa, was near a rice paddy. This is a picture of the rice paddy in the morning that was just outside our room. If you click on the picture, you'll be able to see the morning dew on the rice shoots.

Here is a picture of our room, the "Angsa". We had a private entrance through a jungle garden complete with a lotus flower pond, guardian statues, and a balinese gate.

Here is Craig feeding the fish outside our room. The fish swim around the lotus leaves eating bugs and  providing the plants with -ahem- nutrients.

This makes conditions perfect for growing giant lotus blossoms!

Every morning our breakfast was delivered to our room where we enjoyed eating it on our patio overlooking the rice paddies and the garden. Craig enjoyed eating jaffles, which are like sandwich pockets with eggs and cheese. They're an invention from Australia. Jennifer liked the balinese crepes with ginger and honey.

Near our breakfast table is the balinese shrine for our room. It's like a mini throne where the spirits or deities that protect our room stay. People in Bali are intensely spritual, and these little thrones are built everywhere, including in homes, around shoppping areas, and inside of temples. Each day fresh offerings of incense, flowers, and fruit are brought to these shrines in order to make the protecting spirits happy.

Craig had a great time staying at the Alam Jiwa. Here he is with two of his friends, Liam and Willa, in the hotel lobby. You may recognize his glasses from his Halloween costume.

Near to Ubud there are entire villages dedicated to carving wood or carving stone. Naturally, there are may carved pieces all over the small town. In Bali, these statues serve as guardians to protect the island from evil spirits. They are frequently dressed up, like the statue pictured below. The white and black checkered cloth is a symbol of balance between good and evil - a sort of Balinese take on "yin-yang".

Ubud is also home to a market that has local crafts. Indonesia has a huge selection of baskets, batik sarongs, wood carvings, and a very particular kind of bottle opener (if you've evern been to Bali, you know what I mean). The markets are very colorful, but you have to bargain! So, yes, Jennifer was in heaven!

The markets also sell fresh local fruits. We recognized the mangoes, dragon fruits, and bananas from other spots in Southeast Asia. A new treat in Bali was the "snakeskin" fruit, which is sort of like a pear only the outside looks leathery and scaley like snake skin.

Although Indonesia is the largest Muslim country in the world, Bali retains is unique brand of Hinduism. Hindus, in contrast to Muslims, eat pork and not beef. Because we also live in a Muslim nation, pigs are hard to find, so we ate all the pork we could! Bali is not only famous for its suckling pig but also for its American-style pork spare ribs. Here we are at Naughty Nuri's getting ready for our ribs, hot dogs, and french fries! That's just the right food to give us energy for another afternoon of touring Bali!

Ubud is a beautiful place - a great mixture of food, shopping, culture, and rice paddies! Keep checking back for more updates from Bali, including a visit to the Mother Temple and an essay on why monkeys are not cute and cuddly.

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