I woke up in the middle of the night a few days ago to the sound of cracking and chipping. It was pitch black and I was freaked out! I was hoping that it was maybe something outside my hut but the noise was too loud to be anywhere but my room. Maybe it was the AC, I thought, but I clapped my hands 3 times and the noise stopped so I knew it was an animal. I was FROZEN in my bed hoping that my flimsy mosquito net would protect me from whatever it was. I now realize that the mosquito net wouldn’t have done $#it, but it was wishful thinking in the heat of the moment. After being up for 2 hours to the chipping noise, I finally flicked the light on at 6AM and like that it was quiet again. Must’ve been all in my head I thought. However, an hour later, I got out of the shower and was getting ready for the day and saw my peanut butter jar that was about 2 feet from my bed and it was in bits and pieces with a hole chewed through the top. Whatever it was, it was definitely in my room, it was smart enough to smell the closed jar of peanut butter and had teeth sharp enough to bite through it!! I was dumbfounded!! For those that know me, I am not the biggest animal lover let alone critters. In fact I just started petting dogs about 6 months ago when my brother and sister-in-law got a puppy bassett hound! Now I love dogs but I don’t like critters!
I showed the jar to my hotel and I did not argue with them when they quickly offered to switch my room. I asked them what it was but unfortunately they didn’t speak english well enough to explain what it was. I started googling wild animals in Bali but couldn’t find anything. Finally that afternoon I tracked down another worker who spoke english and asked him what he thought it was and he said that it was probably a mouse. EEEEEKKKKKK a mouse, or should I say SQUEAK!!!
Yesterday I went snorkeling with a lovely British couple and their cute sun from Sunset Coin that had just arrived. They mentioned how nice it was and told me what room they were staying in. I didn’t have the heart to tell them that it was my old room! I’m sure the mouse was gone by then anyways.
What’s in a name? Shakespeare said that a name means nothing! How about in Bali? If you ask a Balinese his or her name, the most common answer that you will hear is, “my name is Wayan”. In a population of 3.3 million, about 500,000 have that name.
In Bali, a name is not just a name. It is used to give information about sex, rank of birth, caste and more. The name Wayan is derived from the word “wayahan” which means oldest. So every first born child in Bali is given the name Wayan (or Putu and Gede). The second child in each family is given the name of Made or Nengah and the third child is given the name Nyoman or Komang. The fourth child is given the name Katut (so I assumed that my guide in the previous post was the fourth born child in his family). These names are given for both girls and boys and to distinguish the sex a “Ni” is put in front of it for girls and an “I” is put in front of the name for a boy. So the first word tells, the gender, the second word tells the rank of the child’s birth and the next is the given name which is usually from Sanskrit or a local language. For example we can deduct that the name, Ni Made Swasti is a second born female. The Balinese usually just give their second name when introducing themselves.
Sounds easy enough right? Not quite! If the parents have a fifth child, the naming process starts over again with Wayan. So if there are 5 kids in a family there are 2 with the name Wayan. In the case of my guide Katut, I assumed he was the fourth child but he is the 8th meaning he is the 2nd Katut in his family. That has got to get confusing!
I think about my dad’s family with 7 children and if they were named the Balinese way my dad would be named Wayan and I would have 2 uncle Mades, an aunt Nyoman, an uncle Nyoman, one uncle Katut and one aunt Wayan. Haha!
After a few days of lounging around the beach (and getting massages) I decided that it was time to actually get out and see the island of Lembongan. While I was figuring out my plan of action, breakfast was delivered to my room by the night security guard named Katut. As I said it’s a family-run business so they all wear many hats…..sound familiar?
He asked me what my plans were for the day and I said that I was looking to see the island but not anything too “touristy”. Katut told me that he was actually just getting off and was free that day and immediately offered to show me around. I was a little skeptical and told him that I would pay him and that this WAS NOT A DATE! He said that it was not a problem and that if I wanted to pay him I could but I didn’t have to, he was happy to do it. I group texted my friends Carrie, Mike and Elizabeth and told them that I was going off with a local for the day on a moped around the island and if they didn’t hear from me in 24 hours to contact the embassy. Sorry mom I couldn’t tell you because I know you would freak!
Two hours later I was on the back of a moped with the wind in my hair holding on for dear life! We first went on a boat ride to a mangrove and then to an underground house where a hindu man lived for 10 years to meditate. I couldn’t even be down there for 10 minutes for fear of a heat stroke, not sure how someone did it for 10 years.
From there we drove over a rickety one lane bridge (with missing pieces) to an island right next store called Ceningan. He took me to Blue Lagoon where there was a cliff that you could jump off into the ocean…..for $5 bucks. $5 bucks I thought, “what the heck, shouldn’t, this be free” but of course I never turn down an adventure! It was a 13 meter jump and after 3 months of being in countries that use the metric system I was finally able to quickly calculate in my head that it was about a 40 foot jump. As I was getting ready to jump the people working there came over and told me to sign a waiver. Ok now I was getting nervous, was this dangerous? “No, no dangerous Miss”, they said “but you must sign”…..um ok? The $5 bucks got me 2 jumps and when I got to the ledge I was thinking that I’d be lucky if I went ahead with just one of them, it looked like a long way down. Based on past experience with bungy jumping, I knew that the longer I stayed there the harder it got so I threw myself over without further contemplation. My body slammed into the water and I think I might’ve lost my bathing suit top and acquired a few bruises but it was exhilarating. The waves were huge and it took me a while to actually grab onto the ladder to hoist myself back up. I climbed to the top and in the end I decided to go a second time, you know me with money, I always like to get my bang for my buck!
By that time I was quite tired and thought that he would maybe take me back but he had other things in store. He said that we were going to another island where I could see something that most tourists don’t get to experience. His english wasn’t the best so I really didn’t understand where exactly we were going. Something about a cave?
We got on a boat with 3 other locals and the cutest little boy and rode to my third island of the day, Nusa Penida. There was not a single tourist on this island. Nusa Penida gave the impression of what Bali was probably like before the world’s curiosity descended upon it, it is the true Bali. Here people can be found still living in century old huts, working as fisherman and seeweed farmers trying to make a living.
When we arrived he rented a moped for us and away we went. About 5 minutes into the drive he stopped and said, ok now you are going to drive. I told him that I drove in Ubud but I was still really new to this. He said that it was easy to drive on this island and not to worry. I got on and he hopped on behind me and we drove and drove and drove for almost 30 minutes! When 2 people are on a moped the back person has the option to hold the waist of the person in front of them or on to the handle behind the seat (your hands are basically behind your back as you hold on). When we were riding in the morning I started off by holding on to the back handles but he insisted that it was hard for him to keep his balance that way and that I had to hold on to his waist. I wasn’t sure if that was the complete truth or that he just wanted to pretend that he had an american girlfriend for the day but since he was doing me a favor I figured I could let him dream even for a day. When I began to drive he held on to my waist and at times (maybe it was in my head) I felt like his hands were getting a little too close for comfort so I would “accidently” slam on the breaks as if to signal, “hey buddy watch where your hands are going”. He definitely got the hint!
Katut was very nice in the end. He is 26 and from another island but moved to Lembongan 2 years ago to take care of his “auntie” after her husband passed away. He works as a night security guard at Sunset Coin and then works on a tourist boat during the day that takes people to and from islands. Apparently he had a small stroke about a year ago (or thats what the doctors said) that caused him great pain in his back and legs. He started meditating with the help of his spiritual guru and he is completely healed now.
About 5 minutes before we arrived at our final destination he stopped in front of a temple and told me that he had to go and get sarongs for us to wear. “Where in the heck was this guy taking me?” I finally figured out that he was taking me into a limestone cave on top of a hill that is a very holy temple for hindus called Giri Putri and our legs needed to be covered. “Giri” stand for hill or mountian and “Putri” means beautiful lady.
When we arrived he gave me my sarong and asked if I knew how to tie it? “Not a clue”, I responded. So he proceeded to wrap the sarong over my outfit. He was doing all sorts of folding and tucking and I have to admit, I was impressed that a 26 year old kid knew how to wrap a sarong. He too had to wear a sarong and once he was finished we began the climb up 110, 2-feet tall concrete steps. In case you are wondering it is very difficult to walk up extremely high steps in a tight sarong that goes down to your ankles. I was praying to god with each step up that I wouldn’t bite it. By the time we got to the top I was drenched!!! It was a long climb up and the sarong was a heavy canvas material and I could feel the sweat dripping down my legs. At the top there were many priests that were praying and singing overlooking the ocean as incensed blew through the air. Talk about a peaceful place to pray! Katut showed me a manhole and said that we were going in. I had no idea how I was going to fit in there let alone climb into it with a tight sarong but figured people must do it all the time. We went through the tiny hole and once we got in, it was this wide open space with many small temples. It was like a church in here! It was so quiet, all you could hear was water dripping from the walls from time to time and the fluttering of bats….yes bats! Local people used this cave to hide from the Japanese upon their arrival in WWII. We visited the different areas of the cave and then he gave me a ceremony bracelet that is given out in the temples. Katut says that up to 5,000 hindus can fit in here during big religious ceremonies and that he even comes here with his “auntie” to meditate for 3 hours at a time because it’s good for your health! He explained some other things about the hindu religion and how it’s a little different from the hindu religion in India. He said that in India Hindu is a religion but in Bali it’s a culture. I couldn’t understand what he meant by that so I did some research. The Balinese religion is a Siva-Buddha tradition intertwined with the beliefs, rituals, and deities of both Hinduism and Buddhism. Now it makes sense since Buddhism is more of a way of life than anything.
Anyways, that day was definitely off the beaten track and one for the books.
My guide, breakfast server and night security guard Katut!
PS. Katut wouldn’t let me pay him in the end, he said to save it for the rest of my trip!
When I was in New Zealand, my Parisian friend Angelie, whom I met, told me to check out a little island to the east of Bali called Nusa Lembongan. She even gave me the name of a place to stay, Sunset Coin (of course it had a french name)! Although it was $10 a day out of my price range ($40), Angelie is one of those friends that has exquisite taste so I had to book it. I’ve been waiting patiently ever since I made my reservation to see what it all entailed.
To get to Lembongan I had to take a 30 minute boat ride and I would be lying if I said I wasn’t a tad nervous since every “destination boat” I’ve been on in the past 3 months has been accompanied by seasick passengers. Fortunately that day it was a puke-free ride.whoo!
We arrived to the harbour that looked like a painting with crystal blue waters and fisherman boats bobbing lazily in the wind.
From there I was taken in a tiny open-aired “safari-type” truck to my accomodation. We drove through narrow, pot-hole ridden roads through what looked like the middle of nowhere. I was beginning to question whether this was such a good idea. This part of Bali seemed untouched by the tourist circuit.
About 20 minutes later I arrived to Sunset Coin and was greeted with a refreshing tropical juice and an ice cold towel to wipe my face from the heat. I could’t believe my eyes, this place was gorgeous. It is a family run establishment and consisted of 6 cottage huts, a swimming pool and was just steps from the beach. In addition there was a restaurant right next door called the Beach Club, that gave way to the most stunning views overlooking waves that crashed into the cliffs. The waves are so powerful that they literally roar as they roll in. I had clams and fries for lunch there that day and have been back several times since to enjoy the sunsets as I sip on the local Bintang beer. My outdoor bathroom off the back of my hut!
Beach Club views
Angelie also told me to check out a good place for swimming that was a five minute walk away called Dream Beach. What a name and a dream it was! I practically had the whole thing to myself! On top of that the facilities next store had one of those super cool infinity pools that looked like it was flowing into the ocean. This island truly was a little slice of heaven. Sometimes its bittersweet to be in a place this beautiful alone because there is no one to share it with. Oh well, I guess I”ll survive. I had originally planned to stay for 4 nights but needless to say I ended up staying for six!
Merci Angelie, je t’adore!
As my time in Ubud continued, I continued to shop! The heat was astounding and all of my jean shorts and t-shirts were way too heavy. I found myself buying light weight dresses and rompers (yes that is what they sell,all the tourists here) because the material is so light, it feels like you have nothing on. When the wind actually did blow (which is about twice a day) it literally made you stop whatever you were doing just to bask in the 3 seconds of glory……it’s that hot! Additionally, I stopped at cafes every 2 hours to take a break from the scorching heat and order fresh juices. Some of you know that I got on a green juice kick last year and my last 6 months before leaving NYC I would have a green juice everyday for breakfast. The only problem is that they cost a fortune. Not in Bali though, they cost $2-3!
After shopping until I dropped and filling my tummy with every juice imaginable I was feeling a bit bored. In Ubud, every time you walk down the street taxi drivers approach you asking if you want to go somewhere. It was super annoying the first few days but I soon grew accustomed to it. An older driver approached me and asked if I wanted to go somewhere. Since I was bored I stopped and had a chat with him. He said that he could take me anywhere but I didn’t have any place that I really wanted to go. However, I did enjoy my trip on the moped the day before to the spa. So I said to him, “I’ll tell you what, I don’t really want to go anywhere but would you mind driving me around on a moped for a few hours?” He looked at me in a confused manner and said you really don’t want to go to a temple or anything. “No”, I said, “no more temples, I just want to ride on a motor bike out to the country side, maybe see a rice field but nothing touristy”. Honestly I was just so hot that I thought the wind would on a bike would do me some good! I’m convinced that the reason why Southeast Asia has so many motorbikes is so that they do a great job at cooling you off, it’s like a natural air conditioner when you hop on one! He asked me to wait a second and he ran across the street and asked his friend if he could borrow his moped. Within 10 minutes we were in the country side of Ubud looking at the beautiful rice terraces as our natural AC was pumping! He did in the end take me to a famous one called, Tegallalang but I didn’t mind because it was gorgeous. We walked the fields and then sat with a toothless old man as he prepared fresh coconut juice for me in the sweltering heat.
On the way home I was thinking about whether or not I should tip my driver, since I’m sure he already was charging me a decent amount for what it was (the price for the 2 hours was $15 bucks but remember Bali is cheap). Then all of the sudden as if he read my mind he said, so have you ever drove a moped before and would you like to learn how? Ok if this man was going to let me drive his (friend’s) moped then he was definitely getting a tip! We pulled over to the side of the road where he explained to me where the gas and breaks were and then hopped on behind me. At first, I was a little shaky, stopping and going, like a 16 year old learning how to drive for the first time. But after a few minutes, I got the hang of it. He even offered to take a picture of me as I was driving! He definitely earned his $5 tip!
Ever since I arrived in Bali I have been dying to go to a spa because they are so cheap! They are virtually on every corner. Coming from the beauty industry, I take great pleasure in going to spas and wanted to check out all my options before choosing; so on day one I walked around Ubud collecting flyers on all the different treatments each one had to offer.
My number one priority was a pedicure since I hadn’t had one since I left the states (it was just too expensive in NZ and OZ). In New York, I got pedicures every 2 weeks religiously and it pained me every time I looked down the past 3 months. The first spa I went to was in a beautiful outdoor garden off the beaten track. The moment she touched my feet the magic began. She dipped my feet in refreshing ice cold water (that felt like heaven in the scorching heat) and began to file and scrub off 3 months worth of hiking, running and swimming. 45 minutes later she put the first coat of bright pink polish on my toes and I was ecstatic! I recognized my feet again, finally!!! For the rest of the day, whenever I looked down I actually giggled, I was giddy!!!!! It’s amazing that something as simple as a pedicure gave me that much joy. My irish friends drink tea but I think my cure is pedicures!
Later in the day I decided to check out another spa. When I arrived, I noticed that for a little bit more money they could take me to their second location in a rice field to get my treatment. Since it was already so cheap I decided to go for it! One of the workers told me to hop on his moped and away we went to the rice fields “a la Julia Roberts” in Eat, Pray, Love!
When I arrived, I was the only one in the facility. A lady greeted me with a refreshing juice and told me to have a seat while she prepared my bed. I was in an open-aired hut surrounded by the beautiful green rice fields, it was incredible. My first treatment was a 1.5 hour traditional balinese massage, followed by a tumeric and rice body scrub and then a 1 hour facial. The whole experience was so peaceful and relaxing it’s hard to describe. There were birds singing in the background, the sound of the rustling rice plants in the wind was constant, cicadas and crickets chirped, a rooster crowed from time to time and I could hear the water flowing from the irrigation streams in the field. From time to time the breeze would cause the sarong covering me to flutter in the wind like a butterfly (no naked massages here, they cover your limbs when they aren’t working on them, not like in India)! The ambiance sounded like one of those CD’s you buy for meditation but it was all real!
My treatment finished with a delicious ginger tea and then my massage therapist offered to take me back into the city on her moped. The entire 2.5 hour treatment…..$38 bucks!
The following day I decided to get a fish pedicure. I have seen this in movies before and was always curious to try it out. The idea behind this treatment is that the fish eat the deadskin off your feet……bizarre! When I arrived they escorted me to the foot pool and as soon as I put my feet in the fish made a mad dash for them. It’s like they were attacking me! It was the oddest sensation, it didn’t hurt by any means but it tickled. I immediately pulled my feet out and the workers laughed. They told me to stick them back in and as soon as I did I started to look at my watch to count down the 15 minutes that I had left. After I got used to it it wasn’t so bad, it just felt like tiny little electrodes on my feet, kind of like when you go to a chiropractic and they put those nobs on your back. The fish are quite tiny and if I moved at all they swam away in fear. It was a little creepy to look down because they were all over my feet, inbetween my toes, on my heels, on top of my feet and even around the parts of my ankles that were also suspended in the water. They were going to town! The owner came over to me and said, “you first client of day, they very hungry”……ew!!!
The 15 minute fish pedicure was followed up with a 30 minute foot massage. The end result, my feet felt like a baby’s butt! Well worth it.
Is it gluttonous to go to 2 spas a day? I hope not because I went to another one that afternoon to get another 1 hour massage! Hey after all the hostels and camping I think I deserve it!
#beji ayu spa
Ubud is known is one of Bali’s art and cultural cities located amongst rice paddies in the central foothills. This is where the movie Eat, Pray, Love takes place. When the locals find out that I”m American the first thing they say is, “You know Julia Roberts? She come here for movie”. They are so proud that their little town of 30,000 people was featured in a blockbuster movie.
The first night I was there I bought a ticket to a Barong and Legong ance show. I was told that it was a must if I came here. All of the shows take place at beautiful temples (usually outdoors) and that first night I went to the Ubud Palace. I was mesmerized as soon as the show began. Men came out first and began to play music on all sorts of instruments that I have never seen before and it echoed from the rooftops of the temples. Then the dancers entered. They were dressed in brightly colored ornate saris and they commanded the presence of the audience, I could not keep my eyes off them. The dancing was like nothing I’ve ever seen. From the way they moved their heads to their eye movements, down to the intricate finger movements and they were all in unison. Remember the video “walk like an Egyptian” from the 1980s where they move their necks left and right? This is what they were doing but only 10 times faster and then they would bug out their eyes and move them left and right to the beat of the drums. The most intriguing was their finger movements, every finger had it’s own function and when they moved together they looked like they had a personality of their own. As an ex-ballerina I was impressed. As I watched them there was sweat dripping down my legs, arms and forehead, “how in the heck were they dancing so perfectly in these heavy costumes?”. It was definitely a sight to see. Needless to say I went to a show every night that I was here.
The following day I went to a Kecak dance. This is the story about Ramayana. Remember the book I read in India about the Hindu gods? Well this was it, I was pumped that I would see it in dance form! The music for this particular show was created by men singing acapella in a circle surrounding the stage. They would make a “cha” noise and they would all start at different times and with different tones so it sounded like instruments were being played but it was only their voices. the Kecak dance is also known as the fire dance and towards the end of the show, a man comes out in a trance and he walks through hot coals barefoot in a horse costume. Apparently he doesn’t feel a thing! The pictures are a bit hard to see since it was performed outside by candlelight.
The third night I went to see another Barong dance but this time the music was performed by an all-female group. I loved this performance because some of the dancers were chubby but you would never know because their costumes hid it. I love it!Check out the stage of the temple, no prop-designs needed here! For all you dancers out there, wouldn’t you love to perform on a stage that looked like this!
So I recently found out that my second day in Bali was a national holiday called Nyepi. Nyepi is the Balinese Hindu new year and is a national day of silence, meaning no one is allowed to be outside or you are detained and fined!! So I spent my second day in Bali inside the homestay quarters. At first I was annoyed when I heard this but then realized that it is a very special time to be here and I should be thankful to get to experience it.
The preparation for Nyepi begins 2 days before with rituals and ceremonies. The day I arrived was the eve of Nyepi also known as Tawur Kesanga and is the day on which evil spirits are driven away. The villages and neighborhoods are cleaned, food is cooked for 2 days and at dusk people start to bang pots and pans and carry torches. Demon monsters with bulging eyes are made out of bamboo, papier-mâché and cloth (known as ogoh-ogoh) are carried through the streets in a torch-lit parade. These demons represent the mythical giant Bhuta Kala and symbolize evil. Offerings which are sometimes smelly and include blood (such as small chickens) are placed on the ground to entice the demons and evil spirits. Once the demons have been lured, the priests then recite curses on them in order to force them to leave the village. Everybody joins in to help by beating pots and tin cans, tooting vehicle horns and making lots of noise. I went out that night and there were thousands of peoples on the streets waiting for the start of the parade.
The floats are actually held up by men and children, above their heads and as they walk the music is playing and they crouch down and move side to side so it looks like the demon is alive and moving, it was scary looking! The whole evening was like New Year’s Eve in Times Square and the Macy’s day parade rolled up in to one, except the floats were demons instead of disney characters.
I made my way out around 5pm to see the streets blocked off and Balinese sitting on the ground, playing music and reciting the verses to lure out the evil spirits. After a while I walked down the street away from the action. It was just so hot and there were too many people. I also saw little kids playing down the street who were being kept away from the crowd as to not disrupt the ceremony (it was like the crying room at church). What I didn’t realize was that this area was right in front of a temple and about 30 minutes later tons of people where being carried and escorted to the temple because they were possessed by the evil spirits. I still don’t understand what really happened but they were screaming, crying and shaking as they were scurried past me. From what I could see, once they were inside the temple gates they were cleansed in holy water and meant to smell some type of incense. It was a little freaky, I need to find some info on what was really going on.
Day before Nyepi where they performed ceremonies and rituals to lure the evil spirits out of town.
Night parade with demonic floats.
Offerings for the gods.
Carrying people to the temple to release the evil spirits.
The little kids of Bali
Little girls play with their mom’s iPhones even in Indonesia
Loved her and her little heels!
Posing for a pic!
On the actual day of Nyepi, the Hindu Balinese refrain from all worldly and physical activities for 24 hours. It is customary to meditate and practice yoga and reflect on the wrongs that may have been committed in the past year. Everyone stays inside their homes and are not allowed to speak, eat, drink, answer telephones, receive guests or use appliances. Lights must not be turned on and no fires may be lit, including stoves. It is a day of self-control and introspection in order to achieve full spiritual purification for the upcoming year.
In Bali, religion is a very important part of everyday life and you can noticeable see that in the beautiful people here. On top of that what a great day that everyone is forced to be inside and not work, a true day of rest of EVERYONE. On top of that, think about the reduction in pollution made in one day with no one driving?
We of course were allowed to use electricity in our homestay and 2 staff were kept on board to cook our meals. It was a day of being lazy, not spending money, catching up on emails, working out, and just relaxing ALL in the comfort of my private room!
In Bali I booked myself into a homestay. Homestays are quite common in Southeast Asia and they help to give a more traditional experience and feels like you are staying at someone’s private house. In most homestays you may have to share a bathroom but I have my own room with AC, a TV and a double NON-bunkbed! I am in heaven! My room is absolutely trashed with all my belongings sprawled all over the floor, chairs, table and bed, and I could care less. After almost 2 months in hostels and having to always put my stuff immediately in my backpack and never leave it out for fear of losing it or forgetting it it’s no wonder that I quickly abandoned those practices.
When I arrived, the host of the homestay showed me my room, told me where breakfast was served, offered me some traditional balinese coffee and explained how to get to the beach. He said some other things too but I didn’t hear them because they only thing running through my head was the song from the movie Annie……”I think I’m gonna like it here!”