Day 16-18 Singapore on the way Home

December 16, 2013
As we leave Bali, we have one day and a half in Singapore to rest up before the long flight home. Chuck has been here for business many times and loves this city for the diversity of food.
It’s quite the drastic contrast of seeing the women at the farmers market, in the mud roads this morning dressed in a simple sarong, to the concrete jungle of high rises, fancy cars, shopping malls of high end designer labels, and people who care about who and what labels they are wearing this afternoon.
Chuck wanted to splurge and stay in the Marina Bay Sands Hotel, the newest hotel they’ve added to the Singapore skyline in the last three years.  I saw it under construction the last time I was here.  He thought it would be nice to relax for a day and a half before we head on that long flight home.  Holy mackerel…what a hotel…that’s it, on the left, with the three towers, and the concrete sculptural lotus flower out in front.  The long segment across the top is a rooftop, 57th floor swimming pool with an infinity edge, looking out over the city.  Who thinks of these things?!
Marina Bay Sands Hotel in Singapore
Marina Bay Sands Hotel in Singapore
Night panorama from the pool
Night panorama from the pool

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At night in the infinity edged pool

We started with pool pictures, and I guess we are ending with pool pictures too.

Our trip is over and we’ll be on a 5am flight home tomorrow morning.   We leave on Dec 17th, fly for 20+ hours and when we get home, it will still be Dec 17th am.  Funny how that works.  This has been like Alice falling down the rabbit hole, and ending in a strange and unknown Wonderland.  I hope all of you have enjoyed reading my emails and being part of the adventure with us.
We always love hearing hearing from you and your comments.
Sampai jumpa lagi (See you again in Balinese),
Love, Chuck & Monie

 

 

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Day 15 – Grocery Shopping

Day Fifteen – Grocery Shopping

December 16, 2013
Hi everyone,
I hadn’t really seen any grocery stores in Bali and wondered how people shop for food.  On our way back to the airport at 5am, we stopped at the Ubud Market to answer my question.  Each village has their own farmer’s market, and at 4am, the are hundreds of farmers, open for business.  The streets are completely jammed with parked scooters as everyone is there buying their groceries at 5am!!  You can hardly get a car by.  The women have rush home, cook breakfast for their families, make the offerings for the morning, dress the kids in uniforms, and have everyone out the door by school time.  I was amazed how many people are out and about that early in the morning.  By 10am, they all vanish, as they pack their goods away, and this same space becomes filled completely with tourist trinkets.   You would never know any of them were ever here.

The market...opens at 4am.
The market…opens at 4am.

Day 13 – Celebration

Dec 14, 2013

Hi everyone,Every village has many temples, and once in every 15 years, the members of that village have a celebration to cleanse the biggest, most important temple, and make offers to God, and today was the day!  This is done by every separate village all over Bali, but it is up to the village to determine the timing.  I was trying to tie it to a date on the calendar, as in “is this celebration on an anniversary, or is it on New Years?”, but that made it even more confusing when they told me that Bali has an entirely different calendar than the rest of the world, that there are only 10 months in a year, so scratch that.The entire village dresses in white (for celebrations), and they take all the sacred artifacts from the temple out for a cleansing and to make offerings to God.  It involves something to do with walking to the beach, a symbolic cleaning, a walk back to the temple, then a long celebration at the temple.  Every storefront decorates with a huge bamboo pole intricately sculpted with a food offering of rice and fruits to God to give thanks, and these beautifully line both sides of the street.In America, when there is a parade, people often sleep overnight on the sidewalk to make sure they get a good viewing spot.  It was a little different here…if you were a tourist, you’d be on the curb, if you’re a village resident, you’re IN the parade, so getting a good viewing spot wasn’t too difficult.  LOL!We couldn’t tell what time this was all going to happen. Nobody really knew.  Apparently timing has something to do man’s relationship to God, nature, and the animals…The Balinese certainly run on a different clock than Americans.

We waited for two hours, but we were in the right place at the right time when it finally happened.  It only lasted for about 15 minutes, but it was worth the wait.  It was like a scene out of a Cecil B. DeMille Bible movie where Charlton Heston was about to show up from climbing down from the mountain after talking to God.  What’s amazing is when you realize this is not some show put on for tourists, it is authentic, Bali life.

You won’t be able to get photos like these unless you go to another village, catch them on the right day, or wait another 15 years.  On the other hand, our driver told us, Balinese people are always celebrating something.  Keep your white outfits handy.

We leave tomorrow for Singapore,  so we must bid farewell for now to this colorful, enchanting corner of the world.  It does seem like a page out of some bygone era, and I hope this place does not lose its charm as time marches on.

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Day 9 – Legong Dancing in Ubud

December 12, 2013

 Hi Everybody,We shifted north by about 45 minutes and have settled in Ubud, the arts and handicraft center of Bali.  There is such amazing talent here in all aspects of art…painting, batik, wood carving, stone carving, and so many things that are made by hand. It is also the center for many kinds of dance.In the middle of town, we could hear the haunting sounds of a gamelan orchestra playing from a covered platform that was open on all sides.  The music was pouring into the streets as the 25 or so musicians were all jamming away on their instruments.  It went on for over an hour.  Chuck says it’s just a bunch of guys drinking and pounding away on drums and percussion instruments, and guys really like banging around on stuff.To my absolute delight, we went over to see what all the noise was and found the platform
filled with a huge classroom of about 75 adorable, little girls all learning Legong, the local Balinese dance. Watching them  bend and twist their arms and tilt their heads side to side with the music registered very high on the cute meter.

Later that night, we went to see the real Legong dancers.  The music is haunting and strange, consisting of drums and gongs, and several gamelan,  an instrument that looks like a xylophone.  The notes do not match our piano scale, and stranger still is that each note is tuned differently on each gamelan.  One player’s note is slightly sharp, another player’s is slightly flat, so when the same note is played, there is a twangy sound when the sharp and flat tones are combined.  (Sorry if I lost any of you non-musical people on that explanation), but it explains some of the strange sounds from their music.

You’ll have to wait and see my video to see the dancing because it’s just the strangest, wierdest, and most unusual dance if you have never seen it.  Fingers and hands bend and twist, graceful yet bizarre, the head tilts left and right, and eyes dart left and right, all timed with the accents of the music.  The dances are all part of Bali’s history and mythology combined together to tell ancient stories.

This dancing is just amazing, beautiful, strange, exotic, and outrageous. It was so good, we went twice.

The little one's practicing for the future.
The little one’s practicing for the future.
They start young to become legong dancers.
They start young to become legong dancers.
All dolled up for a performance.
All dolled up for a performance.
It's showtime!
It’s showtime!
Eyes darting left and right in rhythm to the music.
Eyes darting left and right in rhythm to the music.
Beauty, grace, and elegance from a mystical land.
Beauty, grace, and elegance from a mystical land.

Day 7 – Offerings and Pura Tanah Lot

Dec 10, 2013 

Hi Everybody,

Those of you who emailed, thank you for your thoughts. We love hearing from you.

If you’re into shopping, Bali is a great place for that.  There are several blocks of stores in Seminyak, where we are staying, along with lots of restaurants and night clubs with live music for dancing.  They certainly cater to a young crowd ready to party the night away.

We went to Kuta today, another beachfront town about 20 minutes by taxi ($5) which is a little more bustling and busy.  Shopping goes for blocks and blocks in severa l directions and seems endless.  Girls could keep very busy here!  The majority of it is inexpensive beach trinkets, similar to what you might find in Lahaina, Hawaii.  There are also familiar mall stores like Ralph Lauren and Billabong, along with a lot of good restaurants.  If you like a little more action in your surroundings, Kuta would be a good place to stay.  This is a major destination for the Australians who come here to surf all day, and late night party.

Its pretty easy to see how one (me) could mistake a house for a temple.  Everyone has to have a least 3 temples in their yard, one each for the gods of fire, water, and flowers, the three gods they believe rule the world and keep it in balance.  The bigger your family, the more temples you have to have.  Balinese families could have as many as 10 children, but after 1985, the government limited families to two children.  When the do the twice daily offerings, there are always flowers, lit incense (fire), topped with a sprinkling of holy water.

A typical yard must have at least 3 of these altar temples.  (This time I stayed outside the fence – lol!

Easy to think that this house was a temple, yes?)
Easy to think that this house was a temple, yes?)
Offerings of fire, flowers, and water.
Offerings of fire, flowers, and water.
Giving offerings to the Gods.
Giving offerings to the Gods.

 

This afternoon, a driver took us to Tanah Lot, a rock formation off the coast and home to the Tanah Lot Temple, which means “land in the sea.”  It was built at the request of a priest in the 15th century who felt that this was the place to worship the Balinese sea  gods.  Poisonous sea snakes at the base protect the temple from evil spirits.  There are a total of seven sea temples in Bali.  It was high tide so we could not walk to it…maybe next time.We went just before sunset, and it was beautiful to watch the colors change over this picturesque site. Chuck mostly watched the surfers…this is also a great surf spot with beautiful clear water.

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The beauty of Pura Tanah Lot as the sun set.

 

 

Day 6 – Temples

Dec 9, 2013

      They say Bali is the land of 1000 temples, and it is so true.    There’s one every few blocks.  Our driver, who is Balinese Hindu, tells us that there is no day of worship like Saturday or Sunday as there is in the Christian or Jewish faith.  Instead worship is a daily event at altars that are built in everyone’s home, on every few blocks, or in public squares.  There’s even an altar in our rental villa.  Twice daily, offerings are laid at the foot of statues and in front of stores containing rice, flowers, and sometimes money, once in the morning, again at lunchtime. They have large, public ceremonies twice a year in these temples, which are uniquely Balinese. The rest of Indonesia doesn’t have them because they are Moslem.

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Entrance gate to Pura Puseh Temple – no entrance without covering your legs. Built in the 10th century. Warrior guards protect against evil spirits.

Entrance gate to Pura Puseh Temple – no entrance without covering your legs.  Built in the 10th century.  Warrior guards protect against evil spirits.

 

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Bhoma head…protector of the inner sanctum.

 

  Temple Tower - the heavenly gods visit in the inner sanctum beyond these doors when they visit us on earth.

Temple Tower – the heavenly gods visit in the inner sanctum beyond these doors when they visit us on earth.

 

Altar
Altar

What is seen in these outdoor temples is mimicked in people’s houses.  I passed by a house, and could see these black fibrous tops of altars sticking up above the fence line..  I didn’t realize that people may have multiples of these in their own backyards.  I thought it was another temple.  The gate was open, I tiptoed in, only to discover that it was actually someone’s house. The clue was the big screen tv that was outside on, what was apparently, the porch.  No one has grass in their yards.  The courtyards are aggregate concrete decorated with Hindu statues, and the houses have adorned walls like the temples, and altars.

Here's a Bali style house.  This patio behind Chuck is where the big screen tv was.
Here’s a Bali style house. This patio behind Chuck is where the big screen tv was

 

Everyone needs a water faucet like this one!
Everyone needs a water faucet like this one!
Lunchtime offerings at the temples in one's own back yard.
Lunchtime offerings at the temples in one’s own back yard.

Day 5 – Monkey Forest

 

Hi everybody,Thanks again to those who emailed. We love hearing from you.Today was a full touring day.  They say that the best way to get around is to hire a driver for the day.  The cost is $65 plus tip.  Make sure you get a driver that speaks English well.  Although most of the drivers are very good tour guides, we had one who had a very heavy accent, and was difficult to understand what he was saying.  There are probably more scooters than there are cars, so it would be pretty scary to get into this traffic.  There seem to be no rules, and people drive like bumper cars at the carnival turned reality, going every which way.  It’s common for drivers to avoid traffic by driving into the oncoming traffic lane to get around other vehicles.  Add 1000 scooters to the mix and you get an idea of Bali driving.  It’s absolutely crazy.We did so many things today and I’ll talk about my favorite…Ever since I saw it on The Bachelor tv show, I have wanted to come and feed the monkeys in the monkey forest.  As I bought a bag of peanuts and a bunch of bananas, I was thinking of sitting gingerly with this cute little creature as he gently took a treat from my hand…kind of how Snow White sits in the forest with all the animals around her. Nothing could be farther from the truth!!!

As you approach the forest, all these monkeys are running all along the ground, the walls, and in the trees above.  They are all different sizes…babies are so cute and small, moms are in between, and then there are the much bigger, very aggressive, and dominant older males.  They are all scampering in all directions, so it makes taking photos difficult.  They don’t sit still very long, and if you don’t have food, they aren’t interested in you.

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I’ve been informed by the monkey assistant, who will help you get a photo for a few bucks, that I shouldn’t feed them peanuts because they go crazy and start fighting each other…too aggressive, so no peanuts.  I was hoping to sneak them a few until I saw the older ones open their mouths….holy mackerel…they have huge, mean, vicious teeth- yikes!  You don’t want to get these guys angry!!

So I reach in my pocket to get a little banana, and before I am even prepared, a monkey will be running up my body to grab it out of your hand.  They tell us “hold your hand up high with the banana.  That gives you a little more time.”  If you have food, they are super aggressive, very fast, and once they start grabbing at you, you’d best give it to them whether you’re ready to or not.

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     monkey2
The forest itself is other worldly…as if you are in a land that time forgot, and you are transformed back in time.  It was amazing to me how, in the middle of this seemingly untouched jungle, you’d find more Hindu temple altars, the dragon gods covered with moss, and Komodo dragons blending right into the ancient rock.
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    Not far from the Monkey Forest were the rice terraces.  They still harvest the old fashion way of hand pulling the grain and slapping the seeds out, but there has been a little progress and some is now done by machine.  I cannot tell you how peaceful and serene this vista was.  A photo just does not to it justice.
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Day 3 – Checking in – Lakshmi Villas

Dec 6, 2013

Write down this name….if you’re ever in Seminyak, and looking for a great place to stay, be sure to check out the Lakshmi Villas. This recommendation came from our neighbor in Maui who comes here for business often. Twenty taxi drivers at the airport had no idea of where this place was, and our driver had to call to verify the location once we got in the neighborhood. It got us a bit worried about where we had booked and what had we gotten ourselves into. It’s very small complex, only 4 villas in total…3 have two bedrooms each, and one villa has one bedroom, which is where we are staying. Once you open your gate, you’re in your very own living space with it’s own private pool. The kitchen, living room, and bathroom are all indoor/outdoor living with roofs, but no walls, wrapped in lush tropical foliage surrounding on all sides. It’s tempting to never venture out of this place, especially at $250 a night! So lovely!!! image Come through your front door to enter your suite… image Complete with private pool

image Kitchen, living room and dining room are all open air image

The bedroom is all enclosed and air conditioned.

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We’re going to enjoy our stay here!!

Love, Chuck & Monie

On the road to BALI

Dec 4, 2013

Hi Everyone,

We’re on the road again, sharing our adventure with our friends and family.

We left at 1.30pm and arrived 47 hours later, including the 16 hour time change (we lost 2 days!!) in transit from San Francisco>Hong Kong>Singapore> Bali, Indonesia. Wow, this was a long travel day!

It was 56 degrees when we left SF, and it is 87° here and very hot, sticky, and humid with dense, heavy, thick air, and this is their winter! There are basically only two seasons in Bali…hot, and hotter. Whew!

Just a word about the Singapore airport…has to be one of the most beautiful airports in the world…modern, super clean, lots of glass, with waterfalls, kinetic sculptures, and all decked out right now, for Christmas. There is so much shopping, you’d think you were in a very high end shopping mall.

Just for fun, I went into a Gucci store. A tote bag trimmed in braided pink leather trim and tassels immediately caught my eye. I asked the price and the sales lady said “it’s one-seventy-five.” I’m thinking to myself, “well that certainly affordable…maybe I’ll buy it on the way home.” After looking around a bit, I repeated to her again a few minutes later, “It’s one-seventy-five?” to confirm, and she said, “Yes, that’s $1,750.” Yikes! I’m not typically a Gucci girl, but I have to say, that handbag was pretty darn cute. I’m happy to stick with my Lesportsac backpack…lots of willpower to walk away.

Heading to the hotel to check in. More once we get settled. We’re tired, but happy to almost be there.