So Alex published his photos before I got to writing this post, and as I thought on how I want to share our experience so far in Indonesia, I was finally able to formulate something. All of our time this far has been on only one of the 17k islands in the country of Indonesia, and that is Bali. Alex is currently in Sumatra as I write this, but that will be another post as I am sure he has been capturing some cool stuff while there.
But for today, its all about Bali.
We have been here for almost 2 months now, and it seems like it has flown by. We landed in Denpasar late at night on February 6 and our first stop was in Nusa Dua. We both agreed that once in our hotel there, it felt like we were really on vacation for the first time since we left on this journey. Mainly because we felt the distinction of the Balinese culture in everything right away- as well as being able to finally breathe when we went to pay for dinner for lack of shock at the food cost. We spent a little over a week in Nusa Dua, which I will try to summarize. It is one of the more touristy areas of Bali, as most of the South part of the island has become, however it was very obviously catered to tourists from other Asian countries. Lots of big tour buses and shopping not seemingly marketed at western tourists as in other areas. With that said, the hotels in Nusa Dua are very beautiful and are designed with Balinese attention to detail and making things more visually attractive. The first thing I saw is the lovely small grass basket offerings at every entry way to buildings, restaurants, and pretty much anywhere else that makes sense to the religious practice they do every day. There are usually flowers, small food items and incense in the offerings to the Hindu Gods that the Balinese honor- as well as other random things like cigarettes and cash. When asked, they also told me that the reason Balinese make things beautiful and pretty (which we call art, and they don’t have word for art) is to also serve the Gods and please them.
Alex found a couple of good surf spots in Nusa Dua and had to have a fishermans boat drop him off out past the reef where the wave was since it was a super far paddle out. We spent my birthday there on Feb 9, and Alex and the hotel staff surprised me with a chocolate cake at breakfast- clearly a high point of this part of the trip for me haha. I also from there took a car up a little ways to Sanur for the day for a great first Balinese cooking class. The teacher took us to her local market and showed us many new and exotic for me- ingredients. New kinds of fruits, spices, vegetables and she also taught us how to negotiate prices on things.
Balinese cooking uses many of the same spices but in different ways for different dishes. Shallots, garlic, chilis, kefir lime leaves, lemon grass, turmeric, ginger, galangal, coriander, and a few others are the base of their curries and the national staple of their fried rice dish called Nasi Goreng. I have majorly simplified a beautiful and complex cuisine here, and will try to get just a food post up as we live here longer. I am loving the food and want to honor and share it.
From Nusa Dua, the surf was picking up so we went up to Keramas which is a famous surf spot with a large, consistent right hand break- and the blackest sand I have ever seen. We stayed at Komune surf club which is the only real hotel there on the beach. Since the waves were good, there were some pros hanging around and we got to watch some good surfing and Alex caught a few himself.
After the waves at Keramas, it was time to head inland and upward to Ubud. Ubud is arguably the biggest cultural center of Bali. The most incredible Balinese artisans work and have so many amazing products in the surrounding area and center of Ubud. Wood carvers, furniture makers, batik artists, silver smiths, and many other beautiful shops can be found.
We chose to take a few classes ourselves and get a better idea of how these things are created. I took another amazing cooking class, Alex took a wood carving and batik class, and we took a ceramics class together at the studio of a local pottery maker. It was so fun and we both really enjoyed getting to learn and be creative in the middle of such a beautiful creative town. Ubud has a crowded bustling town center with backpacker hostels, tons of shops, restaurants and temples lining the narrow streets. The energy of the place is awesome. We spent an entire afternoon in the Monkey Forest Temple which Alex made a hilarious video of. It was really cool to be so close to the monkeys and just watch how they behave and socialize. And, there is a large in use temple in the area where they people go for their many ceremonies.
The Balinese have constant ceremonies. I wont even pretend to fully understand what they are all for but what I am understanding is that they are more like blessings and traditions unique to each village, and temple and family. For example, they have an electronics ceremony where the people decorate their cars and motor bikes to bless them and even cell phones and computers. When there is a ceremony in ones village, they miss work or come late dressed in their traditional sarongs and other attire.
I am really enjoying this part of the culture though. There is such an obvious commitment to tradition and the people take pride in it. They will always tell you when they had a ceremony in their village- and the longer we are here, the more we can just tell when it is one of those days.
Up out of the bustling down town part of Ubud, are rolling hills that are topped with miles of rice fields. It is so peaceful and amazing up in those rice fields. We got to stay in a house up there and enjoy the views of the sun coming up and down over the reflection on the water flooding the fields.
From there, we then came back down south to the area on the Bukit Peninsula called Uluwatu. Directly across the southernmost peninsula from Nusa Dua- the Uluwatu area is much less developed and still a bit rural. It also happens to have several of the best surf spots on the island, so we figured we would be here a while- just no idea how long. I have a lovely friend who I knew was living in this area, but had not really spoken to in years-just in touch due to the also lovely phenomenon of social media. I reached out to her as she is a yoga teacher and I was looking forward to getting in some much needed yoga while we were staying.
Little did I know that this place would grab us and not let us go, but in the best possible way. The minute we got to the Bukit and met a few more like minded travelers- I took some yoga classes in the most incredible ocean cliff studio, and we both got used to getting around on motor bikes, we have been hooked. Uluwatu is a great combination of travelers mixed with community minded ex-pats. Mostly surfers and their partners enjoying the company of each other while integrating in to the local Balinese culture as much as possible. We have really enjoyed getting to see what daily life is like here so we have decided to extend our visas for 6 months and give it a shot to see what happens. So far so good, and we are feeling at home for the first time in months. I will also spend some time soon on a post just about life here over the time we stay, but figured I had a lot to fill in since its been almost 2 months in Bali. This weekend is Balinese New Year holiday called Nyepi. I will be going back over to Nusa Dua with some friends to stay in a hotel since the main part of the holiday is that you cannot talk or go outside or have your lights on or even talk in your home. This is to cleanse the island of all bad spirits and start out the new year in a positive way. Since Alex is gone, I have opted out of solo silent isolation for the holiday and will enjoy a more relaxed yet still respectful version of this holiday on the other side of the peninsula.
There will be much more to come on Bali and Indonesia while we are here, but that’s enough for now I think.. Off to ask one of the caregivers of the property we are staying at to jump my motorbike battery- I left the lights on last night, oops!