Friday, June 15, 2012


Since I am already hopelessly behind anyway, I am deviating from my normal chronologic order of events and sending you straight to Bali. That means I am (for now) bypassing our amazing experience helping with research on a small island in the Great Barrier Reef, plus the exceptional experience of cutting vegetables and serving meals for over 400 mountain bikers and support personnel on a fundraising bike race across the Kimberley in the far NW of Australia. More on those later...

We arrived in Bali four days ago and our heads are still spinning. The sheer number of people is staggering. Especially after driving across one of the more barren and unpopulated areas on the planet... Thankfully, the people are kind and often smiling, and we are warming up to a culture far different from our own.

Once again we booked some of our places through airbnb, and we promise to buy stock if they go public. Our first place was a room off a surfer's house, with our own entrance. Here is the view of the pool.

Our garden pool in Sanur, Bali
We entered through a small double door that is around a corner so the bad spirits couldn't follow us. I guess the baddies have a hard time turning. They also have a hard time getting over the tall walls that enclose most homes. Our entrance was near an alter so that may have protected us as well. It was a quiet haven in a busy neighborhood!

Fishing boats on the beach at Sanur
We purposefully chose to avoid Kuta, the busiest tourist area of Bali frequented by partying Aussie surfers, and went to Sanur where the smaller beach attracts a quieter crowd. There is a strip of hotels along the beach where you could pretend you were in Bali, but if you didn't leave the hotel grounds you would miss the wandering chickens, skinny dogs, playing children, and colorful offerings in front of all the small shops.

An offering to appease the demons
A significant portion of many people's days (especially the women's) goes to creating these offerings. Some go on the ground to appease the demons and some go on the alters of gods and goddesses in the pantheon of the Balinese Hindu religion.

All dressed up, fed and smoking a cigarette!
Alters and temples are everywhere. A tree can be a temple, decorated with the black and white checked cloth like you see above. The black and white crosses to make grey which represents a fundamental part of this religion - the balancing of good and evil, black and white, yin and yang. Within all good there is some bad and within the bad there is some good. That is my understanding, though take everything I say with the caveat that I am a poorly informed tourist in a wonderful place...

Both Darrell and I are more comfortable in the wilds of nature than in the throes of humans, and there are people almost everywhere here! The streets are especially insane with lane lines being a mere suggestion of where traffic should flow. Motor scooters are ever present and weave between cars and trucks on every road. We've had two "drivers" and they have both been very adept at avoiding accidents while actually moving down the road. I wouldn't have escaped the airport from the sheer fear of driving in this madness.

Transporting rice and coconuts on a quiet stretch of road
We spent three days in Sanur and then paid one of the ubiquitous drivers to take us to Ubud, the artistic center of Bali up in the hills away from the sea. Our new airbnb host is a Norwegian that calls himself "Dr. PhiloArt" and has his own self-realization gig going on here. His home has two extra rooms he rents out with views over the rice paddies, so - unless you count the cacophony of constantly crowing roosters, and madly croaking frogs - it is another peaceful haven on the edges of a crowded town.

Dr. PhiloArt's home, surrounded by rice fields
I haven't mentioned the delicious local food, the overall affordable prices despite my complete inability to barter, or other aspects of Bali we are learning to appreciate. But I will leave you with two more images showcasing the juxtaposition of modern and old, and the sweetness of rice fields in the late afternoon sun!

The old and the new - balance in Bali

Late afternoon in the rice fields

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