Adventures in Beautiful Bali

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Bali was so much more than a beautiful tropical vacation, it was a spiritual journey.  Coinciding with this trip I started a 21 day meditation challenge and Bali was the perfect place to make this a habit.  The people of Bali were so friendly and clearly spiritual connected.  There are enchanting temples, worship places and offerings to the gods everywhere.  As my son said, hope you find your Zen Mom… what could be a better start than massages and mediation every day in paradise.

Our home base was a magnificent villa in Sanur, with a beautiful private pool in the centre and just a short walk to the beach boardwalk.  Our trip was the perfect balance of relaxation and exploring… ideal for a Busy Life of Leisure.  We hired Nano and Gerry, our friendly Balinese drivers, to show us the sights. Bali may be small but there is so much to see; we played in the surf in Seminyak, visited Taneh Lot temple by the sea, were mesmerized by a traditional Borang dance performance, interacted with Trider the dolphin, snorkeled by a coral reef, witnessed the beauty of a waterfall and other local landscape, explored the spectacular rice terraces, watched the sunset and feasted on seafood in Jimbaran.

Sanur was close to everything and Ubud was well worth the trip with many great side stops along the way.  The Lewak coffee plantation tour was amazing, seeing how the most expensive coffee in the world is made.  The Lewak eats the ripe coffee beans, where the animal’s stomach acids naturally decaffeinates the beans before they are excreted… they are then cleaned, toasted and ready for drinking.  Another highlight was the Monkey Sanctuary where thousands of monkeys roam around in a large beautiful reserve.  When we were not exploring, playing in the pool, floating in the ocean, shopping or biking the boardwalk we were relaxing.  It was the perfect place to sit back and unwind reading a book under at tree with the ocean breeze, have a $3 beach side massage, meditate, have a nap or enjoy a cold Bintang as the sun sets before heading out to one of many beach side cafés for dinner.

We were also lucky enough to experience Galungan which is celebrated every 210 days according to the Balinese calendar.  It celebrates the victory of good over evil and it is believed the ancestral spirits descend to earth on this holy day. According to the locals it is equivalent to our Christmas. Outside almost every home and business is a Penjor, an elaborately decorated bamboo post with dangling offerings for the gods. They are beautiful and some are very elaborate (similar to our Christmas tree). We were out exploring the day before Galungan and the preparations were well underway, many roadside stores were closed to celebrate and the streets were lined with Penjors, a sight I will never forget.  The next morning we went for a bike ride and there were hardly any cars on the road, just some scooters with families (we have seen up to 5 on one) all dresses in beautiful Balinese traditional attire and the temples were packed with worshipers.

It is really the people that make Bali amazing… so friendly and grateful.  It really made me realize the focus we put on material things in our quest for happiness which is so different than in Bali.  The spirituality of the people is evident in the magnificent small offerings which magically appear at the many worship places throughout the island. The people were content and gracious for all the beauty in their lives.   What Bali taught me is that happiness is not found in things but in appreciating all that we have and in being present… I come home with a new appreciate for my amazing life and importance of enjoying every moment!

The Adventures of Uju in Indonesia – #5 Vrrroom

Souvik had to leave our exciting holiday after the dive, coz someone in this family has to work, right? Uju & I hired a motorbike – the advantage of staying in Seminyak (Villa Anaya) was that we were a short ride away from all the shops and restaurants in Seminyak. Which is what we did every evening, wandering in town on our bike.

Monday morning, we decided to head to Uluwatu. I had heard so much about this temple in the south of Bali, with its fabulous setting on the cliff and waves crashing into the rocks below. Long but pleasant ride from home, but a rather disappointing site in comparison with Tanah Lot which is more commercial but more dramatic too. As it is, you can’t enter any Balinese temple on any day except on those special festivals, so the only thing to do at Uluwatu is to admire the antics of the monkeys, and protect your belongings from them. So we walked around hatless, sunglass-less, water-less (all stored in our backpacks), and didn’t last long there. Revived by some kelapa muda (fresh coconut water), we headed back all the way for lunch at Buzz Cafe.

Uju at Bali Uju at Bali

I wanted a good sunset view (such are my wants!), Potato Head Beach Club was on the wishlist for a long time, and that was how we spent Monday evening. Potato Head is that kind of place I hate to love. Such a nice ambience and good food and drinks, but the people and their policies give me a nasty feeling, like I’m a bug about to be squashed. Well, now I’ve been there and done that, and Uju & I had a great time laughing at their pretentious-ness.

Uju at Bali Uju at Bali

On the next day, we had to go shopping for Aparna’s cat – only to be found in Ubud. I thought, why not obliterate that disappointment of Uluwatu by replacing with images of Tanah Lot? After mapping out the route: 

we rode about 20 km to Tanah Lot, spent a couple of hours taking in the sights, and shopping. We were lucky with the tide, and could cross over to the temple where the priests made you go through a ritual ‘purification’ before we could ascend the few steps on the side. Interesting!

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Shopping took longer than we planned, then it was a rushed 34-km ride to Ubud. Luckily we found that ‘cat’ for Aparna, and a few more interesting toys for Uju, but she lost her very expensive sunglasses somewhere in Ubud. I like to say that the ‘devil lost her Prada’ but retained her humour, which is a strong indicator of how good the holiday was!

Uju at Bali

On the bike

The Adventures of Uju in Indonesia – #4 The Big Splash

Diving at Tulamben

And then we all went to Bali. Wanted to celebrate but stayed off the alcohol because Sunday was Dive Day! I was keen to test out my newly acquired Open Water Diver status, and Uju & Souvik signed up for a Discovery Dive with Bali Diving Academy. They picked us up early morning for a 3-hour drive to Tulamben in north Bali. The discovery divers had a 15 minute orientation learning to ‘breathe’ with the SCUBA gear, while I had a brainwave to hire an underwater camera.

 

 

Souvik was VERY apprehensive about the whole situation, and chickened out of the first dive with all those big waves and murky waters. Uju was braver, and early in the dive she decided to focus on her breathing, and leave everything else to her instructer, Made (pronounced Maadey). Smart move. Diving off the shore was a new one for me, and a very clumsy attempt. Ni Luh, my buddy from the academy helped me put on the fins and off we went.

Murky water on the surface got much clearer in the deep. We were happy to pose, in spite of my mask flooding annoyingly and repeatedly. In the pictures below, I’m the one with the yellow snorkel, perpetually clearing the mask.

Made got us some lovely pictures of the coral, as directed by Uju.

Diving at Tulamben Diving at Tulamben

 

We got out after 45 minutes, for the lunch break, and our excitement knew no bounds. Getting in from the shore is tough, but getting out is way more difficult! At lunch, we talked Souvik into one more try, with me promising to hold his hand all the way 🙂

The second dive was at the USAT Liberty shipwreck, something that I was very eager to do. And asked for the camera.

Souvik and Uju descended first, and I lost the group. So I bobbed on the surface, waiting for Ni Luh. I was happy to not see Souvik bob out, so I imagined he had got over his fear. Turns out, Ni Luh had pulled him down just as he was having second thoughts, and both Souvik & Uju believed that was me, keeping my promise. So they went in on good faith, and continued the dive with Made, while the dynamic Ni Luh came back for me. Divine intervention! Souvik followed Uju’s advice to leave it all to Made. I believe he held them both from above with their tanks, and showed them around.

Ni Luh & I descended properly together, and went all over the shallow ocean floor looking for the wreck. She was searching, and I was just looking. 15 minutes, and no sighting, so we got out again, to wait for Made. I thought to check my air gauge, and managed to lose the weight belt in the ocean. OOPS! So we simply waited for Uju & Souvik to finish, then Made helped me wear Uju’s weight belt, and we got back to the dive.

This time it was magical. I got trigger happy. Can you see the shape of the ship that the fish and coral made their home? (Click on any image for a larger, more beautiful view.)

Nothing more to say, except that we celebrated with a BIG dinner that included Souvik’s favourite butter chicken.

 

Another weekend in Paradise

A second trip to Bali within 30 days of the previous one is reason to be happy in the new year! It is the peak of the wet season there, but we got a 2-hour respite from the rain to visit Tanah Lot, a rather spectacular natural + man-made structure on the western coast. The rocks, the sea, the crashing waves… Ah! Some time I want to admire the sunset there, which means a few more trips at least.

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Weekly Photo Challenge: My 2012 in Pictures

First, the settling into the new house, and all those home improvement projects.

And some significant family events.

Mia came home in March and celebrated her first birthday in December.

Mia in action

Mia in action

My niece, Ira, made her presence felt with her non-stop activity and, in Reva’s words, comic relief.

Never-sit-still Ira

Never-sit-still Ira

Kelu came home 14/15 years ago, and refused to leave. This November, he ran off to the hills and never came back. Missing you, Kelubhau!

Kelu

Kelu

For me, it was the year of the water sports.

And finally, all that delicious travel!

Malaysia

Canada

USA

and, of course, Indonesia!

Me & You & Some Green & Blue (II)

I was all set to snorkel (for the first time ever!) off the boat before catching the sunset. My practice sessions with the snorkelling gear had not gone well in the pool, but that was hardly reason enough to prevent me from jumping into the deep. One look in had me hooked forever, and all the pains of getting used to the salinity of the water, seepage into the mask, etc were nothing compared to the fantasy land that I could see underwater. Yeah, all that lovely coral formation, and schools of multicoloured, gorgeous fish swimming around peacefully, tolerating stupid ‘big fish’ like me – simply magical! Never one to let go of an opportunity to try funny stuff, I stuck my ziplocked camera into the water (bad experiment or faulty bag – water got in and the pictures were awful).

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I had to be hauled back into the boat to continue the ride into the sunset, and what a disastrous effort it was. Firstly, to haul myself up to a height higher than my head would require super upper-body strength. Now, while I grant you there’s plenty of upper body here, the strength is in short supply, so all my efforts would have embarrassed any self-respecting person out there. Thankfully, none of those people were around, and Souvik is well used to my ungracefulness, so I insisted we drag the boat to the shore, and I could flop in.

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The sun setting behind Gunung Agung was pretty, only fell short of my expectations with the cloud obscuring what could’ve been a very dramatic view. No matter, it took everything of me to shower and tuck in dinner before falling into a deep sleep.

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To catch the rising sun was a lofty plan that was thwarted by us forgetting to set the alarm. But we woke up in time for another big breakfast and immediately headed off to one of the good beaches. I’d been working on Souvik to attempt snorkelling, and those chaps at the beach helped matters in a big way by offering life jackets.
After the first couple of false starts of tripping over our flippers and swallowing some salty water, we ventured 5 feet from the shore, and how that opened Souvik’s eyes! The reef was more spectacular than our wildest imagination, the colors and shapes unbelievable, an amazing blue starfish, all those beautiful fish in their fluorescent glory! Souvik the Sane & Cautious decided that as soon as we reached the truly exciting deep-ish sea, it was time to head back. So I obediently went along, and after depositing him on the shore, went right back in for a quick second round, to see a few more spectacular species.

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The sun on our backs, mouthfuls of salty water, pebbles in our flippers – a morning well spent! Souvik couldnt stop exclaiming, and I was speechless. O gorgeous Amed, we can’t wait to get back and stick our faces in the water, mask and all!
Mandatory shower and even more mandatory lunch (at Sails – great view, delicious crepes!) later, we’re back on our day-beds, committed to spending the rest of our vacation snoozing!

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