Enchanted In Bali

26.April 2010

Bali

Bali is turning out to be everything I expected from a lush, tropical paradise. The weather is hot, there are periodical monsoon rainstorms, and beauty abounds everywhere I look.

P1100299 All around me is green. The terraced rice paddies in the country-side are a green so  vibrant and fresh that they exude hope for a successful crop. The dark P1100788 green of the frangipani trees contrasts with its pale, creamy, white and pink flowers that have a scent of tropical heaven. They are my favorite flower in the world and when I look at them I am reminded of the incredible beauty and grace of Asian women. The place we are staying in Ubud is typical of a Balinese guesthouse…the bamboo bungalows are set in a lush garden of lilies, palm trees, hibiscus and a thousand other tropical plants I can’t name. It really is like a tropical paradise.

P1100786 The people of Bali are very friendly. The owner of the guesthouse, the chef/cook of the restaurant, the tour guide on the bike tour all took the time to chat with us and to tell us about their piece of this great island. Bali is an easy place to get lost on as we discovered as we took a three day road trip on a scooter. There are roads and lanes criss-crossing the entire island and the maps are not very reliable. We spent a good amount of time in the middle of nowhere wondering where we were and, without fail, every time we stopped to try to figure out the map someone would stop and cheerfully ask us where we were going and help us figure it out. We scootered up some pretty remote roads and everywhere we went people smiled huge smiles at us and children shouted hello. We certainly felt welcome.

P1100182 There are temples everywhere on Bali…they lend an ethereal feel to the island. Every village has at least three temples, every family compound has one and even the rice paddies have temples to appease the gods. Religion is a large part of life with offerings given twice daily to both gods and demons and various ceremonies throughout the year to celebrate milestones or to ward off evilness. The graceful movements of the women as they give the daily offerings is enchanting…placing the offering of rice and flowers, sprinkling the holy water, and wafting the incense upwards to call the gods…all scripted movements that can’t help but to appease the gods.

P1100238 And then there is the music. In the evenings as we sit on the veranda the faint sound of Gamelan music wafts over the rice paddies providing the perfect accompaniment to the fading daylight. A few nights ago we saw a Kecak performance with its chorus of 50 men chanting and providing the backdrop for the amazing dance depicting the Hindu story of Ramayana. The sound of the men chanting and the sight of the exacting movements of the women dancing was so stunning that it brought tears to my eyes.

BUT…

There are a couple of things about Bali that are not so enchanting.

.There is garbage everywhere. Beside the streets, in the paths through the rice paddies, on the beaches…everywhere. I think leaving garbage everywhere comes from a time when all packaging really was disposable and degradable. The advent of plastic packaging now means that the garbage just stays around forever and the behavior has not changed perhaps because the infrastructure for change is not here yet. This is certainly not the first country where we have noticed garbage everywhere (other than Germany I think every country we have visited has this same problem) but here it is so noticeable when contrasted with the inherent beauty of the place.

The vendors are unrelenting. In Ubud it’s the taxi drivers, in Lovina it was the souvenir hawkers and massage girls on the beach and at the cremation ceremony we attended it was the sarong sellers. They ask over and over and over again and will not take no for an answer…and then they’ll ask again just in case we have changed our mind. They are very aggressive and will swamp any person showing even the slightest bit of interest. In fact anything other than a direct, and repeated, ‘no’ indicates interest and then they will descend. Again, we have seen hawkers, souvenir sellers and street vendors everywhere but here it seems predatory

The beauty of Bali, and its people, overcome these downsides though and, even though it has rained everyday since we’ve arrived, we still feel very lucky to be here enjoying such a lush, tropical island paradise.

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9 Responses to “Enchanted In Bali”

  1. Keith Says:

    Bali is amazing, and you are right about the trash. I also found the rice offerings left in the middle of the sidewalks and paths to be a bit of a challenge, you really needed to pay attention to where you step. Enjoy your final stop before heading back to Canada.

    Also I want to know what you guys did to piss off the Chinese government. We went to check your RSS feed here in Yangshuo and need to use the VPN to get to your site as the government has you blocked!

  2. Geoff Says:

    That pretty sums up how I feel about Bali too – and sadly the rubbish thing is true of all of Indonesia. In fact shockingly, I found Bali to be slightly cleaner than much of the rest of the country – Lombok in particular was shocking, it was impossible to swim in the sea without being tangled up in trash.

    On the flipside though – in the rest of Indonesia the sales people are far less aggressive in the rest of Indonesia, which made for a far more relaxing visit!

  3. Jodi Says:

    I’ve heard such great things about Indonesia. Looking forward to reading about your adventures and what you think about it. Hope you enjoy your last days!

  4. eric Says:

    Ha ha, that reminds me of Turkey. (so far the only country outside the US that I’ve any experience) I think you’re right on about the modern packaging replacing more bio-degradable ones yet individual behavior has not. Not to mention the infrastructure needed to manage it. If I get a chance to travel more I’ll at least know what to expect now. Thanks.

    Wow, I can hardy believe it’s been six months since we left Turkey. I take it by Keith’s comment that you are headed back to Canada. How soon will you be back? I imagine you both have mixed feelings about returning. If you are traveling soon, have a safe trip. If you’re staying out a little longer, have a fabulous time!

  5. Dirk Says:

    Nice update. I think the same thing here in Victoria when I look out over the blooming flowers to the ocean, and see a pop can.

  6. Clark Says:

    I don’t really mind the garbage thing. Mexico City is very dirty, but it didn’t bother me. I’m sure the endless hawkers are frustrating though.

  7. Matt Says:

    I really enjoyed my stay in Bali, especially the area around Ubud. So incredibly beautiful and as you mentioned the people are so friendly and gracious. I will agree that your description of the vendors is spot on. It can all get incredibly tiring and no matter how many times you say no they keep asking. Because my wife is Indonesian she was able to keep most at bay but they always hounded me. I really loved Bali and can’t wait to go back. I’m happy you were able to see the Kecak. We missed it when we were there.

  8. Gillian Says:

    The Kecak is worth another trip this time you’re there! It was highlight for me…brought tears to my eyes!

  9. things to do in Bali Says:

    Great photos thanks:) I will be there soon so its really informative