I realize I stopped writing at the halfway point in my trip only because I took less photos and spent more time on absorbing the thriving culture that surrounded me.
Everything was very new to me and somewhat breath-taking in that it is something you would only see and find in South East Asia.
In all its differences and low (and perhaps disturbing for some) standards, it has many many treasures. Whether its the strength of its people working together for an effective community or something more simple as colors in the sky as the sun sets, Bali is special.
One thing that resonated was I didn't meet or see a single mad Balinese person. I am not saying that it doesn't happen, but what it says to me is that we can all benefit from being more grateful. Appreciate what you have. Be happy for what surrounds you. Promote positivity to help the environment thrive and progress around you.
31 August 2016
On the North side of Bali, in the ocean off the coast of the small village of Tulamben, is a sunken ship called USAT Liberty. It was a United States Army cargo ship torpedoed by Japanese submarine in 1942 and beached on the island of Bali. In 1963 the tremors from the eruption of Mount Agung caused the vessel to slip off the beach, and now lies on a sand slope in the water, providing one of the most popular dive sites off Bali.
30 August 2016
I realize I never finished writing about the culinary class. The truth is there was so much information I could have probably written a small book about it.
I will share photos of the food we cooked and mention one thing - this culture is all about traditions and consistency. So for the most part, the same combination of spices and herbs are used to make every dish. They are strategically sliced or chopped, and often ground with a mortar and pestle. Their days start the same, early cooking, early trip to market place, and then they tend to their trade - making silver, farming animals, growing fruits, vegetables, plants, etc.
The food was phenomenal. There's is nothing like this anywhere in the world. Even their peanut sauce is different. The flavors are so intense on your tastebuds - lemon grass, keffir lime leaves, fern tips, coconut, turmeric, ginger, galangal, aromatic ginger, long peppercorns, salt, and several things that are not found in US.
The market place was something I will never forget. With Bali being a 3rd world nation, I saw many things that would not be possible to see in the US. For example, baskets of fish (some whole and some sliced like sashimi) with no means of keeping them cool. They weren't sitting on ice, and they had flies all over them. [Fortunately we did not cook fish or with fish! Not sure I could have stomached that] There were tons of fruits, vegetables, herbs, spices, and palm leaves folded into different things, many of which were made for offerings.
Offerings are a very important and special part of Balinese culture. You will see these all over each city and thru-out family housing compounds. They are made to keep the spirits happy. They are placed in home temples, in doorways, at intersections, any place where there are multiple directions at a single point. They are placed low for the negative energy and high for the positive energy insuring a balance in the middle.
Today we participated in a culinary class at Lobong Culinary Experience. In Balinese, Lobong means "low" - their name came from the way their family compound was designed. You have to walk down stairs to low level as opposed to being level with the street.
This experience was probably the most enriching experience I have ever had during any of my travels. I learned more about Balinese culture than I ever could from reading.
We started our day by learning about different celebrations and how food fits into their culture. It is very unlike Western cultures - there is no breakfast, lunch, and dinner, and also there are no such things as leftovers. All food is prepared fresh in the morning for all day and everything is made homemade, even coconut milk and coconut oil.
We were also guided thru a traditional market (one that has no tourists and english is not spoken). Markets are always across from a Balinese palace.
29 August 2016
Bali has exceeded all of my expectations and my trip has only just begun.
We arrived in Bali and made our way into the jungle village of Ubud. Although in miles it isn't very far, it took us almost two hours to get here. There's a lot of traffic, a lot of motor bikes, and very narrow roads. Our driver, Suka, did a great job of navigating around construction zones and situations I would rather not be driving in. Cars driving in the opposite lane wtih oncoming traffic, 5+ people on a moped, a guy carring a whole palm tree over his head while his friend drove the moped things you don't see every day when you don't live in Asia.
After almost a full day of resting, we adventured into Ubud Marketplace and to the Sacred Monkey Sanctuary. It was a long walk and I was dying from the heat/humidity combo but the sights and smells are something I will remember for a lifetime.
26 August 2016
24+ hours of traveling is exhausting but it is worth every minute.
I may not have slept well on my first leg of the trip (14 hours) but at least there was Sapporo and Haagen Dazs.
I did manage to sleep 5 hours on my final leg from Japan to Indonesia which just doesn't happen so I must have been dead tired or perhaps it was the delicious food I scarfed down at the All Nippon lounge - fresh sushi and ramen!
I loved Tokyo even if I was only in the airport. Everyone was so hospitable and everything was clean. So I think I know where I will be going ...soon-ish.
Finally in Bali. I am ecstatic for this adventure into the jungle.
The entire next day will be dedicated to flying. So fortunately, last night was well spent at Dak & Bop with J and the Bodyguard.
I seem to take the same photos every time I'm there as if some kind of tradition. I guess it sort of is. Every time I fly to Houston it's the first place we go. It's like the place you always go on a Friday night - homey. Pictured is the bar area and the infamous bulgogi kimchi fries 😋
This morning we were greeted at the front door by Yoda, the French Bulldog, upon leaving for the airport. I guess he didn't want us to go. He wouldn't move.
And finally, the anticipation of waiting for a flight. Impromptu mimosas at the newly opened Centurion AmEx Lounge.
Cheers to a safe flight to Asia.