Sunday, November 17, 2013

Entranced and Enchanted

17 November 2013
This place is just incredible - I am in constant amazement.  I am entranced.  Maybe enchanted.  There is truly something magical about Bali.

We had breakfast at our place in Sanur.  Richard had the standard eggs and bacon.  I opted for the sashimi.  Excellent choice!  Some maguro (tuna belly) and wasabi, some of the Japanese omelette, hot rice, miso soup, pickled vegs, and a small plate of fruit.  How could you have a bad day when it starts with that?

Our driver, Made (pronounced MAH-day), picked us up and we headed out.  We talked about a few options, and decided to begin with the orchid garden.  Oh I love orchids.  It was gorgeous.  It was amazing.  The colors, the shapes, all of that.  The place covered one hectare (and no, no clue how big that is in feet or miles or kilometers or anything) and had winding paths, bridges over streams, a few koi ponds, and beautiful orchids along with other tropical plants.  We wandered around, watched butterflies, saw a monstrous bumblebee force his way into a lotus blossom, and chatted with our very nice Balinese orchid garden guide.

Then we were off again, heading through small towns and villages, past all kinds of shops where artisans worked on furniture and wood doors, or various stone statues, or metal works - all sorts of beautiful objects that were crowded into front yards, or being loaded into trucks for delivery.

And of course a temple on every other block, with a continuous stream of shrines in front of homes and businesses.  Cars driving back and forth (people don't exactly follow the lanes), thousands of motorscooters, people walking.

This is a small island, Indonesia's smallest province, all of about 5,600 square kilometers or about 2,000 square miles (depending on whether you count only the big island or the small islands too) - and home to over 4 million people.  Yes, densely populated!!!  There are a number of outlying islands which we hope to get to, but today we were taking the slow route to Ubud, the cultural center of Bali.

We stopped at a coffee garden to see the coffee growing and sample the Balinese coffee.  There were two very nice young men who seem to be running the place, and they showed us around - they're growing a few kinds of coffee beans, but they have different seasons so only the Balinese beans were on the bushes.  The Java coffee beans will come next year.  They also were growing some cacao, which of course we recognized right away.  They don't process the cacao themselves, they sell the pods to a company that makes chocolate locally.  But they do process the coffee themselves, and they showed us their drying center, as well as where they roast (over a wood-burning oven), and how they grind the coffee by hand in a wood mortar and pestle.  Amazing!

They also have a few animals in the coffee garden - a white rabbit (yes, it was somewhat Wonderland-like), an adult and a baby animal that I think might be a kuskus, a Balinese marsupial (I tried to pet the baby but he growled at me); and a baby monkey.  I tried to take a photo of the monkey, but he promptly opened his cage and jumped on me - he was too funny!  Kind of an ugly little guy, but very friendly, nibbling my hand, grabbing my hat, being the usual nuisance that monkeys like to be.  But then he was bribed away with a few bananas, and he was happy.

We tried the coffee - I had the chocolate coffee (yes, it's a mocha) which was wonderful; Richard had the specialty coffee that sounds like Loyk but I have no idea how it is spelled.  But it's a Balinese specialty, so he tried it - rich, dark, low acid, mellow.  Tasty!

And of course there was a little shrine (which our guide called a temple), with the offerings.  Except they made very cool little flower-shaped plates to hold the flowers and such.  I had to laugh, there were little animal cookies added to these offerings - I think the local gods like sweet smelling flowers and sweet tasting goodies!

There was a temple near the coffee garden, and we could hear the chanting.  When we asked Made, our driver, about the chanting, he proceeded to give us a chanting demonstration - because there is chanting in Sanskrit (prayer), Balinese (also prayer), mantras (for meditation), and something else.  So we drove down the road with Made happily explaining and singing, and all of it sounding like davening to the two of us.

We were off again, on the road, heading inland to Ubud.  And oh, the local colour - people dressed in traditional clothing because tonight is a full moon, and so there is a festival at the temples.  And the road was lined with the bamboo and leaf things, but also yellow and white banners.  Just so, well, magical!  Absolutely another world!

And then we arrived in Ubud.  (Pronounced OOO-bud.  The OOO rhymes with "who" - or "Ooooh, that was yummy.")  Winding streets, little pedestrian alleys, a monkey forest, more temples, and tourists everywhere, trying to blend in but of course not.  (As we know we don't either.)  Colourful, urban in its own special way, magical Ubud.
Our driver called for directions - we're staying at Pering Bungalows, the address in Jalal Monkey Forest - except of course we're not in the middle of the monkey forest, we're just on the road that the monkey forest is on.  So, to get here, we climb out on the main street, and walk down a little pedestrian (and motorscooter) alley, which is lined with little shops and stalls like a souk, and then we turn at the open-air travel agent stall and head down a smaller alleyway, and there it is.  And OH this is exactly what I wanted!

I feel like a Balinese princess!!

Okay, marriage means the two parties compromise and work out meeting both the people's needs.  So, Richard wanted a place with air conditioning and a pool, and a big, comfortable room.  I wanted a big bed, and Balinese architecture.  I found the Pering Bungalows online, and it definitely meets both our requirements.

The buildings are brick with the stone (or cement?) trim, looking like a big temple complex.  We have a large room with a huge private balcony, guarded by a dragon on the top of the stairs, and a Buddha (or maybe a Bodisattva) keeping watch at the window.  (Ganesh is presiding over the tub.  I feel somewhat shy about that.)

Our balcony is large, with furniture for lounging, overlooking the alley and the garden, and views of various houses or maybe other tourist accommodations.  Afternoon tea/coffee was left for us, and we'll see what breakfast is like tomorrow.

And the room - oh, the room - truly fit for a travelling princess and prince!  Big bed, high high ceiling with a fan as well as the AC, gorgeous windows with all kinds of decorative features from carved wood trim to the stone frame - and shutters outside to let in or keep out the tropical sun.  The walls are covered in woven mats in diamond patterns.  Comfortable furniture - a few chairs, an armoir, a mini-fridge - and plenty of room to move around.

A big bathroom - with an equally decorative grand entrance.  A tub/show that is straight out of the hot tub era.  A bathroom big enough to echo.  

Wow!  I am thrilled!  Exactly the kind of room I was hoping for!

We had a lovely lunch just down the road (I had a wonderful chicken and salad wrap, and watermelon juice - I think we need to drink more watermelon juice in the States!), and relaxed after the long and busy drive.  

But the afternoon has turned dark and rainy, with a lot of thunder going on - Indonesia is moving into rainy season, and today seems to be the beginning all at once.  So we're enjoying this sumptuous and cozy room where we are comfortably cool and dry.

And OH I think I could stay here a long long time!!!!

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