Bali, Indoneisa ~ Island of the Gods

It is easy to see why Bali is known as the “Island of the Gods”. It is lush; it is tropical; it is bright green and beautiful … There is an abundance of beauty and something in the air that feels quite magical. 

We arrive at night after a long journey and as we come out of the airport we are  met by a young man with a sign with our names on it.. our first home exchange has organized a car to pick us up for the hour drive to the village of Nyuhkuning, just outside the town of Ubud.
After a wonderful night of sleep in a super comfy bed, a soft drum beat of rain on the roof and loud frog calls piercing through the night’s silence, we awake in our glorious first home exchange ~ feeling very lucky indeed!We are in a large spacious house surrounded by glass on two sides, with a peaked ceiling and loft style design. Open floor plan with the bedroom “walls” created by strips of long white cotton fabric hanging from the ceiling.

The house is one large square with four areas: Sitting area, work area, bedroom and kitchen to the right.
View from patio of house towards gazebo and second cottage. Interesting feature of a mirror in the garden.
Ben enjoying our new surroundings on the patio of the house.
Breakfast patio.
View from the bed, with the curtains tied up during the day…

Breakfast of delicious fresh fruit and balinese style pancakes is served to us outside on the patio of the house by the lovely Nyoman, one of the staff connected with the house.

Nyoman cooks up a Balinese specialty for us: Black rice pudding with coconut milk and palm sugar.
Bowl full of yummyness. The crunch of the black rice with the smooth creaminess of the coconut milk
 We go for our first exploratory walk to get an idea of our surroundings… rice paddies, beautiful wooden doorways to gardens, intricate stone sculptures, emerald and lime green foliage everywhere…  surprisingly stunning. Carved stone shrines of all sizes are an integral part of every house “compound”, where offerings are placed for the gods every morning before the first meal of the day, to keep the spirits happy.
Wow, look where we are!! Pretty nice, huh?
Walkways weave in and around properties, covered in moss and leading to undiscovered architectural gems.
Rice paddies behind the house.
A peak inside one of the open doorways…
A neighboring property with beautiful gardens and pond.
The village of Nyuhkuning has several spas and cafes lining the street.

Offerings of flowers, rice cakes and incense all in little woven baskets are also placed outside shops and create a colorful reminder of  the connection to the spirit world which is central and strong.   Even though Indonesia is the world’s largest muslim country, Bali is staunchly Hindu in its influence.  In the 8th Century, Hinduism and Buddhism arrived on the island and Balinese remains devoted to the Balinese form of the Hindu religion which continues to govern every aspect of life.

Three little woven leaf “baskets” filled with petals, greenery and rice are placed on the ground in front of houses.
A shrine with ceremonial umbrellas in yellow and white, two of Bali’s 4 ceremonial colors (the other being red and black), which refer to an intricate harmony of spiritual influences between Vishnu, Brahman and Shiva.
One of our neighbors,  a wood carver, with his morning offering to the gods
Many of the men wear traditional sarongs, but with modern shirts, sometimes making for an unusual combination.

We follow the winding narrow paths near the house and  find ourselves suddenly surrounded by monkeys swinging on the trees and coming down to see us, almost tame in their lack of fear. As we keep walking and see more jungle, more monkeys, we realize that we must be in Ubud’s Sacred Monkey Forest.  The Sacred Monkey Forest is home to over 400 Long Tailed Grey Balinese Macaque monkeys. We both really like monkeys —  lucky, as a few of them jump from the trees and climb onto our shoulders wondering if we have food for them.  (See next entry for more photos of these adorable creatures).

Watching a mother and her baby, one can’t help notice how very human like they are in appearance .
Fascinating watching monkeys which are so up close… Wild and free to roam about. How about this  one’s hair do?
Sculpture in Sacred Monkey Forest
“See no evil…”
Water temple inside the Sacred Monkey Forest
Ben gets a moment of nervousness here thinking that this monkey might run off with his glasses. 
Well hello little guy…! 
Ravine in the forest, with river below.
Best job ever! Feeding the monkeys daily.
On our second day, we rent a motorbike and head off to explore the streets of Ubud…hoping to come across the Yoga Barn, which is reputed to be THE place for yoga in town ~ an institution that has built up a major yoga following over the past two decades.  Nothing prepares us for the overwhelming offerings of classes.  The setting is gorgeous and the place is teaming with Yogis speaking every language (in a few minutes, we hear French, Russian, Japanese, English and German).We arrive just in time for the Sunday vegetarian lunch set outside under umbrellas, packed with expats and travellers all enjoying good healthy organic food at good prices. We eat lightly as we decide to participate in our first class in Ubud.

A huge outdoor yoga platform in front of the building at the back which has 2 more very large open air yoga spaces.
Board at Yoga Barn of a variety of “extra” offerings of music, healing, workshops etc.
Ben as “base” for a “flying” Dutch girl, during Acroyoga class.

We both enjoyed the Acroyoga class. Fun to do, but afterwards we got hit with jet lag symptoms by having done too much too soon in the way of being upside down and physically exerting ourselves so soon.

Nothing that can’t be fixed by a good traditional Balinese massage (for $15). The massage therapist is a third generation healer, who tells me “I will make your body feel happy”.  He certainly does! And so, by our second day we have already found great yoga offerings and a really good massage therapist.  Not bad! There are many spas and a variety of different treatments offered all over town, at very good prices.

Badek, 3rd generation healer giving Peta her first Balinese massage.
As most of our blog readers know, we are hard core foodies and thus quite excited to begin the exploration of a cuisine that we have only briefly sampled in Amsterdam once or twice in the past. We learn that we are in a land that recently catalogued 5,250 unique Indonesian dishes.  We have much work ahead! ~  Food  for us is one of the entry paths to new cultures. We know little about Indonesian food and even less about Indonesian culture so we are excited to slowly begin the discovery process of both.
We start with one of the local specialties: which is crispy duck… and select one of the many restaurants devoted to duck cuisine “The Dirty Duck Diner”: duck spring rolls followed by duck, melon, arugula, orange and mango salad, followed by classic crispy duck. Delicious! The setting of the restaurant is breathtaking, with large low tables surrounded by lounging cushions and views of the rice paddies.  While quite reasonable in US$ terms, our budget will not allow us to splurge at high end restaurants, nor in fact are we likely to want to dine formally as we go forward. However, this was a great treat to launch a new culinary adventure in Bali.

Duck salad with melon, mango and oranges on a bed of Arugula.
The tables with elevated platform seating for reclining on pillows ~ as well as a view of the rice paddy.
Sculpture of man with ducks, of course.

One of our great culinary pleasures in Viet Nam was being able to eat street food – always good, always cheap.  How will Balinese street food fare? We try our first 2 street food dishes.

Balinese chicken soup with “kreplach” and egg. Delicious!
Soup being ladled by the chicken soup vendor.
Crispy tofu over sticky rice, topped with bean sprouts, peanut sauce and crispy shrimp crisps.
Our first impression of Balinese people… extraordinarily friendly, easy to talk to (most people speak English in addition to Balinese and Indonesian);  Handsome men and attractive women with wide smiles, gorgeous coppery sienna skin color and jet black hair. Some of the men still wear the traditional sarongs wrapped around their waists in gorgeous silk jewel colors.

5 thoughts on “Bali, Indoneisa ~ Island of the Gods

  1. Anonymous

    It looks like you’ve landed into something delightful yet again. Love the photo of the Harley T on the woodcarver. Your pics are beautiful. Thank you for sharing them with us. Charles

  2. JB

    This is getting more exciting by the day. I love the monkey shots !!!! Thank you for the yummy recipe of the duck salad..I have to try it !!!! Good luck in your new adventure and my love to you..

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