November 22, 2015

Postcard from Bali

Hi travellers! It's been awhile.

This Bali trip was decided on a whim. I wanted a quick getaway as I'd been all work, no play for most of 2015. Besides that, I'd watched the Pontianak Harum Sundal Malam films which featured really lovely gamelan music and dances, despite a plot riddled with more holes than Sponge Bob.

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Pretty Maya Karin playing the main character

Since I had a conference in October in Singapore, I thought, "Why not Bali?" Serendipity had my brother, Sean, tag along as he was on his semester break.

I chose Ubud for a more cultural experience; on hindsight, we should've shifted to a beach resort after my sports accident, which occurred a week before our trip and required me to use crutches, a cast as well as be non-weight bearing (i.e. I couldn't put any weight on my right foot). Anyway, we stayed at Tanah Semujan guesthouse, which was affordable and near the main road, Jl. Raya Ubud. The owners were simply lovely, and so were the pancakes! Disclaimer: the pool isn't as huge as the photos suggest...!

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The lime brings out the flavour of the shaved coconut - genius. Need to try this!
Ready to be sexy on the beach in his BroScienceLife shirt!

Our first day was lazy, so we decided to hit up the Gianyar night market, about 20 minutes away. We probably should've saved dinner for the night market - shopping, whether for cheap or touristy souvenirs, wasn't impressive.

We spent Day 2 with tour guide Made (Galih Bali Tours) on his Kintamani Bali volcano tour. Made was an amazing guide and in general a really lovely chap - attentive to our needs, warm and smiley, and more than happy to introduce his culture to us! I wholeheartedly recommend him if you're visiting, but don't just take my word for it - here's his TripAdvisor page!

Our first stop was a family home compound, and then the barong and keris dance at Batubulan Village. 

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Definitely in love with Balinese art. Made told us that each village has its own expertise, be it in painting, textiles, wood carving, metalworking or sculpture, and this was evident as we drove through various villages. So intricate and lovely.

We visited Pura Tirta Empul in Tampaksiring, where the Balinese will bathe in the sacred springs for purification. Each fountain has its particular purpose.

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Look at how clear the water is!
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One of the worship platforms.
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In Bali you see this offering to the gods everywhere, even on the streets, called canang sari.

Next stop: lunch facing the Mount Batur volcano! The buffet was just alright - nothing to scream about, but the view was spectacular. If you're in good shape, I would suggest hiking up Batur... that's on my next Bali itinerary.

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We also managed to sample kopi luwak at Bali Pulina Agro Tourism at a fraction of overseas retail prices, overlooking rice terraces...
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...and visit Tegallalang's famed rice terraces (next trip: Jatiluwih terrace, which is a UNESCO site). Overall, the tour with Made lasted from 8:30am - approx. 5pm.

After dinner, Sean and I caught the wayang kulit (shadow puppet play) at Oka Kartini Bungalows. Honestly it was quite underwhelming and not worth all the exertion spent dragging my sorry cast over 1km from our guesthouse... Sorry, Sean, your sister is a stubborn ox.  

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We spent the last day lounging and napping at Tanah Semujan, before driving out to Sanur:

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Despite my handicap, I really enjoyed Bali. Having been based in a frenetic city like Hong Kong, it was good to get out and be surrounded by so much nature - green fields of rice, some freshly sown and others ready for the reaping; blue skies with few clouds.

I also felt touched by the Balinese community spirit - the temples are owned by the community and the village takes part in the family's major events, be it marriages or deaths. This is a beautiful video into how the Balinese community comes together, during the ngaben (funeral) ritual:

Bali, thank you for your hospitality. I'll be back for sure!

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