By Crabby McSlacker
So yeah, we had a great time in Bali, Indonesia.
How about a few self-indulgent details and impressions, accompanied by some unprofessional photography?
Coming right up!
But don't worry, this will be a quicky. It's been a frantic last few weeks, what with travel and moving and all, and I seem to have lost my ability to string nouns and verbs and adjectives and adverbs together. Said ability was last seen somewhere over the Pacific Ocean, plummeting down towards the sea, and has presumably now been consumed by hungry sharks. Ah well. I've yammered enough over the years that some succinctness might be in order anyway.
Best Way to See Bali?
That would be: on someone else's dime.
So yeah, feel free to hate me, because this was one of those corporate boondoggle things, where we were pampered at an upscale resort, taken on tours, wined and dined and generally spoiled rotten.
One of our dinner venues.
Alas, not entirely practical unless you are married to some sort of executive over-achiever type like I am, or if are an over-achiever yourself.
Our accommodations were quite deluxe: a landscaped compound with two ridiculously huge living spaces and a pool, all walled-in for privacy and perfect for skinny dipping if you enjoy that sort of thing. (We apparently do). The water that was the absolute perfect temperature for lolling around.
However, I sense Bali would still be a lovely destination even if you had more modest accommodations and scheduled your own tours and activities.
For example, you can easily walk down many commercial streets and discover...
So 100,000 Bali thingies sounds like a lot, but it gets you a lovely 60 minute massage, and runs about... $8. Yep, EIGHT DOLLARS.
And yeah, you're behind a curtain in a room that may contain other people getting massages, (mostly they didn't when I was there). Note: the rates at our resort were about fifteen times more expensive for the same massage. I'll take the curtained strangers and 15 times more massages for the money, thank you very much.
Regular readers already know that I am a huge MASSAGE HOG.
So yeah, I had 4 massages the week I was there and it would have been 7 if I could have fit them in our schedule.
Bali as a Fitness Destination?
Well, for me, not so much. It was a struggle to get in a comfortable amount of activity, but that would not necessarily be true for others. A large part of my struggle was my aversion to hot humid weather.
Normally mid-April weather isn't bad at all, but we caught a bit of a heatwave. I turn into a whiny squalling decompensating dysfunctional infant when it is hot and humid out.
Still, I managed a reasonable amount of exercise--the resort had a semi-air conditioned fitness center and several overly warm swimming pools.
This one came complete with a rainbow.
But there was no hour of the morning early enough to feel cool and comfortable walking around, which was a pity as there was tons to see.
However, if you like to swim, surf, dive, or snorkel, you are in luck!
In fact, the highlight for me in terms of exercise was a lovely snorkeling excursion. But it was expensive and not part of the corporate spoiling, plus it involved a long drive and boat ride, so wasn't a practical daily event, at least not from our resort in Jimbaran. But we saw lots of gorgeous fish and coral and aside from a few jelly-fish welts I took back with me, it was awesome.
Food in Bali
I am going to be a shitty reporter on this issue, because we mostly ate at the resort or in carefully curated, western-friendly venues.
But we ate lots of Indonesian cuisine, and even our possibly inauthentic version was delicious! To me it seemed sort of a cross between Thai and Indian, with curries and tropical flavors and coconuty sauces and nuts and cilantro and lots of fresh seafood and fruits and vegetables.
Fake but handy fruit market at the breakfast buffet
Sigh. I miss those breakfasts!
One culinary highlight was the weird-ass fruit; very tasty! I fell in love with mangosteen (not pictured) and snake fruit in particular. Oddly enough though, I can't find them in the produce aisles at the local Stop n' Shop.
(And this scary looking thing wasn't bad either).
People and Arts and Culture and Sights and Stuff
Aside from the souvenir hawkers who could be relentless (and who could blame them with busloads of pampered Americans throwing cash around), the people of Bali seemed incredibly warm, graceful and peaceful, yet also energetic and resourceful.
I didn't get any pictures of the massively chaotic roadways but they were, um, interesting! The lanes were filled mostly with scooters and motorcycles (with up to 4 people on them at times, or stacks of boxes 10 feet high) but there were also plenty of other vehicles, large and small, often overloaded, and none of them seemed to follow the rules to which we Westerners were accustomed. But the free-for-all style of road navigation seemed to work for them, even if it scared the beejezus out of us.
The Balinese are mostly Hindu (even though the rest of Indonesia is mostly Islamic), and especially in the villages people are very religious. There are offerings everywhere and celebrations and temples and processions and the people take this stuff pretty seriously.
Offerings and more offerings!
Worshippers leaving temple
Our tours included some visits to Balinese homes, which felt very weird and intrusive, but also fascinating. And I believe enough monetary compensation was involved for them not to feel too inconvenienced by our popping in and checking it out.
Houses are generally multi-generational compounds, with mostly outdoor living spaces but with buildings for cooking, animal husbandry, religious purposes, sleeping etc.
A room in a wealthy guy's house;
most live more modestly
I think chickens lived in this one
Middle class kitchen, and boy was it hot in there.
In some ways, culturally, we have a lot to learn from the Balinese. They are extremely community and family oriented and there are practically no homeless and there is little crime. The family and church and village take care of pretty much everything and everyone.
On the other hand, there is a caste system: if you are born into the lowest caste, tough luck! Be good and sit tight and wait for your next life, and maybe you'll be higher.
And women are pretty much screwed in terms of rights. Only sons can inherit property, and women must go live in their husbands compound after they marry. If the husband dies or there is a (very rare) divorce, the kids belong to the husbands family.
So with the stability of a traditional culture come some drawbacks that some of us would find pretty damn intolerable.
But on a lighter note...
Dancing and performing is very big in Bali, and the dancing is incredibly intricate; even eye movements are coordinated.
Balinese dancers (students at the deaf school) waiting to perform.
(They were awesome)
It's green and pretty in Bali!
Where rice comes from apparently.
Not just beaches!
But coastal views rock
They have exotic animals too. I didn't go to the elephant sanctuary, that was an option, but did check out some monkeys and bats.
Warning! Important Public Service Announcement:
Travel to Bali is addictive and may serve as a gateway drug, make you more and more greedy for international adventures. I sure am feeling piggy for more travel.
Whew! Not so succinct after all. But it's also good to be back. What have y'all been up to? What plans for summer, which is (yikes!) right around the corner?