Sunday, November 21, 2010

Eat, Pray and Loving it in UBUD!

     Ubud is a surprisingly quaint, artsy little town.  Lots of great shopping, amazing cuisine and it's almost impossible to walk a block without hearing some beautiful Bali girl ask, "Massage, you like massage?" Well yes, I do as a matter of fact and there are many, many spas to choose from, but I'll get back to that in a moment.
    Our hotel, the Ubud Terrace was otherworldly, like something straight out of Indiana Jones and Tomb Raider.  It had an old world feel, moss covered statues beneath coconut palms, swaying lazily in the constant breeze.  Steep cobbled stairs wound maze-like through the frangipani covered grounds.  A fantastic view of the rice field terraces off in the distance.
      Each morning, from the large picture window in our room next to the Monkey Forest, we watched the farmers chasing mischievious monkeys away from their precious fruit trees.  The raiding party's antics entertained us as they quickly climbed the towering palms, we were greatful to not be sitting under and sent the heavy young coconuts plummeting to the ground.
     There are some amazing spas here and for around $100 usd, you can be buffed, puffed, polished, waxed and massaged into complete zendome.  The Art Market was amazing.  The best deals on everything from pure silver jewelry, carvings, statues and sarongs can be had here, if you know how to play the game.  Bargaining with those intimidating, poker faced ladies, takes some practice and is somewhat like dancing the tango.  They're not ashamed to physically hold you by the arm to keep you at the bargaining table.  But, if you hold your ground, you've gained their respect as they pat you on the back and say, "You tough, good job!"  Then the smile they flash you as you walk away that makes you wonder in the back of your mind, who really won on that one?
      I plan to return to Ubud someday and revel in its quirky, peaceful solitude.  Ubud is a place to sit back, put your feet up and relax in, you'll want to stay a while here and enjoy the never ending smiles of its beautiful people.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Fire! This exit blocked!

     I sit here today, still surprised by the events of the day.  It began like any other since we've been here on the beautiful island of Gili Trawangan.  We've come to know the locals and have made a few friends, especially at the bungalows that have become our home these past few days.  Turtle bungalows is a sanctuary that raises and releases turtles and we've(I've) even named a few.
     We spent the morning in the ocean for an early swim and had a

wonderful breakfast on our front deck.  I spent a few hours writing and we decided to have lunch at our bungalows as they had been gearing up to open a burger bar all week.  We ordered a couple Bintang beers, a steak burger for Gary and a veggie for me.  As we sat at the bar sipping, I noticed a small grease flare up in the kitchen. I pointed it out to Elan and assumed he would walk over and put a lid on it; which is the appropriate action for such an instance.  We were not prepared for what happened next.
     Before I could utter another word, he panicked and grabbed an already full pitcher of water and tossed it on the flames.  I jumped up and screamed, "No water, no water on that fire,"  as I ran to get help. Gary was helping hook up the small, rubber hose and I ran into the kitchen to find a lid for the pan. One of the guys that worked there had followed me in and removed the pan from the stove.  I found myself back in a corner of the kitchen with no way out.  I looked up and saw the roof above me was completely engulfed in flames and was falling in on me.  We stared at each other for a moment, seemed like an eternity.  Part of the roof (dry palm fronds) floated down and brushed my arm. Thankfully, he put the pan on the floor and I heard Gary yell, "Get out of there, we've gotta pack our things and get the hell out of here. It's all gonna go!"  We ran as fast as we could, throwing everything into our packs as quickly as was humanly possible.  We dropped our stuff in the middle of the yard and went back to help fight the fire that was now in the framework of the building.  Flames and choking smoke billowed for miles as neighbours from every corner of the island answered the call for help.
     A chain was formed and we filled buckets of water and passed them up to the brave men risking their lives to get the fire under control. One of them was my husband and I'm so proud to say, he did not hesitate to risk himself to help.  Everyone did what they could to get it under control and make sure that all of the people that were staying there were safe.  Without the aid of a fire department, which does not exist on this small island, the fire was contained without casualties.
      I sit here grateful for life and thankful I had the sense to marry such an amazing man.  We moved in to our new room, since ours was next to the fire and had a beer.  We talked about the events of the day and were still riding the adrenaline high.  We looked up and found a scorpion inside our room. I grabbed a broom and swept him outside. Ha! I laugh in the face of danger! What else you got? :)

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Escape from Senggigi!

We had two days in Padang Bai, then boarded the fast ferry that took us to Lombock.  After much searching, we found a small hotel in Senggigi near the ocean, that seemed peaceful and quiet.  We took a stroll around town, had lunch at a streetside restaurant and watched the colorful tourist parade. When we returned to our hotel, we discovered the "live music2Nite" sign in front of  the bar across the street.  The next morning, after sleepless hours of listening to rock band karaoke and the hacking cough of the neighbour next door, we decided to pack it up.  We hastily made our way to, what we thought was the ferry terminal, only to discover we had been driven into a tourist trap.  We were ushered in to this grimey little office and told that for 600,000 rp. each ($60), we could have an open ticket to the islands of Lombock on the fast ferry boat. When we said we'd like to go someplace to sit and discuss it, we were told there was no place to go.  Then we asked where the boat terminal was, they said this is the boat terminal. So we walked down the dirt road a piece and around the corner, we found it. Unfortunately, by then the next boat headed to the island we wanted to get to, had left and the next wasn't leaving until 5 hours later. We found a nice man that was going to the island with his family and supplies who offered to take us for 100,000rp., but  the men we encountered earlier had followed us.  They had strong armed our "nice man" and made him cut them into the deal. They harrassed us for an hour and then got angry and tried to intimidate us; actually force us onto a different boat. Finally, the only way to escape them was to get on the next boat to anywhere. That brought us to Gili Trawangan. It wasn't the island we had planned to visit, but  it turns out it's even better than our original destination. Maybe there really is something to this Karma stuff after all.

Monday, November 1, 2010

From Nusa Lembongan, we took the fast ferry and found ourselves in Sanur once again.  We hired a car for $15 to take us to the small seaside village of Padang Bai.  1 1/2 hours and two police bribes later we arrived at the Topi Inn, an eclectic little spot by the ocean.
 I took a cooking class which included a trip to the local market at 6 am. The market was filled with
 exotic fruits, heady scents and colorful characters.  An entire pig was being prepared on a spit to be offered to the Gods later that day.  The balinese place offerings of food at their personal shrine three times daily. On this particular day, a big festival was planned to appease the Gods, in hope that their village would then be spared from earthquakes and tsunami as had happened recently.  The gifts were to be placed
in a small, make-shift boat and set out to sea.  Unfortunately, I was not allowed to take pictures for fear it could anger the Gods.