Discovering Bali with Esther Alex …

Its been quite the journey so far, 6 days in (its now day 11 as I post this) with my bud, Esther.  First couple of days in Ubud staying at Basma Sari Resort and walking around for hours, both exhausted and my Esther jet lagged but we managed to put a pretty sizeable dent in Ubud and the monkey forest.  It is always amazing to me that you can go to a place and see so much yet when you return for a second time it is like a whole new experience.  The monkey forest was one of those places.  I had walked through with some friends from the Ashram a couple of weeks prior but this time Esther we I stumbled upon a part of the forest where there were just monkeys doing their thing and for a while just her and I there to witness the monkey business.  I, for some reason, thought it would be a good idea to take out my water bottle and have a drink, this curious little guy was on me and had my water bottle before I could react.  A tug of war ensued and guess who won, correct, it was not me.  He worked and worked trying to bite into the bottle to eventually lose the bottle and its contents, water with a hydrate tablet, to another, BIGGER monkey who was clearly the boss!  Esther, had a monkey trying to put his tiny hand into her shirt to see what those two big round things on her chest were all about and then went for her headband and pulled with both hand and a foot on her face yanking on her hair, I think her expression says it all.  Each and every time I look at this picture of Esther and her monkey friend I cannot help but laugh out loud.  It was a good day!

We walked and walked and walked some more through the bustling centre of Ubud, in and out of shops, dodging the local traffic back and forth across the street, a couple decent saves by Esther Alex almost hitting the concrete on a few occasions.  It is so exciting, the energy bustling, bursting, you can’t help but let it sweep you away, with so much going on you naturally want to look around at everything, the only problem is the sidewalks are not maintained and your eyes need to be firmly planted on your feet for so many reasons …

The three biggest hazards in Ubud, the unkept sidewalks, the scooters that come in all directions with one, two, three, sometimes four people on one bike, horns honking, lights flashing, get the *(*&(*& out of the way.   There are blessings put out daily on each and every doorway, keeping an eye on your step so not to kick the blessings is an very important.

Next stop, the Ashram for a soul reading (see soul reading post) and then onto Strawberry Hill for some rest and relaxation with our bestest, most favorite driver Dewa. A long, slow drive (there was to be another celebration in Bali, as Balinese people dressed up in their finest and walked the streets to the temple taking up the entire road) we got in behind them and snaked along for many, many miles.  Finally on the open road again we made our way up into the mountains and found our destination at Strawberry Hill.  When in a Country you do what the locals do, right?  Well I thought so for awhile sitting in the back with my seatbelt unclasped.  The Balinese people having this driving down to a fine art, a chaotic seemingly unorganized one and one that I would never partake in for the sake of mine and everyone else’s life. They drive fast; scooters and cars share the road, kind of, the cars go around the scooters passing on the right side, honking their horns as they past and veer into oncoming traffic coming the opposite way, they take many chances and in my opinion near misses, but rarely an accident.  As we were driving along I heard that little voice in my head that said “Jodi, put your seatbelt on”; maybe it was my mama. Regardless of who it was, I reached over and plugged my seatbelt in, it made the loudest clicking sound I have ever heard and both Esther, Dewa and myself all broke out laughing.  It was a moment.  Always listen to that little voice inside your head.,+Gianyar,+Bali,+Indonesia/Strawberry+Hill+Hotel+And+Restaurant,+Batunya,+Tabanan+Regency,+Bali/@-8.4185995,115.0762842,11z/data=!3m1!4b1!4m13!4m12!1m5!1m1!1s0x2dd23d739f22c9c3:0x54a38afd6b773d1c!2m2!1d115.2624778!2d-8.5068536!1m5!1m1!1s0x2dd189744284c44d:0x34a71a8a5e13b26d!2m2!1d115.1690491!2d-8.2862399?hl=en

Finally after what seems like an eternity of buzzing traffic and pouring rain, we pulled into what would be our home for the next two days, Strawberry Hill.  Esther and I called a “sloth” day and spent the rest of the night and the following day and night in our jammies snuggled in bed reading, writing, talking, eating and just being.  It was wonderful and lovely and restful.  A beautiful hotel complete with a bathtub, a real duvet cover, cool temperatures and the most beautiful flowers surrounding our tiny patio.

We were both ready to take on the next leg of our journey.  We were to meet our next driver at the hotel, another Dewa.  We planned the next leg of our  journey to Lovina Beach, the ocean, my heart and soul have been crying out for the ocean.  We headed in that direction with several stops along the way, the Lake Bratan Temple.

A beautiful and picturesque waterfall that we would end up hiking down, down, down to see, stunning!

Finishing the day at the hot springs soaking in the warm green tubs.  At first sight a lot of unwelcome thoughts poured through my mind about the sterility of these tubs and the great possibility of many children and perhaps adults too peeing in these warm cesspools on a regular basis,  I quieted the chatter in my head, got changed and climbed in along with everyone else.

The final leg of this part of our journey would bring us to Lovina Beach and a quaint little hotel – Sartaya 2, Lovina Beach, Bali, Indonesia.

We would stay our first night and get up the next morning and head out on a snorkling trip to Menjangan Island which is a small island, located 5 miles to the north-west of Bali island and is part of the Indonesian archipelago. “Menjangan” in Indonesian means “Deer”.  On the way we were the unfortunate witnesses of an accident, a dog being hit by a scooter and the scooter and driver going down.  Esther and I both gasped and screamed, horrified by the incident, no one else seemingly phased.  A tear slowly rolled down Esther’s cheek as we continued on our way.  My brain replaying the accident over and over again trying desperately to bring myself back to this moment and a knowing that everything happens for a reason and this was one of those “everythings” that I prefer not to think about.  After some gentle care, compassion, light and love for myself, Esther, the man on the scooter and the dog, who probably lost his life, the incident slowly faded from my mind throughout the day.  It is amazing that this is the first we have seen of such an incident, dogs roam free here in Bali, they are a cross between a wild dog and a domesticated dog but only because they have somewhere to call home it certainly does not mean they are loved or taken care of by the owners or even fed for that matter.  Dogs in this country are for very specific reasons, to guard and protect the premises and to ward off evil spirits.

The Island was a beauty with a Temple along with many deer who inhabit the island. Bali is a beautiful country although being spoiled by garbage.  While snorkeling pieces of garbage were floating right in front of me so being the “good” Canadian that I am I started collecting it hoping to make a tiny difference although I realized quite quickly that the problem was a lot bigger than one or two people picking up a few pieces of garbage.  As I swan to shore to see what I couldn’t see, it looked like something all over the beach front but I could not tell what it was until I got a little closer, the closer I got to shore the more evident the problem was, I was swimming through garbage floating on the surface of the water and below it was piled high on the floor of my cherished Ocean. As I snorkeled and saw the absolute beauty and amazement of what was just beneath the surface of the water; the corals and fish in all their colourful glory.  I had mixed feelings; in awe of the beauty and a deep sadness at the garbage moving closer and closer to the underworld just below the surface.  The beautiful, colourful corals along with the multitude of gorgeous colourful fish, the life so vibrant and alive was just meters from what seems to be a struggle for this island of Bali, garbage.  We snorkeled for awhile then went to the island for lunch as the boat pulled up to the shore all the guides jumped off the boat and starting picking up garbage on the shore, we were given lunch which was consistent with Mr. Noddles that had been sitting in a styrofoam container for several hours, I was hungry but not that hungry.  I ventured up along the pathway to see some beautiful views of the ocean and all its beauty coupled with large areas littered with garbage and derelict buildings with large piles of wood and broken concrete.  So much beauty and ugliness all in one package.

We stopped at a turtle farm on the way home and snapped a few pictures as our guide was in a hurry to get home making us promise (crossing his fingers and everything) that we would only stop for 10 minutes.  Five minutes into our “look see” he was pacing back and forth saying “its time, we have to go”. We paid our donation, which was frowned upon because we didn’t pay the entire fee as we only stayed for 3.5 minutes.

Today a walked to Lovina Beach, beautiful in its own right, a small beach without much walking room but wonderful to be near the Ocean.  Lovina is a lovely little village where tourism is bleak in comparison to Ubud and its apparent as the local Balinese people flock to any and all tourist in the area trying desperately to sell their wares.  Esther and I are “good Canadians” and we stop and talk with each local, check out their wares buying occasionally or repeating many, many times “no, thank you”.  I have to admit I still struggle with the way of life here and how little everything costs, I have made the odd purchase out of wanting to help a local desperately trying to sell their goods.  They believe that if they make one sale that sale with bring them good luck and continue to bring sales their way.  I have one green and grey dress that I bought for $5 hoping it would bring this woman some good luck.

We had dinner at the local restaurant just back from the Ocean near a little patch of beach where all the dolphin watching boats are pulled onto the shoreline which seems to be a hang out spot for the local people and the local dogs.  As we were eating we were watching the local dogs, wander around looking for scraps of food, a momma with her puppy, although adolescent, still trying desperately to suck on your tits following her around with his tail wagging wildly until she finally succumbed to the constant pestering of the pup.  The mama was very skinny without many reserves left to continue feeding this growing child.  Another dog walking around on three legs holding up an injured paw, using it occasionally to move around but pulling it off the ground as she was quickly reminded of her injury.  As we were eating our dinner a skinny dog sat just outside the boundary of the restaurant, clearly knowing her boundaries, and stared at us with her beautiful chocolate brown eyes melting my heart.  I threw out a couple pieces of my dinner feeling guilty as I fed by growing belly.  She gobbled each bite up savouring every morsel, my heart breaking as she continued to salivate watching me take each bite.  If I could, I would rescue each and every dog on this tiny island and take them all home with me.   Esther took her water bottle and poured some water into an ashtray for her to take a drink, she drank and drank.  After dinner Esther and I walked to the local food mart with the intention of buying some dog food to feed these starving animals, without surprise, they did not sell dog food.  We bought two cans of spam and went back and fed as many of the dogs as we could clearly aware of the dominant male who snarled and growled at any of the other dogs who go close to the food.  We managed to share the two cans with as many as three of the dogs.  My heart still breaking but I felt a tiny sense of helping in some small way, perhaps each one of those dogs sleeping tonight with a little something in their stomaches, however small it might have been.  It is just one of the sad realities in this Country.  Dogs are dogs and they have to fend for themselves.

Next off to Mount Batur for a sunrise hike …



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