Asia Trip - Bali

February 4, 2009 - Bali, Indonesia

Bali is where my adventure began. I fell in love with the warm air and the beautiful architecture from the moment I got off the plane. This was also my first taste of being an American abroad, post election. The Indonesians are as proud and happy of Obama as if he were their own elected leader and the enthusiasm was positively infectious!

I started my time in Bali in the beach town of Sanur, at the Tropical Bali Hotel (which I highly recommend to anyone going to those parts.) My beach time was full of, well... beaches, my first scuba diving experience, being regaled with the most outrageous stories of all of the expats living there and their shenanigans (including commandeering a bemo, a small Balinese bus, and shouting obscenities into a drive-thru window), seafood bbqs on the beach, temple visits, drinking, and dance performances.

Immediate impressions of Bali: the kind of place where you finish a relaxing, healing massage and walk out to everybody chain smoking in the spa lobby; whole families of 5 fit onto one motorbike, which is the family vehicle for most - the family businesses are sometimes in tow as well; Geckos - they're everywhere and they let you know it, with their Rain Man-like sounds and thomping on the roofs. And I do have to say that the begging and trying to force trinkets on the tourists was a lot more heavy handed than I'd expected it to be, even when you leave the popular tourist spots.

I took a day trip to Tanah Lot, which was as beautiful as all of the pictures and very soothing.

I spent the rest of my time in the funky, artsy town of Ubud, near the jungles. It felt slightly like Burning Man in the jungle. Lots of cute little shops - I splurged and bought an antique Balinese headdress that's bejewelled and bedazzles! - and beautiful dance performances. They also have some of the best spas I've ever been to. I had one of the best massages I've ever had at this nice spa, for just under $10, where they make all of their own lotions, oils, etc. with herbs from their garden. The owner is a really cool lady and invited me to see her farm where she harvests her ingredients.

Floral offerings and colorful altars brighten up every corner. There are so many great places to eat, drink, and people watch. I stayed in a beautiful hotel that reminds me somehow of colonial Indochina, and which has one of the nicest pools I've ever seen. I also had the great pleasure of white water rafting through the jungle, along with a group of rambunctious Japanese college students. We rafted down the river, right through the jungle and under waterfalls.  The air smelled so sweet and the scenery was gorgeous - vines and old stone carvings along the sides, followed by a lovely catered lunch on the riverside at the end.  Everyone here is so excited about Obama and bring him up whenever they find out that I'm an American.  The Japanese started chanting, "Yes, we can!" in the shuttle when they found out that I was from California. 

Plus, as I left Bali I even got to experience a little government bribery. I lost my departure card and an airport official fudged a new one for me, saying, "I help you, you help me...". It only cost me 5 american dollars to leave the country, a small price to pay for my exodus...

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