Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Christmas Trip, Part the First

Six Days in Bali

OK, so Randal has a really good write-up on our time in Taipei (afternoon/evening of Dec. 23, then Jan. 6-8), so I'm going to jump straight into our arrival in Bali, the morning of December 24, Christmas Eve.

What can I say? We have both been to Bali before, and it did not disappoint. From the airport, we headed up by taxi to Ubud, and, after visiting a few places, we settled into the Sayong Guesthouse (we later found out it's been written up and recommended by the Lonely Planet, and I can see why). We had a second-floor room with our own private verandah overlooking the courtyard and the swimming pool.

View from Sayong Guesthouse

Randal relaxing on the balcony rail (the stairs go down right there) with the pool in the background.

It was just paradise. In the mornings we would get up anytime between 8:00 and 10:00. We'd shower then order breakfast, usually an egg with toast or an egg or cheese jaffle (which, for the backpacker-uninitiated, according to Wikipedia, is like a toasted sandwich that's been through some kind of sandwich-maker but with sealed edges - tasty tasty), and of course the ubiquitous and obligatory fruit salad.

My mother is right - I don't take enough pictures of food. But thank goodness Randal does, though this breakfast pic is, sadly, minus jaffle.

We'd head out usually between 10:00 and 11:00, and hit any number of shops in town, including at the Central Market. Ubud and the surrounding area is one of the main arts-and-crafts centres of Bali; people go there to bargain for beautiful wood and stone carvings, silver and metal work, furniture, jewelry, clothing - you name it, it's there.* We did a lot of shopping, though most of it recreational rather than acquisitional. I am always reluctant to start bargaining, but once I get my feet wet, I enjoy diving right in. And, to the chagrin of shopkeepers who continually seem to think I will be an easy sell, I can be a hard bargainer (though Randal wins the competition between the two of us hands-down), and won't hesitate to walk away when I feel the price just isn't right. (Well, OK - I might hesitate a little bit. But I'm too stubborn most of the time to cave in to a bad price.) Anyway, long story short, we walked out of Ubud with our arms and bags full of nice things - largely clothing and wood carvings of various types.

Mostly we kicked around Ubud and took it easy. We signed up for a day trip of the area one day and visited a number of temples.

Dragon and rain
Randal, in the rain, on the dragon-flanked steps to the top part of the temple at Bekasih, the largest temple in Bali on the slopes of Mount Agung.

Preparing for the ceremony
There was a ceremony going on in full-force at the beautiful Temple of the Holy Springs, which we got to watch in part.

Randal had been to most of them before, but I had only been to two. Our travel partners that day were a couple from Thailand - she was a civil servant and he was a lawyer - how appropriate!

The other reason to go to Ubud is that it boasts some of the best traditional dance troupes on the island. We went to see three dances while we were there: the Legong, the Kechak**, and the Barong.

Legong dance

Barong and monkey
Barong dance

The weather in Bali was lovely. It would be sunny and hot in the morning, then every afternoon it would rain for about an hour, usually starting between 1:00 and 2:00. This suited our schedule just fine - we would head for lunch around that time and thus miss the rainstorm. Then it would dry up and heat up again. Evenings were warm. Nights were fairly comfortable for sleeping in our non-air-con room.

Now, where did I pack the umbrella?
Heavy rainshowers every afternoon (pic stolen from Randal).

Highlights involving wildlife:

Giant, giant snails on delicate foliage.

Giant snails, small girl

Geckos from the sky!: One night, we're sitting on our verandah, and some small geckos are hanging out in the rafters above us. But then we realize they are fighting (for territory by the light - geckoes eat insects). One snaps at another, and the second guy loses his footing and tumbles about six or seven feet onto the table between us! He made a nasty splat. The fall itself was like slo-mo. He lay there stunned for a second and then, upon realizing he was between two humanoids, gathered himself up, scurried over to the wall and away to gecko safety.

More geckos from the sky!: The very next morning, Randal opens the door to our room, and a tiny gecko goes falling from the top of the door to the floor. This one does not get up and move. He lays there a very long time, only moving slightly when Randal tries to help him along. Finally Randal put him in his palm (apparently he made a tiny squeak at that), and put him in the garden. We hope he was OK.

Dogs: Everybody has a dog in Bali. And they have some real personalities. At least it wasn't like last time, where when I'd go home late at night, all the dogs would stand outside their homes and growl or bark at me, one at a time... Ack.

But the best, the best, the best moment of all in the whole island of Bali was discovering this in the local convenience store:

Best. Product name. Ever.
What a great name for toilet paper. Of course, I had to buy some. (Pic also stolen from Randal.)

More to come later, plus I'll get a proper full set of pictures from the trip up on Flickr in due time (whatever that means).

* For those of you lucky enough to live in Toronto, you don't have to travel to Bali to see Balinese furniture: there's a great store on Yonge Street (between Wellesley and Bloor on the west side) called "Morningstar" that sells furniture from Southeast Asia, including Indonesia and much in the Bali style, for reasonable prices (though nowhere as cheap as buying the same items in Bali, though then again there would be shipping costs). There's also a store in Ottawa just outside the Market that claims to sell Balinese furniture, but I'm not entirely convinced of their claim.

** My pictures of the Kechak dance didn't really turn out because of a badly-placed spotlight. Go see Randal's instead (once he puts them up). Or look at my pictures of the Kechak from the last time I was in Bali - that was a better dance troup (in Ulu Watu, on the southern tip of Bali), anyway.


Freemount said...

Worth mentioning that that Legong footage is being hosted by Youtube, but that's *your* footage uploaded to their site!

Nice pictures -- almost shocking to see, now. Hard to imagine being there so recently...

Waterlily said...

I love your travelogue, especially the part that goes: "My mother is right..." Can I have that in writing? Hey! Wait! I DO have it in writing now! As usual, you made my day.