February (read about all my destinations) has been amazing so far: Bangkok – my favorite, Maldives for the first time, Milan. Then getting ready for Saigon in Vietnam and Osaka at the end of the month. As if it was not enough, I just booked for Beirut – another soul destination – and I received a flight to…Bali. Present from the company to celebrate one year since I started working.
February 19th, 2016, 1AM
Exactly one year since my old soul met its destiny, became aligned with its nomadic heritage and discovered its deep people loving nature. Read my story here.
I’m thinking of the life flight attendants have (only from the bright side, because it is the only one I see)- traveling the world, staying in the best hotels, welcome drinks, fruit and flowers, upgrades, VIP treatment in some locations, access to 5 star lounges. I know there’s a lot of working by night and then by day and going from -15 to 30 degrees twice in a week, changing climate, difficult passengers, but traveling is priceless. Oh well, depends what you see and how you see it.
Off to Bali, where I am travelling for the very first time. The sunrise is dazzling as I move fast towards the airport. I follow the sunrise until late through the aircraft window and the colors are glaring, bright red and black, deep black. The contrast, astonishing.
Welcome to Bali, Indonesia announcement and soon I am in the opened lobby of the hotel in Dusa Nua. I love that we have our own area (floor) of the hotel just for us. It’s quite late and I have already booked a driver (Firdi, I strongly recommend him to anyone. firstname.lastname@example.org or whatsapp: +6285738254999. He’s very punctual, serious, clean with spotless car, drives you wherever you want, very smart and knows everything about the island from clubs to temples to fanciest bars to places to surf and it is very cheap – around 30 dollars for 8 hours, you can bargain, but please don’t) for tomorrow to take me around at the recommendation of my Turkish friend. I remember my Dutch friend from Maldives driving me nuts about nasi goreng. I had no clue what he’s talking about, so I asked around 10 times the names, driving him nuts, too (yey!). He says he’s used to it – sharing his home with 3 girls and their mother.
So, I orderd some nasi (rice) goreng and I found it to be a steak with rice, but nonetheless it was tasty, and a Bitang Beer – Indonesian. Not because I love beer, I’m more of a wine person, but someone gave me this bug of trying beers worldwide and since I’m traveling so much…
February 20th, Bali, Indonesia
After the Indonesian style breakfast by the two story pool, listening to a local dressed in national clothes playing a sort of bamboo xylophone, we met with Firdi. Meanwhile, I invited I. from Serbia to join me as she shall spend one month in Bali in May to practice yoga and she wants to see the place. Together we decided K. from India is good company and he really is.
We are lucky to see some celebration today and we find out from Firdi that today it is holiday here in Bali. It is Kuningan Day, the last day of the Galungan Holiday, celebrating the triumph of dharma over the adharma, a time when ancestral spirits visit the Earth. Hmm…and as I read this, maybe I was not there by chance at that time. Let’s get back to what I said. As you might have guessed dharma (righteousness, right way of living, moral force that orders the universe, purpose in life) is the antonym of adharma (you can guess, yes, evil) and they are Sanskrit words.
As I write this, about one month later, I just listened to my horoscope telling me I will get aligned to my destiny in life, purpose in life. As I always knew, nothing is by chance. Information is given to you when you have to get it and above all, when you are ready…
K. tells me he practices Surya namaskar – Sun Salutation. I just realize the place I go to next was called…Surya.
All the streets are embellished, the monuments are dressed to give them a human sense, everyone is in national costume and taking gifts to the divinity. In front of every house gate there are gifts to the gods, in the middle of the way, down on the cement, women carry boxes and baskets in their hands, on their heads and on some motorcycles there are 3 or 4 people heading to a sacred place. Reality is that every second place here is a temple and although a very touristic place, especially after the Hollywood blockbuster Eat.Pray.Love, the island seems down to earth still. Indeed, we kept out trail concentrated on the main attractions – rice terraces, main temples – and less on beach bars and clubs. As a matter of fact, every hose has it’s own temple.
By the way, Bali is a huge island. We’re going to the Tegalalang Rice Terraces first and from Nusa Dua it takes around 2 hour drive, depending on traffic, of course. On the way I love to hear about Hinduism and the local habits and the conversation between K. and Firdi regarding religions and how they blended, entangled, modified etc. Quite unique for someone like me who only knows about monotheist religions – and feels confused about them, too.
Most of the Balinese are Hindu, but apparently Hinduism is not pure here. It is a different culture, that’s for sure. Sacrifice is given to gods three times a day, prayer to the spirit of the field keeper is made, the belief that every place has a meaning is spread, clothes are attached to the things to give them life. Bali is a mystical land of gods offerings and life philosophy.
We drive past some impressive building with three huge faces reigning the place, some pigs statues and Indonesian girls statues that represent a dance. I find out it is UC Silver Gold, a place where luxury handmade jewelry is made.
Seeing how people are joyful and how they manifest on their holidays is a great glee.
We’re at the Tegalalang Rice Terraces and they look exactly how I have imagined. If I ever imagined I would arrive here. They look like a valley, with the road on one side and shops, meditation places, small chic cafes on one side and the rice terraces on the other side, which make them ease to be admired. Through the Indonesian items of the stores on one side I see the palm trees and the rice plants on the other side.
We climb down the road side of the terraces to reach the other side, where the terraces are. This side is muddy, slippery, abrupt and not very simple to move through, so if you’re ever here, avoid flip flops and have at least some ballerinas. Each palm tree has some quotes and there are huge letters welcoming you to Bali, reading I love Bali.
As usual, the smaller writing attracts my attention, such as on this palm tree:
“Love is like an Ocean,/It goes dawn (sic) so deep,/Love is like a rose, whose beauty,/You want to keep.”
In the muddy, wet rice fields I spot clover. With four leaves. It is said to bring luck and it is quite rare, but this one I’m looking at is all four leaf. Banana, impressive, red, pointy flowers. It’s hot and very humid. Very hot and very humid.
Some say I have an issue, but I love to photograph my feet as I walk, the whole picture, with the shoes, a little bit of the skirt or pants, whatever I’m wearing. The terrain I’m stepping on, the light, the pace, the movement itself.
At the lowest point of the valley between the rice terraces there is a narrow water, so there’s a wood bridge to cross, adorned with hibiscus red flowers, some red and green leaf plants and ferns. On the handle of the bridge there is a small bright orange wood box, painted in red, green and pink motifs filled with gifts for gods. Bali is a magical land. On the side of a rice step I see a bamboo pole with two baskets at each end of it, for balance. It looks so interesting, as I’ve seen in the movies of rice croppers with the pointy hats having their feet in water until ankle level.
Our eyes never see the same thing, although we are looking at the same place. Our thoughts do not take the express to the same place. For example, rice fields remind me of the handmade arras we had in the living room depicting around 3 or 4 women bending to crop the rice. But I’m sure I. and K. have something else in mind.
At some point you are asked for money to pass through an area of the rice terraces, but I did not give. I am the first to give extra, but no if I feel I’m being scammed.
Even the cars have a small gift to gods on the hood of the car and most of the small businesses are closed. So was Surya, an opened café where you can admire the terraces. Simple style, white walls towards the hill, black graphics – Dali behind the bar, two boys on a bicycle.
I love the hats/turbans the men wear.
Monkeys are walking on the streets with such a normality. Seeing them next to the temples, seems taken out of the movies, but of the animation movies. I feel beamed to a magical realm. Firdi tells us in Uluwatu monkeys are very naughty and steal your glasses, camera, food.
Next stop is Bali Pulina, the place where I would love to drink my coffee every morning. Not any coffee, of course. Indonesian coffee, famous worldwide. The specific here is that you can try the world renowned, extremely controversial, loved and hated Kopi Luwak.
What is Kopi Luwak? Well, it depends what you want to start with. It is considered the most expensive coffee in the world and yes, the coffee cherries have been through an animal’s digestion process (image of the digested coffee cherries above). The animal is called toddy cat and it is quite endangered by the Kopi Luwak’s production.
Actually, the it is not a sort of coffee in particular, but a sort of processing it. Obviously! And it costs around $700/kg.
At Bali Pulina you will have a great time, no matter if you try the coffee or not. But if you do, other 8 types of coffee and tea are included for you and your friends to taste, coming in an exquisite presentation and with a stupendous view. The place overlooks a green valley, thick vegetation and besides it is half wild half built, but everything in a wonderful harmony between man-made and nature.
Small tables made of wood form a terrace under the wood bar – jungle hut, all opened, looking at the ocean of green. There is also a terrace in leaf shape suspended over the forest and one Jack Fruit tree is actually growing through this terrace, making it quite dangerous.
Besides the spectacular view, I could not ignore the attention to details: nothing is extra, everything is either earth brown of green, except for the flowers and the beautiful traditional dresses of the ones serving, even the tissue box is camouflaged in rock and on each table grass is growing in a coconut shell.
Coffee grows right next to your table and everything is in harmony with the nature. Somewhere far, you can spot some rice terraces, which, by the way, are everywhere on the island. Benches are made of old dried tree trunks, having an ultra-luxurious look.
What’s in the 8 cups that come in a meter long wood support? Lemon tea, Ginseng coffee, Chocolate coffee – tasty, Chocolate, Vanilla coffee – light and pleasant, Bali Coffee, Ginger Coffee – my favorite and Ginger Tea – amazing!
For less than $4 you can taste the famous coffee Kopi Luwak, that did not thrill me at all. Not because it is actually cat poop, because the process is very elaborate, but because I found it too light for me, who either prefers a double espresso or, even better, instant coffee made so strong that the spoon stays still like in a yogurt.
So: Let’s do this shit!
But before this unique experience, there is a tour going through a tropical garden, where a nice local tour – all people are so nice and kind and humble – shows you the whole process, the cats (on the cages it says stay away, aggressive animals – I would be aggressive too if I had to poop coffee all day, not drink it. Oh well, I’m aggressive anyways), the drying, the grinding.
A new plant I saw is torch ginger, looking more like a bamboo bunch. As we sit and drink the liquors made of cat poop, a storm starts and it’s a moment I want to remember. Hot storm in Bali in a green oasis.
In this Balinese rain, I’m thinking again of twin flames and how it could’ve been if it was meant to be. To be one again.
Should be time for lunch and Firdi promises to take us to a good duck restaurant. And he really did. The place is called Bebek Tepi Sawah and it’s in Ubud. The place could pass as a temple, or a functions venue. Normally I like duck because it is fat, but the local duck dishes are mainly roasted/very dry. Actually, you get half duck, crispy. It’s tasty, though and it’s worth trying. I should not mention this anymore, because from my point of view, everything is worth trying.
Two young locals dressed in tight scarfs and with intense colorful make up dance in the middle of the restaurant and we follow amazed while we wait for the food.
If you’re there, try a local drink called Larutan, Cap Kaki Tiga. It’s canned and I think it comes in more flavors. Oh, and Larutan Penyegar. One of them is good for hangover, as the shop attendant told me.
Also, try arak, a popular drink in Bali, rice wine. Yet, be careful, not long ago 25 tourists drank a poisonous batch, so it’s better if you know a local who can provide it for you.
We’re heading towards Tegenungan Waterfall, somewhere close to Ubud. There are some shacks with drinks and souvenirs before the stairs taking you down to the water. Since I’m here, I bought one traditional hat hand painted and a scarf to wear in Balinese style. The fall is quite tall and you can swim under it. Don’t worry, be sexy says on a wood plaque hanging on a stick, but I like more the small spring on the side where it says holy water making you feel young.
Rationale’s Something for Nothing plays while we’re on our way back and it’s pouring again. On the side of the highway there are mangroves and actually even the road we drive on used to be part of it. I finally find out from Firdi the answers killing me for months, the name of one tree and he has it – Beringin (Ficus benjamina, the one whose trunk seems to be overtaken by other smaller trunks growing one over another and the name of the white flower that I sometimes wear behind my ear – Frangipani.
Bali is a good place to gather your thoughts, to find some peace and maybe it’s not a bad idea to come here alone. I will, for sure, come back and I’m thinking about either an astrology or personal evolution camp. One of those that does not provide air conditioning or hot water, makes you sleep on a rug, you have a strict program of learning etc.
Still, I’m also looking forward to trying Karma Bar, Finn’s Beach Club, Woobar at the W, Potato Head Beach Club Bali, Rock Bar in the Ayana Resort, Sky Bar at Mulia Resort, shopping a traditional costume in Ubud Market, sunrise at Sanur Sunrise Villas, try gadu gadu, chicken tootoo, seeing Garuda – the tallest statue in the world, partying in Kuta, watching the surfers in Seminyak at the W and visiting Ubud Hanging Garden, going by ferry to Lembongan Island.