Thursday, July 29, 2010

Bali: Weekend No. 2

Saturday, July 10, 2010:

I spent the day wandering the streets of Pengosekan and Ubud looking for souvenirs.  It really was a bit intimidating knowing that I had 11 siblings and two parents to find souvenirs for.  After five hours of looking in every shop that looked interesting, I came back with almost nothing.  But don't worry, I eventually found something for everybody.

Sunday, July 11, 2010:

"Sunday was an unbelievably phenomenal day.  I might even say that it was the best day I have spent in Bali so far.  Seriously, it blew my mind!"

The day began at 8:30am as we headed out east to go snorkeling along the coast.  I didn't really know what to expect and I was a little uncomfortable when we showed up.  We were taken through a back alley to a little shack where they began pulling out random pairs of flippers, snorkels, and masks to have us try on.  It all just seemed very sketchy to me and I had no idea if I should trust these guys.  After we got our scuba gear, they loaded us onto two small, skinny boats with runners (like a catamaran) and took us over huge swells (okay, they were probably tiny, but I'm new to this whole ocean thing) and out into the ocean to a small, rocky island where they simply told us to "jump!".

The middle island in the distance is where we went to snorkel
There was no shore and whatever possessions we brought on the boat (camera, wallet, sunscreen, etc.) were left on the boat with the drivers in the plastic bags we had used to try to keep them dry from all the splashes on the trip out to the island.

Snorkeling itself was incredible!  The fih were so brightly colored and many of them were larger than I would have expected.  The coral wasn't too spectacular, but it was still really amazing to see all of this marine life.  I saw many of the fish that are so popular in photographs because of their bright colors and interesting shapes.  I saw Nemo and Dory and Gill and eve Crush (the sea turtle)!  It was such a breathtaking experience to be out by that island swimming along its rocky cliffs and seeing all the beauty that nature had to offer.

We climbed back onto the boat after a short duration in the water and began a 20 minute boat ride to a beautiful white sand beach.  The boat ride there may have been the best part, though.  We passed by beautiful islands rising right out of the ocean and covered with rich, luscious green foliage, separated from everything else by the waves crashing upon their rocky faces.

As we passed by the shore, misty silhouettes of rounded mountains appeared and passed, their surface thick with trees.

Many ended with a steep cliff, topped by carefully carved rice terraces complete with cows.  It really was a sight to be seen.

The volcanic mountains were obviously very old as they were worn smooth into a beautiful curved landscape and the lush vegetation and thin layer of mist really made them something very special.

The white sand beach to which we traveled was tucked between two such mountains and set out in seclusion from all other beaches.

White sand beach - not so white
I played in the waves for a bit while others lounged under umbrellas and enjoyed fresh coconuts.

I know it looks like I photoshopped my feet into this picture, but I was really there
A boat kite!  I love it
I also spent about an hour doing some more snorkeling, exploring all the areas of the beach, including a cave along the side of one of the cliffs that flanked the beach.

My boat, Suci, in front of the cave I explored
I also spent a good amount of time diving down to get right near the fish and coral.  It was absolutely unbelievable and I think now that snorkeling is right there at the top of my list of favorite things to do.  It can be a social activity, but once you're in the water you enter a world that is completely removed from everything else, including those around you.  In an instant you find yourself in total seclusion, but also surrounded by the most amazing creatures as you're cradled by the sea.  It is definitely my kind of activity.

Once we had all soaked in as much sun as possible, we headed back to where we started, past all the unbelievable scenery again, to meet Danu for the next leg of our adventure.

After eating a meal in an empty restaurant with a nice view of the jungle while being serenaded by the vocal talents of Celine Dion circa early 1990s, we got in the car and drove to Tanganan, the oldest village in Bali.

A dark picture, but look at that view!
This village is only open to visitors until 6pm and each home that lines the street doubles as a storefront in which each family is competes to sell the same sarongs and scarves.

A few houses were selling ekat, which are pieces of weaving done in a traditional style for which this village is famous.  I didn't find any such pieces that I liked, but I picked up a silk scarf for each of my sisters after seeing them over and over again in the houses.

Out in the street were several oxen (are they oxen?  ETA:  Mel tells me that they're water buffalo.  I actually remembered this while in the car after writing the post, and knew full well that he would correct me as soon as he saw it.) resting or headbutting, while roosters of every color looked on from their crates - obviously waiting until the next cockfight.

Many villagers were standing around the firepit in the middle of the village where a pig was being roasted.  It was almost time to leave, but there was one more thing I had seen that I wanted to buy.  Before paper and pen, the Balinese wrote their stories down on palm leaves by etching the words and pictures into the surface with a small knife and then rubbing it with charred hazelnut to fill in the small scratches.  In the morning as I was thinking about the day to come I had thought to myself, "I would love to find a map of Bali to hang on my apartment wall back in Pittsburgh."  Never did I think that I would find such a map created in this traditional style and elaborately decorated with designs and flowers, framed by carved palm wood (bamboo?).

It was, perhaps, the most serendipitous thing to have happened to me in Bali and now I have the map I didn't even know I wanted when I woke up to hang on my wall.  The artist even carved my name in English and in Balinese.  Could it have gotten any better?!


  1. Those are actually water buffalo. I love snorkeling in the tropics and I love ikat fabrics. A friend of ours living in Turkey actually just sent us a really brightly colored ikat fabric (looks like it's probably rayon) he picked up there. Not quite sure what we'll do with it, but it's very nice.

  2. I haven't commented before, but I've read all your Bali posts and enjoy both text and photos very much. Got to go there some day! I think my favourites are the monkeys and the moss-covered sculptures. Keep posting!

  3. That's an amazing souvenir for yourself. I love it! Snorkleing is a really fun activity, and I agree; it feels like you're in another world entirely. I'm really enjoying your Bali posts!

  4. The souvenir is a keepsake of a lifetime! How wonderful to have something so special to remember your time in Bali.

  5. So beautiful! And what a wonderful keepsake!

  6. I thought the monkey pictures were my favorite, but now they rank second. What an awesome adventure!

  7. to add my voice to the chorus.. DAMN, son. That map is amazing! And you should be a travel writer. Just your words and pictures make me feel like I am there!

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  9. Sounds like you had a great day!! I have always wanted to try snorkeling and/or scuba diving. I am endlessly fascinated by marine life. I can't pull myself away from nature programs on TV about it. Most of it looks so alien yet beautiful at the same time...

    Anyway, the map is fantastic! I'm sure it will look good in your new apartment.

    I do have a question, though. What is up with the colors of the roosters? Are they dyed that way?