Friends in Bali

September 17 – October 3, 2016

I switched to an Apple MacBook in 2007 when I started my Masters in University. Christine, an avid Microsoft girl, has made fun of me since the switch. I never looked back. Computing life has been so simple and delightful with a MacBook in my life.

Eleven months travelling through Asia and our fifteen month old MacBook Air died while I’m  typing!  It figures… three months after the warranty finished!  It had been faithfully booting up every day.  It has been thrown in a backpack countless times, travelled through elevation changes, humidity changes, airplane and bus rides and prying eyes (no doubt), but we suspect the 220-240 volt often fluctuating power throughout Asia was too much for the little MacBook Air to keep going on. RIP.

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While back at home you may be stressed with how to pay for the frappucino, mortgage, hockey camp, piano lessons… or deal with your boss!  With the MacBook death I become stressed with my own first world problems… How do we online bank?  How do we stay connected with the outside world?  How do we write about our travels?

We are in Indonesia and have been told that Apple products sold here could be knock-offs. Further, prices are far higher than in Canada!  Is a laptop running Microsoft in my future?  I go to sleep at night saying a prayer, please do not make me do it. Christine smirks from ear to ear while rubbing her palms together. Bahaha.

“One of the great things about travel is that you find out how many good, kind people there are.” — American novelist Edith Wharton

Better times await! We jump in Wayan’s bat mobile to the airport to meet our friends Sandy and Marty from Edmonton, AB, Canada. One Skype call a month earlier and they decided they had to come see paradise. We could not be any happier. Together we have backpacked Skyline Trail, rendezvoused in Prague, swam with sea lions in the Galapagos and hiked and smelled each other for three days while trekking into Machu Picchu.

They are avid travellers and hikers themselves, but had never been to Asia. This was a test of epic proportions!

Arriving on September 17th, it was Kuningan Day in Bali… a day when Balinese Hindus believe their ancestors return to heaven after the Galungan celebration.  In the 210 day Balinese calendar, Galungan marks the beginning of the most important recurring religious ceremony. The spirits of deceased relatives who have died and been cremated return to visit their former homes. The current inhabitants have a responsibility to be hospitable through prayers and offerings. The most obvious sign of the celebrations are the amazing, handmade, beautifully decorated “penjor” outside every home.

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Even though Sandy and Marty came off a 30+ hour journey to get here, we go into town for dinner and then sit outside until after midnight under a sky full of stars and a full moon rising. Paradise quickly set in for these travellers and to our surprise Marty is the last man standing the first night.

We did not waste any time getting our walking shoes on! The Sari Organic rice field trail from the villa we are renting brings us through acres upon acres of rice fields. The UNESCO Subak irrigation system provides sounds of rushing water and provides life to the rice, which in turn provides life to snakes, rats, frogs, birds and of course, humans. It also serves as the bathing and clothes washing system for some locals. If you are lucky, a trek along the Subak will provide glimpses of little brown bums and pendulous boobies. We continue straight up the famous Campuhan Ridge Trail, with lunch at Karsa Café overlooking rice fields (by this time we are at 20,931 steps, 83 floors, 15.47km) and continue upwards another two kilometers to Ubud Traditional Massage for a one and half hour Rice Farmer Massage. Paradise continued to deliver.

Marty, who is known to brag about how amazing the weather is whenever they go on vacation, is surprised when he is treated to a torrential downpour on our way back from the massage. Mark asks “so it NEVER rains when you go on vacation?”. Marty claims it must be the “Mark black cloud (BC)” effect (confused? …see the first post by the Roaming Two).

A visit to Ubud would not be complete without visiting the obnoxious, water bottle, sunglass, earring-grabbing, rabies-infected monkeys at the Monkey Forest.

We take the bat mobile once again to the beautiful Tegallalang rice terraces just outside Ubud. We waited to see these so this was a first for us. Sandy tells us a story of her Asian physician in Canada questioning why she would ever want to travel half way around the world to see rice fields. Her physician is confused as to why they are not opting for Vegas lights and showgirls?  Well for us four, Vegas has nothing on the rice fields and we conclude Sandy’s physician is crazy.

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Thinking the day was complete, we were in for a unique and special experience as we visited, prepared offerings and donned sarongs to enter the Tirta Empul water temple. It is considered one of the most sacred sites for Balinese Hindus. Our bat mobile driver Wayan provided the proper dress and guided us in the respectful manner in which we should proceed through the water temple. Splash the spring fed water on your face three times, ask for blessing, dunk head under waterspout, then move on to the next. After, it is a visit to the coed change room (that was interesting for bashful Canadians) and we were on the road again.

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The following morning, it was time to leave Ubud and head out into the beautiful island of Bali. Destination, the mountain town of Munduk. En route, we begin the day early at the jaw dropping UNESCO Jatiluweh Rice fields.

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A few hours later, we ate lunch overlooking the UNESCO gem before moving on to Pura Bratan, a sacred water temple on Lake Bratan in the mountains of Bedugul.

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We took a pass on the hotel we had planned on staying in and moved to another hotel lucking out with two rooms next to each other overlooking a pool and the gorgeous, forest green mountains of Munduk.

Munduk is about hiking in the lush forest, taking in the scenery, smelling the cloves (there are clove trees everywhere) and hiking to the Red Coral and Laangan waterfalls. A serious weather system rolled in during our hike and we got SOAKED!  A concrete step (one of over 200 steps) gives away under Mark’s foot and he narrowly escapes seriously biting the dust. No one said to trust Balinese construction! Oh, but remember it “never” rains when Marty goes on vacation; he ALWAYS has beautiful weather! That night a mudslide closes the highway, the road in front of our hotel is literally gurgling with water coming out of cracks in the asphalt and we say a prayer privately that our hotel will not go down in a mudslide while we sleep.

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“We are all travelers in the wilderness of this world, and the best we can find in our travels is an honest friend.” — Scottish writer Robert Louis Stevenson

We survive the night and Wayan and his bat mobile greet us the next morning to take us to the ocean side village of Amed. A long day of driving, we stop at Brahma Vihara Arama Buddhist temple and we have lunch by the ocean in the tourist village of Lovina.

We pry ourselves out of the bat mobile and our pretzel state with huge grins on our faces as we arrive at our oceanfront $35 CDN/night hotel (including breakfast with the best mango smoothie).

Amed is a low key place that we have come to really enjoy. Black sand beach and beautiful snorkeling await a few feet from the room. Walk down the beach and there is happy hour with $3 glasses of wine and delicious food under $10 served with an ocean breeze, waves lapping on the shore, the moon rising above the water and laughter filling the air. Balinese hospitality, warm, sincere smiles and paradise are everywhere. We stay longer than planned – enjoying the visit, ocean, snorkeling, food, wine and the second presidential debate between Trump and Clinton.

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When we decided we had been beach bums a bit too much, a simple 2+km walk brought us to the Japanese shipwreck snorkelling area. Marty, being the keener he truly is, visits the local Balinese gym and works out with the locals dressed in their Calvin Klein underwear (sorry, no photos available).

We save a treat for our friends as we approach the end of their trip. From Amed, we book a taxi to the village of Sidemen which is nestled on the side of a mountain with a view of Agung volcano in the distance. Sidemen is home to traditional Ikat weaving.

Our stop for the night is the gorgeous Darmada Boutique Hotel. Nine rooms adorn several acres of land complete with a spring-fed natural pool, walking paths lined with pineapples, fresh vegetables, chickens and our rooms with outdoor showers overlooking the rushing creek. The plan was for a hike through the village and into the rice fields nestled at the base of the mountains. Once we arrived, Sandy saw the hotel grounds and her room and proclaimed a very out-of-character “screw hiking”.  We spend the day eating, drinking more wine, swimming and relaxing. Sandy and Marty enjoy a massage by the pool while we gorge ourselves on the best carrot cake with cream cheese icing we have had since leaving Canada.

Many would say a trip to Bali would not be complete without taking in a Balinese dance. There are many to chose from:  Fire, Legong, Kecak, Pendet, Topeng, Janger… the list goes on.  So, following a kid friendly game of rock, paper, scissors we took in a Legong dance at the Lotus Pond. A Legong dance is known for incredible facial and eye expressions. Intricate finger, hand, and toe movements leave you mesmerized and wondering how the heck do they do that!

As we prepared to bid our dear friends farewell, we enjoyed one more walk along the Sari Organic trail, drinks overlooking the massive Pura Gunung Lebah temple complex and were completely and utterly soaked from walking in another torrential downpour… that never happens when Marty is on vacation.

By the end of the trip, we had walked a lot! Four massages (Rice Farmer, tortuous Reflexology by a traditional Balinese healer, Hot Stone and Traditional) were enjoyed. Many bottles of wine were consumed, even more beer! Marty can seriously drink beer! Nasi Goreng, Nasi Campur, tempe, Betutu, Bantal, Mahi Mahi, Cap Cay, lemongrass, sambal, sate, coconut, jackfruit, mango, watermelon and rice were all enjoyed. We even made our own Sangria’s at a friend’s café in Ubud.

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“I have found out that there ain’t no surer way to find out whether you like people or hate them than to travel with them.” — American author and humorist Mark Twain

Until next time…

Every time you look at a twinkling star, just remember that’s us smiling from a far.

…Mark and Christine


9 thoughts on “Friends in Bali

  1. Oh the pics here…so stunning…warm looking. Beats the minus 15 we have! Safe trip and Merry Christmas to you both. Cheers to 2017!

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  2. Your amazing adventures never stop Mark and Christine!! What an incredible holiday your friends had! Can’t wait until you are home and listening to your stories in person! I’m off to Thailand for the month of Feb. Thinking you might be back soon ?? Thanks for another escape adventure!! You are a amazing writer Mark! Sandy

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  3. Mark and Christine, I really look forward to your blog posts. The information you provide is better than any social studies course I ever had. I am sure that on sure an adventure there are up and down moments, but every picture you post you two seem to be so happy and enjoying your experiences. I am envious and equally impressed that you have the drive and energy to take on such an adventure together! Leo

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  4. Your adventure has been my adventure too this past year!! Your stories and pictures are amazing, I feel like I’m there with you.
    Merry Christmas and Happy New Year to you both!!

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    1. Sooo glad you are following and enjoying! As I sit here in flip flops, shorts and sweating my butt off, it is hard to imagine Christmas is around the corner. We complain about winter, but it truly makes Christmas magical! Merry Christmas to you and your family and all the gang at inSite Housing Hospitality and Health. The crew there are an amazing group of compassionate, caring people.

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