Eat, Pray, Repeat

A week in Bali for October holiday

There’s something to be said for a holiday where the most difficult choices I have to make are pool vs. beach and this cafe or that cafe.

We were wondering if this holiday was going to happen, as the tumultuous Mount Agung was roaring to life in the weeks leading up to Golden Week. People around the immediate area of the volcano had been evacuated due to the rumblings and puffing smoke – and some groups still haven’t gone home. It was our hope that they would be released back to their village soon, as many of them have spent weeks out of their homes and farms. It is the best hope that the volcano won’t erupt, as that would completely disrupt the economic activities in the area and the people’s livelihood. Some of the tourist trade had been scared off, which already wasn’t good for an island heavily dependent upon that.

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Mount Agung, from the air

That was pretty much our week – pool, book, eat, coffee, book, pool. It was relaxing, I got three books read, and I was able to finally meet my Goodreads challenge this year. Bonus.

However, one day, we set up a tour to Ubud, Bali, of Eat, Pray, Love fame. I had no idea of that until someone told me, “Oh, that’s where the book is set,” but I just wanted to get up into the beautiful mountains. And, I wanted to be able to say that I actually moved away from the pool at least once during my holiday.

On our tour, we left Sanur Beach behind and headed north and west into the mountains. Our first stop was to see the Barong dance, which was a traditional Balinese dance that told the story of good and evil. Thankfully, the show provided a commentary in English so it was easier to follow along with the action on the stage. The costuming and music was beautiful – but I definitely had a few nightmares about those masks!

We did a lot of shopping in the artist villages near Ubud – batik, silver jewelry, woodworking, and painting. I learned about the jewelry process with laying the filigree pieces – very intricate, how to identify different types of wood used for carving, and also how to create batik designs. The main street in Ubud and the lanes around it were studded with various arts and crafts groups, along with shop after shop of interesting objects. It’s not possible to have a suitcase large enough to put it it all in.

We visited two key temples near Ubud – the Batuan Temple and Goa Gajah Temple. Batuan Temple was the oldest temple complex in Bali, and it was decked out in beautiful yellow fabric for the upcoming full moon. I had a sarong wrapped tightly around my waist before we could wander in, and then our guide explained the importance and history of Hindu temples in Bali. Whilst Indonesia is the largest Muslim country in the world, Bali remains primarily Hindu in religion. Each home seemed to have a temple, then every village, and then the main temples in the area.

Goa Gajah, or the Elephant Cave Temple, was a famous temple that seemed to be set back in time. The main temple complex was full of worshipers there to celebrate the upcoming full moon. The holy water well was still and calm, and the chatter of people low and murmuring as they placed piles of offerings around the statues for good health, good luck, and good fortune. Whilst the main part of the temple was the Elephant Cave, a walk around to the ponds, the ruins from an earthquake years ago, and the small temple on the hill was a journey into peace. As we walked back up the stairs from the temple complex, a huge procession was heading down. We were in a front row position to watch it head down the stairs, first with the tiger entity, then with women carrying offerings, children in traditional dress, and men carrying more items down.

Also, just as a side note, if you don’t want to buy a sarong from the insistent ladies in the parking lot – if you have one already or you don’t think you’ll use it again – the sarongs are available from the ticket booth for the temple. You can dress there for your visit. They are free to use as long as you give it back, obviously, before you leave the temple grounds.

After Goa Gajah, we sped off to the Chekingan Rice Terrace, a beautiful, green, expansive set of terraces up and down the hillsides. The rice in Bali grew to maturity in about three months, and right then, it was about two months old It was green step after green step. Whilst I didn’t hike all the way around it, I went down to the bottom of the terrace and looked around. The rice was wispy and soothed by the wind into a musical whisper around me.

From the rice terraces, we visited the Ubud Monkey Forest. These monkeys were very – overly friendly. However, they’re only that way because people feed them. Don’t look the monkeys in the eye – they see it as a sign of aggression and will likely go to town on you. I left them alone, and doing so, I was able to get some great pictures of them just being monkeys. It was fun to watch them and good to have a laugh as the sun was going down.

We returned back to our hotel in Sanur around 7:30 at night, and we had dinner at S&M – Sausage & Mash – which included spice sausages and mashed Japanese pumpkin. It was really tasty – and I devoured a few coffees as well, considering I hadn’t had any caffeine after breakfast. I had withdrawal headaches – and then was up late because of the caffeine. Win some, lose some.

The rest of the week went on as usual – pool, reading, sun bathing, and eating. It was lovely. It was restful. It was exactly as I needed to reset my stress level before diving into the next few weeks of school – including spending a week at camp with my grade level students.

And now to plan the next journey –

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