Archive | August, 2015

KUTA BEACH BALI

24 Aug

 KUTA BEACH BALI INDONESIA
Of all of the places I traveled in 1974, Bali seems to have changed the most. When I lived there for six weeks on the western side of the island, an isthmus where Kuta beach lies, I saw one high rise hotel only! Now, I don’t even recognize Bali with all its skyscrapers. I loved living in the losman with its ultra friendly owners and their children. I prefer the streets with long-haired pigs running around rather than cars. I feel so fortunate to have traveled at a time when for nine moths of traveling slowly through Asia, I never paid more than $.50. That cover my half, one dollar for a room!!! Some places, like Nepal, I paid twenty-five cents!!!!
While in Bali we decided to visit the famous artist colony called Ubud in the mountains. 
First we rented a moped. We carried our shoulder packs and started out journey. The dramatic scenery startled me. The beautiful pristine rice paddies seemed to go on forever. We travelled A ribbon of road up and up seeing endless rice fields speckled with conical straw hats of the workers. Phenomenally beautiful meadows of green rose in the distance up and up. 
On the way we stopped at an overly populated famous monkey temple. Steps led us up intricately carved steps to the shrine. I felt surprised that the monkeys didn’t fear us. Some even approached us, one biting my husband! Our first thought, “Could have the monkey be carrying rabies?” Somehow he found a doctor. My husband jumped around pretending to be a monkey biting himself. The doctor laughed before administering a Band-Aid. He’s undisturbed attitude would have to pacify us. 
We headed out again. My husband’s eyeglasses fell onto the cement is Lee Road. Since they broke I drove the remainder of the way, feeling free with the wind in my hair.
When we reached the top we came to a place that look like a house. All of the homes that are like the little like huts. We were surprised that they offered us a double bed. Really all the room had in it was the bed. We felt thrilled. Night fell very quickly there in the mountains. And with the night brought what felt to me like freezing cold weather. Luckily we brought something that we usually used below our sleeping bags to keep them clean. It was a popular item in 1969 called a space blanket. It was blue on one side and like aluminum foil on the other. It was created to keep a person warm and freezing cold temperatures. So my husband and I zipped our sleeping bags together and wrapped ourselves inside the space blanket close together. We finally had a double bed and all we could do was try to keep each other warm. We had to laugh about this later.
The next days spent on Kuta Beach remain a blur of stunning sunsets, great food, and palm trees swaying in the breeze.
One event stands out. Usually when we went to the beach we would see no people or maybe one or two wandering around. We hadn’t seen any Westerners. Then one day is reset on the beach we saw a couple sitting nearby.

They came to join us telling us a strange story from their night camping on the beach in a tiny hut. As they slept, Jon, from Australia woke up when a light flashed in his eyes. Someone had attached a flashlight too long pole and inserted it through the window which had no glass. They were trying to put the pole into the handles of the bags Louise and John were carrying. They didn’t get away with it though. And this time taught me a very good lesson. From that night on I slept with my bag under my hand whenever there were any people around. However our room had windows closed.
The next day we met Louise and Jon again. Louise had come from England to Australia where she had met Jon. Now they were returning. Three men approach us. They had come to Bali to make a jean commercial. The jeans were knock-offs. They asked us if we would be in their commercial! We felt happy about that. 

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TIMOR TO BALI INDONESIA

13 Aug

Next Stop Bali

The captain stayed in his quarters sulking and grieving after losing his mistress to George, as I described in last month’s story. 
When we left the yacht at Denpesar, Bali, we felt happy to leave the drama of our small quarters behind. All of us who were left got off the boat and started on our own separate adventures. Many “bemos” and “bemo” drivers met us at the dock when we arrived. I think people in Thailand call these little vehicles “tuk tuks”. It’s a three wheel motorized vehicle with no sides or back windows, and with a canopy on the top. These tiny taxis flew around while their passengers clung to a long bar, a rail to keep us safe? It was always a wild ride. The two benches, one on either side, held three passengers each. Amazingly we arrived at our “Losman”, a motel,after 

dodging pigs all along the way. Tourism being the main source of income, many people had places that look like a tiny motel with three or four rooms. Ours consisted of two twin beds, mattresses with no sheets, and a sink. The bathroom outside had a big marble pedestal with two big footprints to step into. It looked like an ancient sculpture. Then squatting became the norm for nine months to come. This Losman with its sweet family housed us comfortably for six weeks.
Looking back, I wish we had stayed longer. This was the very beginning of our trip and we didn’t realize that it was one of the most perfect paradises we would ever see. I have never eaten such delectable food before or since. Gado-gado became a staple. I discovered that Gado in Balinese means salad, so my favorite meal became salad salad. So many veggies lay smothered by roasted soy beans and bean sprouts. The thing about it was that was everything was so so indescribably fresh.
Most days we went back to the same restaurant at least once. Everyone called it the garden restaurant, although I don’t remember seeing a sign. Everyone sat outside at picnic-like tables inside a lush tropical jungle. A leashed mongoose paced back-and-forth along the top of the concrete wall, eying all of us. He allowed minimal petting. Someone brought their pet monkey to breakfast as well. I usually had a fruit drink with my salad. They had a blender and combined one avocado, one banana, about a third of a cup of sweetened condensed milk, and a lot of ice. I still consider that to be my favorite drink. It brings back fond memories.
One day we bought breakfast on the street. Recyclers will love this. I did. The vendors served coconut and honey balls cradled in palm leaves. No plate; the leaves served that purpose. I didn’t see trash around Bali. Maybe it could have been that the cute long-haired pigs that roamed the streets ate all of the garbage. I felt embarrassed as an American that the only litter I saw in Asia was Coke bottles. I’m not exaggerating. That was 1974. 
We spent idyllic days on less than five dollars a day. We would eat gourmet food while little children would bring us things to buy, mainly beautiful wooden carvings done by their parents. They also sold silver jewelry with beautiful workmanship. The people there crafted silver into intricate designs, using no molds. 
Other than eating and looking in the cute huts that were shops, we spent time on the immaculate Kuta Beach. Generally we found ourselves alone there. Next month I’ll tell you what happenened when we met Jon and Louise. 
On a typical morning we would wake up then go outside and sit in the chairs out in front of our room. As soon as we sat down, a women, dressed in a colorful flowered sarong, bananas in a basket on her head, would serve us sweet tea and bananas. This was included in our one dollar a night room!
Then we would write for a time, then walk to the huts that were the shops. 
One day I remember walking by a smallish hut with bars on the windows. A man peered out and spoke to us and English. He said he was in jail and had been for three months for smoking marijuana. (So strange that we could just talk with him anytime. It reminded me of a Wild West movie.) This seemed a little crazy considering what happened next. 
We went to the garden hotel and ordered their special, a “magic” mushroom omelette. The legality of this seemed absurd. I didn’t believe that this could be real, that a restaurant would serve up psychedelic food!
So we ate. Fifteen minutes passed. Nothing. “I don’t feel anything,” I told my husband. Then the laughter began, uncontrollable crazy laughter. We could barely pay the bill. Then I started running back to the room yelling, “They’re coming; they’re coming,” while my husband trail behind me a little asking, “Who’s coming?” We got back to our room about four short blocks away. We went in and I started telling my husband that they were coming through the window to get us. He calmed me down. That was when I started seeing monkeys and elephants swinging in the trees on the walls of our room. Then things became very pleasant for me as I transformed myself into a red zebra. It all felt rather bizarre. 
After a nice nap we got up to bathe. The sunlight sparkled on every blade of grass vividly. I got into the concrete walled box that was the shower. It stood in the grassy, tropical backyard of the motel, banana trees all around. There was one hole in the wall where a hose came through. Since no ceiling covered it, I could totally enjoy nature. When my husband would pull down the six-foot lever, water would hit my chest. “A Shower in Paradise” would be the title to that vignette. 
By then the pending sunset drew us to Kuta Beach. These spectacular creations made our days different and special. We usually had the show to ourselves. Amazing. I’m wondering how anyone can really describe the beautiful ripples in the sand as the breeze blew different patterns into it. Splashes of orange across the sky led our eyes upward. The stunning beauty no doubt made non-believers believe. These paintings, different each evening, kept us coming back each dusk to be renewed. Life felt phenomenal, no magic mushrooms necessary. 
(To be continued. . . .)