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Bali Indonesia: lush green beauty

 Bali - Indonesia

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Bali was all about the rice patties.......


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Temples and Shrines


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and Monkeys!

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Ubud and the villa in the rice paddies

Bali is a beautiful island in Indonesia.  Their economy used to be agriculture-based, but tourism is now the largest single industry; and as a result, Bali is one of Indonesia’s wealthiest regions.  

We began our adventure in the village of Ubud.  We stayed at the lovely Samara Villa's, which was in the middle of the rice patties.


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Stefano, the owner, is Italian and his lovely wife Yudi is Balinese so it had a wonderful blend of both cultures.  The grounds were absolutely stunning, surrounded on all side by rice patties.  It was outside of the main shopping area and very quiet.   


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The photo below is the view from the back of the villa.  Each morning we had a lovely breakfast looking out at gorgeous scenery.  We also enjoyed a few dinners here as their restaurant served excellent Italian and Balinese cuisine. 


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We really enjoyed taking long walks around the rice patties and the tropical forest.  It was hot and humid, but it was a little cooler than Singapore. Because it was away from the touristy area, we got to see the local life including the harvesting of the rice.


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They are able to harvest three crops of rice each year.  You can see in the photo below the different stages of the rice.  The yellow or gold is ready to be harvested now.


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Despite the heat, the workers wear several layers of clothing to protect themselves from the sun.


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Collecting reed to make the little baskets for the daily offerings (more on this further down).


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We had never seen banana blossom still on the tree.  It is considered a vegetable and is used for food dishes. Banana flowers are very common in Asian countries and are served in meat stews, soups, rice or noodle dishes, and cooked vegetable dishes.


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This was a surprise to see out in the middle of nowhere!  It was quite tall, 15 feet or so.  With such detail...


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Local people and jobs around town

Balinese and Indonesian are the most widely spoken languages in Bali, and the vast majority of Balinese people are bilingual or trilingual.  

Ubud is famous as an arts and crafts village, and much of the town and nearby villages seems to consist of artist's workshops and galleries even out among the paddies.  Look at the details on this carved skull.  Not my taste, but it is a beautiful piece of art.  I bought a small carving he created of a Hindu goddess.


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The local trash collector



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This young girl was working at the family market/gas station.   Gas station you ask?



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Yes, this is the gas station.  It is very common to see gas for sale for scooters being sold out of used alcohol bottles.


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The local high school, not a car in sight - all scooters.  We got a kick out of this.


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And some high school girls.  Love the expression on the ones face!



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Speaking of scooters......YES I actually rode on this one.  And YES I am not wearing a helmet and YES I am an idiot! 


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We rode on them for less than a mile down the very quiet street that led up to our hotel.  D wanted to rent the scooter so he could drive us.  We "settled" on letting the staff of the hotel take us.  They dropped us off before we got to the BUSY street with all the traffic.


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Herding Ducks

Can't say we have ever seen farmers herding ducks before.  We were up very early and heard all the ducks quacking.  We stepped out of the room to see what it was and the farmers were moving the ducks from their pen to the rice fields.



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It was so much fun to watch the ducks waddle down the pathway.



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Here they are in the field where they will stay the rest of the day.  It was really funny to watch them all scurry down the slope of the rice paddy - unfortunately no photos of this.


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Tegallalang Rice Terraces

Rice is a way of life in Bali.  Indonesia is currently the third-largest producer of rice in the world.  Ask a Balinese person what they have had for breakfast, lunch, or dinner and the answer will be nasi (rice).


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Bali has volcanic soil and being just 8-degrees off the equator, strong sunlight.  This creates the perfect environment to grow rice.  


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A woman walking through the rice patty with the blessing for the rice.


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Here is a flooded field.   The main reason for flooding the rice fields is that most rice varieties maintain better growth and produce higher yields when grown in flooded soils, than when grown in dry soils. The water layer also helps to suppress the weeds.

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We were intrigued with the simple, yet elaborate irrigation system they created for the rice fields.  Subak is the name of water management (irrigation) system for the paddy field.  The subaks go to the regional water temples, which set the cropping patterns and irrigation schedules.  This helps to optimize water sharing and reduce pests.  




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The rice paddies provide a living for Balinese ducks, which, cannot fly.  After the harvest, the duck farmer brings his flock of ducks, which spend the day clearing up old pieces of grain and eating insects that would destroy the next rice crop if left alone. 


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Here is a large rice-drying field.  It will probably be sold for profit.


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Each individual house also grows and dries enough rice for the family.  You will see family members working it in their yards, raking the rice to help it dry.  


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No yard?  Just use the driveway!

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 Sacred Money Forest

The Monkey Forest is a nature reserve and monkey sanctuary.  I was a bit apprehensive about entering the park as I had read so many stories of the monkeys attacking people.



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According to their site, there are approximately 605 monkeys in the forest (39 adult males, 38 male sub adult, 194 adult females, 243 juvenile and 91 infants).  They can roam anywhere they want.



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As you can see in the photo below, they can come all the way up to you.  Just after I took this photo one jumped up on D's leg.  I was very nervous as a few minutes prior one jumped on a young man's back and scratched him pretty bad.  These monkeys are not trained - they are wild.  I had enough and was ready to go. 


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We walked back to the front gate, I calmed down, and D talked me into going back for more photos - for the blog he said!  So we went back in because they were pretty darn cute.  The one below looks as nervous as I was!


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They are called long-tailed macaques and are found throughout Southeast Asia.  Many species of macaques live successfully in areas that are heavily utilized by humans.


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There were hundreds of monkeys at the very front of the park, but once you got deeper into the forest there were none.  It was very beautiful, like something out of the Raiders of the Lost Ark movie.


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Temples, Shrines and Statues



Bali is known as the “Island of the Thousand Temples” or the “Island of the Gods”, because of the large number of Hindu temples there are on the Island.  They say Bali has more temples than houses.  Each village has several temples as well as each home has its own small temple. 

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Not only are there a lot of temples, but also many statues.  More than any other country we have been.  They are amazing.  Some comical, some scary, some beautiful others just plain ugly!  They are carved from various materials - cement, sandstone, lava, lime or green stone.    



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The statues depict Hindu stories of heaven and hell.  Many of them are said to protect and save the temples or home they are guarding.  Most of the statues are Hindu Gods/spirits such as Shiva, Vishnu, and Ganesh.  There are also several animal ones and animal/human like the one below.




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As to religious beliefs 93% of Bali's population is Hindu where the rest of Indonesia is Muslim.



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D - getting fitted for his sarong to enter the temple, you are not allowed to show your legs or arms in the temples.


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Many of the statures were also covered with a Sarong.  I never really found out why, other than to be polite (?).



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Ganesha (the elephant) is one of the deities best known and is widely revered as the "Remover of Obstacles".


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 Pura Kehen Temple

This temple was built in the 11th century and is one of the oldest temples in Bali.  It was built to worship three gods (Shiva, Brahma, and Vishnu).


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It is a stunning temple but not as popular as others due to the location, so we were the only ones visiting.


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The backside of the entrance.



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The word Kehen is derived from the word “Keren” means flame.  It was known as “Hyang Api” (God of Fire) temple. 



The structure below is a kul-kul and is used to summon the faithful to prayer, and to announce special occasions.


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Gunung Kawi


This archaeological complex is carved out of the rock, dating back to 11th century.  There are 10 candi (shrines) carved into the cliff face.  These monuments are thought to be dedicated to King Anak Wungsu of the Udayana dynasty and his favorite queens.


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We respected all temple rules from wearing a sarong to blessing ourselves with holy water.


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Wait a minute - did you catch that 3rd bullet?  



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Tirtha Empul Temple


The Tirtha Empul Temple is a Hindu temple famous for its holy water and was a very popular outing on a Sunday.  We decided to pass on this event and not go in the water.  



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The temple was built in 926 A.D.   Ever since, the Balinese have come to bathe in the sacred waters for purification, healing, and spiritual merit.  Worshippers make an offering (see the baskets along the right hand side of the pool).



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They climb into the pool to bathe and pray.  Many collect the holy water in bottles to take home.


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Daily Offerings

We were struck by how much the offerings to the Gods are still part of daily life for the Balinese.  They are made twice a day, in the morning and the evening.  All offerings are made from natural things.  A small basket is formed from a coconut palm leaf and filled with a slice of banana or sugar cane, a few grains of rice, a betel quid (a leaf), vibrant hues of flowers and a shredded leaf on top.  Oh yeah and a bear cookie!



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Everywhere you go you will find these small offerings lying around - on sidewalks, roads, in front of shops, restaurants, and houses.  It is hard to not step on them – which we did several times.  We started to warn each other – “don’t step on the blessing”.  They are quite sticky and not easy to get off your shoes.  I love these - with cookies and candy!



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Everyday we saw the locals dressed in traditional ceremonial clothing carrying offerings, going off to temples, or just placing the offering outside of their shop or home.  



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Men and women can participate in this ritual, but it is generally the women who do most of the offerings. These routines usually take up quite a lot of time since they entail both making the offerings and then placing the offerings around at several locations.  There are special hand gestures and prayers involved in placing the offerings.



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I like these two little guys - the old world tradition of the sarong and head wrap with the new - a T- shirt!


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The statues are adorned with flowers as part of the offering. 






A wedding!   Or at least their photo shoot.


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We visited a small coffee plantation.  And another first - we have never seen coffee beans on a tree. 


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And do you know what this plant is?


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It is a coco bean! 



Our second hotel,

The GORGEOUS Ziva Villa in Seminyak.


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All four walls were glass windows.


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It had it's own private swimming pool that wrapped around the side of the room and it led into the outdoor bathroom.


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We LOVED this place!  The first day we arrived D went to his conference and I stayed there the entire day!


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We were so spoiled - each day they came in and made our breakfast in the outdoor kitchen.  The staff was incredibly helpful and sweet. 


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I want to go back to Bali just to stay here again!  This part of the island was not as interesting as Ubud.  It was more like a typical shopping strip at a beach.  But we did not care, as we so enjoyed our stay at the Ziva Hotel!  

We had a really nice trip to Bali and will go back again!