Bali: the girls trip - pure fantasticness!


Ubud, Bali Indonesia

October 2014

"a trip of fantasticness"


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From the very first restaurant until the last; the tours, the shopping, and the villa... it was all-perfect!  But how could it not be with four girlfriends on holiday in Bali?  This is my Art Girls group - in photo above, left to right: Helena, Jenny, Barbara, and me.


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(lunch in a hut with a first-class view of the rice fields)



Our villa was AMAZING!


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The Villa, "A River Runs Through It", was in Ubud.  It was designed by David Seligman, a set & furniture designer for Hollywood movies.  

There was artwork everywhere, fabulously quirky furniture and even a door that we were tempted to try and put in our suitcases (photo below)... a Feast of Fantasticness (Barbara's term - love it).  A perfect place for the "art" girl's getaway!


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The villa was perched in the treetops - really!  The top floor had no walls, interior or exterior.  It had fabulous spaces to eat, relax, and dance!  Which we did do one night... after a few bottles of champagne.



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The kitchen with one of the many tables we could choose for our meals.   



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There were two women who made us breakfast every morning (pancakes shown below) and one evening they cooked us a wonderful dinner with local cuisine.  They also provided housekeeping.



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"mirror selfie"


This floor had two bedrooms, a bathroom, and a sitting room with wrap-around windows where you could look out onto the treetops and the river.



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I want this door too!  It was the bathroom door in my room.



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This was the lower bedroom.  It had a very nice bathroom through the door.  



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Another bedroom with a Balinese sofa that shared the art studio.



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More vignettes of art.  Two Americans own the villa and one is an artist.  Most of the paintings are hers.  We fantasized about running off to Bali to live in a villa and create art  {BIG SIGH}!!



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Bali is always all about the Buddha!


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The grounds...

Jenny, painting one morning while in the little hut in the garden.



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A small but nice pool that, we enjoyed in the evenings after the sun went down.



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 Barbara posing in front of "the door" while Helena practiced her photography.



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Mornings were about coffee and chatting.



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We had a nice mix of touring around Ubud, along with spending quiet time at the villa doing what we each love...


Helena taking photos and reading from "Rojak", the book that her short story was published in.  The book signing just happened to be in Ubud the same days we were there so we all were at her book launch to support her!





Barbara writing, reading, and spending time with the resident dogs.






Jenny painting and shopping...





Okay this one is a bit corny - but I really like it.  Look closely in the "O" and you can see Jenny painting.



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Creating the daily offering at our Villa...


Offerings are daily devotional gifts to the Balenese belief system.  They are primarily made of palm leaf, flowers, and food and are usually created by the women. 





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The sights of Ubud





We opted to stay in Ubud - a quieter part of Bali, famous for its arts and crafts.  Much of the town and nearby villages seem to consist of artists' workshops and galleries.



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It is also home to the stunning Tegalalang rice terraces, which are postcard perfect.  This is a tourist destination, but if you arrive early you pretty much have the paddies to yourself. 



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"Subak" is the name of the irrigation system used for the rice fields.  Created in the 9th century, today they are considered a UNESCO world Heritage Site.  The system consists of 5 terraced rice fields and water temples covering nearly 40 acres.  


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In Indonesia, and especially in Bali, rice is a very important part of the people's lives.  No meal is complete without rice as well as rice is an essential part of social and religious ceremonies.  A scarecrow guarding the entrance to the terraces.



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A juice break with a view of the terraces....


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Our guide - how did he keep track of four women, all talking at the same time ???  He even sang traditional music to us while he drove us around. 



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Odalan - the temple festival


They say that there is never a day in Bali without a ceremony of some kind - baby ceremonies, coming of age, weddings, cremations, and temple festivals.  We happened upon a temple that was preparing for Odalan.


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Odalan is a Hindu festival to observe a temple’s anniversary.  The celebration occurs every 210 days, as the Balenese calendar is 210 days long.  This temple ceremony usually lasts for three days, but larger ones (which occur every 5, 10, 30 or 100 years) can last for 11 days or longer.



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The decorated poles are called Penjours.  Made of bamboo, they symbolize the dominance of good (dharma) over evil (adharma).  They also serve to offer thanks to God for the fruits of the earth.  I love how they create an arch over the walkway.


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The decorations for the Odalan were quite extravagant.  I have been in many temples but this was the first one I have seen decorated to this degree.  It was wonderful!  I wished D was with me to see it.



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These lion/dragon like figures represent Barong and Rangda, characters in Bali mythology.  Barong is the king who symbolizes good spirits and he is the enemy of Rangda (bad).   At the ceremonies they recreate a colorful dance that tells the story of their eternal fighting. 


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The masks of Barong and Rangda are considered sacred, and a priest must offer blessings by sprinkling them with holy water taken from Mount Agung.



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 Placing flowers on the statues for the upcoming ceremony.



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The festival had not officially begun, but many people were at the temple praying and making offerings.



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Although there is dancing and food, the celebration is really for religious reasons.  The Balinese honor the deities that rule over the temple. 






The people of the community


 I had fun photographing this father and son.  How adorable.




The father knew I was taking the photos, but not the son.  As soon as the son realized it, he hid from me.   He then followed me around the temple, but each time I tried to take his photo, he would hide.  Helena captured this photo of me interacting with them (I did not know she was taking it).





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Respecting their traditions by wearing our sarongs and traditional adat (sash).  Both men and woman should not enter a temple in Bali without both. 






There are so many colorful ‘tedung’ or umbrellas decorating Bali.  The word tedung means ‘to guard or protect’.  In the temples, they use them for auspicious occasions and holy Hindu ceremonies.  In earlier days, they were always associated with temple activity, but today they are "in vogue" and you can see them at every hotel and many homes. 



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There are five main colors of umbrellas (red, white, black yellow and black & white checked).  They symbolize dedication to the Hindu religion with each one honoring a different God.


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The black-and-white design symbolizes dualism in life, such as good and evil, brightness and darkness, as well as men and women.



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To me, the tedungs are a symbol of Bali.


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As we were walking around a side path from the main village, I made a new friend.   This gentleman asked me where I was from - I always say Singapore which usually gets a big smile and a "you don't look Singaporean"!  Than I say "America".  When you say the United States - they always ask - "where?"  He then told me he worked at the monkey temple.  We chatted for a while and then I asked to take his photo.  Several of the local women around were getting a big kick out of the exchange.  I love this photo.



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We then saw this group of workers taking a break.  They wanted us to take their photo.  The women were especially giggly asking us to take the young man's photo.




A local artist working on a traditionally styled Bali painting called Kamasan, named for the village where it originated.  They use muted colors with strong outlines and figures painted either in profile or three-quarters view.  They are usually images of everyday life, traditional costumes, and animals.




This was my very first "girls trip" and it could not have been more fun!  Thank you Helena, Jenny, and Barbara....  where will 2015 take us  ???



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Bandung, Indonesia - a mountainside retreat


Bandung, Indonesia

September 2014


Bandung is the capital of West Java province in Indonesia.  The earliest reference to the city dates back to 1488.  D had a business trip to Jakarta and Bandung is only 110 miles southeast of the city, we hopped on a local train and took one of the most fascinating train journeys we have experienced.



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We "splurged" and bought first class tickets at $8 USD each.  From the minute we left Jakarta, until the minute we arrived in Bandung, it was non-stop images to view from the train window.  What struck us the most was the abundance of life right along the train track.



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People gather to just watch the train go by, many with cameras.



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Once we got out of town, we started to see lush green hillsides...



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And stacked rice terraces...


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And deep rivers running through the mountains... it was all just stunning.



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We then took a 30-minute taxi ride into the mountains to our very special hotel.  It had a Balinese feel/style.


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As we entered the resort, there were hundreds of orchids hanging in the passage.



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It was a beautiful property...



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...made up of individual villas.



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Notice my scarf?  It was cool enough to wear!  Year-round, Bandung has cooler temperatures than most other Indonesian cities and is a very popular weekend getaway destination, especially those escaping the crowded city of Jakarta.



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Take a peek into this dreamy bedroom...



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And the BATHROOM...oh la la!  It was quite large and completely open (no walls) with a huge marble bathtub! 



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We had to let it run for over an hour and that barely covered a few inches.  And yes, I left the roses petals in for the bath  :   )



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Bandung lies on a river basin surrounded by volcanic mountains named Tangkuban Perahu, which translates to "upturned boat."  Legend says that a beautiful woman cast away her son for disobedience, and in her sadness was granted the power of eternal youth by the gods. After many years in exile, the son returned home and he and his mother failed to recognize each other.  He fell in love with his mother and they planned to marry.  



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But then his mother saw his birthmark and realized it was her son.  In order to prevent the marriage she asked her son to build a dam on the river Citarum and to build a large boat to cross the river, both before the sunrise.   He was almost finished, so the mother had to trick him in believing the sun was coming up.  She spread red silk cloths east of the city, to give the impression of the sunrise. 



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Upon believing that he had failed, her son kicked the dam and the unfinished boat, resulting in severe flooding and the creation of Tangkuban Perahu from the hull of the boat.




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This area is also scattered with beautiful tea plantations.  The Dutch colonials first established tea plantations around the mountains in the eighteenth century and they still exist today.



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Indonesia is one of the highest tea-producing countries in the world, with seventy-five percent coming from this fertile area.  They mainly grow black tea.



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It was fun wandering through the maze of tea plants.



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We stopped and bought a fresh pineapple from a roadside stand.  Our hotel cut it up for us to eat for dessert. 



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Guess D knew what he was doing when he picked it out, as it was one delicious pineapple!




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I just liked this photo...



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We had massages at our hotel.  The villa where they gave the massage was the most beautiful, relaxing place I have ever had one!



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The grounds of the hotel were so pretty with so many little places to sit and relax.



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There were beautiful blue bees...

{click here for more bee photos on my art blog - ma vie trouvee}


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And a Koi pond....



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 They served a lovely breakfast on the front porch of our villa.




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My favorite was the coconut pancake called Surabi.  It is made from rice flour with coconut milk (or plain shredded coconut).  It is traditionally baked using charcoal and served with coconut milk and brown sugar.




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But I also loved the savory chicken porridge with hard-boiled eggs.




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I will leave you with a view from the city looking back on the mountains.



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We really enjoyed our long weekend in Bandung!


Yogyakarta, Indonesia


Yogyakarta, Indonesia

July, 2014

Yogyakarta, usually referred to as just Jogja, is a city in Java, Indonesia.  It is a popular tourist destination due to its proximity to Borobudur Temple.  It is also well known for its Batik fabrics.


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We drove by this neighborhood several times on the bus and we both were intrigued.  So one morning we ventured into it - what a blast!


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The streets were wide enough for a motorcycle or a becak (their form of a tuk tuk).  When we started for our walk, we did not see anyone.


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We did see these two unusual little chicks.  Their heads have such an amazing color.  A woman told us they were chickens - but that may have been lost in translation.  I would love to know what kind of bird or chicken they are.  Do you know?



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As we walked further in to the neighborhood - the children starting to come out.  Shy at first...



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But then, wanting to pose for us.



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It wasn't very long before the children came out of the woodwork.  They all wanted to have their picture taken.  We soon had a stream of children walking around the neighborhood with us.


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Because they were almost all little girls, we stopped at a local shop and purchased bracelets for them.  It was refreshing that the children did not beg for anything, especially not money.  



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Aren't they beautiful children?  The one below was so sweet and photogenic.




Look at the batik fabric on her blue dress.  This area is known for their batik.


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At one point we stopped and spoke to a group of women frying chips.  It was in the middle of Ramadan so all muslims were fasting from sunup until sundown.   They were preparing the food for the entire neighborhood to eat after sunset.



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One of the neighbors spoke English well, so we chatted with her for quite a while.  She was married to a Dutch man and they owned a restaurant in town.  She invited us to her house for coffee, we declined as we felt uncomfortable drinking when they were not allowed (no drinks during the fasting period either).


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As we were talking with the ladies, many of the seniors came out to see what was going on.  People were very curious as to what we were doing in their neighborhood.  The one who spoke English told us that tourists/westerners never venture into that area.  The Seniors wanted their photos taken too.  The two women in the photo on the right are sisters.




Next came the moms with the babies.  So sweet!






This little guy was very shy.  He was the son of the woman who spoke english.  His friend with the water balloon thought the whole thing was very funny!   



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A favorite photo below, with all the boys running to see us - they did not want to be left out of the fun.


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Our walk through this neighborhood was the highlight of our trip.  I LOVE this photo - one last pose before we left the gates of their neighborhood.


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Other parts of the city...

the bird vendor



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There were many interesting graffiti murals throughout out the city.



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Horse buggies were used by tourists ad locals.



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We always enjoy a four-person motorcycle shot!



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 It scares me so to see the very young children standing up...but oh what fun for them.



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The gas station...



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It always amuses us to see the different street eating in Asian countries.  In Yogyakarta, during Ramadan, the street vendors put out mats for people to sit on and eat.  Notice the condiments are even laid out for you.  This was a new one for us.  We did not give it a try...



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And to end this blog - a photo of D that I really like - by an old textured door.



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Borobudur, Indonesia - the world's largest Buddhist Temple


Borobudur - July 2014

Central Java, Indonesia


at sunset...


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Borobudur is the world’s largest Buddhist temple and a UNESCO World Heritage Site.  What I found most amazing about this temple is that is has been standing longer than Angkor Wat in Cambodia, which most people are familiar, but very few people know of Borobudur. 



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Historians say Borobudur Temple was created in the 9th-century in Central Java, Indonesia.  There is no written record of what the purpose of the Temple was for or who built it.  Today, Borobudur is used for pilgrimages; once a year, Buddhists celebrate Vesak at the monument.



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The structure of the monument consists of six square platforms topped by three circular platforms.  There are 504 Buddha statues, 72 of these are seated inside their own perforated stupa.  They surround the main dome, located at the center of the top platform.  The Buddha below is missing his stupa.  Many of the Buddhas are badly damaged.



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They say you need to see the temple at sunrise, during the day, at sunset, and at night.  We did, but unfortunately the weather did not cooperate for the brief time we were there.  However, often when I see photos of this spectacular temple there are clouds. 


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... day view


Borobudur was hidden for centuries under layers of volcanic ash and jungle growth.  Sir Thomas Stamford Raffles (also a key player in the history of Singapore) rediscovered the temple in 1814. The facts behind its abandonment remain a mystery.







The temple is built from two million stone blocks that were fitted together with no cement.  It is decorated with 2,672 relief panels. The stones were not meant to be seen, as the entire monument was originally coated with white plaster and painted.






Borobudur is Indonesia's single most visited tourist attraction. 



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... sunrise


We were up at 4 am to meet at the front desk of our hotel at 4:30 for our "pilgrimage" to the temple.  Luckily, our hotel was on the temple grounds.  It was pitch black and created a very eerie feeling.    You can see twin volcanoes, Sundoro-Sumbing and Merbabu-Merapi in the background.




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Local legend says that if you climb this temple with one wish in your thoughts, reach your hand inside the bell-like stupa at the top of the temple, and successfully touch the Buddha's figure inside, your wish will come true.




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Sunrise was a calming and peaceful experience.






 Prambanan Temple


Built in the 10th century, this temple is the largest Hindu Temple in SE Asia.  It is dedicated to the three great Hindu divinities (Shiva, Vishnu and Brahma) with three temples dedicated to the animals that served them.



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You can walk around the first tier and enter each temple.   




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Prambanan Temple collapsed due to an earthquake in the early 11th century, and was rediscovered in the 17th century.  In its original form, the temple complex contained over 250 large and small temples. 






It is also a UNESCO World Heritage Site. 




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Since 1918 they have been restoring the temples using both the traditional method of interlocking the stones and modern methods using concrete to strengthen the temple structure.



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Candi Sewu Temple (below) is a 9th century Buddhist temple complex very near Prambanan.  Historians say the proximity of the two temples tells us that in Java, Buddhism and Hinduism lived peacefully next to one another.  It is the second largest Buddhist temple in Indonesia after Borobudur.



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The temple was severely damaged during an earthquake (6.4) in Java in 2006.  They are slowly repairing the structure, but crumbling stones can be seen everywhere. 



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After watching the sunrise, we had a lovely breakfast ad then took a 2-hour horse buggy ride to a neighboring village.




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We stopped to play on this massive tree.




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The parasite plant that took over the main tree was amazing.




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D had to swing on the vines.



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There are many small temples sprinkled around the village.  I could not find the English names, so I can't provide any information.








Our driver took us to see little rice cakes being made.  It was actually quite interesting and the ladies were so friendly.  They had me sit and form one - they were all laughing at my technique (or lack of!).  It was all in fun. 


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They bake the rice cakes over an open fire and sell them.




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The final product - some savory and some sweet.



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We enjoyed our visit to Borobudur Temple.  We wished we would had stayed two nights instead of one.  Next stop - Yogyakarta, Indonesia.



Tammy's Bali!


Bali, Indonesia

May 2014



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We finally had a family member visit us in Singapore - D's sister Tammy.  It was the perfect time for her to come, as D and I were both flying home together from the US the last part of April.  It would make the 23-hour flight much easier and more fun if she flew one way with us.  She stayed with us for three weeks.

When we asked her what she wanted to do ... her top two choices were: 1) visit Bali; and, 2) ride an elephant.  So her Asian adventure started here, in beautiful Bali.

Notice the volcano we are flying over in the photo above, on our way to Bali.


The Villa


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We stayed in Ubud in a brand new private villa (Villa Kami).  It was a fun walk to get to the villa as it was in the middle of rice paddies.  They carried our suitcases on motor scooters, as it would have been impossible to pull them along the trail.


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What I liked about this villa is that it had two master suites with stunning bathrooms.  Many times when you rent a villa, one of the rooms is a kid's room - which isn't fun when you are traveling with all adults.



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The bathrooms were amazing - large and luxurious.  Check out that double shower.  The bathtub does not look that big in the photo but it was one of the longest tubs I have been in.  It took over 30 minutes to fill it for a normal bath!



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 The Elephant Ride


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There is an elephant camp just outside of Ubud.  We opted for the early morning package where you got to bathe the elephants and ride them bareback.  



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We started on dry land, scrubbing the elephants with brushes.   And to say that the elephants enjoyed it was an understatement!



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The elephant loved to have her trunk filled with water, which she then put in her mouth.  If we stopped, she would tap on our foot with her trunk for more water.  Adorable!  A full-grown elephant will drink 40 + gallons of water a day.

Look at that face, happy and content.



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Next, we went into the water for part two of her bath.  Asian elephants are smaller than African elephants, but as far as I am concerned - they are still huge!  The Mahouts (elephant keepers/riders) said the elephants love their bath time.



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My turn - whewwwww hooooo...

This was D's and my second time riding an elephant and it was equally as fun.  The first time was in Laos.  How could riding an elephant NOT be fun???



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The mahout went much deeper in the water with D.  If you have the opportunity to ride an elephant, try to select a program where you get to ride directly on the elephant's back, not just in a chair.  It truly is a unique experience.






Then we each had some elephant lovin'!




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Driver in training!  This baby elephant, a male, is only one year old and is in training to carrying people.  They start him off with just a blanket on his back and slowly work him up to carrying heavier items.  They said it takes five years to fully train them.



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We also had a ride through the jungle, but this time it was in a seat.



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An awesome day with the elephants!  I know some people do not support elephant camps such as these, but we felt it was extremely well run and the animals were well taken care of.  Most of these elephants were rescue elephants from Sumatra and wouldn't be alive if not for this camp.



A Walk in the Rice Fields



Bali has many working rice fields.  Tegalalang in Ubud is one of the most striking ones due to its sloped terraces.  You are able to walk along the ridges.


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We hired a taxi driver/guide to take us around for the day.  His name was Kadek.  I mentioned that the owner of our Villa is also name Kadek... this opened the doors to a fascinating lesson on names.  

In Bali, they ONLY use four names.  They are based on birth order and it does not matter if the child is male or female.

The names are:  first born - Wayan, second born - Made, third born - Nyoman and fourth born - Ketut.

What happens when the fifth child is born?  They start all over with Wayan

They do have a few alternative names such as Putu for the first born (upper caste families) and the second could be called Kadek and the third could be Komang.  They also refer to each other with nickname and for women; a  ‘Ni’ is placed before their name.  It is like ‘Miss’ or ‘Mrs’.   Men use ‘I’, like ‘Mr.’

But still - how confusing is this?  D and I would both be called Made.



 Kintamni Volcano 



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Kintamani Volcano is still active today.  They say it has erupted 24 times since the year 1804.  The dark part you see is lava from a large eruption in 1968.  Next to the volcano is Lake Batur, the biggest lake in Bali.  Locals fish in the lake and farmers use it as an irrigation source.


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A taste of durian


 In Asia the durian is known as "the king of fruits" - it is either loved or hated.  It is often described as smelling like rotting onions, road kill, or sweaty socks!  In Singapore you are not allowed to take it on any public transportation!


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We were driving along with our guide when we saw a durian stand.  Well, really a woman selling them on the roadside.  The driver told us durian was in season so it was the best time to taste it.  We have had food flavored with durian, but this was our first taste of a real durian.




The verdict?



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All of us liked it!  And what a great experience for our first time.... enjoying it with the locals, who came out to watch the westerners taste it.  And if you are wondering about that outfit I have on... I had to wear a sarong in the temples.


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D below with our guide, Kadek - who LOVES durian and ate half of one himself.



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Bali is known as the "island of a thousand temples" and a trip here would not be complete without visiting a few of them. 



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Showing respect by covering up and blessing ourselves before entering the temples.

Tammy and guide






Gunung Kawi is an 11th-century temple with shrines carved into the cliff.



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The Balinese make offerings to their Gods three times a day.





Pura Taman Saraswati temple (below) is dedicated to honor the Hindu Goddess Saraswati, the goddess of learning, literature and art. 



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The temples can be extremely colorful with animated sculptures





Sacred Monkey Forest


The monkey forest scared me last time we went and I swore I would not go back... but I did.  We all enjoyed it - although it still scared me.  A monkey jumped on Tammy as it wanted her water bottle.  They are little thieves and will take anything in their sight.



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They are approximately 605 long-tailed macaques in the park (39 adult males, 38 male sub adult, 194 adult females, 243 juvenile and 91 infants).




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The macaques breed year-round.  We saw many females carrying their babies, who are born, covered in black hair. They keep this until they are about 6 months old.   


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There are beautiful ancient sculptures, bridges, and stairways throughout the monkey forest.

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This baby wanted to run but the mother kept him close by holding onto his tail.


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Gorgeous scenery


Bali truly is breathtakingly beautiful.  We were very lucky as every day we had perfect weather.


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Colorful puppets 


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We were eager to have Tammy taste the local food.  We did more upscale dining with her  :  )







On of our favorites became her favorite - fresh watermelon juice!





The locals


A local school bus.  Safety first!







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We spent the last night in a resort at the beach in Nusa Dua.  A perfect ending to a perfect visit to Bali!


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ohhhhh Bali!

Bali, Indonesia

There is something special about Bali.  I have mentioned before that I am not a beach girl.  But when D said he had a trip to Bali, I was at the front door waiting. 


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He warned me.  It was a quick trip and no time for sight seeing.  I would be stranded at the resort in the very touristy town of Nusa Dua.  This means: at the beach for the entire four days.  By myself.  Okay, if I can sit in my art room on my computer for hours on end... I certainly could do it at a beach in Bali!


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We arrived Sunday afternoon so D did have a little free time to enjoy the beach.  Unfortunately it was raining lightly. I love this photo below. 



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Our hotel grounds were beautiful!  This is one of the pools below.  You could swim around the entire complex.  There were even parts that had sand on the bottom.


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The lovely view from our window.  Because of D's status with Starwood Hotels, we were upgraded to a suite for free. 



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D working!


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Seriously he did work this entire trip.  But, the conference was just next to our hotel and it was really fun forme to walk to work with him each morning.


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How about this for your walk to work?  Have a good day honey.... pick me up at the beach on your way home  :  )



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I enjoyed walking on the beach each morning.  Below is a photo of an offering; a small basket called "canang sari".  They offer them to the Gods three times a day filled with flowers and snacks.


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A little critter.


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And I enjoyed my quiet lunches on the beach.


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I have to admit...  I did not want to leave.  See...  I can relax on a beach!  Until next time beautiful Bali...


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Jakarta, Indonesia



February 2013



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Jakarta is a fascinating city.  I know I say this about many places we visit – but each one brings unique experiences for us.  It is a dirty city (both air and ground) with very few historical sights to see.  But if you scratch the surface, you can really enjoy this city as we did!  This was D’s 5th visit to Jakarta; but my first.


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Jakarta is located on the island of Java.  It is the capital of Indonesia and largest city in the country.  We stayed in Central Jakarta - the heart of the government and financial district.  I was surprised at the modern high-rise buildings and high-end shopping.  


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Jakarta has the extremely rich and the extremely poor, all blending together - with Gucci on one side of the street and begging street children on the other.  I am guessing these two are not too poor as the one has braces. They were so cute.  They asked me to take their photo, but then the one on the right became very shy. 



Indonesia is the fourth largest country in the world (by population) and world’s largest Muslim country.  You can hear the call to prayer several times a day.  Most of the women do cover their heads with hijabs.


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Very few people speak English so D had to navigate us several times in the taxi using his blackberry map.  Despite not speaking English, they were always ready to help us as we wandered about.


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Sunday was our spa day.  We went to very posh spa for couples therapy.  I had a facial, and a hand-and-foot massage.  D had a full-body massage.  They lasted 1.5 hours and were wonderful.  Total price: About $75.  Then we went to Koi Kemang for a lovely brunch.


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We visited the textile museum and learned how to make Batik.  D was a good sport and made one too.  It was pouring down rain, so it was relaxing to just sit and take a break.  It is easy to do, but very hard to do well!  You can see more about our creations here.


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Traffic is a nightmare in Jakarta.  We think it is even worse than Bangkok. One afternoon around 2:30 it took us one hour and ten minutes to go less than 3 miles.  It was pouring down rain, otherwise we probably would have walked.



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D dragged me on the VERY local bus several times as they move much faster than the taxis.  And they are very inexpensive, 35 cents to go to most locations. 


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The interesting thing is that women ride in the front of the bus... no men allowed!  I was curious about this so I googled it and found that this was in response to reports of sexual harassment in overcrowded buses and stations.  The  Governor is considering making some buses exclusively for female passengers this year.   


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A great coffee shop!

We wandered into Giyanti Coffee Roastery and had an excellent cup of coffee.  Hendrik and his sweet wife just opened it a few months ago.  He knows quite a bit about coffees, and he is perfectionist as well, as evidenced when he "pulled" our cups.


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Indonesia is the 4th largest coffee producer in the world.  At Giyanti they roast their own beans.  We bought two bags to bring home and it really is exceptional coffee.


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It is a modern cafe with a great feel.  They also have a very comfy outdoor seating area.  The cafe is directly across from a row of antique shops so it is a fun area to visit.  We went back a second time we liked it so much.


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The biggest wholesale market in SE Asia, Tanah Abang Textile Market, is in Jakarta.  We went for a few hours and had so many bags we had to leave!  And we only scratched the surface of this gigantic market Tanah Abang is said to be 300 years ago and it started as an animal market.  We did see goats on one side street waking to the market!


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Stalls sell mainly textiles, clothes, shoes, and purses; but you could find almost anything.  The market is in a huge building but vendors sell on the the sidewalks and in the road.


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Even though is was wholesale, most vendors would sell to us.  A few had a four or five piece minimum.  Me trying on a  batik shirt...


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But the usual happened.... a large was too small!  A girl could really get a complex living in the land of the tiny!  Okay - we made a fun goofy purchase... matching shirts!!  Look closely at the red ones on the right hand side of the photo (my head is blocking the corner of the man's shirt).  Those are the ones! Oh what a cute Christmas photo this will make (gag)!!  



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 We had a great time in Jakarta and I will definatiely go back!


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!