Monday, 10 December 2012

Bewitching Beguiling Bali-utiful

Oh my! What enchantment! Bali is definitely a must with its rich culture, lush vegetation, and enchanting people.  And, anyone sharing my love for peanuts, there is sate everything, fresh fruit in abundance, and yes, rice.  While there, I kept thinking about the similarities and how Cambodia could be as day. 

My journey started by taxi to the border, motodup to the bus depot at the border, bus to Bangkok, and taxi to the hotel at the airport.  No real glitches although flying budget Air Asia was interesting.  Stewardesses wear jeans, EVERYTHING costs money even the water, and there is no first class...just "hot seats" (the ones with more leg room etc.).  I won't complain as it only cost $300 return including taxes.  Once out of the airport, I was embraced by hot and humid air filled with the smell of jasmine.  (The hot humid air wasn't new but smelling jasmine sure beat plastic burning and sewage.)  

I met fellow volunteer Meghan, whom I met during the one week training in Ottawa.  It was fun to hear about her experiences volunteering in Indonesia while we caught up on all sorts of things.  Together with another Canadian volunteer, we relaxed on the beach, had a tasty dinner and met volunteers from Uganda, and Kenya.  Humph, they get to go to Bali for their annual VSO programme meetings.  Lucky people.  As much as I love Phnom Penh...

Then, off to my retreat...

My own private balcony

The view from my room and balcony

My oohh so comfortable bed

View of the yoga hall from my balcony

Sun salutation to a sunrise


Orchids galore

 week of morning meditation followed by 2 hours of yoga, breakfasts of fresh fruit, organic yoghurt, delicious multi-grain bread, red rice pudding, and more.  After breakfast, time to reflect until lunch.  More lovely organic food, usually an amazing salad and other surprises.  Massages 2.5 hours, oooohhhh, what could be better.  Before dinner there was another 2 hours of yoga just to work up an appetite for more creative gourmet delights.  In the course of the week, we enjoyed a cleansing ritual at Hindu temple, a bike ride through the quiet hamlets and rice paddies, one day of silence where all meals were brought to our balconies and a very moving and powerful letting go ceremony. The other participants were lovely and I so enjoyed all the interesting conversations.  I have to say, during my reflective time, I was trying to calculate if I could afford to live there for the remainder of my life.  NOPE...just can't do.  

There is more to Bali and so meeting up with long-time friend Jennifer, we set off to see what we could.  

Lovely lovely Jennifer...the one sitting on the steps :-)

A wood carving of progress

Charming scenes everywhere

Sunset,  not all that spectacular, at one of many famous temples

And then, the snorkeling!!! It was so spectacular.  My camera really doesn't do it justice.  The colours were so vibrant, the fish so numerous, and the coral...WOW!!! There were even little Nemos (clown fish) in the anemone.  I had forgotten how much I love snorkeling (and diving).
Betty, these are the plaid fish I was telling you about. 

You can just barely see the iridescence
Just a glimpse of the varieties

 Jennifer and I were like two little kids out there, talking through our snorkels, giggling at how comical some of the fish looked, squealing with excitement every time we saw yet another "new" fish, and the awe at watching a sea turtle gracefully manoeuvre into the depths.  It was hard to leave our comfy pad steps away from the wonder but time does march on, even in Bali. Our next stop, the rice paddies of Sideman (pronounced Cid e mon)

View from our balcony in Sideman

At the Terta Ganga water gardens 

Flowers flowers everywhere

An early morning walk through the rice paddies on my birthday

More from our walk

More walking
What a birthday!  Up at 6 to walk through the rice paddies and watch the sunrise, drive to Ubud with a young man who had spent 1 year and 5 summers in Burn's Lake to learn English and earn money planting trees.  Not many Balinese can say they have skied.  Then, an avocado chocolate shake (a first), for lunch, back to the retreat for a last massage with Jennifer having one next door, then a walk to have dinner at the Lotus Cafe.  The setting was lotus-filled ponds with an ancient temple as the back drop. The temple was dedicated to the goddess, Saraswati,  of learning, literature, and science.  We ate the house speciality, listening to Balinese musicians, while we sipped a Chilean wine and toasted to friendship. Couldn't have asked for a better day.

The courtyard at Teba Guesthouse in Ubud
And so, leaving Bali was very, very hard.  As will getting back to my life in Sisophon.  Tomorrow I head to one of my schools where I am sure to be delighted by smiling children, appreciative teachers, and a much needed step into reality.

I do hope you are all well.  I wish you all a very very merry Christmas.  Enjoy the snow, connections, and merriment.  There is no doubt I will be thinking about you.

Love and thoughts from this distant land.