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Stories from Month 4

Jackson Bay, New Zealand

Photos

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The quiet and tranquil Jackson Bay in the south island of New Zealand.

Neils Beach, New Zealand

Photos

timPhoto check-in. top

Late afternoon sun and misty sky meet to form a rainbow over Neils Beach in the south island of New Zealand.

Franz Josef Glacier, New Zealand

Glacier Walk

tim"Around the corner and up the stairs." We followed a few stragglers into the small equipment room at The Guiding Company, blurted out our shoe sizes, and received mean pairs of clunky boots soled with grimacing metal teeth. While I secretly wanted a pair of these to walk around town in, the guides had other plans. Today we were hiking the Franz Josef Glacier.

After a short bus ride, we started down a trail surrounded by rainforest vegetation. While it didn't seem right that just 2 km away a river of ice flowed down the mountain, our guide explained how the Franz Josef is one of only five temperate glaciers in the world. (The Fox Glacier is another, conveniently located just 30 minutes south of this one.) When we made our way out of the forest and on to the glacial valley, the enormity of the valley and glacier blew away my sense of scale. I could see small blocks of ice at the top. What looked like a 10 meter wall in my eyes actually measured 200 meters! A helicopter hovering near the top was barely visible.

The walk across the valley and to the terminal face looked much shorter than it was. We stepped over the smooth rocks of the valley floor, crossed glacial streams, and stopped at a point about halfway to the glacier. The guide then explained the steps of glacier formation. First, years of snow gathers in a funnel-like snowfield at the top of the mountain (névé). Then, pressure from the accumulated snow turns the bottom layers into blue ice - which is under so much pressure that the ice actually becomes flexible and begins to flow downhill. The ice flows down the valley as a glacier (icefall) and melts in the ablation zone. The length of the glacier changes from year to year, depending on long-term weather trends. If we were standing in the middle of the valley just 250 years ago, we would have been under 300 meters of ice!

My time finally came - I strapped on my mean shoes and dug into the ice. We started up a set of stairs carved into the glacier and hiked to an ice cave. Michelle and I entered together. Inside the cave, soft blue light radiated from the ice of the curvy walls. It was very quiet. I could hear nothing but the dripping from melting ice. The cave was so peaceful and mysterious that I could have remained there for hours.

But I continued up the glacier with the group. We passed boulders that lay tossed about like pebbles. Deep crevasses cut through the ice. As another treat, we climbed down and wriggled through one of the more shallow crevasses. Eventually, we made it to a plateau in the glacier. We were nowhere near the top, but the view was gigantically spectacular. I stood, trying to comprehend the eons it takes to carve out a valley and wondered at the power of what I was standing on.

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Looking out of an ice cave formed in the Franz Josef Glacier on the south island of New Zealand. Looking out of an ice cave formed in the Franz Josef Glacier on the south island of New Zealand.

Paekakariki, New Zealand

Sheep

michelleSheep, sheep, everywhere! New Zealand has only 3.8 million people but has 48 million sheep. As Tim and I drive along the rolling hills, steep mountain terrain, and beautiful lake shores, sheep dot the landscape; white and furry, forever grazing. Lambs frolick with each other and sun themselves in the grass. I think Tim is growing weary of my "ooohing" and "ahhing", but I never grow tired of gazing out the window at them. top

Waitomo, New Zealand

Black water rafting

timWe looked like clowns and Michelle couldn't stop laughing. On top of the full-body wet suit, gloves, and caving helmet, we wore purple pants and giant white plastic shoes. As any woman will tell you, the shoes make the outfit.

After a short bus ride, we arrived to one of the Waitomo caves - made famous for their spectacular glow worms. Our guide sat us down and led us through ridiculous drills designed to glide us through safely. Afterwards, he had himself a good laugh and told us to forget most of it. He just wanted to see us squirm.

Our small group hiked up to the cave entrance and climbed in. Our eyes quickly adjusted to the darkness. We walked carefully through the small stream, careful not to pop our inner tubes on the rocky floor. We passed through a waterfall, under low ceilings, and around obstacles.

The cave widened and the stream grew deeper. When we finally entered an area covered in glow worms, we sat down and switched off our headlights. The glow worms covered the black ceiling like thousands of bluish-green stars. Each point varied in intensity and grew brighter as our eyes adjusted to the absence of light. The effect was almost surreal, increased by the echoing sound of water washing over my feet.

The passage became a cavern and the stream grew into a river. We floated down on the tubes, enchanted by a line of glow worms hanging above us. After safely making it over a small waterfall, we continued with all of our lights off. I drifted slowly, looking up to admire the view. We floated that way, out of the cave and back to the car.

I enjoyed the trip immensely, yet the 52 (11 C) degree water froze my feet into numb blocks of ice. We took a long hot shower and drank hot soup after the trip.

A hot shower never felt so good. top

Beach Road, Singapore

Arrival

timSingapore is a great county to enter as a gateway to Asia: lively streets bustle with vendors, food hawkers offer a huge variety of inexpensive Asian food, and there is much to see and do. Unlike other large cities in the region, it also offers a low crime rate, clean streets, and tap water you can drink.

We were lucky on the 11-hour flight from Auckland. The airplane was empty enough for us to grab 3 seats each. I slept for most of the flight and I feel great today. Time to expore! top

One of many large food markets in Singapore. The basement floor featured in this photo sells meat, vegetables, and fish, while the second floor features row after row of fun yet inexpensive food stalls.

Chinatown, Singapore

Food!

timThe best way to visit attractions in Singapore is on foot, so I've racked many miles on my Tevas in the last few days. We've walked through Little India, down into the huge upscale shopping area of Orchard Road, and all over Chinatown. Like the mix of the Chinese, Indian, and Malaysian people who live here, the colorful ethnic neighborhoods blend smoothly to create a feeling unique to Singapore.

Singaporean people love good food, so good food is everywhere. You can walk through any food court in amazement, staring at the variety of hawker stands dishing out food made-to-order. You walk slowly, soaking in the vision of the hawkers crammed behind their 10 to 20 foot wide booths, each crowded by dishes, pots, pans, vegetables, noodles, sauces, and 300 other items. Each hawker specializes in a specific food: one sells seafood noodle soups, another Malaysian noodles. Perhaps the person next door is making a specific type of Chinese, Malaysian, Muslim, or Indian food. Or perhaps he just specializes in drinks or dessert.

Place your orders and take a table somewhere in the cacophonous hall. The hawkers drop your food off to you with "real" flatware and plates. (These plates later make it back to the specific hawker by being color-coded.) Only a couple of the dishes cost over $3 US. Most dishes are far cheaper.

The desserts have been the most fun for me. Most dessert hawkers sell varieties of tropical fruit, shaved ice, sweet beans, and sweet bean curd. I just ate a fresh lemon shaved ice with tangy pieces of the tropical fruit soursop on top. There can't be a more refreshing taste on a sweaty hot day. top

Part of the Singapore skyline.

Orchard Road, Singapore

Singapore - A Fine City

michelleSome people call Singapore "Fine City". Ever present signs warn of a $1000 fine for littering. There is a fine for chewing gum, a fine for possessing pornography, a fine for using chewing tobacco. There is a fine if you are caught not flushing a public toilet, a fine for jaywalking and a fine for, if upon inspection of your house, standing water is found û for example a puddle. (This is an effort to fight mosquitos which carry malaria.) Importing or using drugs is punishable by death, which is a pretty hefty fine if you ask me.

All these laws have contributed to Singapore being a very clean, safe country but it sure is different than our US ways. I wonder, what would Washington, DC be like if we used these same strict laws? top

Johore Bharu, Malaysia

Waiting for a Plane to Bali

timWe left Singapore from an airport in Malaysia. In choosing to leave from Johore Bharu instead of Singapore, we saved $160 and committed ourselves to waking at 5:30 AM to make our 11 AM flight. We left enough time to clear Malaysian customs, and ended up at the airport with 2.5 hours to kill.

While we stood clueless in the center of the airport, a 60-ish year old Singaporean man approached us. His looked both youthful and grandfatherly: neat and fit, yet with receding salt and pepper hair, gold wire frame glasses, and a conservative light green polo shirt tucked into dress pants. He introduced himself as Kway Tee Soo, and he too was on the bus from Singapore and waiting for his flight.

We talked while standing in the middle of the airport, then continued our conversation in the cafe. Mr. Soo insisted on buying our coffee when he found out that we lacked Malaysian currency. Though Malaysian by birth, Singapore had been home for many years. He spoke with pride about Singapore's rules, economy, and society.

You can learn from listening to outsiders talk about your country. Mr. Soo spoke at length about America, basing his views on the six weeks he spent in Cincinnati visiting his brother-in-law. Cincinnati isn't a tourist mecca of the US, but he certainly met interesting people there.

One such person was the bus driver of an inner city bus, who noticed Mr. Soo following the bus to the end of its line. When driver asked if he was lost, Mr. Soo explained that he was trying to see the whole town. The bus driver bought him coffee during his break and gave him the return trip for free.

Mr. Soo witnessed a child in a convenience store purchasing a condom. The Singaporean man was shocked, and asked the child with a thick Asian accent, "Hey you, why you need that?" The child said he had a girlfriend and wanted to be safe. "How old are you?" When Mr. Soo found out the child was 10, he left the store shocked.

He talked about American problems, such as trading food stamps for beer, in a unique sage-like manner. During his trip, he noticed four rough men outside of a convenience store drinking. In a move that only someone not American would attempt, he asked them the question, "I'll buy you each a beer. Who wants a beer?" In a chorus of yes's he made four instant friends. Mr. Soo was a cunning man, I quickly understood. His next question was not so easy. The Singaporean continued, "You are all sitting there on good hands, how come you not working?" I pictured him wagging his finger slowly down the line at each of the four men. "They just tell me they don't want to flip burgers, but they just sit there drinking. What else can they do? If nothing else, maybe they should be flipping burgers." Surprisingly, he left the store without a scratch. Mr. Soo was such a likeable person; I wouldn't be surprised if at least one of the men went out and found a job the next day.

A great flood swept through the Midwest during his visit. The government quickly erected temporary shelter, people volunteered in droves to bag sand, and 40-foot trucks overflowed with donations. As an American, I was happy to be reminded that we can be generous on occasion.

We parted ways during our layover in Kuala Lumpur. No doubt Mr. Soo is out there now, saying hello to another stranger. top

Kuta, Indonesia

The Beach Scene

michelleWe landed in Bali yesterday. Every time the plane lands in a new country I feel like a little child about to open an anticipated gift. Not knowing what to expect but aware it will probably be something good. And our first destination, Kuta, did not disappoint.

It is like nothing I have ever seen. Bright lights, miles and miles of shops, merchandise flowing out to the sidewalks, almost touching the streets. Never ending streams of motorcycles and taxis pass on narrow roads, horns honking, while music blasts from bars, and venders yell out their wares as you pass - "You want massage?" "You want tattoo?" "How about ice cream?" (Although with their accents it sounds more like "ass cream.")

Kuta is a commercialized, gaudy beach resort town. The international airport is down the road so most tourists make it a starting point to their vacation in Bali. Cheap hotels, crowded beaches, surfer dudes and scantily clad women make Kuta a typical beach town, but 10 fold. The only Indonesians you meet are the vendors desperate for your money. We are warned we must bargain fiercely for every purchase.

Walking through the city is not an easy task. It is easy to become disoriented and lost in the narrow streets lined by high walls. Potholes in the sidewalks threaten to swallow you whole if you aren't paying attention to your step. I must also take care to step over the small offerings in the doorways of each store and restaurant, placed there to ward off evil spirits.

This is not the true Indonesia. Instead it's a non-stop European party scene. It's an overwhelming, wild experience but I will be glad when I leave. In the meantime, I will soak in the energy around me, practice my haggling skills, and enjoy a couple beers. top

Ubud, Indonesia

Cremation Ceremony

michelleAfter arriving in Ubud, we set out to explore the town. Ubud is known for its culture and artists. In central Bali, it is surrounded by picturesque rice fields and temples. I was excited to experience the town I had heard referred to as "the Santa Fe" of Indonesian for its many artists and galleries.

As we walked along the main road we soon came to a large crowd gathered around a large decorative paper-mache lion and colorful multi-tiered tower. The Indonesian men wore black sarongs, shirts, and head coverings. The Indonesian women wore fancy lace tops and sarongs. The tourists all had their cameras poised, ready for the event to begin.

We had stumbled across a cremation ceremony. The dead body is placed at the base of the tower to be carried to the cremation ground to be burned. As the ceremony began, the air was filled with music, yelling, laughter, and excitement. The funeral is a happy event, symbolizing the release of the soul to be with god. The men lifted the two large structures on their shoulders and started running down the street in a crazy zig-zag path (to confuse the spirit so it would not return home). Following in the procession were musicians, women carrying offerings, and hundreds of people. I think the whole town came out for the ceremony.

We walked through the town, up a steep hill to the cremation ground, surrounded by rice fields. There we watched as the lion, tower and offerings were set on fire. It was surreal to watch the lion's face slowly consumed by orange flames while listening to the ceremonial chants. It was a great introduction to Ubud and the Balinese culture.

 

 

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Dance

timUbud is a well-traveled city full of tourists, and the tourists create a demand for entertainment which the Balinese happily supply. In a few days, even the most hurried person can sample several varieties of Balinese dance and music.

Tonight was the first public performance of this all-child dance troupe and gamelan orchestra. If I can get my hands on a high-speed internet connection on the road, I'll add streaming audio of this concert as I did in Samoa. top

Batik Class

timWe met Nyomen Suradnya while inquiring about batik classes. His easy going personality was about 50% pure Balinese and 50% well-traveled artist-hippie. Inside of his family compound and art gallery, his batiks and watercolor paintings hung side by side with plants and caged song birds. After brief introductions, the long-haired Indonesian offered us a drink and suggested we sit down, chill out, and take it easy. We chatted for a while and casually scheduled a class for a couple of days later.

We arrived for our class in the morning, accepted an offer for thick Balinese coffee, and set to work. We were each given a white cotton cloth stretched across a wooden frame and a pencil to lay down a design. I sketched a geometric pattern, while Michelle drew a turtle.

Batik is a process of waxing and dyeing cloth to produce unique patterns and designs. Indonesia is known for such cloth, as the variety of batiks offered for sale in every market here will testify. The process is simple: cover the fabric with bees wax to prevent dye from soaking in and dye the fabric. Like a screen print, the lightest color is used first and is covered by progressively darker colors.

The wax is applied with two tools, the chanting and the brush. The chanting works like a wax pen. One "draws" with the chanting's point as it pulls hot wax from a reservoir. Different size chantings draw dots and lines of varying sizes. The other tool, the brush, is used to cover large areas of fabric.

After a few fumbling attempts using the chanting on a practice cloth, I began outlining my sketch in wax. As each layer of wax seals in the current color, these outlines would remain on the finished piece as white. I worked for 30 minutes, and went on to the next step of dyeing the cloth yellow.

We continued through the layers of wax and colors. I next painted the area I wanted to remain yellow, and dyed orange. Then painted and dyed through red and blue.

I finished, yet had no idea what the piece looked like. It was a sloppy mess, covered in wax, hard, and dripping with dye. Delaying my need for instant gratification, I handed it over to Nyomen's assistants and planned to pick it up later.

In my absence, his assistants fixed the dye with natural chemicals, boiled the cloth to remove the wax, and set the cloth out to dry. Nyomen was showing our finished pieces to a fellow Washingtonian traveler when we returned. She thought the pieces looked great, and much to my surprise, I did too.

In case you are ever his way, you can reach him at (62 361) 975 415 or rodanet@denpasar.wasantara.net.id. top

Images

bothA few images of Ubud

Children watch a cremation ceremony from behind school walls:

While other children look on from a closer location:

A figure from the Hindu Ulan Dano Temple:

Michelle sits on the stairs of a Hindu temple:

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A woman makes offerings to sale in the Ubud market. XXXXBalinese people make such offerings out of palm leaves, flowers, and incense for use in everyday rituals intended to appease supernatural forces. A carving guards the entrance to a temple in Bali. This cheerful old man smiled and nodded to us each time we passed by him on the street in Ubud, Bali. A woman places an offering on the altar of the Kintamani Ulan Dano Hindu temple in Bali. Old offerings cover the altar and the ground surrounding it. Four curious schoolgirls peer over a wall to watch a funeral procession pass by in the street. A cremation procession passes by in Ubud, Bali.XXXXThe cremation ceremony is one of the most important rituals in the life of a Balinese Hindu. It takes much time and money to plan and can take place up to years after the person's actual death.XXXXIn the photo here, the body is being carried from a temporary burial ground to the cremation ground in a high tower that can me made of anything including paper, bamboo, string, tinsel, mirrors, silk, cloth, flowers or other colorful items. The large group of men who carry the tower walk down the street in a seemingly drunken manner – zigzagging down the street and spinning the tower in circles. But far from being drunk, these men are trying to confuse the spirits so that they do not return home to cause mischief. An woman sifts rice near the touristy Elephant Temple in Bali, Indonesia.XXXXI took this photo with her permission, but then she demanded money afterward. I don't like to pay for photos, so I said no and walked away in a hail of curses.  I wonder what she cursed me with? A dancer in the Kecak (sounds like Kechak) dance in Ubud, Bali.  Listen to some of this music <a href='sounds.php3'>here</a>.

Lovina, Indonesia

Bus Ride to Lovina

michelleAfter a pleasant stay in Ubud, Tim and I decided to head north for a couple days. Our destination was Lovina, a beach resort area in north central Bali.

Our shuttle bus pick-up arrived on time at our hotel and took us to the main bus terminal which consisted of a small open-air hut full of red faced, sweaty tourists. It was still morning but the heat and humidity were taking their toll.

We all started to pile into an old unairconditioned bus. I wondered how the long line of passengers and all our luggage would fit. Suitcases and backpacks were piled high in the front of the bus and then spilled down the middle aisle and under seats. What we had been told would be a two hour ride was actually a bumpy four hours. As motorcycles whizzed by and hot air and dust flew through the open windows, I enjoyed my view of Bali. We passed lush green rice terraces carved into hilly slopes, children in uniform returning from school, and an endless amount of shops selling everything imaginable. We sped by masks, mirrors, fabrics, furniture, iron works, food stalls, wood carvings and much more. I know over one million tourists visit here annually, but I couldn't imagine even ten million tourists buying all the merchandise being sold.

When we arrived in Lovina at the bus stop we were greeted by more sweaty, red faced tourists. Only they were trying to leave Lovina. They had been waiting for our bus to arrive so it could turn right back around and take this new load to Ubud. It was a chaotic mess as luggage was unloaded off and loaded on, people disembarked and others lined up to board. Tim and I moved off to the side to let the dust settle a bit and figure out where we would spend the night. Touts approached, showed a brochure with pictures of their hotel and offered us free transportation. It sounded good so we grabbed our packs. Two motorcycles pulled up and one of the guys said to me, "Hop on." I stood looking at the small motorcycle and then looking at my huge, heavy backpack and shook my head saying, "You don't understand. It is REALLY heavy!" I couldn't see how my pack, the driver and myself would balance. "You can just balance it up front" he replied pointing to the area between the handlebars and the seat. I'm not a physics major but knew enough to understand the precariousness of the situation. Again I shook my head no, refusing to get on. I could just see my backpack, the bike, the driver and most importantly, myself, sprawled on the side of the road. There was an awkward moment of what to do when luckily, a van drove up that could take us.

Tim in the poolWhen we arrived at the hotel (safely I might add) Tim did a wonderful job negotiating a rate for a room: 50,000 RP. For the equivalent of $6.25 a night we got a nice room, breakfast, and the use of a sparkling blue pool surrounded by gardens, aquariums and cages with exotic birds. Not bad! top

Dolphin Hunt

timThe Lovina dolphin trip vendors used up my patience within five minutes of yesterday's arrival. Standing in packs outside our hotel room, they promised great deals and special prices. I wanted nothing more than a shower to wash away the sweat and dirt from our bus ride, so we waved them away with ambiguous answers.

Later, individual vendors approached us on the beach and on the street. They knocked on our room door, then woke me up from an afternoon nap by the pool. (I know, rough life.) We eventually gave in to their demands and booked a tour with the cheapest guy.

Waking up at 5:30 AM to see dolphins is a bit extreme, but I would have woken up then anyway because of the cacophony outside. Roosters crowed, motorcycles roared, people yelled, children cried, dogs barked, and Germany's worst Elvis impersonator sang the refrain from "Can't Help Falling in Love" at least 20 times from the room next door.

Elvis was especially loud, as his voice echoed over the thin baffle separating our bathrooms.

We arrived to the beach before sunrise, where an endless line of white dugout canoes stretched across the sand. Our boat looked very similar to the others. It held just four passengers and a captain. The hull was thick and heavy, yet carved just wide enough to seat one passenger. Two angled arms reached over each side holding a bamboo outrigger. The outriggers made the other boats seem spider-like as they skittered across water.

We launched our boat and followed the pack out to sea. Minutes later, the sun rose from behind the hazy mountains and reflected brilliant orange rays off the glassy water. I admired the view only for a minute, my attention diverted to the spectacle up ahead. A tangle of boats raced haphazardly around in circles looking for dolphins. We entered the confusion in our boat and began to look.

Then it happened - someone spotted them. Over thirty-five boats turned and raced toward the poor animals. The dolphins played for a minute and disappeared. The cycle continued over and over again for 30 minutes: dolphins sited, dolphins chased by crazy tourists, dolphins vanished. I enjoyed the absurdity of the hunt more than seeing the dolphins themselves, even when we became the lead boat and saw them up close.

When we returned back to the hotel after a short snorkel trip, we were again serenaded by Elvis.

"Wise men say, only fools rush in...." top

Cock Fight

tim Paul was an opportunist. Two days ago he knocked on our door and sold us a dolphin tour. Today he returned with a rooster under one arm and invited us to a cockfight. He extended the invitation in a friendly way, like asking a friend out to dinner. But under the act, I felt him looking at me like a human ATM. When he mentioned the 10,000 rupiah entry fee we would have to pay him, I knew he was lying. But I didn't mind shelling out $1.20 US for a guide to an event that I couldn't attend normally.

We collected three other travelers, walked inland for about twenty minutes, and arrived to a dusty clearing. Past the rows of motorcycles lay the main attraction: a 20 x 20 foot bamboo square staked into the ground like a two foot high boxing ring. Men gathered in clusters around the ring talking, their bouts of laughter occasionally breaking the mummer of light conversation. Only five women were present, but three were tourists in our party and two were selling drinks.

Paul handed his chicken to a shriveled old man who ran the event. The old man worked quickly, attaching sharp knives to the rooster's feet with endless loops of thin red string. As Paul's rooster was a three-time winner, the old man tied the knives closer to the center of the feet to give the opponent an advantage.

Bets were completed and the match began. The old man placed the cocks in the center of the ring and riled them up. The roosters went after each other in a clucking frenzy, pecking at each other, ripping out feathers, and drawing blood. The crowd howled and feathers flew.

The old man paused the match and placed both chickens in a woven overturned basket, where the fight continued in a confined space. Paul's chicken jumped and slashed the challenger's leg. The old man lifted the basket so the fight could continue in open space, but the challenger slumped to the ground. Blood covered both roosters, but Paul's rooster won the match.

Michelle winced and looked away when an assistant slit the throat of the loser and handed the body to Paul to keep. He held it up, joking about having chicken soup for dinner. The loser's previous owner looked at Michelle and sadly mouthed, "I lost."

By this time the crowd had grown to over 80 people. A freshly erected gambling area sat adjacent to the ring, and drew the cockfight spectators over. I didn't understand the rules of the game, but it involved cards, numbers, and lots of money.

We didn't stick around for a second match, but plenty of other events kept our attention. A man slashed three of his fingers with a poisoned knife used in the fight and immediately passed out. Amazingly, a group of men carried him to a motorcycle, sandwiched his limp body between two people, and drove him over dirt roads to a doctor.

As a vegetarian, I found the cockfight somewhat gruesome. Nevertheless, I'm glad I had the opportunity to go. Most importantly, I enjoyed asking Michelle what kind of chicken dish she wanted for lunch as we left the dusty clearing.

I think she may be one step closer to becoming a vegetarian herself. top

Motorcycle Ride

michelleToday Tim and I rented a motorcycle to ride through the north hills of Bali. Tim owned a motorcycle years ago so I had confidence in his driving skills, but I was still nervous. Drivers here are unpredictable and our helmets were cheap plastic hats.

Off we rode, rice fields on our left and the ocean on our right. Eventually we turned inland, heading up steep, winding roads. The motorcycle would sputter and cough at times, struggling with the steep incline. We had a fantastic view of the ocean and surrounding valleys below.

People were unusually friendly. Not many tourists come through this way so Tim's white face must have seemed unusual. I waved to people as we passed. Children would run out to the road shouting greetings while adults would smile and wave. Once we stopped to ask directions and it seemed the whole village came out to see us. One little boy even grabbed my buttocks! I, of course, gave him a disapproving look and then we both giggled. With all the attention I think it was the closest I will come to being famous.

We made a couple stops along the way. First we visited some hot springs, watching people bath in stone pools with water-spouting carvings. Then we stopped at Bali's only Buddhist monastery, Brahmavihara Arama. The monastery was very tranquil, with people sitting quietly in front of Buddha statues meditating.

We returned the motorcycle late in the afternoon, sweaty and dirty, but smiling. It was a wonderful day. top

Ubud, Indonesia

Cooking School

timToday was our second day of cooking classes at the Casa Luna Cooking School.

The school is run by Janet, an expatriate Aussie who also runs two restaurants, a bakery, and a guesthouse with her Balinese husband of many years. She talked at length about living in Bali and raising her four children here, and was able give me as much insight about Balinese life as she did about Balinese cuisine.

We spent the morning with a walk through the Ubud market, a very chaotic place. The vendors that cram the stalls of the three-story building sell everything from clothes to food. In a typical developing world style, ripe vegetables and colorful spices share space with trash and flies. But that didn't upset the class. We were happy to listen to Janet as she held up and described each Balinese spice and vegetable for sale.

We went back to her house. She claims her husband is a stickler for detail; her home is full of intricate carvings, rich tile floors, and warm wooden furniture. It is a great place to spend the afternoon. We reviewed our ingredients, cooked several dishes, and had a great lunch served with homemade rice wine.

Unfortunately, Michelle and I had to leave quickly to make our appointment at a local spa. For about $10 we treated ourselves to a full body massage, exfoliation, and spice bath.

Life on the road is rough. top

A woman makes offerings to sale in the Ubud market. XXXXBalinese people make such offerings out of palm leaves, flowers, and incense for use in everyday rituals intended to appease supernatural forces. A carving guards the entrance to a temple in Bali. This cheerful old man smiled and nodded to us each time we passed by him on the street in Ubud, Bali. A woman places an offering on the altar of the Kintamani Ulan Dano Hindu temple in Bali. Old offerings cover the altar and the ground surrounding it. Four curious schoolgirls peer over a wall to watch a funeral procession pass by in the street. A cremation procession passes by in Ubud, Bali.XXXXThe cremation ceremony is one of the most important rituals in the life of a Balinese Hindu. It takes much time and money to plan and can take place up to years after the person's actual death.XXXXIn the photo here, the body is being carried from a temporary burial ground to the cremation ground in a high tower that can me made of anything including paper, bamboo, string, tinsel, mirrors, silk, cloth, flowers or other colorful items. The large group of men who carry the tower walk down the street in a seemingly drunken manner – zigzagging down the street and spinning the tower in circles. But far from being drunk, these men are trying to confuse the spirits so that they do not return home to cause mischief. An woman sifts rice near the touristy Elephant Temple in Bali, Indonesia.XXXXI took this photo with her permission, but then she demanded money afterward. I don't like to pay for photos, so I said no and walked away in a hail of curses.  I wonder what she cursed me with? A dancer in the Kecak (sounds like Kechak) dance in Ubud, Bali.  Listen to some of this music <a href='sounds.php3'>here</a>.