Monday, May 31, 2010

Bali Day 4: Elephant Park


One of my fellow travelers, Denise, did some research on other things to do in the area and one of them was Elephant rides at the Elephant park. She suggested this the night before and three of us decided to take her up on it. Our tour leader arranged a van from Tour East to pick us up, wait for us and bring us back. This was a great experience and I am so glad that I did it.

Getting there was half the fun. My observation of driving in Bali, its a never ending game of chicken. While some roads have line markers, it doesnt really matter as people tend to drive right down the middle and just get out of people's way at the last second. Motor bikes are constantly weaving in and out of traffic. Pedestrians - - you do not have the right of way and its up to you to get across the street alive and in one piece.

Can you imagine the road rage if people drove like this in DC?

This next video shows one of the villages as we drove by. The house compounds are built right up to the side of the road. We even saw a woman doing her laundry in the irrigation ditch that run along the side of the road and in front of all of the houses.

Once we reached the village where the elephant park was located, we had to make a donation to enter the village. Yes, a toll to enter through the village gates. There was no set amount, whatever we had, a dollar each perhaps. I think that is what we each threw in.

The Elephant Park also had a museum, hotel/resort, gift shops and restaurant. Below is a photo of a HUGE elephant skeleton. FYI, I apparently missed the "No Photography" sign posted near the entrance of this room, whoops. I had to laugh because we give people such a hard time when they flash photograph the Iwo Jima can they miss the signs. This room allowed no photography what-so-ever. I think they need to put the no photography sign right infront of this elephant.

The above elephant was so large that I could have walked under its belly without slouching.

I think the artifact below was in an area of the museum where we could photograph. This is a wood carving with intricate, beautiful painting all over the elephant.


We didn't spend much time in the museum as we needed to take our ride and get out of dodge to be back at the Alila to catch the bus to the Market. This is a photo of the park. It was very beautiful. We were greated by a park Ranger who hustled us over to the elephant rides.


As we walked to 'loading dock', this little baby walked up to us. She wanted to be petted and to check us out.

Below is a blurry picture taken by the park ranger my group on the elephants.


This would have been a cool picture had my camera not done this strange break-up of the image. If anyone knows why this is happening, let me know. The name of the elephant I was on was Dina. She was a nice elephant. Our driver spoke english very well and we had a great conversation as we road through the trails.



Below is some video of our ride.

Right before I started to video tape this, Dina came to a dead stop in the trail, flapped her ears and made like she wanted to back way. We asked the driver what was wrong. You may be able to hear the gamelon music, at one point it was very loud, the village must have been walking by at the intersection at that time. Dina is afraid of the music. The driver turned her around so that we could take pictures of each other (the other two gals were right behind us on their elephant). Once the parade passed, Dina moved on.

I'll be honest, the ride was not comfortable. The seats had a wooden bar across the back that hit you right below the small of your back. So as you lumbered from side to side, the wooden bar would hit your lower back in a very uncomfortable place.

Along the path, we noticed Balinese standing at intersections taking our pictures. It wasn't until after and we were leaving did I fully understand. They probably could not afford to take the elephant ride (it was $58 US dollars a person which was 580,000 rupia) so they did the next best thing, they took pictures of the westerners riding the elephants. I'll be honest, this kind of made me sad.

After our ride, we took in the elephant show.




Here is some video of the elephant painting.

After the show we went to have our photos taken with the little elephant that had greeted us when we entered. Such a sweeet animal. I scratched her trunk and behind her ears.


The skin on its face and trunk is very hard. Not even leathery. Its more like living stone, that is how hard it is. The skin behind their ears is quite soft, similar in texture as the skin on my arm.

Our drive back to hotel was kind of long as we got stuck behind another religious festival parade.
The boxes on the women's heads contain the offering. Much of what is in the offering is actually the family's dinner. They will make the offering and get the meal blessed and eat together as a family on the grounds of the temple.


Bali Day 3: Food, Worship and Parades


Yes, day 3 continues.

You will notice that there will be several entries for each day. I'll be honest, this trip seemed like it was longer than it was because we did so many things. Even though we did many things, there was never a feeling of being rushed. It was all relaxing. The theme of this vacation was tied to the Elizabeth Gilbert book: Eat, Pray, Love.

Of course there is food involved. For breakfast, I had a yummie banana pancake. There is a big difference between Bali and the United States in regards to portion size. When I say I had a pancake, I mean I had A pancake. Singular. One. Uno. No wonder we Americans (myself included) have issues with our weight. In the US, that order would have been a stack of banana pancakes.

I must say, that solo pancake, along with fresh fruit, two croissants with butter and a berry smoothie kept me going until we had our dinner at Amanusa in Nusa Dua. Amanusa has an Italian restaurant, so we had Italian for our first dinner together in Bali.

Amanusa was exquisite. Its a five star hotel and it just beautiful. The restaurant was small yet very elegant with dark wood paneling, tables and beveled glass windows that magically glittered in the candlelight on our table. We learned that alcohol is very expensive in Bali. The lady next to me had two glasses of wine that cost her the equivalent of $50 US dollars. Our tour leader told us that alcohol was expensive on the island because it has be be imported.


I'll be honest, this part of the trip theme made me nervous because, as a Christian, I can't worship in the Hindu temples. I did mention this to my tour leader, privately, and she was very understanding, even glad that I brought it up. This morning, we learned about praying in the temples. This was in preparation for our trip to the Besakih Temple in two days.

The Balinese are Hindu, which is different than the rest of Indonesia which is Muslim. According to our instructor, all are welcome to pray in the temple to God, it doesn't matter what god you worship. However, there is a very specific patter that is followed when doing the offering. The little offering baskets contain several flowers and some rice as well as an incense stick. They start by breathing in the incense to cleanse them. The first offering is empty hands. The next offering is a yellow follower which is then thrown away. Then they offer another flower, which is then tucked into the woman's hair or the mans head cover. The final offering is again, empty hands. After this the priest or priestess will come around and sprinkle holy water on everyone. The priest offers the worshipers rice, they eat a few grains and then place some grains in the middle of their foreheads.

As luck would have it, our arrival coincided with a 10 day long religious holiday, their Gods had descended to earth during those 10 days and at noon on the 10th day, they ascend back to heaven. Entire villages get together and parade through the village to the local temple to give their offering.

In order to enter the temple, we each needed to wear a sarong (even the men). The women have to wear a white blouse tied with a sash. The men have to wear a white shirt and a head cover.

We got to witness several villages worshiping in the streets.



Sunday, May 30, 2010

Bali Day 3: Exploring

This is the view of the rooms at the Alila resort. You may notice the strange fracturing of this picture, thanks new point and shoot camera. GRRR! My only complaint of this vacation is I lost a lot of pictures due to the odd things this camera was doing, over exposing, underexposing, fracturing the pictures. I got a new Nikon coolpix, point and shoot because I didn't want to lug my heavy D80 with me in carry on. I'll be honest, I wish I would have brought my D80 with me.

Below, this is me sitting on the yoga platform at the sculpture garden. Behind me is Mount Batukaru, a volcano, also known as Coconut Shell Rock. Its the 2nd highest mountain in Bali at 2,276 meters. There are hiking trips into the jungle on this mountain where you can get a 360 degree view of all of Bali. At the base of the mountian is the Pura Luhur Batukaru temple, one of six main temples on Bali. We did not go to mountain or the temple there. Maybe, when I return to the island, I will go on a mountain trek tour...and I'll bring my good camera with me.


Below, the roofs of some of the private villas at my resort. Yes, we had thatched roofed huts/rooms. Very water tight!


Lots of steps throughout the resort, my legs got quite a work out walking around here.


This is the spa at the resort.


The walkway from my room to the lobby, restaurant and pool. The lobby, restaurant and poolside cabana were all open. There were shades they could pull down to block the sun or rain, however, the open walls allowed for excellent circulation of air. Despite the humidity and heat, I never felt uncomfortable. It was open, lush, green, relaxing. Paradise.


This is a shot looking out of the library door down the walkway at the side of the lobby.

Lots of hybiscus flowers throughout the grounds.


The view from the restaurant deck looking across the valley to the temple on the other side.


Below, is another resort, nestled in the hills.


Here I am heading down a path at the edge of the resort.


I found this private cabana. A perfect place for a wedding or romantic meal.


The path continued past the cabana down into the valley. I wasn't wearing my tennis shoes and the the stone path became overgrown and slippery as it descended. I could hear rushing water, so I am not sure if there was a waterfall into the river in the valley. Because it was steep and slippery, I decided to not go any further than this and returned to the pool for a relaxing dip.

This is the pool.




Isn't it beautiful? The only trecherous thing about the pool was the tile bottom. It was slippery. You really needed to watch your step walking into the pool. Very beautiful, refreshingly cool, and peaceful.

Below are the sculpture gardens. There were two.

This is the second garden. I'll be honest, I don't really 'get' the sculptures and their placement. It looks more like a cemetary.

In the second garden, each sculpture resembled a large stone bell.


In sculpture garden I, the sculptures looked like large stone frenchfries. These three were part of a 5 stone circle. To the left of this grouping was the yogo platform framed by two rectangular rock sculptures. As you can see, we were very much away from the city...which was so relaxing!


May 22nd - - Bali Day 3 - - Orientation Day

At 3 a.m. this morning, I discovered a slamander in the toilet -- after I had used the toilet. Boy did he fight hard not to go down the drain when I flushed. I am very proud that I didn't scream.

Its 5:30 a.m. (5:30 p.m. DC time) and I am sitting outside next to a recessed light so I can see to write.

When it got lighter, I moved to the pool. I was still wearing my pajamas. It didn't matter as no one, except the staff, was up and about. The morning was cool and slightly humid. The roosters in the near-by village were crowing, birds, frogs and crickets were chirping. Its beautiful and calming.

I plan on spending the whole day at the pool!

May 22 - - Bali Day 2: Arrival


This is the sign in the parking lot at the Denpasar airport.

After our flight, it was a little confusing about what to do. I found two of the women I learned who were going on the tour with me and we collectively figured out what line to go to first. After paying for our entry visa we then had to stand for hours in the Cusoms/Immigration line. We were approached by a plain clothes man who said he could get us through the line in 5 minutes and we should follow him. Um, no, I don't think so. We told him we were o.k. with standing in line for an hour.

It did take an hour and it was hot and uncomfortable!

Thank goodness the tour company provided us cool, wet towels when we boarded the bus. Boy did those feel good!

Below are billboards as you leave the airport.


Is this what you think it is? It sure is! A western style, high end mall just outside the airport.


One of the monuments to one of the Balinese gods. There were many of these statues at intersections as we drove through Denpasar.


May 21 - - Bali Day 2: Almost There


Hong Kong. 12 hours ahead of the Washington DC. Longest flight ever!

We stopped for an hour in Vancouver, Canada. However, they didn't let us disembark. I had hoped we would have been able to get off the airplane and walk around a bit. Didn't happen. UGH!

I learned later that the plane was so packed because it was a holiday weekend in Hong Kong. I had a crummy seat, in the middle in the middle section. On the flight from HK, I sat between two a husband and wife. Their seats were on opposite sides of me. I don't think they were real happy about that. The woman did the helpless "Oh, I can't get my carryon in the overhead." There was no way for the man to get over to her side as the other rows had filled up and people where streaming down the aisles. Despite this, she continued to look at him helplessly saying, "I can not get it up there."

I offered to help her and she suddenly was able to get her bag up in the overhead.

So on the long flight to HK, I watched episode 1-3 of season six of Project Runway. Then I watched the movie, Couples Retreat (horrible movie). Then I watched, The Blind Side -- very good! I also did some sleeping.

We arrivedin HK at 7:02 a.m. HK time. This was 7:02 p.m. on the 20th back in DC. I have been traveling for 32 hours now.

The HK airport is very clean. It is surrounded by mountains on the norht and water on the south. When we got off the plane, the very noticible thing was the humidity.

Watching the sun try to break through is very pretty. The sun seams to spotlight different things like islands on the sea side, or a boat, or spots on the mountain side.


There were some bumpy parts of my flight to HK, I was getting sick. Only a couple more hours and I'll be in Bali!

May 19th - - Bali - Day 1: I am REALLY on Vacation!

I will admit to starting my vacation with a panic attack. Before leaving for vaca, I needed to select my health insurance coverage. I seemed to have missed the default password in the intro letter that came with all the insurance information, so when I logged in and tried using my enterprise password, it didn't work. Go figure.

I called the help number that was published saying it was available 24/7 during open enrollment. Apparently not. Two hours before I needed to leave for the air port, the Help Desk got a hold of me and I was able to log in and select my new health insurance.

Worry. I will admit that is what I did up to the point of where I was on board the airplane flying to New York. Does anyone else worry this much?

Its been two years since I've been on a real adventure. When I checked in at the airport, I was asked where I was running away to? I handed the man my passport and e-ticket information and responded: "Bali."

"Bali! You really are running away!"

Yes, running away...from the responsibilities and the stress of DC. I am running away!


Saturday, May 29, 2010

Re-Entering the Blogosphere

I haven't blogged since February!

Yes, since February, I have been reduced to the quick status updates provided on Facebook. Since February my life has been very full. Work, dance classes, prepping for vacation, fostering a cat for Lost Dog Lost Cat, and volunteering at the museum.

I have a lot of catching up to do! Where do I start?

Work. Well, its been work, and that is all I have to say about that.

Dance Classes. I love them! I have learned how to Cha-Cha and Rumba. I think I like the Rumba the best. I plan on taking the next class level. I would love to meet a man who likes to dance...anyone interested in taking Advanced Cha Cha and Rumba with me?

I went to Bali for vacation. Stay tuned for the play-by-play!

Annabelle. Not sure what I last blogged about her. She is the foster cat I have had since October. As she recovered from ringworm and grew, she started walking funny. The older she got, the worst her walking got. I turned out that her knees were popping out of socket. Lost Dog Lost Cat approved surgery. X-rays closer to the date of surgery revealed that she not only had bad knees but bad hips and all would have to be repaired. She made it through double knee and hip surgery and has recovered nicely. She is now ready to be adopted. I am praying for the perfect forever home for her.

The Museum. Lots of stuff going on there! Stay tuned for updates. The new galleries for the Revolution through World War I will open next Saturday, June 5th.