Thursday, December 22, 2011

Minnesota Christmas

We head back to Minnesota for Christmas tomorrow, and I am SO EXCITED!

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Bali Part 5: Rice Fields and all the Rest

OK finally this will be the last Bali post.  It's kind of a mish-mash of what's left and the photos are largely about rice fields, landscapes, and more photos with us in them.  (Sorry.)

Rice is grown all over the place in Bali and the Balinese can largely sustain themselves on everything they grow there without having to import any more.  So many of our walks, drives, and treks involved rice fields and rice terraces in one way or another. They are so green and so beautiful set amongst the jungle or mountains or whatnot.  Very picturesque and peaceful.

As you can probably gather from previous posts we were very taken with Bali and it was such a memorable trip.  One area of disappointment I had was that the Balinese don't really seem to care that much about taking care of the beautiful place they live. Too often there was trash and litter along roadsides, sidewalks, rice fields, ravines, what have you. An eyesore yes but also a little sad to see.  And so many houses and buildings are in a state of disrepair.

My favorite things in Bali?  Probably the mountain treks, the beautiful temple visits, and the food. We had SUCH good food.  And so much fresh fruit and juices. Yum.  And everything is so amazingly cheap!

We figured with our new proximity to Asia it offered a good reason to start exploring it. We had actually decided on Thailand as our first venture but the flooding there over last few months put the brakes on that. But Bali was a perfect choice and we're so glad we went!

Click here for the last set of photos.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Bali Part 4: Temples

Pura Taman Saraswati
Although Indonesia has the largest number of Muslims of any country in the world, Bali remains 95% Hindu and religion is a key part of everyday life for the Balinese. So there are temples everywhere, from the most simple of structures to amazing places that need to be seen to be believed. And many that have literally been around for centuries.

Guests are usually welcome to enter temples but it common to require the wearing of a sarong for everyone - men and women. So no making fun of photos with Jeff in a "skirt".  :-)

One temple we visited, Tirta Empul, was in the midst of preparing for a giant celebration which meant we got to see a very active place with music, gatherings, elaborate offerings, and people dressed in traditional garb.

We visited another, Gunung Kawi, that was set in a deep jungle valley with stone structures and massive carvings on the rock cliff faces from the 11th century. Given the fact that it started raining and there was no one else there at the same time it made for an amazing experience. It was one of my memorable places in Bali.

Goa Gajah (Elephant Caves) stood out not only because of the centuries-old cave and beautiful setting but also because a "caretaker" of the temple named Made gave us a personal tour with explanations and insights into Hindu which were quite fascinating. Instead of simply a walk around a lovely place, he tied the structures and setting to the beliefs and traditions of Hindu. One that stood out was their acceptance and tolerance of others who are non-Hindu, embracing them just like anyone else. And this was exemplified by the fact that half of this beautiful setting was shared by a Buddhist temple as well.

Although the structure itself of Pura Uluwatu was not terribly impressive, the fact that it sits 300 feet up on the top of a cliff that rises vertically right out of the ocean is a sight to behold. Just amazing. And it has its own population of resident thieving monkeys to keep you on your toes, too.

There were others we visited, too, but these stood out the most. And getting to see this side of Bali was extremely interesting and always so peaceful. And this is no revelation to the ladies out there but walking up steps in a long skirt is quite difficult. :-)

Click here to see more photos.

Finally, the Gamelan is a popular musical instrument in Bali and often used in temple celebrations. Here is a video clip from the visit to Tirta Empul to see and hear the Gamelan played by many people.