Monday, October 24, 2011

ubud (pronounced oo-bood)

> now I write from ubud, in lower central Bali, it's a place full of life and culture and art and music. we got here on Wednesday morning and have found the most perfect little place to live for the next two weeks. it's called the wena homestay, so we live in a little apartment next to the family's home. we have a beautiful mosaic bathroom and our own little front porch with a table and two chairs and a light. we look out onto a pool of coy fish an a statue of Ganesh, all under a mango tree. breakfast is included in the IR 10k we pay a night ($5 each) and we get delicious papaya, pineapple and banana every morning with eggs and toast.
> padang bai was fabulous. probably the most opposite of the the tourist and surfer packed Kuta/legian/ Seminyak area which came as a very welcome
> relief. we really vacationed in padang bai, the beach everyday and not
> much other than that. we did go on a nice hike around the bay which included some hills that were so steep it felt like we werent even getting any closer to the top. this brought us to some really cool vantage points and to an unfinished hotel that was started by a Korean company in padang bai. the hotel was never finished because of worker treatment and pay so now it stands, the whole cement foundation and frame complete, two rooms with windows and finished porches and wiring in the walls. we lunched on one of the second floor unfinished porches. we had Nasi campur which is IR 7000 ($.70) and it's boiled rice, tempeh, veggies and potatoes. I think the most delicious thing I've had so far. it's sold mostly at little carts or in home convenience stores that also cook food for locals. it's what the Balinese eat 2-3 times a day. the tempeh here is unbelievably delicious. after our hit and sweaty hike we decided that we should shower and get Balinese massages. so we did. $10 a pop ain't so bad for an hour long massage. I'm
> pretty sure they thought Sarah and I were dating or something because they put us both in the same curtained off area hahahah. Balinese massage is awesome though, they put a bowl
> of tropical flowers in water under your face and they smell really good. then it's a lot of pressure and repetition and they jump on the table over you and its really cool and then pound your feet. whatever it is, it works.
> one night at our favorite spot, the sunshine bar, we were well into the bintangs and so we taught the locals how to play a stupid drinking card game called f*** the dealer. it's mindless and just requires everyone to drink a lot, and that we all did. there were probably 12 of us, and then at like 2-ish the power went out.. well that didnt stop us we played by candlelight until the bar owner decided 330 was a good time to close the bar. why on earth would we go to be when we were having so much fun? well a few of
> us decided to climb over the hill to the white sand beach for swimming and the sunrise. turns out the sunrise wasn't that cool cause it was cloudy but we didn't care, we were having too much fun. it made for a very very boring next day.
> now we are in ubud, and there are so many things to do it's hard to decide everyday! we have seen the blanco
> Renaissance museum, the royal palace, the monkey forest, and the jazz cafe. the museum was really provocative and interesting. antonio blanco was this exceedingly eccentric spanish guy who's life was sort of centered around painting and the female body. his wife was a famed Balinese dancer, and the subject of much of his work. his son Mario still lives there (the museum is antonios former home) and his work is great as well, we were able to meet him. the property is gorgeous and there are tropical birds all over the place. we even got to see a Balinese offering dance! the royal palace was lovely, nothing overly ornate, but definitely luxurious. Sarah and I both got to
> go into a section thats actually lived in and we learned tiny bits of Balinese dance. it's very hard, all about posture, hands and eyes.
> monkey forest day was yesterday and ohhh my god I could live in there. incredible. at first i was definitely wary, but soon enough I had monkeys climbing onto my lap or shoulder and sitting right next to me. they can get fiesty for sure but i had so much fun playing with them. the teeny babies are so cute, they just hang upside down on their mother's bellies and they're so mini. we didn't buy bananas but found a ton in there on the ground so we got to feed them loads. I think we were in the forest for maybe four hours! and I didn't even wanna leave. we are gonna go back later this week with more provisions. last night we went to the jazz cafe and man i felt at home. the place is gorgeous and way too expensive to go to but I would go every day. the jazz trio was great, Bari sax player from England, pianist from Bali and singer from java. she was unbelievable. I chatted with them during their set break and then ended up singing two tunes! it was a great success, they invited me to
> come back on Friday to sing with them
> again!
> just had our breakfast and going to check out the botanical gardens today. x

Friday, October 14, 2011

Seminyak and Padang bai

hello hello I write today from the cute little port city of Padang Bai, located on the east coast of Bali. The past week has been jam packed of relaxation, shopping, people watching and beer drinking. Sunday night was a real night out, Sarah and I made friends with some salsa dancers at a bar called bahiana after dinner, then moved on to club cosmo. figures we would find the only club hosting nightly drag shows and flaming drinks in Seminyak... and just around the corner from our hotel. there was a great rhianna drag queen and some very talented dancers and Sarah and I definitely danced the night away watchingthe fantastic show. after making some friends there we were directed to a club on the beach called la vida loca. a live band playing American top 40 hits as well as hits from the 90s. all of the balinese love playing American music. after stumbling our way home at some ungodly hour, we were pretty much wastes of space the next day until sunset when I walked down to the beach. my god you've never seen a sun like it. dinner at the Zula vegetarian paradise was delicious as ever and we went to bed awfully early. Tuesday we did a bit of shopping around and ended at the beach with our friend Made (the nice long chair rental guy who plays a flute like instrument) and read and swam and sunned for the rest of the day until sunset when we got ourselves some young coconuts and enjoyed them on the beach watching kids play and the sun be awesome. dined at this place called JPs warungclub... i mean I couldnt not go to a JPs in Bali haha.. our food was delicious and the waiter just plopped right down to sit with us and we chatted away the night with him. He introduced himself as "your man" which he thought was hilarious and we never learned hisreal name. He was as happy as can be chatting laughing and teaching us about Bali. there was a band playing more American songs. the keyboard player was great. after that we went down to this other bar on the beach road and saw the most fantastic beetles cover band. age range : 19-60. abilities: intermediate- advanced. english: poor- mediocre. energy and effort: through the damn roof. the 'John Lennon' if the group was definitely the youngest and had a great voice, also tried to speak in a british accent when speaking to the crowd. he would frequently call his band mates by the beatles' names and then 'George' would tell us that this was a very special song for us ( before every song) and then proceed to announce which song they were about the play. the bassman was the oldest and when we talked with them after we learned that his daughter lives in Kansas and just graduated uni and showed us her picture on his blackberry. that was a lovely night. Wednesday came and went very tired. We spent the morning searching around Seminyak ( which is far more vast than we had thought) for a designer clothing shop belonging to a contact of ours here. it's called Mister Zimi, the clothing is gorgeous. We sat down to lunch and read and get out of the heat because we had just walked for about two hours but we saw the coolest handmade furniture shops and nice boutiques and restaurants. we were definitely in the part of the city where you want to buy and try everything but its just too expensive. alas, we took this gorgeous road bordered in flowers and palm trees and beautiful villas to walk back to our area of town where we got ready to hit the beach for our last Seminyak sunset before heading east. we shared a large Bintang and read our book ( ive started reading the game of thrones... I cannot be bothered to put it down..) we dined on appetizers at a fancy little place on the beach street with nice lantern lighting and cool little hand towelettes that expand and moisten when you put them in water, then strolled back to bed. Thursday I got up early and went and had breakfast across the street at our usual spot called warung ocha, where lots of toast with butter and vegetate is only IR 10,000 and a cup of "coffee Bali" is only IR 7000. it's the best place for people watching. not many tourists are out before nine or ninethirty so we would watch the Balinese day begin, people off to work and school, and the women putting out the offerings (small handwoven reed baskets with flowers, rice, incense, and anything else thought to please the gods). These are on the ground in front of every store, restaurant, hotel, everything, everywhere, and the temples are covered with them. I like to sit and watch the kids grabbing on to their parents as they zoom by on motor bikes... following the Balinese driving rules.... whiiiich don't exist.. anywho then we waited for our driver Andreas and he drove us the two ish hrs to Padang Bai and get this - just told us to pay him however much we wanted.. which we decided on our equivalent of $20 and then found out that was way too much... can you beleive it? taking a NYC taxi for like ten minutes might be $20. this place is seriously cheap. we settled into our cute little place called the Marco inn. theres a hammock and a rooftop overlooking the sea, and our sheets are bright green! and only $5.50 each a night! we spent all day at a white sand beach with the clearest blue waters and quietest beach surrounded by palm trees. now THIS is paradise like we imagine it. the way of life here is so laid back, and quiet and friendly. apparently when the waves roll in at the beaches you can see giant turtles swept up in the waves! we will be looking today! to get to the beach you have to hike up and over this rocky hill (daily workout..) and then down to the glorious beach below. we made two friends on the beach, africano and victor; a Balinese and a Dutch. they are really nice and so we chatted with them a bit and got some tips about the area. Had dinner at cafe alola ( very nice place) where we sat on cushions and lounged. there are 3 bars here, all very small and we went to the Sunshine bar last night on the suggestion of victor and africano. what an awesome place. theres one big long wooden table outside that everyone sits at and the inside is teeny tiny. we met some Swiss german speaking people on vacation, a Swiss French speaking guy who teaches diving here, the locals who frequent the bar and those who run it, and a couple from germany here on holiday. we just talked and talked with the background of live reggae music mixed in with some queen and pink Floyd and we have found ourselves some great friends on this island! now it's beach time xx

Sunday, October 9, 2011

motorbikes, warungs, beach cocktails

oh how do I even begin. Friday morning we woke up to beautiful sunshine and had our delicious breakfast of fresh juice (orange, pineapple or watermelon), coffee (tea for Sarah) and toasted baguette with local honey and papaya jam. then we headed to the beach and walked for almost an hour until we found the perfect little spot amidst the many eager Balinese men trying to solicit us their chairs and umbrellas to lounge at for the day. the Seminyak beaches are unbelievable. the waves are huge and gorgeous and there are surfers everywhere you look. we played in the ocean and managed to get ourselves too much color... that's for sure. then had lunch at this adorable place called La Plancha.. a Spanish spot on the beach. delicious. then we moseyed back to lounge about by the pool. we have this gorgeous infinity pool and a rooftop bar and it's basically heaven in here. after a cold Bintang on the roof we went out to eat at a traditional Indonesian warung and both had the Nasi Goerang. traditional meal of fried rice and veggies with a fried egg on top. and only IR 15,000 ($1.50). unbelievable. yesterday was not quite as nice out so we explored the streets of Kuta, Legian and Seminyak and managed to find accommodations for tonight through weds night in one go. only IR 12,000 total for a room with a double bed and it's own bathroom... that's nothin. and we are right in the heart of beautiful Seminyak. then I had maybe the most awesome massage of my life at the hotel... free because we stayed three nights but otherwise only IR 70 k... that's $7. I felt like I could melt away and I was just covered in delicious coconut oil. it helped the sunburn too. I heard that the beach was the hot spot in the early evening so we made our way down for cocktails and my god I have never seen a sun so huge or red. there were loads of locals playing soccer and running about and all kinds of people enjoying a drink on the hundreds of bean bag chairs set up on the sand in front of the cafes and bars with little tables in front of them. I had something called king fuel which absolutely tasted like petrol... and Sarah had a mango daiquiri overflowing out of a martini glass. speaking of petrol, the way they sell petrol here is on the streets in absolut vodka bottles cause they are a perfect liter measurement. there are little stands all over! we moved down to the next bean bag lounge area and had dinner and more drinks, and this time there were these unbelievable umbrellas with tassels and fringe hanging off of them above the little tables, and there was a boy named Pagus playing guitar and singing the likes of John Mayer and other popular American music. he was actually fantastic. [a lady just walked by me at the hotel with a box of knives balanced on her head trying to sell them.] after the music and drinking we walked home and had a beer and chatted with an Aussie lady we met at the hotel and then promptly passed out of exhaustion. it's been a crazy and eye opening first few days. the Balinese are so kind and just beautiful people, and the city is busy and interesting and full of smells and sounds and it's very very touristy down here. Bintang has already started to taste like water. there are motorbikes everywhere and taxis beep at you as they pass to let you know they're free to drive you somewhere. today we move our things into Neds Hideaway and then hop over to the beach! xx h

Thursday, October 6, 2011

bali at last

we have finally made it to Bali, safe and sound. our layover in qatar was semi painful, but the flight from there to singapore was easy as pie. we discovered that the airport in singapore is easily one of the most awesome that either of us had been to. there were these stations that looked like apartment mailboxes but all had chargers to different kinds of products inside, so I put my iPhone in, locked it, took the key and then retrieved it right before boarding our last flight . more places should have those probably. they also had approximate amount of time that it would take you to walk somewhere posted on the respective signs. then a bit after seven we touched down in Denpasar, Bali, proceeded to get our visas in under five minutes, then wait 25 for our luggage to come through. and we were literally the last two bags seeing as we have been traveling since Tuesday so they were probably shoved way in the bottom of everyones things. our very nice Island Hotel pick up guy was happily waiting for us just outside the customs area and we also drove a woman who works at the hotel back from her vacation with family in Jakarta. we were whisked away though the busy streets of Bali. it smells and feels humid. everything is open air and noisy and there are people all over. restaurants and spas all over, each one claims it's the best. Sarah and I are exhausted from the endless traveling so it's off to bed after a fresh cold glass of oj (our welcome drink). our cute little room overlooks the courtyard and gorgeous pool. hopefully I'll sort out how to post a picture on here so I can give some illustration for the words. goodnight (good morning to you all) xx h


after an accidental turn into the mens room at JFK and making friends with some adorable kids, we made it safely to Doha, Qatar. The flight went very smoothly and, to our surprise, flew by. It was hardly full so it was really relaxing ( well excluding the fact that airplane seats are not so comfortable)..the Tylenol pm probably helped with that.. food wasn't half bad, service was awesome. I'd recommend Qatar airways to anyone. probably the best economy class flight I've ever had. anywho just another six hrs in the airport.... then flying to singapore then Bali!!!

Sunday, October 2, 2011

job! money saving!

sarah and i just found out that we got accepted to work on a farm/retreat center in bali for the month of november!  there is the link to the place, it pretty much seems too good to be true!  we will be the only two volunteers on the property, working with all balinese people and the owner who is german.  apparently this position is in very high demand so we are super lucky to have gotten it.  we will be fed three meals a day (mostly vegetarian and organic from the center's garden!) and we are also provided with housing.  we will be living in these things called lumbungs (pictures on website) which are loft-esque places surrounded by mosquito netting and with open air bathrooms!  i cant begin to explain how excited i am for this.  we will be working 30 hrs a week, weekends off, and will be about 15 minutes (driving) away from the city of Ubud which is the cultural center of bali (super awesome).  anywho thats the latest. we leave on tuesday woohooo