It’s been a while since I’ve posted anything, and for good reason: I’ve been doing more of the internal work rather than traveling around seeing things. You know, things like relaxing, meditating, journaling, wandering aimlessly, reflecting and just BEing. To my own amazement, several days went by where I didn’t take a single picture (apart from my food) – now that’s saying a lot! After nearly a month in Indonesia, and over two weeks in Bali, it’s time to go back home; back to the real world. And so, this will be my last post for my Bali trip.
One night, as I was walking home from a late-ish dinner on my own, window shopping along the streets in Ubud, I heard chanting and a ringing bell. I figured it was one of the many night dances that are performed for tourists. Of course I investigated, following the music and ringing bell. To my astonishment, the assembly in the local temple was not that of tourists, but of locals! Anywhere I go I always wonder if the local traditions we are told about on guided tours are truly in practice today, or simply a history lesson to bolster the cultural information fed to us tourists. Here was a local tradition in all its glory. I didn’t know at the time what I was witnessing, but it was too interesting to not take a few photos. Turns out it was a celebration day across Bali; a day to pray and make offerings to the God of Business (money and prosperity). Many people travel across the island to visit their families and to go to the temple together. Here in Ubud people had come together to pray, complete with women dancing, men chanting, and a Hindu priest sitting atop a platform on stilts, ringing a bell with his left hand and periodically flicking holy water on the crowd seated below and the odd flower blossom. (and if I’ve gotten any of these interpretations wrong, forgive me, there is definitely a ‘lost in translation’ thing going on in Bali!)
And so the final day finally arrived. Jackie and I are on the same flights (yes, there are three!) home, our first leaving Bali at 9:45pm. I knew that if we stayed in Ubud (about 40-90min from the airport depending on traffic) that day I would be restless and pacing all day (I come by it honestly from my maternal grandfather, who was always at least 30min early to everything and thought it was perfectly reasonable to show up at our house growing up at 6:30am and perfectly unreasonable that no one else was up yet – he was also a pacer).
So we made the best decision for our travel day: we saved up all of our ‘must-see’ day trips and hired a driver to take us on a whirlwind tour of the island for all of our remaining sightseeing on the very last day. It was a great plan for two reasons: first, it distracted and relaxed me so I wasn’t pacing and looking at the time all day – I was able to be present; second, it wore us out so we could sleep on the plane. And it worked like a charm.
First stop, the biggest rice terraces in Bali: Jatiluweh Rice Terrace. It took about two hours to get there from Ubud and our driver was amazing, taking us on all the back roads to get there so we could see the rural villages, where people still live in walled communities and each house has a temple in its front entrance way (the bigger the temple the bigger the extended family and the more well established and well off the family). And when we finally arrived at Jatiluweh it was worth the wait: it’s breathtaking.
I had seen photos of the rice terraces of Bali but nothing quite prepares you for the overwhelming beauty and vastness of it. From the top of the mountain to the valley are plots of green or flooded pools – some with sprouts of green. Our driver, Ego, gave us some background on rice fields: they are harvested 3 times a year and there are many steps involved in each harvest. First, the farmer tills the soil and then sows the rice seeds (similarly to how we sow grass back home) by throwing it randomly into a plot – only this plot is flooded with water. The rice will grow (and looks like grass in a marsh) at which point it is pulled up by the root and gathered in a bunch. These bunches are then separated and re-planted in little separate groups into the flooded plots. This is done a couple of times (but not sure – this was another ‘lost in translation’ tidbit), at which point the plot is overgrown with bright green rice plants, which turn yellow when time to harvest. All I can say from wandering these fields is that rice farming is back breaking work – a hard life for both the men and women who tirelessly and endlessly work these fields. Just as we were finishing our walk around the terraces a huge storm cloud rolled in and it rained – poured!! – for about and hour. The farmers barely slowed down. Wow.
When we were there the harvests were obviously in the early part of their cycle, so most of the terraces were flooded and we saw more water than lush greenery. Still, it was awesome.
Next on our list: Tanah Lot Temple. A temple built on a towering rock formation surrounded by water. We arrived during low tide, when people are able to walk to and enter the temple; during high tide the temple is completely surrounded by water and apparently appears to be floating. Pretty cool either way. Jackie and I were both templed out and didn’t have a sarong (which is required to enter a temple here) so passed on seeing the inside of the temple. Instead we walked around, dipped our toes in the ocean and posed for some photos. Glad we stopped in to see this unique temple!
After Tanah Lot we headed to Legian, the place we spent our first couple of nights after arriving in Bali – this was purely to pick up some last minute souvenirs that we hadn’t seen in Ubud. So we spent the remainder of our Indonesian cash and headed for the airport. A great day, we were spent and ready to head home.
A girl I saw being wheeled around the Seoul airport. This is how I feel right now. Someone just wheel me home already!
A fabulous trip and a big departure from my usual travel style, but that was always the intention. Thank you Indonesia, for this fabulous month – I have met wonderful people and take home great memories. Rest, relaxation, renewal and reflection were the themes of this trip, and though I am not quite ready to enter the world of hustle and bustle, I am ready to start the new chapter that is 2017.