Adventures in Wonderland

.......not just a travel blog

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Location: Canada

In our sixties, with apparently no other authentic option, my husband Don and I sold our car and apartment, sold or gave away all our stuff, and set off to discover the world. And ourselves. We started in Italy in 2011 and from there have travelled to Spain, India, Bali, etc. - you can see the blog archive. We will continue travelling until it's time to stop - if that time ever comes. So far it suits us very well. We are interested in how the world works, how life works, how the creation of experience works, how the mind works. As we travel and both "choose" our course, and at the same time just let it unfold, we discover the "mechanics" of life, the astounding creativity of life, and a continual need to return to trust and presence. Opening the heart, and acceptance of what is, as it is, are keystones for us both.

Friday, April 06, 2012

Bali, Indonesia. Part 1

We arrived in Bali March 26 and will stay for 4 weeks. It is heaven, and a stark contrast to India. We are swooning with the beauty. What struck me first about Bali was the ubiquitous and beautiful statuary. Everywhere I looked there were carvings and sculptures:

What struck Don about Bali almost from the start is that the sacred is everywhere, and sacred ritual is a part of everyday life. Homes and businesses are blessed, and offerings made to the gods every day. Their religion is a blend of Hinduism, Buddhism and ancestor worship that flourishes to this day. It’s teaching is to reach peace and harmony in life.

This from Don: I love seeing all the men and women who go around the streets of Ubud carrying trays of offerings to the gods and putting down individual offerings with reverence on the sidewalks, in front of parked cars, and in shop doorways, as well as in front of the many temples. I don’t know if they are paid to do this, or whether it forms a part of their religious observation, but it is a striking example of the spirituality that pervades life here in Ubud.

Women doing small ceremonies out the front of businesses – we see this up and down the streets of Ubud every day.

Even childrens’ bikes are blessed

We’re staying in a lovely guesthouse overlooking a rice field in Ubud.

The view from our porch

The decorative carving on the porch - beauty everywhere

Initially we spent a lot of time on the porch – reading, writing, resting. The first week was time for recovery from India. Don’s guts were still rumbling and he needed to focus on eating well and resting. He’s fine now. I fell hard walking round Arunachala two days before we left India. Bruised my knee very badly but nothing broken thankfully. So I needed time for healing too. Anyone who knows me well knows what an ardent (obsessive?) fan I am of figure skating. During the first week we were in Bali the world championships were being held so I was more than happy to stay put and rest. Glued to the computer :)

We still saw quite a lot during that first week or so although we didn’t go out much, and didn’t leave Ubud.

We went to the sacred monkey forest populated with long-tailed macaques. It was a bit scary. There's so many of them, new babies to big old ones, and they are everywhere. Very entertaining but you wouldn't want to make any of them feel threatened. Big teeth! One of them jumped on Don's back. Fortunately it was a small one, and got off again pretty quickly.

We went to the market to buy Balinese clothes for Don so we could attend spiritual ceremonies. I am completely staggered by the amount of merchandise available for sale here in Bali. It's overwhelming. Every market stall is overflowing with stuff.

We went to a kirtan night (singing mantras and dancing) that was happening as part of the Bali Spirit Festival (Yoga Dance Music).

We went to the Kecak and fire trance dance, which was amazing. The Kecak dance has about 50 or more men in a circle sitting/standing/crouching/swaying as the story unfolds, and making rhythmic music with sounds and clapping. Dancers perform in the centre of the circle the story of a fragment of the Ramayana (way too complex to explain the story – so many characters I couldn’t keep track, and that’s only for a fragment). It was fabulous: intriguing and colourful and rhythmic.

Following the Kecak dance a huge pile of coconut husks was dumped in the centre of the circle, smothered with an accelerant and lit on fire. When it had burned down a bit a man danced around it “riding” a fabulously creative horse made from coconut palm. It became clear he was in a deep trance. Suddenly he leapt into the fire and with his bare feet he scattered the burning coals out in all directions, then continued to dance. Two other men raked all the burning coals back to the centre. Again the man on the horse jumped into the fire and kicked the coals out in all directions. Again they were swept back into the centre. This continued four or five more times until there was almost nothing left of the coals. Then they grabbed the man on the horse, wrested the horse from him and held him down until he stopped moving. He was so deep in trance he probably would have continued dancing until his body collapsed from exhaustion if they hadn’t stopped him. After a while a priest came and gave him a blessing with water, and eventually he was able to get up and walk away. It was amazing, and entirely genuine. I don’t have any pictures but there’s a great one here:

On another night we went to see the Barong Dance. Wow! Completely enthralled! What a fabulous piece of theatre. It is the Balinese equivalent of pantomime (at least the version we saw was) and depicts through symbolism the eternal struggle between order and chaos, and the never-ending tension and need for balance between the two.

People have remarked that we’re following the same route as “Eat Pray Love” with Italy last year, then India and now Bali. It’s true, though completely coincidental. We certainly didn’t go to Italy to eat, neither of us being big fans of the Italian diet. You can only eat so much pizza, pasta and olive oil. Certainly we did a lot of praying/meditating in India, but Bali is the place for food for us. The food for westerners here is absolutely fabulous. Don’t think we’ve been this healthy for a while – organic vegetarian and a heap of good restaurants to choose from. We don’t often eat Balinese food, neither of us being fans of hot spices, though we ate breakfast at a private family ceremony (more on that later) and dinner at a wedding (more on that too, later) and found plenty to eat that we enjoyed.

We love Bali. Everyone we know who has been here said we would, and they were right.

I feel as if this blog post is not as "alive" as most of the others. I let it slide. Too much time engrossed in figure skating to write, or keep up with editing photos, and suddenly I felt way behind. I'm really committed to doing the blog, and here I was overwhelmed - over 400 photos to edit, no writing done, 2 weeks suddenly gone by since the last post, and feeling like I'd never catch up if I didn't get a post done now. Phew! So I confess this post was somewhat (though not entirely) about just getting it done, and I worked at way past feeling too tired to do any more. So there it is. I hope you all enjoy it anyway.

Next blog – The above mentioned ceremonies. A day trip to the beach and a bird park. A trip to the rice fields and volcanoes. Snorkeling at Blue Lagoon.


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