A Travellerspoint blog

April 2013

Pretty Meets Trashy

sunny 95 °F

I don’t know if you’ve seen the movie Eat, Pray, Love with Julia Roberts.

It’s based on a book about a woman trying to find herself traveling to three different countries, and Bali is one of them. I only saw the movie once, but I remember thinking *queue whispery, magical voice* Baaaaaliiiii! And it was with such magical thoughts I entered the country. But to be honest, my lasting impression about Bali will be that Bali is filthy. That’s putting it blunt, and it’s putting it simple. Don’t get me wrong. I think the country has physical features to make it beautiful: volcanoes, mountains, coastline, and reefs to snorkel over. I just don’t think I was anticipating the filth. There’s trash everywhere and a consistent stink of incense (which on it’s own is a good thing) mixed with rubbish and shit (but mixed with other things, isn’t the best thing I’ve ever smelled). And please, just Google “Balinese toilet.” Just do it.

So, with that introduction, we actually had a great time in Bali! (Hey, a place can be dirty and still be fun!). Our first night was spent in Ubud with our couchsurfing host, Made (pronounced Mah-day) in his traditional Balinese home which includes a temple in the middle of three buildings that house all family members including parents and siblings and those siblings’ children. It also houses, a monkey who doesn’t like women *sheesh* and a rooster – who crows – at 4:00 in the morning – veeeerrrry loudly.

Made with his monkey

Made took us to his community’s temple ceremony that night where we participated in a Hindu blessing and were sprinkled with holy water. We burned incense and put flowers in our hair. We listened to Balinese Hindu music performed live and watched Legong dancing performed by 10-12 year old girls who have mastered every rigid movement with their bodies and every distrustful look with their eyes. It was absolutely magical. Magical to be there - to witness it - in person - right in front of us.

Legong dancing at the ceremony in Made's community temple

  • **Side note: I thought about this experience for a moment while sitting in front of the stage cross-legged. I know people who would be scared by it. Who would say that somehow I was doing something sinful as a Christian to be a part of this ceremony. But you know what? The thing that this ceremony did most for me was make me grateful. Grateful, that my God is accessible at all times and in any place. Even that place. I don’t have to make sacrifices, I don’t have to dance, I don’t have to visit a temple or go to a church – for my God, to be present. [/float]

Ready for our first Hindu ceremony. Note the background. Made is also a wood carver :)

The next four days were spent traveling to Tulamben and then Amed, both in east Bali. We traveled with a French couple, Lydie and Arnaud, and they were awesome travel buddies. Arnaud seems to be the adventure seeker of the two, with Lydie more down to earth and relaxed. It was a nice compliment to David and myself. And it was nice to have some company who could agree that Bali was maybe somewhat filthy. it sounds trivial, but I mention this because I tried to deny the filth at first thinking that somehow, if Bali truly were filthy, it would ruin our good time. But I found out, a country can be dirty and still be fun.

Us with Lydie and Arnaud swimming in Amed

David and I snorkeled in Tulamben and tried to find the USS shipwreck that is close to shore. We didn’t find it. When the water got deeper and visibility was lost, we decided to go back. The main reason being that the man who rented the equipment to us told us not to worry if I saw a shark around the shipwreck. “Just don’t make any sudden movements, and you’ll be fine.” WHAT??? I like the ability to make sudden movements. Just saying. Plus, this comes from the staff member was smoking while fiddling with the oxygen tank. Umm…what?

Two days later, we snorkeled in Amed over a Japanese shipwreck that we did find! It’s much closer to shore with great visibility, and we have amazing panoramic shots of the mountains from the water thanks to David’s patience.

Panoramic shot of the mountains from above the Japanese shipwreck

We rode scooters around the coastline of Amed and took in amazing views all while reapplying sunscreen more times than I can count.

Us not dying on a scooter. I might have been super nervous about this considering David is afraid of motorcycles. But as you can tell, we survived :)

After Amed, we returned to Ubud sans Lydie and Arnaud for two more nights. We went to the monkey forest and watched the monkies play with each other and against each other. I watched a mother monkey hold the tail of her baby as it tried to get away. She held on as it tried to run forward but the baby only went side to side. The mother seemed amused.

Mother teasing baby

We watched the monkies clean each other, swing in trees, chase people and climb up people as if they were trees. I had one monkey climb on me and just sit a while. David had one jump all fours onto his back. He thought at first I had hit him on the back like a that-a-boy hit before he realized he had a monkey on his shoulder.


I had a few other monkeys climb on me. And yes, one monkey bit me at the park and another bit me at our hotel. No, I do not have rabies and no, I’m not worried because it didn’t break the skin. The first bite was no worse than a child’s bite and the second only left a bruise on my hand. After the latter though, David decided no more monkeys on Sharon.

David caught the second bite on camera. My face!

Um, not comfortable. But only a small bruise was left.

We walked around the shops in Ubud and bartered for a sundress. We ate at a restaurant called Dian that was cheaper than others we had seen, had huge portions (most portions in Bali are pretty small), and was just absolutely delicious. The most common meals on the menus are Nasi Campur and Nasi Goreng, and they are both really yummy (I will miss the food, actually).

David, Nasi Campur and Nasi Goreng :)

We rested, took in some sun, read a book and just enjoyed our time together. It was lovely. In fact, I’m finding that the most fun we’re having, is with each other. The experiences are awesome, but I wouldn’t want to do this trip alone. I’m glad I have David to share it with. He’s fun, he’s goofy, and he’s becoming a little spontaneous out in this big world.

The trip itself? It's still pretty unbelievable. We’re still reminding each other, “Hey, guess what? We’re in Bali!”


Here you can see, I was also groped by a monkey. Literally, right down my tank top.

Japanese shipwreck in Amed

Just one example of the trash. I saw children playing with pieces of cardboard like a Frisbee here. This example, however, is nothing compared to some places we saw with piles and piles of trash.

You see these designs in the bird baths often. They're always different and designed by hand.

These are the offerings you see everywhere. People place them in front of their homes, on top of stairs, outside the shops, etc. It's made out of coconut leaves and flowers usually accompanied by an incense stick burning on top.

And for those of you who didn’t Google it: you’re welcome

Made's toilet...

Posted by smweaver24 00:37 Archived in Indonesia Comments (1)

This is Hard And That Tramp Was a Bitch

So, keeping a blog up-to-date when you’re traveling is hard. I knew that it would be. You ask yourself if you should rest/sleep, be social and talk to people or write. You never really consider not going out to do something over writing. But I enjoy updating people and documenting my visit for others and myself. So that explains that.

This post is a summary of sorts – things we’ve done and seen and what it’s like in New Zealand’s south island.

First of all, everything is beautiful. It really does look like Frodo is hiding somewhere in the mountains. There are breathtaking landscapes and every drive is an adventure of its own. There’s a lookout at every turn because the views are just incredible, and I’m convinced I came up with a money-making idea when I proposed to David photography lessons from moving vehicles. Many times it looks like you’re looking at a green screen or maybe an oil canvas painting of a place far away. I was convinced I could push over the painting that was the mountains in Queenstown and the glacial lake at Hooker Valley.

It’s also cold, but I use “cold’ loosely considering it’s not really. When we first arrived it was similar to Georgia’s late autumn with a warm sun and a cold (not cool) breeze. Then sometime between putting on my shorts in Te Anau and opening my door in Queenstown, it turned to Georgia’s mid-winter. I don’t mind winter. But I desperately missed my black puffy jacket that I opted not to bring due to size (and the fact I would have only used it in NZ) and my cute boots that go much better with a pair of skinny jeans than do Chacos or Merrells.

All the kiwis says “yeah.” And not the “yeah,” you just read in your head that sounded like an American yeah. It’s a kiwi “yeah” that sounds quite nasally (btw, kiwi’s add “quite” to phrases quite a lot), and sounds like a sped up version of “yee” + “ah” = yeah. When you say something everyone says, “Oh! Yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah” and sometimes they even continue with the yeahs while you talk. David and I both have picked this up for ourselves.

Now for a ramble:

The moon is upside here; people drive on the left side of the road and the right side of the car; a shopping cart (or if you’re in the “south” south, a buggy) is a trundler; houses do not have insulation nor do they have central heating and air (also why I tended to always be cold); they use a lot of British spellings that include superfluous U's like “colour” and “flavor” and a strange S every now and then like in “organise.”

There’s lots of 90s music everywhere; almost every small town has a Lion’s Club and a Rotary Club; deer farming is common, and I realized this after I stopped and looked at all the deer who didn’t run away in their (actually too short) fence; dairy farming is taking over sheep farming, and having said this sheep and cows are everywhere! The sheep to people ratio is 7:1 and most of the cows look like they belong in a Chick-fil-A commercial all white and black and perfect.

Gas is called “petrol” and it’s super expensive at around $7+ USD per gallon (it took us a while to work out the math from liter to gallon and then the exchange rate); having something “to-go” is called “takeaway;” there are no free refills anywhere including McDonalds (yes, we ate at McDonalds – strange because we don’t eat it at home – stranger that it was actually really good – and strangest that the restaurant was clean and the people were nice --- we found out later that NZ is very strict as to what goes into any of their fast food meat products); everywhere has tons of locally owned cafes and those are what people go to for lunch – not restaurants; there is British tea everywhere and it’s amazing; coffee culture is picking up as well but the tea tradition was brought over by the British; fish and chip shops (also brought over by the British) are on every street corner and are owned by Asian families who offer fish and chips (aka fries, we did not know this), burgers and chips, and a slew of Chinese food.

Now that the ramble is out of the way:

David and I had a fantastic time. We jumped out of a cable car for a 8 second free fall at the world’s third largest bungy jump (Nevis); we swam with dusky dolphins and saw a blue whale (the largest mammal/thing that has ever existed! They grow up to 27meters/88.5ft long!); we saw an albatross (10ft wingspans!); we stayed at Hogwarts (hostel with the name in Dunedin – yes, I have pictures); took a cruise through Milford Sound; was accosted by a Kea; got face to face with a Kiwi; fed eels; hiked a glacier (Fox Glacier); and took some “sort of” restricted paths along a glacial pond at Mt. Cook and the Pancake Rocks in Punakaki.

We did a good bit of hiking or as kiwi’s call it: “tramping.” We tramped Hooker Valley (named for the botanist but yes saying, “We tramped Hooker Valley” doesn’t sound nice); some of the coastal track at Abel Tasman; a short tramp to Humboldt Falls; Fox Glacier (previously mentioned); and lastly, the St. Arnaud Ridge Trek. And that tramp was a bitch.

It’s 12.4km/7.7miles and 3 hours of straight up and 3 hours of straight down for a whopping short 6 hour day hike. I thought about my sister Crystal, her husband Drew, and her friend Nevena who all hiked the Appalachian Trail. And then I thought, “Why?” Then I thought, “How??” No amount of explanation will actually be able to explain to me why and how you hike for 6 months at a time. But perhaps, I can understand all the walking if the company (David, obviously) is wonderful, the conversation is intelligent, the exercise is invigorating (well, only up until a certain point on this tramp anyway) and the view is amazing. This tramp leads you to the top of a ridge to a point called The Parachute Rocks. You walk up to look over Lake Rotoiti and Mt. Robert, over the entire town and even over into other towns. The clouds cast angelic lighting on some places and rain over others. It's actually, quite majestic.

There's much more to say. But much less time. Now, we find ourselves in an airport about to start country hopping: Bali, Thailand, Egypt and Israel - all in three weeks. Our New Zealand adventure has come to an end after 3.5 weeks. It’s sad – but it’s happy. I never thought I would be able to get back to New Zealand, but I did – and with my best friend. I would say, I’m a wee bit blessed.

Posted by smweaver24 10:27 Archived in New Zealand Comments (1)

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