Saturday, February 25, 2012

Ants in the pants

Yesterday we had a very full itinerary. We hired a driver and went to Uluwatu temple, Uluwatu cave and Padang Padang beach. The Uluwatu temple is full of macaque monkeys, much like the ones in Ubud forest. The Uluwatu monkeys seem a little more mischievous than the ones in Ubud. Almost immediately one jumped up on J's shoulder and another grabbed my shorts and bit the hem. However, they are undeniably adorable.

We trekked down the sketchiest stairs ever to get the cave that opens out to Uluwatu beach area. The area is mostly full of people surfing further off shore but the cave area itself was beautiful to view. The stairs were stone and concrete and one narrow section was elevated in mid air with no rails on either side. There are the extra obstacles of avoiding the little Hindu basket offerings, called Canang Sarileft here and there (stairs, sidewalks, entrances etc). "Canang Sari is one of Daily Balinese hindus people offerings. Canang Sari is made from young yellow palm leafs, Flowers, and foodstuff an art form assosiated with every ritual in Bali. Balinese believe in the forces of the invisible worlds dictates that offerings be created with a spirit of thankfulness and loving attention to detail. Balinese always offering Canang sari every day, except there are some one death around village." quote source:

Check out this video of Uluwatu Cave to see the amazing cave and dodgy stairs. As J says the best stuff is often at the end of a lot of stairs. We enjoyed lunch over looking the ocean on the cliff on the other side of the cave.

We stopped off at Padang Padang Beach. The sheltered cove was amazing and we just had to swim in it. Unfortunately there were no changing rooms so we ducked into the bush and changed into our swimsuits. Thankfully no people, or monkeys, stumbled upon us.

After our full day we spent the evening watching some tv and eating almonds. As we were eating I noticed an ant on the duvet, and then another, and then a whole troupe. The almonds that J was feeding to me we're out of a bag completely full of ants. It's really our fault since we broke the rule of no food storage in the room. Last time we broke the rule in a hut in the Andaman's in India we had a cockroach invasion. So we dumped the almonds into the garbage out side our room, in the attached outdoor shower. I watched them march out of the bin, thousands in single file, each one with a tiny almond crumb. This morning J dried off with the towel after his shower. Unfortunately it was covered in ants, one of which bit him. I call it ants in the pants but really there were no pants at all.

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Thursday, February 23, 2012

The streets of Bali

I've been slacking on the blogging for a while. I call it running on island time. That and being horrendously sick. Some call it Bali Belly (Bali Butt might be more appropriate) but what ever it was it came with reinforcements of a sinus cold. After three days we broke down and used a course of our emergency antibiotics, and within 24 hours we started to feel better. I just have the last bit of a cough hanging on.

So to be honest we've basically accomplished nothing the last little while. Finding lunch each day was the biggest accomplishment. We have been enjoying the terrific food at the 2nd Bali Buddha restaurant located much closer to us (in Kerobokan) than the one in Ubud. I love their vegan Nasi Campur. They also have a little health food store attached where we get snacks and fresh coconut water.

We have also survived the the uniqueness of Bali streets. There are sidewalks but as soon as it is congested, which is most often, they fill with speeding scooters which some how manage to dodge the pedestrians. There are about 20 scooters to each car. Tourists can easily rent them, which only adds the the chaos. We've seen everything transported on them. One scooter had 10 full water cooler bottles, another a family of mom, dad, toddler and a crib mattress! Then there are the taxis. Many are with out incident but some make you feel like you must be on candid camera. The one we took yesterday was speeding and weaving in and out of traffic like nothing I have ever seen. (and I've seen a lot of crazy taxis). At a red light he jumped forward as a kid as crossing just to make her jump. They both laughed though. Somehow the dogs seem to know how to navigate these roads (most times). In fact I once saw a dog wait until 2 tourists were crossing and then he ran along side them to cross. The open sewers are also another hazard. Most of them are covered but then there will be a surprise one missing when you least expect it. Neither of us has fell in, yet.

On one of our walks we came across a very enthusiastic fellow who assured us we could win fantastic prizes hidden within the free promotional material for a new hotel. We had nothing else to do so we obliged. Of course when I opened mine I was absolutely guaranteed to win one of the following; week of free hotel, $500.00 or a digital camcorder. We just needed to get in their company car and go down for a tour of the hotel (time share) and we would get one of these prizes (the scratch off area would be revealed after sitting through the presentation). We declined.

Today we found a Mexican place and had decent chips and salsa. We had a nice chat with the waitress about being vegan. She brought us out our bean tacos and as usual J bides his time until someone else tries it first, of course that's usually me. I bit into a gross cow taco. I wish "beef" and "bean"did not look so similar when scribbled down on an order pad.

I did however finish an enjoyable book, Peace is Every Breathwhich is quite an easy read on incorporating mindfulness into every day life. It also had a nice explanation of the Buddhist notions of emptiness and non-self:
There is no entity separate and apart from everything else; what we call our "self" is made entirely of "non-self" elements. Emptiness likewise refers to the absence of a self that exists apart from everything else - the way a flower, for example, cannot "be" by itself alone, but rather is made of non-flower elements such as the seed, fertilizer, rain, and sunlight. If you take non-flower elements out of the flower, the flower no longer can exist. Emptiness does not mean nothingness of nonexistence; it only means there is no such thing as a separate "self" entity. All phenomenon rely on all other phenomena to manifest. This is, because that is; this is not, because that is not. To contemplate emptiness is also to contemplate interbeing (sometimes called "interdependent co-arising").

(photo above is from the same book)

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Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Mostly monkey business

A recent highlight was today's trip to the Sacred Monkey Forest Sanctuary which is home to tons of Long tailed macaque monkeys They are absolutely spell binding with their adorable antics. We spent a few hours just watching them eat, play, bathe, argue, and tease the tourists. They are not really afraid of people and I'm quite sure they'd quickly gain the upper hand in any human/monkey altercation. One reached right into my purse pocket, which was empty as I alway remember the cardinal rule; never, ever trust a monkey. One little monkey, who was being chased by a large one, flung himself onto my lap while shooting the chasing monkey a smug "nah nah a boo boo" look. Then he scampered off. Out of no where a bunch of monkeys just starting jumping into the little cement pond all at once, as if they had planned it. They tumbled down on each other, leapt from the overhanging branches, swam under the water and generally created monkey business. Here are a few photos of one the monkeys sweet on J

After the monkey forest we ate at the tranquil and delicious Bali Buddha. I had a great raw vegan lunch of salad rolls, pate and crackers, mint lemonade and a chocolate tart. At the attached heath food store, we picked up some all natural shampoo made from coconut and scented with frangipani flowers.

Last night we went back to the large grocery store near by. We found some mystery white juice at the fresh juice bar. When we inquired about what it was, they pointed out a fruit I'd never seen before and called it "Indonesian fruit". We bought it. All I can say is the taste is best described as highly objectionable. Speaking of objectionable fruit, I also detest Snake fruit, which gets its name from the scaly skin, which also should have served as warning to me not to eat it. It tastes like a creamy onion apple, and it smells. On the other hand I adore the succulent Mangosteens.

The other exciting news is that J and I were accepted to attend the three week Sciences of the Buddha meditation retreat. "In the beautiful setting of Plum Village, from the 1st until the 21st of June 2012, with Thich Nhat Hanh and the Plum Village Sangha, scientists and Buddhists will practice sitting together, walking together, and sharing their experience and insight with each other. The practices of mindfulness and concentration can help scientists to be better scientists and in this way, Buddhism can act as a source of inspiration, suggesting directions for future investigation and discovery. Conversely, we will explore how insights from science can be useful, not only to develop technology and improve our material comfort, but to reduce the suffering of individuals, families, and society. This retreat will bring a lot of joy and confidence in both traditions as we find out that good science and good Buddhism can be much and do much for the wellbeing of the world." Thich Nhat Hanh is one of my favorite Buddhist authors and he wrote the amazing book Being Peace It's an accessible for read for Buddhists and NonBuddhists. I love it so much I've purchased many copies for family, friends and for the prisoner book program.
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Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Back in Bali!

We are staying in kuta area of Bali for a month. A few years ago we visited Indonesia for 5 weeks and the Bali section of our trip was spent mostly in scenic Ubud. This time around we are staying near the surf area so J can learn to surf. We will also take some boat trips out to snorkel. Kuta has a lot of mixed reviews as it is quite busy, crowded and noisy but it's also convenient with countless restaurants and shops, and right near the beach where beginners can learn surfing. This blogger has a nice article on the benefits of kuta beach; Kuta; surf beach for the everyman
We are staying at the new Kayun Hostel. It's convenient and has some good amenities; pool, free wifi, free breakfast, rooms with attached bath, comfy beds, and modern decor.
Just two days in and the food has been terrific. We have had two delicious Lebanese meals. The picture below shows the yummy mezza plate I had for the cost of $3.80 Canadian.

We also ate at the lovely Little Green Cafe. We had a veggie burger (ball shaped) with two salads and cake for dessert.

We attempted to locate another vegetarian restaurant today but that is when we discovered that the address numbers are random and not in order. So we will try again tomorrow knowing which landmark is near it. However we did get a chance to see some pretty rice paddies and cute cows.

We ran into some cranky tourists who were not kind to the locals during the landing procedures. They argued very rudely with the visa on arrival people suggesting that the visa was not required and aggressively demanding their change once they finally paid. A quick Internet search of course would reveal to travelers that a visa is in fact required for most, the cost and they fact that you are supposed to have exact change. I wanted to say something but J reminded me that it would not help the situation. I am reminded of the quote “How people treat you is their karma; how you react is yours. ” ― Wayne W. Dyer. I was still harboring some ill feelings towards these tourists when I had a timely reminder of the importance of metta in a huffington post article; Don't put anyone out of your heart. And then I ran across this graffiti near the beach.

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Sunday, February 5, 2012

Slight detour

We had originally intended to spend until the end of February in Malaysia but we've discovered there is very little surf here. One of our trip goals is surfing, for J and snorkeling for me. So we've decided to try Bali, Kuta beach area for the next month. We depart on February 7, 2012. We are staying at Kayun Hostel. It looks decent, is close to the beach, affordable, has a pool and we have a private room with attached bathroom. We had hoped to rent a house or cheap homestay for the month but we found it too difficult to find something affordable with the amenities and location we wanted. The packs are too full so after Bali we plan on shipping back our snorkeling equipment. They are not large packs, 50 liters each, with mine weighing 14.1 kilos (31 pounds) plus our 15 liter carry on packs, which mine weighs 4.7 kilos (10.3 pounds).

As well we had intended on spending sometime in north India but it has proven very difficult to get an Indian visa on the road. Instead we will head to Nepal after Bali and likely spend two months there while also taking a trip to Bhutan during this time.

Melaka has been nice. It's a quaint and historic city and is an UNESCO heritage site. We visited the lovely Chen Hoon Teng Temple. We took many walks along the historic roads and along the river. We ate daily at the yummy Man Yuan Fang vegetarian restaurant

One evening J was mediating along the river (while I was asleep as I was not feeling so well) and when he opened his eyes there was a large (1.5 meters or so) water monitor lizard at his feet. I think they were both a bit surprised! J snapped a quick photo as he was backing away.

We've spent spent quite a bit of time watching the lizards along the river afterwards. Interestingly enough this is not the first time there has been an interesting animal encounter while meditating. Once on a group retreat we were in sitting silent in a circle outside when the peace was pierced with a shriek. When we opened our eyes a hawk took off right beside us with a ground squirrel in its claws. As well when we were doing walking meditation in India, at the Bodhi Tree, a hummingbird just landed for a rest in a monk's hand.

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